Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ray Baretto - 2007 "Que Viva La Música"

Produced only a short time after his death, Ray Barretto's A Man and His Music tells the story of a young conguero who went from sitting in on New York's after-hours jam sessions to becoming a Latin music household name, the most influential conguero of his lifetime. It's a long story, spanning better than 45 years and quite a few records, and it's surprising that the Fania label could cram it into a two-disc set. Beginning in his boogaloo years, with famous cuts like "El Watusi" and "Soul Drummers," the collection demonstrates that Barretto's habits of rule-breaking and genre-fusing were obviously formed early. These tracks show a sophistication that the majority of the boogaloo genre did not share. Moving on to Barretto's salsa/Latin jazz experimentation, "Abidjan" and "The Other Road" are a testament to his ongoing creativity. There are, of course, a number of his indispensable hits included, like "Indestructible," "Vale Mas un Guaguanco," and "Guarare." The absence of any of Barretto's genuine jazz work is noticeable and curious, but considering the source of this collection (Fania), that is understandable, if somewhat disappointing. There are guaranteed to be more than a few collections put together immortalizing the late, great master conguero/bandleader. For those who favor his salsa side, A Man and His Music is sure to please.

Well-known in jazz circles for his early work as a ubiquitous sideman with the likes of Gene Ammons, Kenny Burrell, Lou Donaldson and Red Garland and for fronting his own world class Latin jazz ensemble during the final decades of his life, conguero Ray Barretto was equally important as one of the leading figures in the AfroCuban music commonly known as salsa. Affectionately known as "Hard Hands ("Manos Duras ), Barretto also had a sensitive finger on the pulse of the Puerto Rican community and his many albums for the Fania label during the '60s-70s were central to the soundtrack that accompanied the rising consciousness and pride of his people.

The two-CD set Que Viva La Musica chronicles Barretto's impressive artistry during that revolutionary era, with the first disc focusing primarily on his work melding Latin music with elements of AfroAmerican progressive pop and soul and the second documenting his popular advancements within the traditional Latin dance music genre. The first disc begins with several tracks of Barretto's pre-Fania work for Tico and UA Latino, starting with 1962's "El Watusi (the conguero's Billboard-charting Gold Record) and progressing through a history of his crossover hits, with lyrics in both Spanish and English. Reflecting the influences of James Brown, Sly Stone and Motown, the disc is a gumbo of dance party music that rocked the barrios of New York for more than a decade and although most of the songs on the set could be described as period pieces, many of them are ripe for reevaluation. The music on disc two, on the other hand, is timeless in every sense of the word; as relevant and innovative as when they were first recorded. Each of the program's 13 cuts ("El Hijo De Obatala , "Guarare and the title track, to name a few) is a classic featuring driving rhythms and socially powerful lyrics with soaring horn solos that should satisfy the most demanding of jazz listeners.

Barretto himself was an avid discophile who learned much observing jazz producers and engineers and his own productions were of the highest quality. Indestructible (1973) is one of his greatest albums, with pristine sound that allows one to hear the subtle intricacies of the Latin rhythm section. With wonderfully virile lead vocals by Tito Allen and coros from Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon (among others) the Spanish lyrics ring out with a power that even those who do not understand them can feel. The band—jazz soloists like Artie Webb and Manny Duran on flute and flugelhorn, pyrotechnical trumpeters Roberto Rodriguez and "Papy Roman and a smoking rhythm section with pianist Edy Martinez out front—is one of Barretto's strongest units. The music flows through an engaging sequence of songs whose varied forms and rhythms are well-explained in Bobby Sanabria's illuminating liner notes.

In addition to his work as a leader, Barretto was a founding member of the Fania All-Stars, the legendary Latin super group that traveled the world spreading the gospel of salsa in stadium concerts. Live at the Red Garter, Vol. 1 & 2 documents the band's 1968 inaugural performance at the intimate Greenwich Village club that would later become The Bottom Line. The band under the direction of flutist/percussionist Johnny Pacheco consisted of a revolving cast of characters that included pianist Larry Harlow and trombonist Willie Colon and also featured guest artists Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri. Barretto is heard throughout and his composition "Son Cuero Y Boogaloo kicks off the second volume, but the jam-session-like atmosphere and the less-than-perfect sound stand in contrast to the conguero's own excellently produced dates.

The late great Ray Barretto's recordings for the Tico and Fania labels represent an extremely important chapter in the history of Salsa and this compilation offers a fine (if incomplete) overview of his illustrious career. Hopefully, Emusica Records (Fania's new owner) will reissue all of Ray's Tico and Fania CDs. Most of his major hits and trademark tunes are here and no self-serving Barretto fan should be without this great compilation.

Track listing:

Disc 1
01     El Watusi    2:40    
02     El Bantu    2:18    
03     Senor 007    2:13    
04     Do You Dig It    2:29    
05     Soul Drummers    3:50    
06     Hard Hands    2:27    
07     Together    2:36    
08     Right On    2:45    
09     Acid    5:06    
10     Abidjan    4:50    
11     Power    6:09    
12     The Other Road    6:03        
13     Lucretia the Cat    5:35    
14     Cocinando    10:09
15     Arrepientete    5:15    
Disc 2
01     Que Viva La Musica    5:28    
02     La Pelota    4:17    
03     Indestructible    4:14    
04     El Hijo De Obatala    5:03    
05     Guarare    5:37    
06     Vale Mas Un Guaguanco    4:21    
07     Ya Vez    5:43    
08     Tu Propio Dolor    4:13    
09     Fuerza Gigante    4:41    
10     Rhythm of Life 6:37    
11     Manos Duras 5:12    
12     Prestame Tu Mujer 6:14    
13     Aguadilla 4:09 

Traffic - 1968 [1988] "Traffic"

Traffic was an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1967. The group formed in April 1967 by Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason. They began as a psychedelic rock group and diversified their sound through the use of instruments such as keyboards like the Mellotron and harpsichord, sitar, and various reed instruments, and by incorporating jazz and improvisational techniques in their music. Their first three singles were "Paper Sun", "Hole in My Shoe", and "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush".
After disbanding in 1969, during which time Winwood joined Blind Faith, Traffic reunited in 1970 to release the critically acclaimed album John Barleycorn Must Die. The band's line-up varied from this point until they disbanded again in 1975. A partial reunion, with Winwood and Capaldi, took place in 1994.

 Traffic is the second studio album by the English rock band Traffic, released in 1968 on Island Records in the United Kingdom as ILP 981T (mono)/ILPS 9081T (stereo), and United Artists in the United States, as UAS 6676 (stereo). It peaked at number 9 in the UK albums chart and at number 17 on the Billboard 200. It was the last album recorded by the group before their initial breakup.

In January 1968, after some initial success in Britain with their debut album Mr. Fantasy, Dave Mason had departed from the group. He produced the debut album by the group Family, containing in its ranks future Traffic bass player Ric Grech, while Traffic went on the road. In May, the band had invited Mason back to begin recording the new album.
Mason ended up writing and singing half of the songs on the album (including his biggest hit "Feelin' Alright?"), but making scant contribution to the songs written by Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood. His flair for pop melody had always been at odds with the others' jazz ambitions, evidenced by the dichotomy seen for the songs on this album, and by October he was again out of the band. He would return one more time for a tour and album in 1971 to run out the band's contract.
Traffic was reissued for compact disc in the UK on 11 January 2000, with five bonus tracks, two from the soundtrack to the United Artists film Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush and three from Last Exit. In the US, the remastered reissue of 27 February 2001 included mono single mixes of "You Can All Join In," "Feelin' Alright?," and "Withering Tree." The original album was produced by Jimmy Miller. The remasters were assisted in their production by Jim Capaldi.

After dispensing with his services in December 1967, the remaining members of Traffic reinstated Dave Mason in the group in the spring of 1968 as they struggled to write enough material for their impending second album. The result was a disc evenly divided between Mason's catchy folk-rock compositions and Steve Winwood's compelling rock jams. Mason's material was the most appealing both initially and eventually: the lead-off track, a jaunty effort called "You Can All Join In," became a European hit, and "Feelin' Alright?" turned out to be the only real standard to emerge from the album after it started earning cover versions from Joe Cocker and others in the 1970s. Winwood's efforts, with their haunting keyboard-based melodies augmented by Chris Wood's reed work and Jim Capaldi's exotic rhythms, work better as musical efforts than lyrical ones. Primary lyricist Capaldi's words tend to be impressionistic reveries or vague psychological reflections; the most satisfying is the shaggy-dog story "Forty Thousand Headmen," which doesn't really make any sense as anything other than a dream. But the lyrics to Winwood/Capaldi compositions take a back seat to the playing and Winwood's soulful voice. As Mason's simpler, more direct performances alternate with the more complex Winwood tunes, the album is well-balanced. It's too bad that the musicians were not able to maintain that balance in person; for the second time in two albums, Mason found himself dismissed from the group just as an LP to which he'd made a major contribution hit the stores. Only a few months after that, the band itself split up, but not before scoring their second consecutive Top Ten ranking in the U.K.; the album also reached the Top 20 in the U.S., breaking the temporarily defunct group stateside.

Considering that Traffic couldn't seem to stay intact for more than a few months at a time, the band's work seems even more remarkable. Recorded in the summer of 1968 and released later that fall, Traffic, the band's sophomore release, stands as the outfit's high-water mark and one of the great rock albums of its time. Clearly, Dave Mason and Steve Winwood had completely different visions for the band, both musically and socially. In fact, Mason had already left the band at the year's beginning, only to return a few short months later. Mason liked to work alone and favored rooted folk-tinged material; Winwood saw the band as a communal affair and leaned toward progressive jazz-influenced music. Of course, the synthesis of these two approaches is what makes Traffic such a terrific album. There's not a weak moment across these 10 songs (augmented on this reissue with three mono single mixes). By fusing bits of country and folk, wisps of psychedelia, and elements of jazz and soul, the album managed to both presage and summarize the ambitious developments of rock music during its most creative era.

Traffic had one of the most original (and interesting) sounds in British rock, and not only because of their eclectic musical influences, which embraced psychedelia, folk, jazz, soul, R&B, and even classical. Their unique sound was also the result of their unusual instrumentation. While the group went through a number of personnel changes, its constant core members were Steve Winwood (vocals, keyboards, guitars), Chris Wood (sax, flute, and organ), and Jim Capaldi (drums & percussion). With no regular bass player, Winwood often filled in with the bass pedals on his organ. And, while there is no lack of guitars on most Traffic recordings, the guitar is not emphasized or particularly important to the group's sound. Dave Mason came and went in their early years and, on other recordings, Steve Winwood would switch to guitar, with Chris Wood taking over organ duties. In short, Traffic was anything but your typical guitar-bass-drums rock outfit. And, with "white Ray Charles" prodigy Winwood at the helm, and with their willingness to experiment with virtually any sound or musical style, they cut some of the most distinctive and important records in British rock.
Their sophomore album, "Traffic," perfected the band's sound, and stands as one of the best albums in British rock. Psychedelic influences were still evident, but gone was the silly "Sgt. Pepper"-style trippiness of "Mr. Fantasy." Instead, Winwood and Capaldi perfected their jazzy take on psychedelic-soul, while Dave Mason turned in by far his best contributions with the group. Mason's "You Can All Join In" and "Feelin' Alright" (later popularized by Joe Cocker) are folk-rock gems, while Winwood's genius shines through on the whimsical but very funky "Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring" and the swampy jungle-rock epic "40,000 Headmen." Furthermore, in contrast with the cut-n-paste nature of Traffic's other LPs with Dave Mason, here there is real collaboration, as when a Mason folk-rocker climaxes with Winwood's soulful wailing on the refrain or the bridge ("Don't Be Sad," "Cryin' To Be Heard"). The overall result is a delicious paradox: a recording that is wildly eclectic, yet artistically cohesive.
If you haven't heard "Traffic," all I can say is, you don't know what you're missing.

Traffic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

  Track Listing:

  1. You Can All Join In
  2. Pearly Queen
  3. Don't Be Sad
  4. Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring
  5. Feelin' Alright
  6. Vagabond Virgin
  7. Forty Thousand Headmen
  8. Cryin' to be Heard
  9. No Time To Live
  10. Means To An End


Dave Mason – lead vocals, guitar, harmonica
Steve Winwood – electric guitar, bass, backing vocals, organ, piano
Chris Wood –  saxophone, flute
Jim Capaldi – drums, percussion, backing vocals

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Joe Satriani - 1987 "Surfing With The Alien"

Surfing with the Alien is the second studio album by American rock guitarist Joe Satriani. It was released on October 15, 1987, by Relativity Records. The album is one of Satriani's most successful to date and helped establish his reputation as a respected rock guitarist.

Released on October 15, 1987, by Relativity Records, Surfing with the Alien charted at number 29 on the Billboard 200, proving to be Satriani's third highest-charting album in the United States. It remained on Billboard 200 for 75 weeks, the longest run of any of his releases.\Surfing with the Alien was certified Gold on February 17, 1989, and Platinum on February 3, 1992, having shipped one million copies in the US. It was Satriani's first and only album to earn platinum certification.
Two singles from the album reached Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart: "Satch Boogie" at No. 22 and "Surfing with the Alien" at No. 37. A third single, "Always with Me, Always with You", received a nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Performance at the 1989 Grammy Awards, while the album itself was nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the same event; these being Satriani's first two of many such awards. Live versions of "Always with Me, Always with You" would later be nominated for Best Rock Instrumental twice more, at the 2002 and 2008 Grammys.
In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, music critic Robert Christgau snidely referred to Satriani as "the latest guitar god" and felt he is too much of a formalist, because he not only composes but edits his guitar melodies: "Thus he delivers both the prowess cultists demand and the comfort they secretly crave". In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine was more impressed by his technical abilities and praised Surfing with the Alien, writing that it "can be seen as the gold standard for guitar playing of the mid- to late '80s, an album that captures everything that was good about the glory days of shred." According to The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992), the record "put Satriani on the map. Beautifully played and well-paced, it manages to capture all the icy fire of fusion jazz without losing any of the visceral power of rock & roll".

Surfing with the Alien belongs to its era like Are You Experienced? belongs to its own -- perhaps it doesn't transcend its time the way the Jimi Hendrix Experience's 1967 debut does, but Joe Satriani's 1987 breakthrough can be seen as the gold standard for guitar playing of the mid- to late '80s, an album that captures everything that was good about the glory days of shred. Certainly, Satriani was unique among his peers in that his playing was so fluid that his technical skills never seemed like showboating -- something that was somewhat true of his 1986 debut, Not of This Earth, but on Surfing with the Alien he married this dexterity to a true sense of melodic songcraft, a gift that helped him be that rare thing: a guitar virtuoso who ordinary listeners enjoyed. Nowhere is this more true than on "Always with Me, Always with You," a genuine ballad -- not beefed up with muscular power chords but rather sighing gently with its melody -- but this knack was also evident on the ZZ Top homage "Satch Boogie" and the title track itself, both of which turned into rock radio hits. This melodic facility, plus his fondness for a good old-fashioned three-chord rock, separated Satriani from his shredding peers in 1987, many of whom were quite literally his students. But he was no throwback: he equaled his former students Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett in sweep picking and fretboard acrobatics and he had a sparkling, spacy quality to some of his songs -- particularly the closing stretch of the Middle Eastern-flavored "Lords of Karma," the twinkling "Midnight," and "Echo" -- that was thoroughly modern for 1987. The production of Surfing with the Alien is also thoroughly of its year -- stiff drumbeats, sparkling productions -- so much so that it can seem a bit like a relic from another era, but it's fine that it doesn't transcend its time: it captures the best of its era and is still impressive in that regard. 

The future of guitar playing arrived in stores in October 1987, courtesy of Joe Satriani’s epochal second album, and de facto public coming out party, Surfing With the Alien.

Before the album’s release, the Long-Island-bred, San Francisco-dwelling Satriani (Satch, to his friends) was a relative unknown to the average music fan, but a highly respected guitar teacher behind the scenes, responsible for honing the skills of all-star pupils such as Metallica’s Kirk, Primus’ Larry LaLonde, Testament’s Alex Skolnick, Counting Crows’ David Bryson, Third Eye Blind’s Kevin Cadogan, jazz-guitar wunderkind Charlie Hunter, and eventual biggest champion, protégé and peer, Steve Vai.

Somewhere between devising lesson plans and undertaking brief stints with local groups (including a quick pass through Greg Khin’s band), a modest solo career was born, and after cutting his teeth on a 1984 demo EP and 1986’s formative full-length debut, Not of This Earth, the already 30-year-old Satriani was finally ready for his close-up.

This became Surfing With the Alien, which, on its way to achieving platinum U.S. sales transformed Satriani from best-kept secret to the acknowledged fastest draw in town – the six-string gunslinger any would-be guitar hero simply had to challenge to earn his own stripes, never mind what the album also did to put instrumental music back on the rock ‘n’ roll map.

In a conspicuously Italian-American partnership involving producer John Cuniberti and drummer Jeff Campitelli, Surfing witnessed Satch striking upon a “golden songwriting ratio” of sorts, which entailed the creation of mesmerizing musical beds – rhythms, chord sequences, etc. – over which Joe could then vamp all over the fretboard, completely untethered by more conventional commercial restrictions.

The final pinch of pixie dust genius was of course slapping the Silver Surfer on the album cover. Trust us, Satch had no intention of winding up bald as a cue ball (and the Surfer) way back in 1987. But in an era when his modest amount of charisma was clearly no match for over-the-top showmen like David Lee Roth, and Axl Rose, presenting his otherworldly musical vision in the guise of Marvel Comics’ most enigmatic and philosophical hero was a stroke of genius. The ploy, if one could even call it that, quite literally established him as the ultimate super (guitar) hero.

And so it’s not surprising that, for many, Surfing With the Alien played like an animated movie of the mind’s eye, driven by Satriani’s evocative soundtrack, and held in check only by each listener’s wildest imagination. Personally, my mental movie for side one, at least, played something like a day-in-the-life chronicle for a future deep space citizen. Along with the muddled conversations that introduced it, the opening title track’s frantic pace and blindsiding solo runs suggested a busy rush hour space port; the comparatively sedate, almost thumb-twiddling tolerant “Ice 9″ the ensuing daily commute; the alternately spirited and despairingly moody “Crushing Day” the highs and lows of 9-5 grind in between; the sublime “Always With Me, Always With You” a wistful daydream of life back on the protagonist’s home planet; and the jazz-cum-blues-on-steroids “Satch Boogie” that tall, stiff drink and short-tempered bar-brawling to cap another hard day.

Side two inspired less interconnected images, by comparison, but after seemingly paying circumspect lip service to his many metalhead students via the ominous “Hill of the Skull,” Satch embarked on another batch of sensual and seductive mini-adventures taking in the exotic orbiting arpeggios of “Circles,” the (probably faux-) sitar flourishes of “Lords of Karma,” Spanish-flavored string tapping of “Midnight” and, finally, the atmospheric stratospheric extrapolations of “Echo.” It feels like a trip for an album lasting under forty minutes and yet traveling thousands of light years.

And heck, even if the mental movie didn’t play for everyone, Surfing With the Alien still sounded of a piece as an album-length listening experience, and for all the guitarist’s subsequent triumphs working within and beyond its template, Surfing remains the fundamental measuring stick by which all instrumental rock guitar records are still considered all these years on – and may continue to do so for decades to follow. At the end of the day, Satch is still teaching, it would seem, only on a much grander scale.

Track listing:

All music composed by Joe Satriani.

1.     "Surfing with the Alien"       4:25
2.     "Ice 9"       4:00
3.     "Crushing Day"       5:14
4.     "Always with Me, Always with You"       3:22
5.     "Satch Boogie"       3:13
6.     "Hill of the Skull"       1:48
7.     "Circles"       3:28
8.     "Lords of Karma"       4:48
9.     "Midnight"       1:42
10.     "Echo"       5:37

Total length: 37:37


Joe Satriani – guitar, keyboard, drum programming, percussion, bass, arrangement, production
Bongo Bob Smith – drum programming, percussion, sound design
Jeff Campitelli – drums, percussion
John Cuniberti – percussion, engineering, remastering (reissue), production

Various Artists - 1993 Sacred Sources 1 - "Live Forever"

Any compilation put together by Carlos Santana has got obvious potential, and Sacred Sources I: Live Forever manages to live up to the hype of its title as well as Hal Miller's preachy liner notes. A collection of live material from a diverse bunch of legendary musicians -- Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and John Coltrane -- Live Forever ranges in audio quality from clean (the Hendrix and Vaughan cuts) to very, very spotty (Coltrane's "Ogunde"), but all is forgiven with the high standard of the performances, most of which were previously unreleased until now. While purists may fret over the stylistic degrees of separation between, say, Coltrane and Vaughan, Live Forever has a remarkably continuous feel to it, and that's exactly Santana's point: eventually, the lines between jazz, blues, rock, reggae, and R&B begin to blur and the music is just plain good.

Santana Pays His Respects.

Intriguing release from Carlos Santana’s short-lived boutique label, Guts & Grace. According to the liner notes, Santana himself petitioned the estates of the participants to secure these, at-the-time, previously unreleased (in their entirety, anyway) live recordings. You get about 10 minutes from each artist, less from Coltrane, more from Hendrix. The sound quality is a varied bag, however, with Coltrane’s “Ogunde” faring the worst. The Stevie Ray track comes from his final 1990 tour, while readers tell us the Hendrix comes from 1970, at the Berkeley Community Theatre. It’s all obviously a labor of love for Santana, as he gathers together some of the inspirations that have gone into his own heady fusion of jazz, blues & rock. Sadly, a Vol. 2 never appeared.

Carlos Santana is unusual both for the passion of his music making, and also for the voraciousness of his listening. Carlos is a music junkie. He collects tapes from street musicians and jazz icons alike - anything, as Carlos puts it, "from the heart, for the heart." His knowledge is extensive - as is his collection - and devoid of pretention.

We get the benefit of both with Live Forever. The first release on Carlos' Guts & Grace label, it's also the first in his personally curated anthology series, Sacret Sources. With Live Forever, Carlos decided to compile outstanding concert performances from the last tours of Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Coltrane.

With the exception of Marvin's "Joy", none of this music has ever been released in its entirety. About a minute of "Ogunde" and two minutes of "I don't live today" have been available on CD and video respectively. All the rest is only available on this collection. In several cases, the music was entrusted directly to Carlos by the artists' heirs. In others, fellow collectors sent tapes, which Carlos the cleared with the relevant estates. And finally, in all cases, the artists' record companies gave their gracious permission for this release to occur.

The recording quality is occasionally far from perfect - several selections were mastered from mixing-board cassettes - but the emotional qualities are unassailable throughout.

Since Carlos has more great anthology ideas, there will be more volumes of Sacred Sources. Live Forever makes a spectacular beginning.

For us hardcore Stevie Ray Vaughan fans, there's a great live version of "Riviera Paradise" on here. Since a live version appears nowhere else on CD, this is a must. Source is from his last tour in 1990. Also will please Hendrix, Bob Marley fans alike.

Great performances of all the late great legends! Some rough sounding recordings but overall worth the money for the cd itself.


1. Jimi Hendrix - Message to love 4:56
2. Jimi Hendrix - Fire 3:47
3. Jimi Hendrix - I don't live today 5:10
4. Marvin Gaye - Joy 5:14
5. Marvin Gaye - What's going on 5:50
6. Bob Marley - Natural mystic 4:49
7. Bob Marley - Exodus 6:58
8. Stevie Ray Vaughan - Riviera Paradise 8:41
9. John Coltrane - Ogunde 5:27

Billy Cobham - 1974 [2008] "Total Eclipse" [24bit Remastered]

Total Eclipse is the third album of fusion drummer Billy Cobham. The album was released in 1974. It comprises eight songs, all composed by Billy Cobham. The album peaked number 6 in the Billboard Jazz album charts, number 12 in the R&B album charts and number 36 in the Billboard 200 charts.

This is Billy Cobham's third solo recording under his own name and is a fine follow-up to Crosswinds. The mini-suite "Solarization" not only showcases the band's technical abilities, but also Cobham's strong compositional skills. It also features a schizophrenic piano solo ("Second Phase") from the underrated pianist Milcho Leviev, who sounds like a mutation of Cecil Taylor and Bill Evans. The funky "Moon Germs," on which John Abercrombie is pushed to inspiring new heights, became a Cobham classic. "The Moon Ain't Made of Green Cheese" is a beautiful flugelhorn solo by Randy Brecker backed by Cobham's debut on piano. The band stretches out on the lengthy "Sea of Tranquility," while "Last Frontier" is a gratuitous drum solo. This recording is highly recommended as Cobham still sounds inspired. 

Considering that 1974's 'Total Eclipse' is Mr.Cobham's third studio recording (and was already in pretty heady company in his catalog even when it came out) this is a likely candidate for Cobham's best album and trust me I have heard most of them.Why?Because with the exception of the closing "Last Frontier" (a drum solo) this album is basically devoid of alot of flashy bombastic drumming on Cobham's part.Just great use of sustained intensity on the wonderful "Solarization" suite.

The title concepts for most of these tunes refer to various astronomical phenomenon.And in the case of the ultra funky "Lunarputians" just an excuse to use aliens as an excuse to groove (a concept later used with vocals by a guy named George Clinton).Some elements of this album are very heavily jazzy such as "Sea Of Tranquillity" and the title track emphasizes one of the most important parts of this albums appeal-the tunes here are some of the all time best compositions Cohbam has created.

It wasn't exactly a bad thing either that Billy had the help of 'The Billy Cohbam Players' as they are credited.These players include John Abercrombie,the Brecker's, and the magnificant Alex Blake on bass.And I say that funnily in tribute to some community radio DJ's in my neck of the woods playing acoustic jazz who love to list EACH band member followed by the instrument they play.They probably would never play an album like this on their shows but if I had a radio show I sure would play this....okay MASTERPIECE and proudly list the musicians and what they play because without Billy AND the mutual collaberation of these great artists this album would'nt be exactly what it was.Integrity at it's finest!

When I first heard this album, the musicianship of Cobham and Co. blew me away. This is some of the tightest, well-written fusion material ever presented to the jazz-buying public. I have been waiting for them to release this on CD since CDs were invented!
You cannot go wrong with this album if you are a fan of the fusion movement of the 70's. I would rank this and some of the other Cobham albums above even McLaughlin and Mahavishnu orchestra in terms of ground-breaking musicianship and technical perfection! 

Cobham is the best drummer and on this album he shows his composing ability. Total Eclipse is by far the best in the Cobham collection in my book. John Abercrombie's guitar work is great and the opening piece will leave you on the edge of your seat. There's a little funk and a little jazz and a whole lotta great drumming throughout. GET THIS MUSIC IN YOUR HANDS!!!!

Tracks Listing:

1. Solarization: Solarization/Second Phase/Crescent Sun/Voyage/Solarization-Recapitulation (11:10)
2. Lunarputians (2:33)
3. Total Eclipse (5:59)
4. Bandits (2:30)
5. Moon Germs (4:54)
6. The Moon Ain't Made Of Green Cheese (0:58)
7. Sea Of Tranquility (10:44)
8. Last Frontier (5:22)

Total Time: 44:10


    John Abercrombie – electric & ovation guitars
    Michael Brecker – flute, soprano & tenor saxes
    Randy Brecker – trumpet, flugelhorn
    Glenn Ferris – tenor & bass trombones
    Billy Cobham – traps, timpani, acoustic piano on "The Moon Ain't Made Of Green Cheese & "The Last Frontier"
    Milcho Leviev – keyboards
    Alex Blake – electric bass

Additional musicians

    David Earle Johnson – congas on "Solarization" & "Moon Germs"
    Sue Evan – marimba on "Solarization"
    Cornell Dupree – first guitar solo on "Moon Germs"

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Frank Zappa - 1969 [1995] "Hot Rats"

Hot Rats is the second solo album by Frank Zappa. It was released in October 1969. Five of the six songs are instrumental ("Willie the Pimp" features a short vocal by Captain Beefheart). It was Zappa's first recording project after the dissolution of the original Mothers of Invention. In his original sleeve notes Zappa described the album as "a movie for your ears."
Because Hot Rats largely consists of instrumental jazz-influenced compositions with extensive soloing, the music sounds very different from earlier Zappa albums, which featured satirical vocal performances with extensive use of musique concrète and editing. Multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood is the only member of the Mothers to appear on the album and was the primary musical collaborator. Other featured musicians were Max Bennett and a 16-year old Shuggie Otis on bass, drummers John Guerin, Paul Humphrey and Ron Selico, and electric violinists Don "Sugarcane" Harris and Jean-Luc Ponty.
This was the first Frank Zappa album recorded on 16-track equipment and one of the first albums to use this technology. Machines with 16 individual tracks allow for much more flexibility in multi-tracking and overdubbing than the professional 4- and 8-track reel-to-reel tape recorders that were standard in 1969.
The album was dedicated to Zappa's newborn son, Dweezil Zappa. In February 2009, Dweezil's tribute band to his father's musical legacy, Zappa Plays Zappa, won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for their rendition of "Peaches en Regalia."
In the Q & Mojo Classic Special Edition Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, the album came #13 in its list of "40 Cosmic Rock Albums". It was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. This is Official Release #8.

Zappa composed, arranged and produced the album himself. His primary instrument on the album is lead guitar. "Willie the Pimp", "Son of Mr. Green Genes", and "The Gumbo Variations" are showcases for his powerful and unconventional solo guitar performances. Four of the tracks have intricately arranged charts featuring multiple overdubs by Ian Underwood. Underwood plays the parts of approximately eight to ten musicians, often simultaneously. His work includes complicated sections of piano and organ, as well as multiple flutes, clarinets and saxophones.
The song "Peaches en Regalia" is widely recognized as a modern jazz fusion standard and is one of Zappa's best-known songs. Zappa plays a short solo on an instrument credited as an octave-bass, which is a conventional bass guitar recorded at half-speed so it sounds an octave higher in normal speed playback. When one listens to the song, it is apparent that many other instruments were also recorded at half-speed: organ, reed instruments, percussion. Underwood contributes flute and multiple saxophone, clarinet and keyboard parts. Zappa later re-recorded the song several times in live performances. It has been re-interpreted by many other jazz and rock artists, including Phish, the Dixie Dregs, and Frogg Café.
"Willie the Pimp" is a rock tune which features a vocal by Zappa's longtime friend and collaborator Captain Beefheart. It has violin by Don "Sugarcane" Harris and guitar solos by Zappa in what appear to be loose jams, though the performances were edited before release. The title Hot Rats comes from the lyric of this song.
"Son of Mr. Green Genes" is an instrumental re-arrangement of the song Mr. Green Genes from the Mothers album Uncle Meat. The unusual title of this song led to an urban legend that Frank Zappa was related to the character Mr. Green Jeans from the television show Captain Kangaroo. This is the only song on the album to feature both intricate horn charts and extended guitar solo sections.
"Little Umbrellas" is similar in style to "Peaches", another short carefully arranged tune with numerous keyboard and wind overdubs by Underwood.
"The Gumbo Variations" also is a jam performance that features a tenor saxophone solo by Underwood and some intricate electric violin playing by Don "Sugarcane" Harris in addition to a guitar solo by Zappa. The CD issue is a longer version containing portions that were edited for the LP. It includes a brief spoken segment at the beginning where Zappa's voice is heard instructing the musicians on how he wants them to start the tune.
"It Must Be a Camel" is also an intricately arranged tune with numerous wind and keyboard overdubs by Underwood. The very unusual melody of this song is highly rhythmic and often makes large melodic leaps. The title may come from the fact that these leaps resemble "humps" when written on paper. The recording contains a violin performance by Jean-Luc Ponty.
A recording from the Hot Rats sessions titled Bognor Regis was set to be released on the B-side of an edited version of "Sharleena", a track from the 1970 Zappa album Chunga's Revenge. The single release was canceled; however, an acetate disc copy was leaked to the public and the track has appeared on Zappa bootlegs. The song was named after a town on the south coast of England. Musically it's a basic blues instrumental with electric violin solo by Don "Sugarcane" Harris. Another track recorded during these sessions, titled "Twenty Small Cigars", was later released on Chunga's Revenge.

Aside from the experimental side project Lumpy Gravy, Hot Rats was the first album Frank Zappa recorded as a solo artist sans the Mothers, though he continued to employ previous musical collaborators, most notably multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood. Other than another side project -- the doo wop tribute Cruising With Ruben and the Jets -- Hot Rats was also the first time Zappa focused his efforts in one general area, namely jazz-rock. The result is a classic of the genre. Hot Rats' genius lies in the way it fuses the compositional sophistication of jazz with rock's down-and-dirty attitude -- there's a real looseness and grit to the three lengthy jams, and a surprising, wry elegance to the three shorter, tightly arranged numbers (particularly the sumptuous "Peaches en Regalia"). Perhaps the biggest revelation isn't the straightforward presentation, or the intricately shifting instrumental voices in Zappa's arrangements -- it's his own virtuosity on the electric guitar, recorded during extended improvisational workouts for the first time here. His wonderfully scuzzy, distorted tone is an especially good fit on "Willie the Pimp," with its greasy blues riffs and guest vocalist Captain Beefheart's Howlin' Wolf theatrics. Elsewhere, his skill as a melodist was in full flower, whether dominating an entire piece or providing a memorable theme as a jumping-off point. In addition to Underwood, the backing band featured contributions from Jean-Luc Ponty, Lowell George, and Don "Sugarcane" Harris, among others; still, Zappa is unquestionably the star of the show. Hot Rats still sizzles; few albums originating on the rock side of jazz-rock fusion flowed so freely between both sides of the equation, or achieved such unwavering excitement and energy. 

Tracks Listing

1. Peaches en Regalia (3:39)
2. Willie the Pimp (9:23)
3. Son of Mr. Green Genes (8:57)
4. Little Umbrellas (3:09)
5. The Gumbo Variations (12:54)
6. It Must Be A Camel (5:17)

Total Time: 43:11

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / guitar, octave bass, percussion, arranger & producer

- Captain Beefheart / vocals (2)
- Lowell George (uncredited) / rhythm guitar
- Ian Underwood / piano, organ, flutes, clarinets, saxes
- Don 'Sugarcane' Harris / electric violin (2,5)
- Jean-Luc Ponty / electric violin (6)
- Max Bennett / bass
- Shuggy Otis / bass (1)
- Ron Selico / drums (1)
- John Guerin / drums (2,4,6)
- Paul Humphrey / drums (3,5)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Miles Davis - 1969 [2002] "Filles De Kilimanjaro"

Filles de Kilimanjaro (French for "Girls of Kilimanjaro") is a studio album by American jazz recording artist Miles Davis. It was recorded in June and September 1968. The album was first released in the United Kingdom by Columbia (CBS) in 1968, and subsequently in the United States in February 1969.
The album is a transitional work for Davis, who was shifting stylistically from acoustic recordings with his second "great" quintet to his subsequent "electric" period. Filles de Kilimanjaro was well received by contemporary music critics, who viewed it as a significant release in modern jazz.

The June sessions featured Wayne Shorter on saxophone, Herbie Hancock on the electric Rhodes piano, Ron Carter on electric bass, and Tony Williams on drums. The September sessions replaced Hancock with Chick Corea, and Carter with Dave Holland, making Filles de Kilimanjaro the last Miles album to feature his Second Great Quintet, although all except Carter would play on his next album, In A Silent Way. During the September sessions, Holland played acoustic bass and Corea played an RMI Electra-piano in addition to acoustic piano. These are Holland and Corea's first known recordings with Davis. The album was produced by Teo Macero and engineered by Frank Laico and Arthur Kendy.
The album title refers, in part, to Kilimanjaro African Coffee, a company in which Davis had made a financial investment. Davis decided to list all the song titles in French to give the album an exotic touch. Davis married Betty O. Mabry Davis in September 1968, and named "Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry)" for her. The song itself was recorded during the same month as Davis's wedding and Betty appears on the album cover.

The album can be seen as a transitional work between Davis's mainly acoustic recordings with the Second Quintet and his later electric period (for example, Bitches Brew). It is suffused in the heady abstraction of the 1960s, but attentive to blues tonalities, electronic textures, and dancing rhythms of later jazz fusion. Davis apparently saw it as a transitional work for him, as the album was the first in what would become a series of his releases to bear the subtitle "Directions in music by Miles Davis". However, author Paul Tingen points out that while Carter and Hancock played electric instruments at the first recording session, the later session was a bit of a throwback, in which Holland played only acoustic bass and Corea played both acoustic and electric piano. Stanley Crouch, a staunch critic of Davis's use of electric instruments, has described the album as "the trumpeter's last important jazz record". Noted linguist and Miles Davis-biographer Jack Chambers later wrote that the band sought to expand beyond their usual minimal structure and find a common mood, wanting listeners to "discover the unity of the pieces instead of just locating it, as viewers must discover the unity in a painting with several simultaneous perspectives".
The melodic complexity of "Petits Machins (Little Stuff)" highlights Davis's interest in departing from post-bop structure towards the sounds and textures of his subsequent fusion work. Music writer Marcus Singletary commented on its complexity, "True to the general concept of Filles de Kilimanjaro, a mosaic of controlled chaos becomes the defining sound of 'Little Stuff'". On the recording, the quintet expresses an 11/4 meter with a repeating riff and chromatically ascending dominant harmonies in the recording first section. Section two moves to a contrasting 10-bar section in 4/4 meter, with the opening six bars relying on an F pedal point in the bass, above which occur shifting harmonies each measure. The static F pedal section yields to a syncopated progression with meters seven to eight and a change of bass in meters nine to 10, as the quintet makes an alteration to section two during the improvisations. Music theorist Keith Waters cites this as an example of "Davis's—by now—well-worn practice of metric deletion", in which throughout the trumpet solo, the quintet maintains a repeated nine-bar cycle, rather than the 10 bars of section two heard during the first section. The quintet omits meter 10 of section two during the solos and maintains the harmonic progression of meters one through nine. As in the first section, the syncopated progression occurs in meter seven, but Carter does not participate in playing the syncopation of meters seven to eight during the improvisations, while Hancock interprets this progression more freely. Singletary said of its musical significance:

   The fact that these musicians mostly follow each other instinctively into such undefined territory is jolting. Absent of any form of actual standardization, these rare glimpses into the thought processes of geniuses validates their singular language as impossible to replicate in any way that would do this original recording justice. Though relatively brief, this track is the highlight of the album, and its significance to jazz remains tantamount. Through it, an apex of creativity in Miles's career was reached, and the track also shows why each musician here is considered an A-list innovator.

As with the album's title track, the quintet does not return to the first section and the recording concludes with a second Davis improvisation. Gil Evans, with whom Davis had previously collaborated, helped compose, arrange, and produce the album, though he is not mentioned in the credits. Evans co-composed "Petits Machins", which he later recorded as "Eleven" with himself and Davis listed as co-composers. The song "Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry)", while credited to Davis, is actually Gil Evans' reworking of "The Wind Cries Mary" by Jimi Hendrix (Davis and Evans had met with Hendrix several times to exchange ideas). At the same time, some portions of the song resemble Mann, Weil, Leiber and Stoller's "On Broadway"

In a contemporary review, Rolling Stone claimed that "no amount of track-by-track description here can begin to convey the beauty and intensity. There are five songs, but really they fit together as five expressions of the same basic piece, one sustained work". In a retrospective review of the album, Uncut called it "a masterpiece of tropical exoticism". Sputnikmusic staff writer Tyler Fisher commented that the rhythm section-players "sound entirely innovative and fresh" and "The whole band, in both quintets, has an extreme awareness about each other and knows exactly where each soloist is going". He attributed its "more avant-garde feel" to a "lack of form and the constant outlook of many measures ahead", while calling it "a full out enjoyable listen, showcasing enough variety and virtuosity to not make the 70-minute album a tiring listen". AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine called its music "unpretentiously adventurous, grounded in driving, mildly funky rhythms and bluesy growls from Miles, graced with weird, colorful flourishes from the band [...] Where Miles in the Sky meandered a bit, this is considerably more focused", dubbing it as "the swan song for his second classic quintet, arguably the finest collective of musicians he ever worked with". Erlewine also cited the album as "the beginning of a new phase for Miles, the place that he begins to dive headfirst into jazz-rock fusion", and commented on its significance in Davis's catalogue:
What makes this album so fascinating is that it's possible to hear the breaking point — though his quintet all followed him into fusion (three of his supporting players were on In a Silent Way), it's possible to hear them all break with the conventional notions of what constituted even adventurous jazz, turning into something new [...] [C]ertainly the music that would spring full bloom on In a Silent Way was still in the gestation phase, and despite the rock-blues-n-funk touches here, the music doesn't fly and search the way that Nefertiti did. But that's not a bad thing — this middle ground between the adventurous bop of the mid-'60s and the fusion of the late '60s is rewarding in its own right, since it's possible to hear great musicians find the foundation of a new form.
Down Beat critic John Ephland called Filles de Kilimanjaro "the stylistic precursor to the ever-popular In a Silent Way of 1969", writing that "Filles is performed (and edited) like a suite, with a sense of flow unlike anything Davis had recorded up to that point. That flow is enhanced by a music played all in one key (F), with only five 'tunes,' and with a mood and rhythms that change gradually from start to finish". Ephland concluded in his review, "In passing, Filles de Kilimanjaro is a turning-point album unlike any other for Davis: For the first time, his bebop roots were essentially severed, rockier rhythms, electricity and ostinato-driven bass lines now holding sway". Jim Santella from All About Jazz wrote that the album's music "flows with a lyricism that remains highly regarded in today’s format", concluding in his review that "Filles De Kilimanjaro remains one of the classic albums from their collaboration, and represents a high point in modern jazz".

Since it's billed as "Directions in Music by Miles Davis," it should come as little surprise that Filles de Kilimanjaro is the beginning of a new phase for Miles, the place that he begins to dive headfirst into jazz-rock fusion. It also happens to be the swan song for his second classic quintet, arguably the finest collective of musicians he ever worked with, and what makes this album so fascinating is that it's possible to hear the breaking point -- though his quintet all followed him into fusion (three of his supporting players were on In a Silent Way), it's possible to hear them all break with the conventional notions of what constituted even adventurous jazz, turning into something new. According to Miles, the change in "direction" was as much inspired by a desire to return to something earthy and bluesy as it was to find new musical territory, and Filles de Kilimanjaro bears him out. Though the album sports inexplicable, rather ridiculous French song titles, this is music that is unpretentiously adventurous, grounded in driving, mildly funky rhythms and bluesy growls from Miles, graced with weird, colorful flourishes from the band. Where Miles in the Sky meandered a bit, this is considerably more focused, even on the three songs that run over ten minutes, yet it still feels transitional. Not tentative (which In the Sky was), but certainly the music that would spring full bloom on In a Silent Way was still in the gestation phase, and despite the rock-blues-n-funk touches here, the music doesn't fly and search the way that Nefertiti did. But that's not a bad thing -- this middle ground between the adventurous bop of the mid-'60s and the fusion of the late '60s is rewarding in its own right, since it's possible to hear great musicians find the foundation of a new form. For that alone, Filles de Kilimanjaro is necessary listening. 

Track listing:

All songs were credited to Miles Davis.

    "Frelon brun" (Brown Hornet)  – 5:39
    "Tout de suite" (Right Away)  – 14:07
    "Petits machins" (Little Stuff)  – 8:07
    "Filles de Kilimanjaro" (Girls of Kilimanjaro)  – 12:03
    "Mademoiselle Mabry" (Miss Mabry)  – 16:32

    The first and last tracks were recorded in September 1968, the others in June. The CD reissue includes a sixth track, an alternate take of "Tout de suite".


    Miles Davis – trumpet
    Wayne Shorter – tenor saxophone
    Herbie Hancock – Fender Rhodes electric piano on tracks 2, 3, 4 & 6
    Chick Corea – piano, RMI Electra-piano on tracks 1 & 5
    Ron Carter – electric bass on tracks 2, 3, 4 & 6
    Dave Holland – double bass on tracks 1 & 5
    Tony Williams – drums

Saturday, September 24, 2016

John Scofield - 1992 "Grace Under Pressure"

Grace Under Pressure is a studio album by jazz musician John Scofield, featuring guitarist Bill Frisell as a co-lead voice.

ohn Scofield and Bill Frisell, two of the most distinctive guitarists of the 1990s (they previously fronted Marc Johnson's band Bass Desires,) team up on this quartet date with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Joey Baron. While Scofield contributed all ten originals, Frisell with his wide variety of sounds and eccentric solos often comes close to stealing the show altogether. Five of the ten numbers add a three-piece brass section for color. The interplay between the two very different yet complementary guitarists is notable. 

Fantastic John Scofield set. This was my first John Scofield purchase after having had some exposure to him by way of Jaco Pastorius' instructional bass video and John Patitucci's solo album Sketchbook.

Overall, I think this is a fantastic album. John's writing is sometimes traditional, sometimes clever -- the opening track, "You Bet," is the first song I think I would ever describe as 'fun' -- but always smart and clean and easy to follow and listen to.

I get the idea that John was thinking outside of the box on this album, owing to his having Bill Frisell (guitar), Charlie Haden (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) back him, along with a small brass section on a few of the tunes. These guys each bring their own distinctive styles to the table and the result is a smorgasbord of rich sonic textures and unabashed musical adventure.

For those familiar with John's work before or after this disc, the music may surprise you. The first three numbers are fairly straightforward and are pretty much straight ahead jazz, but gears quickly shift when we reach "Scenes From A Marriage." Once the head is stated, Charlie and Joey kick into overdrive and John just goes with the flow and keeps right up with them even though he probably has no idea where they may be going. John wraps up his solo and Bill takes the cake by beautifully playing a variation on the main theme while Charlie and Joey switch to a more free jazz backing.

Then Bill stomps on the gas and switches to his distorted sound and provides his own loops in the background. He gets crazy with the theme and then brings it back down a notch by providing an ethereal ambience while John restates the head. Charlie and Joey then break off to do some free jazz and then the whole gang comes back in to wrap the tune up.

"Twang" is a blues-inflected swinger and "Pat Me" -- a nod to Pat Metheny -- gives Bill the chance to showcase his acoustic skills. "Pretty Out" is musical mayhem waiting to happen and Bill certainly doesn't disappoint on this tune, either. This song, however, may wear on some people and even John has a hard time getting the rest of the guys back on the same sheet to restate the head. They finally do it and Bill's ending loop -- which fades out to end the track -- is picture perfect and is wonderfully accentuated by Charlie's unchractersically laid-back bass with John's overchorused chords floating above them both. The mental picture I get just from the sound of it is like picking up a far-away radio broadcast with an old transistor radio.

Up next is "Bill Me" and gives Bill some room to stretch out. After that is "Same Axe." It's a short tune built around a typically Scofield A-A-B-A riff and both guitarists solo simultaneously before restating the head and ending the tune. "Unique New York" is the quietest tune of the bunch -- and the only one with a tongue-twister as a title -- and as the closing song on the album, it's definitely in sharp contrast to most of the rest of the tunes in this set, kind of like a sonic sorbet to cleanse the palate.

All in all, I think this a classic disc. While John almost seems to be overshadowed by the likes of Bill and Charlie at times, with their preponderance for running out into left field, he manages to rein them in when needed and is actually pushed by their musical experimentation to try some new and different stuff himself.

A must-have for either the serious Scofield fan or the serious Frisell fan.

I'm surprised that there are only a handful of reviews here. In my opinion, Scofield's CDs of the early 90s will someday be considered jazz classics. ("Time on My Hands", "Meant to Be", "What We Do", and this one.) The writing is top-notch, original, and quite often brilliant. The playing is inspired, cohesive, and virtuosic. The line-ups are amazing. On this album, Bill Frissell is just the perfect complement to Scofield's playing -- smooth to Sco's angular. His solo on "You Bet" is one of those rare pieces of improvisation that sounds truly composed. Charlie Haden is, well, Charlie Haden. Superb. Joey Baron, on drums, is a great choice to glue together these quirky tunes and musicians -- he's a very, very interesting (and excellent) player. Scofield is, as usual, totally in the pocket.
The tunes here are, to be honest, not overall my favorite of Scofield's. "You Bet" is brilliant; "Bill Me" as well. Sco's foray into horn arrangements is a nice touch, but strikes me as experimental here, and overlayed rather than integral. (A bit tenuous, too, come to think of it.) I think he's at his best when he's more minimal in his arrangements.
If you're not familiar with Scofield's work of the early 90s, check out "Time on My Hands", and if you like that, definitely give this album a spin.  

Track listing

All tracks composed by John Scofield

    "You Bet"
    "Grace Under Pressure"
    "Honest I Do"
    "Scenes From A Marriage"
    "Pat Me"
    "Pretty Out"
    "Bill Me"
    "Same Axe"
    "Unique New York"


    John Scofield - electric guitar
    Bill Frisell - electric & acoustic guitars
    Charlie Haden - bass
    Joey Baron - drums

On 3,5,6,8,10:

    Randy Brecker - flugelhorn
    Jim Pugh - trombone
    John Clark - French horn

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

John Mclaughlin - 1984 [2013] "Mahavishnu"

Mahavishnu is an album by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, released in 1984 by Warner Bros. Records. During the 1980s, John McLaughlin reformed the Mahavishnu Orchestra for release of the two albums Mahavishnu and Adventures in Radioland. This band's overall sound was radically different from the original Mahavishnu Orchestra, in particular because of McLaughlin's extensive use of the Synclavier synthesiser system. This album features original Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham.

John McLaughlin is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists in the history of music. Making albums from the 60's through the present, his intense guitar work with The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis gave birth to jazz/fusion. In 1984 he formed a reincarnation of sorts of The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Featuring original Mahavishnu drummer Billy Cobham, plus saxophonist Bill Evans and bassist Jonas Hellborg, this high-energy electric album is regarded as one of his best efforts and has been his most sought after album for CD reissue. It is making its worldwide CD debut!

Alot of people don't know this but John McLaughlin was one of, if not the first guitarist to utilize the guitar synthesizer. Now in this recording he utilizes it effectively on many pieces.
For those who are expecting commemoration of the old Mahavishnu Orchestra, you might be disappointed. It's a different band with a more "refined" sound without losing the propulsiveness and/or drive.
Bill Evans saxophone work lends this edition of the band a different feel. Jonas Hellborg is a marvelous bassist and provides a strong undercurrent throughout.
Remember this was done in '85, so the pieces are more structured than the runaway jams of the seventies. Yet the virtousity is there. This and the follow up "Adventures in Radioland" were two of the finer fusion recordings of the eighties.
There is less of the eastern influence in this recording. McLaughlin tone is frankly better here than in earlier recordings. He's less frenetic and is more to the point. Yes, you will find the flying fingers of the fretboard wizardry here but not as an end to itself.
This recording runs the gamut of fusion sensibilities. Bill Evans shines on tenor saxophone. Billy Cobham is Billy Cobham. Just a monster (I mean that in a good way). The pieces run the gamut from introspective to a down right fusion "throwdown".
Put aside your preconceptions and reminiscences about how you remember Mahavishnu. This is a new band and this is a very good recording, well worth getting.

I first bought this album on vinyl in 1986 at Tower Records, Piccadilly Circus, London. There came a point where I no longer had a turntable so I got rid of all my vinyl albums (big mistake!). I was delighted to see the album had been re-issued on CD as I could vividly remember the rush of first listening to this album. This album is a delight for any lover of good music and especially for fans of mclaughlin/mahavishnu/jazz/fusion. There is a veritable feast of delights inducing all kinds of emotions. Like all good jazz you must allow each of the tracks to develop and reach their climax to achieve the emotional high. Beautiful and Nostalgic.

John McLaughlin resurrected the esteemed old Mahavishnu Orchestra for his mid-'80s quintet, even getting old mate Billy Cobham to fill the drum slot on the band's first album. But this is an entirely different conception than any of the '70s Mahavishnu outfits. The sound is cooler, less strident, more thoroughly dominated by advanced electronic textures -- including a sleekly elegant digital guitar played through a Synclavier. Instead of a violin, Bill Evans contributes some swirling and sometimes bop-flavored work on saxes, and McLaughlin gets mobile but not overly combustible support from keyboardist Mitch Forman and bassist Jonas Hellborg. The homages continue; the opening of "Nostalgia" is exactly that, a throwback to "In a Silent Way" as filtered through digital gear. While this is undeniably prog-minded, beautifully played electric music.

Track listing:

1. Radio-Activity (6:53)
2. Nostalgia (5:57)
3. Nightriders (3:49)
4. East Side, West Side (4:49)
5. Clarendon Hills (6:05)
6. Jazz (1:45)
7. The Unbeliever (2:49)
8. Pacific Express (6:32)
9. When Blue Turns Gold (3:22)


    John McLaughlin - Synclavier II, Digital Guitar, Les Paul Special
    Mitchel Forman - Fender Rhodes, Yamaha DX7, Yamaha "Blow Torch" Piano on "Clarendon Hills"
    Jonas Hellborg - Fretless Bass Guitar, Fretted Bass Guitar
    Bill Evans - Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute
    Billy Cobham - Drums, Percussion

Additional Personnel:

    Danny Gottlieb: Percussion
    Hari Prasad Chaurasia: Flute on "When Blue Turns Gold"
    Zakir Hussain: Tabla on "When Blue Turns Gold"
    Katia Labeque: Synclavier II with Velocity/Pressure Keyboard (VPK), Yamaha DX7, and Acoustic Piano on "When Blue Turns Gold"

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Genesis - 1972 [2008] "Foxtrot" [Remaster]

Foxtrot is the fourth studio album from the English rock band Genesis, released in October 1972 on Charisma Records. The album was recorded following the tour in support of their previous album, Nursery Cryme. Side two features "Supper's Ready", a 23-minute track that is considered a key work in progressive rock and has been described by AllMusic as the band's "undisputed masterpiece".
Foxtrot was the band's greatest commercial and critical success at the time of its release, reaching number 12 in the UK and receiving largely positive reviews. As with their previous two albums, Foxtrot initially failed to chart in the United States. A single from the album, "Watcher of the Skies", was released as a single in October 1972. Foxtrot was reissued with a new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix as part of their 2008 Genesis 1970–1975 box set.

By 1972, the seventh Genesis line-up of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins were touring in support their previous album, Nursery Cryme. They started to tour Belgium and Italy after having chart success there and played to new, enthusiastic crowds. Following the tour's conclusion in August 1972, the five proceeded to work on their next studio album. Hackett had considered leaving the band after feeling "fairly shattered" from touring, but the rest of the band persuaded him to stay.

The band wrote and rehearsed enough material for the album in a space underneath the Una Billings School of Dance in Shepherd's Bush, London. Some of Hackett's material that was used for his first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, was in fact rehearsed by the band during the Foxtrot sessions but was not developed further. Material that became "Watcher of the Skies" and "Can-Utility and the Coastliners" were performed live in the time running up to the recording of Foxtrot, which took place from August to September 1972 at Island Studios. They had recorded a new song, "Happy The Man", with producer John Anthony around the same time, but escalating recording costs due to slow progress caused disagreements among Anthony and Charisma Records, the group's label, caused an end to their association with Anthony. Recording began with Bob Potter as engineer, who had worked with fellow Charisma group Lindisfarne, but Potter took a dislike to the band's music. Working with Tony Platt was unsuccessful after personality clashes before the band settled with Dave Hitchcock as co-producer with John Burns as engineer, who went on to produce the following three Genesis albums.

"Watcher of the Skies" takes its title from a line of the 1817 sonnet On First Looking into Chapman's Homer by John Keats. The song begins with a solo played on a Mellotron Mk II that the band had bought from King Crimson. Banks was "searching for chords that actually sounded good ... because of its tuning problems" and settled on the opening two chords "that sounded great ... There was an atmosphere about them". Banks and Rutherford wrote the lyrics during band rehearsals at an airfield in April 1972 during their first Italian tour while supporting Nursery Cryme. They wondered what an empty Earth would look like if surveyed by an alien visitor. Banks described them as "a sort of sci-fi fantasy" loosely based on the novel Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. Rutherford thought they were "interesting words but they didn't sing very well". Collins felt the need to bring in "some tricky arrangements" into the song's rhythm from seeing Yes perform live.
"Time Table" features a romantic theme that yearns for tradition and decency.
"Get 'Em Out by Friday" is a song described as a "comic opera" that Gabriel described as "part social comment, part prophetic". Similar to "Harold the Barrel" and "The Fountain of Salmacis" from Nursery Cryme, the song features characters with Gabriel adopting a different vocal style for each one. The track features four characters: John Pebble, a business man of Styx Enterprises; Mark Hall (aka The Winkler) an employee of Styx who evicts tenants; Mrs. Barrow, a tenant of a house owned by Pebble; and Joe Everybody, a customer in a pub. The song starts with Hall informing Mrs. Barrow that her property has been purchased and must be evicted, but she refuses to leave, leaving Pebble to raise her rent. Hall then offers Mrs. Barrow £400 to move to a new property in Harlow New Town, which she does, before Pebble raises her rent again. After an instrumental section, the date is 18 September 2012 and Genetic Control announce on a Dial-A-Program television service its decision to shorten the height of all humans to 4ft. Joe reasons this so housing blocks will be able to accommodate twice as many people. Rutherford and Collins singled out "Get 'Em Out by Friday" as one of the early Genesis songs that suffered from Gabriel writing too many vocals, making the track busy and crowded. Collins reasoned this as a downfall to the band's typical method of song writing whereby a track recorded instrumentally with the vocals written and recorded afterwards.
"Can-Utility and the Coastliners" is based on King Canute.
Side two begins with "Horizons", a short guitar instrumental performed by Hackett that was recorded while Potter was the album's producer. The track took inspiration from the Prelude of Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007 for cello by Bach. After playing the track to the band in a rehearsal, Hackett remembered Collins saying, "'It sounds like there ought to be applause at the end of it'." Hackett wrote the piece with composers of the Tudor period in mind, including William Byrd.
"Supper's Ready", a 22-minute track formed of seven parts, occupies most of the album's second side and remains the band's longest recorded track. Gabriel believed the band's growing support as a live act gave them the confidence to start writing extended pieces. The song and its theme of good versus evil was inspired by an experience Gabriel and his then-wife Jill had with Anthony at Kensington Palace, where Anthony, interested in spiritualism, was telling Jill about the subject when Jill reportedly entered a trance state as the room's windows suddenly blew open. Gabriel compared the ordeal to a scene from "a Hammer Horror film". Initially, the song took form as an acoustic track similar to "Stagnation" from Trespass or "The Musical Box" from Nursery Cryme, something the band wished to avoid repeating. To develop the piece further, Gabriel pitched his idea for what became the song's fifth section, titled "Willow Farm", on the piano. Banks noted the change from the song's more romantic introduction into "Willow Farm", with its "ugly chord sequence", worked as it took the song "into another dimension". The following section, "Apocalypse in 9/8", features an instrumental section performed in a 9/8 time signature. Banks assumed his organ solo would have no vocals, but after Gabriel proceeded to record lyrics over it, something that he disagreed with initially, he said, "it only took about ten seconds to think 'This sounds fantastic, it's so strong'".[27] Banks picked "Apocalypse in 9/8" and "As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs" as "the best piece of composition" Genesis recorded during Gabriel's tenure as lead singer.

The album's cover was completed by Paul Whitehead, a former art director for the London-based magazine Time Out who also designed the covers of Trespass and Nursery Cryme. The original illustrations for the three albums were stolen from Charisma Records when the label was sold to Virgin Records in 1983. Whitehead claimed that the staff at Charisma got wind of the imminent sale and proceeded to loot its office. On the back, the front cover of Nursery Cryme can be seen depicted in the background. The cover was not positively received by the band at the time. Gabriel felt less pleased with the design than Whitehead's previous works. Hackett felt "usure" about the cover when he saw it for the first time, calling it a "strange" design that has made more sense to him over time. Banks thought it was the weakest cover Whitehead designed for Genesis. Rutherford felt the design was a decline in quality following the "lovely atmosphere" of the Trespass and Nursery Cryme covers, to Foxtrot which was "a little bit weak". Collins thought it was not "particularly special" and lacked a professional look.

Foxtrot is where Genesis began to pull all of its varied inspirations into a cohesive sound -- which doesn't necessarily mean that the album is streamlined, for this is a group that always was grandiose even when they were cohesive, or even when they rocked, which they truly do for the first time here. Indeed, the startling thing about the opening "Watcher of the Skies" is that it's the first time that Genesis attacked like a rock band, playing with a visceral power. There's might and majesty here, and it, along with "Get 'Em Out by Friday," is the truest sign that Genesis has grown muscle without abandoning the whimsy. Certainly, they've rarely sounded as fantastical or odd as they do on the epic 22-minute closer "Supper's Ready," a nearly side-long suite that remains one of the group's signature moments. It ebbs, flows, teases, and taunts, see-sawing between coiled instrumental attacks and delicate pastoral fairy tales. If Peter Gabriel remained a rather inscrutable lyricist, his gift for imagery is abundant, as there are passages throughout the album that are hauntingly evocative in their precious prose. But what impresses most about Foxtrot is how that precociousness is delivered with pure musical force. This is the rare art-rock album that excels at both the art and the rock, and it's a pinnacle of the genre (and decade) because of it.

Tracks Listing

1. Watcher of the Skies (7:19)
2. Time Table (4:40)
3. Get 'em out by Friday (8:35)
4. Can-Utility and the Coastliners (5:43)
5. Horizons (1:38)
6. Supper's Ready (22:58)
- a. Lover's Leap
- b. The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man
- c. Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Men
- d. How Dare I Be So Beautiful?
- e. Willow Farm
- f. Apocalypse in 9/8 (featuring the delicious talents of Gabble Ratchet)
- g. As Sure as Eggs is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Gabriel / lead vocals, flute, oboe, tambourine, bass drum
- Steve Hackett / guitars (electric, acoustic 6- & 12-string)
- Tony Banks / organ, Mellotron MkII, piano & electric piano, 12-string guitar, backing vocals
- Mike Rutherford / bass guitar, bass pedals, 12-string guitar, cello, backing vocals
- Phil Collins / drums, percussion, backing vocals