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Monthly Archives: March 2008

Speedy West, pedal steel master, and Jimmy Bryant the guitar wizard teamed up for these astonishing recordings and gave to posterity some of the most mind-annihilating music ever committed to tape.

Transcending all notions of genre (Western Swing, Rockabilly, Old Country) these two guys are masters if there ever was a use for such a term. As fast as Fanfare Ciocarlia, as precise as U. Srinivas, and as fun-loving, unpredictable and ridiculous as Perrey & Kingsley, you’re not accustomed to hearing American musicians excel like this. Because they’re all dead. But these 1951 recordings provide proof that once upon a time giants walked the earth, even here in Hell. There is nothing to compare this to. No overdubbing or studio-fuckery, there’s no way this is possible. Yet there it is. And they’re just laughing about it. They just shit these recordings out as a joke pretty much. How horrifying. The chemistry between these guys is priceless, and that alone obsoletes “shredding” in the current sense of so-called musicianship. Because the magic touch is there in every note — it’s not just fast, it’s supersonic, and yet unlike modern day speed demonism, it’s totally listenable. Every note is arrived at through musical mastery.

Nowhere does anything sound calculated; there’s spontaneity written all over these tracks. And even though it’s lighthearted, it’s still deeper than most of us can even imagine — like going to the house of some classical Indian masters and after dinner they break out the instruments to screw around just for laughs. Only these masters are white guys in Tennessee or something. Truth told, you’ll return to this again and again. We heard this shit in a gas station in Texas once, so it’s still appreciated and well loved & not just some “novelty” to a lot of people, which is sure nice to know.

But get ready to cry from laughing too hard. You can forget ever playing the guitar again…

-Trevor Dunn, for Web Of Mimicry Records

DOWNLOAD:
STRATOSPHERE BOOGIE: The Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant Collection Vol. 1
256kbps MP3

SWINGIN’ ON THE STRINGS: The Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant Collection Vol. 2
256 kbps MP3

Consider this a necessary companion piece to Rampautrouille:

During the 70s, socialist equivalents to Western Germany’s science-fiction series “Raumpatrouille Orion” or “Star Maidens” have seen the light of space. Now for the first time films like “Eolomea”, “Signals” and “Stardust” are featured on this present album. The highlights from their original scores -spiced by exquisite titles from a long gone & obscure Amiga tribute to Sigmund Jaehn, the first German in Kosmos!(…) can be found here. Enjoy soundtrack-world-premieres featuring spacy music by the well-known composers Karl-Ernst Sasse & Guenther Fischer plus Amiga 1969 hit single “Kosmos” plus lots of dialogue highlights and sound effects! With the CD comes an additional medley of former GDR pioneer-hymns and more dialogue parts.

Believe it or not – the communists liked space-operas, too. Of course: The eastern bloc created milestones in science-fiction like the novels of Stanislaw Lem or the films by Andrej Tarkowskii (“Stalker”, “Solaris”) which – not at last – were responsible for the boom of this genre. But who knows about the DEFA-equivalents of Hollywood’s more entertaining sci-fi series or Western German tv-serials like “Star Maidens”? Well, here we go: This is exactly what “Kosmos!” is about!

Despite being determined anti-capitalistic, the DEFA science-fiction movies also (carefully) criticized the so called “real-existing socialism” in the former GDR. In contrast to the more action-orientated productions from outside the eastern bloc, the essence of these films could be summed up in the question of how socialist ideas can be realized in “space-communities” far away from earth.

With Karl-Ernst Sasse and Guenther Fischer (from their scores to the popular DEFA-western movies -> ASM 002 and ASM 008) the two most dominating composers of filmmusic in the GDR are responsible for the extraordinary soundtracks to these movies. Opposite to their western movie scores, their music for the science-fiction movies was pretty different from what you are used to hear in the “capitalistic” science-fiction movie. From strictly-avantgardistic orchestral sounds over electronic experiments to cosmic waltzes, beat guitars and influences of “Krautrock”. Thereby it sometimes sounds so fresh as if it has been produced in some new-electronic sound-laboratory right these days. Somehow strange sound the titles from the Amiga-LP “Die Erde dreht sich linksherum!” featuring e.g Stern-Combo Meißen and the Guenther-Fischer-Quintett.

-Amazon.com

KOSMOS: SOUNDTRACKS OF EAST GERMANY’S ADVENTURES IN SPACE

Brown’s early-’70s run of classic singles and good-to-great albums is still impressive. Hell was the double album released a year after the gold selling The Payback. To some, the title might put this effort in the realm of kitsch, but in many ways Hell was one of Brown’s strongest albums. The album was the pinnacle of his work as the Minister of the Super New New Heavy Funk. From the tough and nimble Latin rhythms of “Coldblooded,” and “Sayin’ It and Doin’ It” to the title track, all are prime pre-disco Brown. “My Thang” is probably as hard and unrelenting as he got without spontaneously combusting.

The biggest surprise of Hell is that no matter how odd the song choices seemed, practically everything worked, excluding a few key songs of course. Both “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Stormy Monday” don’t belong in James Brown’s catalogue, let alone the same album. Ballad-wise, Brown fares better. “These Foolish Things Remind Me of You” has him getting all warm and fuzzy as he inexplicably throws in an “I’m hurt, I’m hurt” for good measure. That song, as well as the weepers “A Man Has to Go to the Cross Road Before He Finds Himself” and “Sometime,” were produced by David Matthews who could always get good ragged yet poised vocals from Brown. Although Brown did roll snake eyes on all of side three, he did leave Hell on a good note. “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” is laid-back, funky jazz that’s worth each of its 13-plus minutes. Despite a few detours, Hell is worth listening to.

DOWNLOAD:

James Brown-HELL (1974)
192kbps MP3

Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. II is the two-disc follow-up to the import-only Selected Ambient Works 85-92, the album that established the Cornwall, England, native as the pioneer of ambient techno, a musical style that converts the energized electrobeats and keyboard surges of dance-floor techno into slower, more tranquil sound washes.

While many of his disciples have done little more than propel New Age atmospheres into the computer age, producing comforting but often emotionless elevator music, James has used the medium to confront his shadowy demons, exploring realms of spooky, textured sound.

On Vol. II, James turns away from the glut of soulless techno by stripping away its base properties, focusing more intently on mood than on rhythm and melody. Most of the songs rely on eerie synth effects layered within sparsely repeated or sustained notes and blips that pulse like distant stars. Few use beats. Indeed, it’s the absence of beats that makes the music so strange and haunting, and when beats do surface, they serve to accent a tone rather than sustain a tempo.

Drawing inspiration from the early ambient work of Brian Eno and the minimalism of John Cage, James has created a riveting, experimental record that demands listener interaction. Each of the 23 untitled songs outline such troubled emotions as melancholy, fear and confusion, but the music is too inchoate to paint a full picture.

Many of the tracks are so subdued that any incidental noises that drift into earshot (car horns, bird song, chatter) become unconsciously integrated into the mix, and the sound effects are so cryptic that like a Rorschach test, interpretations are entirely subjective. With a bit of imagination, the opening song could evoke a gurgling baby on a beach as the tide comes in, while the 22nd track might suggest a broken jack-in-the-box that opens to reveal a hideous, laughing troll.

Surreal, otherworldly and occasionally nightmarish, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II provides a visionary perspective on ambient electronic music. Close your eyes, drift to sleep, start to scream.

by Jon Weiderhorn, Rolling Stone Magazine

DOWNLOAD:

Aphex Twin-SELECTED AMBIENT WORKS VOL. II (1994)
DISC 1
DISC 2
320kbps MP3 (includes the track “Stone In Focus” left off the CD version)

Released in January 1977, Low was the most potent and encompassing hybridization of pop music’s many modes to that point, an album that continues to resonate as a syncretic masterpiece three decades later.

Still fascinated with the urban funk rhythms he’d employed less subtly for Young Americans and Station to Station, Bowie was increasingly drawn to the synthetic novelties Can, Neu!, and Eno were positing, particularly Eno’s Discreet Music, which informs most of Low’s second side. This gorgeous quartet of dramatic instrumental pieces started out as the soundtrack for The Man Who Fell to Earth, an 1975 film by Nicholas Roeg starring Bowie, at the apex of his cocaine addiction, as an extraterrestrial Übermensch. Unbelievably, Bowie’s compositions were rejected; brought through to Low, they provide a grave emotional counterpoint to the record’s self-exploratory A-side, proof positive that Bowie really was out to wipe the mirror clean in Berlin.

The kaleidoscopic opening salvo “Speed of Life” tests our willingness to come along, staring out like Johnny Rotten, but– crucially– not caring if anyone follows. “Sound + Vision” and “Breaking Glass” are our most immediate rewards, more familiar in their funk stutter-steps and sultry crooning. The latter owes everything to guitarist Carlos Alomar in the left channel, who delivers the lead with a swagger to rival Mick Ronson and T.Rex. Obstinate, rueful and reckless, the album’s first side is a collection of seven short “fragments,” whose brevity is at once a knee-jerk reaction to the meandering Station to Station and the end result of a bad case of writer’s block.

To correct an injurious and carelessly repeated claim, Brian Eno did not produce Low (or “Heroes” or Lodger). While his presence and influence are uncontestable– especially in the aching instrumental “A New Career in a New Town”– producer Tony Visconti and Bowie shaped the analog onslaught heard here. For their fine ears, there’s also a principal debt to the Eventide H910 Harmonizer, the first commercially available pitch-shifter, which through doubling lends Low its signature distorted snare drum, one of the most ingenious production advances you can point to in the 1970s, and a sound producers still reach for today.


Brian Eno, Robert Fripp & David Bowie

Politically, Low is a singular and brutal indictment of the only thing Bowie’s native England cared about in January 1977: punk rock. To a man who lived through Iggy and– let’s be honest– designed Johnny Rotten, punk’s brief lifespan and predominantly societal (rather than musical) impact were foregone conclusions. That Bowie could see past the flames to paint this horizon is irrefutable evidence of his solipsistic genius. Balancing process art, experimentalism and rock ‘n’ roll tradition, Low is Bowie unrefined, the most captivating effort from the 1970’s most-watched man.

-Chris Ott, Pitchforkmedia.com

DOWNLOAD:

David Bowie-LOW (1977)
v0 MP3

After decades of influencing everyone from jazz musicians to hip-hop stars, Pieces of a Man set a standard for vocal artistry and political awareness that few musicians will ever match. Scott-Heron’s unique proto-rap style influenced a generation of hip-hop artists, and nowhere is his style more powerful than on the classic “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Even though the media — the very entity attacked in this song — has used, reused, and recontextualized the song and its title so many times, its message is so strong that it has become almost impossible to co-opt.

Musically, the track created a formula that modern hip-hop would follow for years to come: bare-bones arrangements featuring pounding basslines and stripped-down drumbeats. Although the song features plenty of outdated references to everything from Spiro Agnew and Jim Webb to The Beverly Hillbillies, the force of Scott-Heron’s well-directed anger makes the song timeless. More than just a spoken word poet, Scott-Heron was also a uniquely gifted vocalist. On tracks like the reflective “I Think I’ll Call It Morning” and the title track, Scott-Heron’s voice is complemented perfectly by the soulful keyboards of Brian Jackson. On “Lady Day and John Coltrane,” he not only celebrates jazz legends of the past in his words but in his vocal performance, one that is filled with enough soul and innovation to make Coltrane and Billie Holiday nod their heads in approval. More than three decades after its release, Pieces of a Man is just as — if not more — powerful and influential today as it was the day it was released.

DOWNLOAD:

Gil Scott-Heron-PIECES OF A MAN (1971)
v0 MP3

Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira (born June 26, 1942 in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil), better known as Gilberto Gil, is a Grammy Award-winning singer, guitarist, songwriter, and the current Brazilian Minister of Culture. Gil has held the post of Minister since 2003, although he has declared his intention to resign in 2008 due to a vocal cord polyp.[1] He began his performance career as a bossa nova musician, but soon began writing songs that reflected a new focus on political awareness and social activism, becoming part of the Música Popular Brasileira movement with artists including Caetano Veloso, a longtime collaborator.

Born in Salvador, he began playing music early in life and joined his first band as a teenager in the 1950s. After meeting Caetano Veloso in 1963 Gil began performing and touring regularly, but earned his living at the time primarily through non-musical pursuits. He joined Veloso regularly in performances and recordings and became a major figure in the 1960s Tropicalismo movement with him. However Gil was eventually imprisoned by the Brazilian military government of the time, along with Veloso. The two moved to London, England in the late 1960s after being instructed to leave the country of Brazil.

Gil eventually returned to Bahia in 1972 and continued his musical career, as well as working as an advocate for environmental issues. In the following years, Gil made over 20 recordings and toured constantly. During the late 1980s he ran for public office in Salvador and Bahia at large, becoming mayor of his home city, but left office to further his career in music. Gil returned to politics in 2003, however, when he was appointed Minister of Culture by the newly elected President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Gilberto Gil’s second album is packed with some of the best songs of his career — jubilant pop extravaganzas like “Domingo No Parque,” “Pega a Voga, Cabeludo,” and “Frevo Rasgado” that were equally inspired by the irresistible, brassy bombast of Carnaval and intelligent rock & roll from America and Britain. Even more than the other Tropicalistas, though, Gil blends his rock and native influences seamlessly, resulting in songs like “Ele Falava Nisso Todo Dia,” which chart an intriguing fusion of Brazilian and British Invasion (before he breaks into Portuguese for the first verse, the intro sounds exactly like a few early Rolling Stones productions). Gil’s occasional backing band, the teenage Tropicalia breakouts known as Os Mutantes, join in on the feel-good Brazilian pop anthem “Domingou.” Enjoyable and never as experimental as his work would soon become, Gilberto Gil 1968 is one of the best Tropicalia albums ever released.

by Richard Skelly, Allmusic.com, also Wikipedia.

DOWNLOAD:

Gilberto Gil-S/T (1968)
v0 MP3

One of my favorite album covers ever.

Best known for their silky soul vocals and smooth-stepping routines, the Temptations were firmly entrenched as the undisputed kings of Barry Gordy’s Motown stable when cutting-edge producer Norman Whitfield walked into the studio and announced that it was time to shake things up. The resulting freakout became the first half of the stellar Cloud Nine, an album that would become one of the defining early funk sets, with songs that not only took Motown in a new direction, but helped to shape a genre as well. On one side and across three jams, Whitfield and the Temptations would give ’70s-era funk musicians a broad palette from which to draw inspiration. The title track, with its funky soul bordering on psychedelic frenzy, was an audacious album opener, and surely gave older fans a moment’s pause. Only two more songs rounded out side one: an incredibly fresh take on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which jazzed up the vocals, brought compelling percussion to the fore, and relegated the piano well into the wings, and “Run Away Child, Running Wild,” an extravagant nine-minute groove where the sonics easily surpassed the vocals.

After shaking up the record-buying public with these three masterpieces, the Temptations brought things back to form for side two. Here, their gorgeous vocals dominated slick arrangements across seven tracks which included “Hey Girl” and the masterful “I Need Your Lovin’.” Funk continued to percolate — albeit subtly — but compared to side one, it was Temptations business as usual. It was this return to the classic sound, however, which ultimately gave Cloud Nine its odd dynamic. The dichotomy of form between old and new between sides doesn’t allow for a continuous gel. But the brash experimentation away from traditional Motown on the three seminal tracks which open the disc shattered the doorway between past and present as surely as the decade itself imploded and smooth soul gave way to blistering funk.

by Amy Hanson

DOWNLOAD:

The Temptations-CLOUD NINE (1969)
v0 MP3