Monthly Archives: May 2009
Stratosfear, the last Tangerine Dream album by the great Baumann/Franke/Froese threesome, shows the group’s desire to advance past their stellar recent material and stake out a new musical direction while others were still attempting to come to grips with Phaedra and Rubycon. The album accomplishes its mission with the addition of guitar (six- and 12-string), grand piano, harpsichord, and mouth organ to the usual battery of moogs, Mellotrons, and e-pianos. The organic instruments take more of a textural role, embellishing the effects instead of working their own melodic conventions. Stratosfear is also the beginning of a more evocative approach for Tangerine Dream. Check the faraway harmonica sounds and assortment of synth-bubbles on “3 AM at the Border of the Marsh From Okefenokee” or the somber chords and choral presence of “The Big Sleep in Search of Hades.” The title track opener is the highlight though, beginning with a statuesque synthesizer progression before unveiling an increasingly hypnotic line of trance.
-John Bush, allmusic.com
Tangerine Dream-STRATOSFEAR (1976)
I have no information other than this is from 1993ish. If you know the source, tell me.
Topics range from a debt owed for bolt cutters, breaking a boot off a car, to the evilness of Deicide and Mercyful Fate to David Gilmour’s ranking on the list of guitar gods.
This is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard, it’s amazing.
This is probably the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard, and only recently was able to put a name to the sound. -Ian!
Ladysmith Black Mambazo represents the traditional culture of South Africa and is regarded as the country’s cultural emissary at home and around the world. In 1993, at Nelson Mandela’s request, Ladysmith Black Mambazo accompanied the future President to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway. Mambazo sang again at President Mandela’s inauguration in May of 1994. They are a national treasure of the new South Africa in part because they embody the traditions suppressed in the old South Africa.
It has been over twenty years since Paul Simon made his initial trip to South Africa and met Joseph Shabalala, and the other members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, in a recording studio in Johannesburg. Simon was captivated by the stirring sound of bass, alto and tenor harmonies and incorporated these traditional sounds into the “Graceland” album, a project regarded by many as seminal to today’s explosive interest in World Music.
The traditional music sung by Ladysmith Black Mambazo is called ISICATHAMIYA (Is-Cot-A-Me-Ya). It was born in the mines of South Africa. Black workers were taken by rail to work far away from their homes and their families. Poorly housed and paid worse, they would entertain themselves, after a six-day week, by singing songs into the wee hours every Sunday morning. Cothoza Mfana they called themselves, “tip toe guys”, referring to the dance steps choreographed so as to not disturb the camp security guards. When miners returned to the homelands, the tradition returned with them. There began a fierce, but social, competition held regularly and a highlight of everyone’s social calendar. The winners were awarded a goat for their efforts and, of course, the adoration of their fans. These competitions are held even today in YMCA assembly halls and church basements throughout Zululand South Africa.
In the late 1950’s Joseph Shabalala took advantage of his proximity to the urban sprawl of the city of Durban, allowing him the opportunity to seek work in a factory. Leaving the family farm was not easy, but it was during this time that Joseph first showed a talent for singing. After singing with several groups in Durban he returned to his hometown of Ladysmith and began to put together groups of his own.
He was rarely satisfied with the results. “I felt there was something missing. I tried to teach the music that I felt but I failed, until 1964, when a harmonious dream came to me. I always heard the harmony from that dream and I said ‘This is the sound that I want and I can teach it to my guys’.”
In the early years, Joseph recruited family and friends – brothers Headman, Ben and Jockey, cousins Albert and Abednego Mazibuko, and others. Joseph taught the group the harmonies from his dreams. With time and patience Joseph’s work began to gel into a special sound.
The name LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO came about as a result of winning every singing competition in which the group entered. “Ladysmith” is the hometown of the Shabalala family; “Black” references the black oxen, considered to be the strongest on the farm. The Zulu word “Mambazo” refers to an ax – symbolic of the group’s ability to “chop down” the competition. So good were they that after a time they were forbidden to enter the competitions but welcomed, of course, to entertain at them.
A radio broadcast in 1970 brought about their first record contract. Since then the group has recorded over forty albums, selling over seven million records at home and abroad, establishing themselves as the number one selling group from Africa. Their work with Paul Simon on the “Graceland” album attracted a world of fans that never knew that the sounds of Zulu harmony could be so captivating.
Their first album release for the United States, “Shaka Zulu”, was produced by Simon and won the Grammy Award in 1987 for Best Traditional Folk Recording. Since then they have been nominated for a Grammy Award eleven additional times. In 2005 they were awarded their second Grammy Award, for Best Traditional World Music Recording, for the release “Raise Your Spirit Higher.” Their most recent release, “Long Walk To Freedom”, was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2007.
SHAKA ZULU (1986)
THUTHUKANI NGOXOLO (LET’S DEVELOP IN PEACE) (1996)
One of the most enigmatic figures in rock history, Scott Walker was known as Scotty Engel when he cut obscure flop records in the late ’50s and early ’60s in the teen idol vein. He then hooked up with John Maus and Gary Leeds to form the Walker Brothers. They weren’t named Walker, they weren’t brothers, and they weren’t English, but they nevertheless became a part of the British Invasion after moving to the U.K. in 1965. They enjoyed a couple of years of massive success there (and a couple of hits in the U.S.) in a Righteous Brothers vein. As their full-throated lead singer and principal songwriter, Walker was the dominant artistic force in the group, who split in 1967.
Scott Walker’s success as a teen idol singer of Spectorish ballads with the Walker Brothers in no way prepared listeners for the mordant, despairing lyrics of his solo debut. To compound the surprise, he does his best to imitate the vocal girth of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra on this mix of original tunes and covers, which also features sweeping, bloated orchestral arrangements. It was hardly rock, and pop of a most oddball sort, but it found a surprisingly large audience — in Britain, anyway, where it reached the Top Three in 1967. Poke behind the velvet curtain of the languid MOR arrangements, and one finds a surprisingly literate existentialist at the helm of these proceedings. His lyrical nuances were probably lost on his audience of predominately teenage girls, though they’ve earned him a small cult audience that endures to this day. Besides presenting three of his own compositions, Walker covers tunes by Weill/Mann, Tim Hardin, and Andre & Dory Previn on this album, as well as three songs by his favorite writer, Jacques Brel. Highlights include his exquisitely anguished rendition of Brel’s classic “Amsterdam” and his dramatic cover of the early-’60s Toni Fisher pop ballad “The Big Hurt.”
Although Walker’s second album was his biggest commercial success, actually reaching number one in Britain, it was not his greatest artistic triumph. His taste remains eclectic, encompassing Bacharach/David, Tim Hardin, and of course his main man Jacques Brel (who is covered three times on this album). And his own songwriting efforts hold their own in this esteemed company. “The Girls From the Streets” and “Plastic Palace People” show an uncommonly ambitious lyricist cloaked behind the over-the-top, schmaltzy orchestral arrangements, one more interested in examining the seamy underside of glamour and romance than celebrating its glitter. The Brel tune “Next” must have lifted a few teenage mums’ eyebrows with its not-so-hidden hints of homosexuality and abuse. Another Brel tune, “The Girl and the Dogs,” is less controversial, but hardly less nasty in its jaded view of romance. Some of the material is not nearly as memorable, however, and the over-the-top show ballad production can get overbearing. The album included his first Top 20 U.K. hit, “Jackie.”
Scott Walker’s final British Top Ten album was the first to be dominated by his own songwriting. Ten of the 13 tunes on this 1969 LP are originals; the remaining three, naturally, were written by one of his chief inspirations, Jacques Brel. There are some interesting moments here. “Big Louise” talks about a hefty prostitute with shocking explicitness for a pop star album of the era. “Copenhagen” (like much of Walker’s ’60s work) foreshadows David Bowie. “Funeral Tango” is a particularly vicious Brel song. “30 Century Man” is an uncommonly folkish and focused tune for Walker. “We Came Through” is an oddball cavalry charge featuring one of his occasional forays into Ennio Morricone spaghetti Western-like production. The tension between Walker’s dense, foreboding lyrics and orchestral production is unusual, to say the least. But too often, it’s too difficult to penetrate Walker’s insights through Wally Scott’s string-drenched production. It shrouds the lyrics in a fog that’s often too syrupy to justify the effort needed to fight through it.
Walker dropped out of the British Top Ten with his fourth album, but the result was probably his finest ’60s LP. While the tension between the bloated production and his introspective, ambitious lyrics remains, much of the over-the-top bombast of the orchestral arrangements has been reined in, leaving a relatively stripped-down approach that complements his songs rather than smothering them. This is the first Walker album to feature entirely original material, and his songwriting is more lucid and cutting. Several of the tracks stand among his finest. “The Seventh Seal,” based upon the classic film by Ingmar Bergman, features remarkably ambitious (and relatively successful) lyrics set against a haunting Ennio Morricone-style arrangement. “The Old Man’s Back Again” also echoes Morricone, and tackles no less ambitious a lyrical palette; “dedicated to the neo-Stalinist regime,” the “old man” of this song was supposedly Josef Stalin. “Hero of the War” is also one of Walker’s better vignettes, serenading his war hero with a cryptic mix of tribute and irony. Other songs show engaging folk, country, and soul influences that were largely buried on his previous solo albums.
While remaining virtually unknown in his homeland, Walker launched a hugely successful solo career in Britain with a unique blend of orchestrated, almost MOR arrangements with idiosyncratic and morose lyrics. At the height of psychedelia, Walker openly looked to crooners like Sinatra, Jack Jones, and Tony Bennett for inspiration, and to Jacques Brel for much of his material. None of those balladeers, however, would have sung about the oddball subjects — prostitutes, transvestites, suicidal brooders, plagues, and Joseph Stalin — that populated Walker’s songs. His first four albums hit the Top Ten in the U.K. — his second, in fact, reached number one in 1968, in the midst of the hippie era. By the time of 1969’s Scott 4, the singer was writing all of his material. Although this was perhaps his finest album, it was a commercial disappointment, and unfortunately discouraged him from relying entirely upon his own material on subsequent releases.
-Richie Unterberger, allmusic.com
Good counterpart to the very awesome score to IN COLD BLOOD. -Ian!
A really solid jazz/funk/soul soundtrack from Quincy Jones to the 1971 comedy-thriller Dollars (AKA $, The Heist) starring Goldie Hawn and Warren Beatty.
Highlights for us are Money Is, Snow Creatures, Money Runner, Candy Man and Kitty With The Bent Frame.
Quincy Jones, no stranger to movie soundtracks has composed over 50 scores and theme tunes including The Hot Rock (1972), They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970), The Italian Job (1969), Ironside TV show theme (1967) and The Color Purple (1985) to name a few.
Quincy Jones-DOLLAR$ (1971)
Very nice to see this back in print–it’s a wonderful example of the softer, gentler, white noise side of TG–it still has a few vaguely ominous moments, but in general works just as well as a noise generator for inducing sleep. It’s a bedtime favorite at our house, ranking alongside Sigur Ros, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, etc.
This was recorded live in the studio in one take in March of 1979, but you would never know that if not told–it’s layered and dynamic yet hypnotic.
It’s one long track, but that is as should be. You should listen to the whole thing at once, though you certainly do not need to remain conscious for all of it.
It’s a decent first TG experience for the uninitiated. If you like this, try Heathen Earth next.
-Irony Value, amazon.com
Throbbing Gristle-TG CD 1 (1986)
XTC spent the first half of the ’80s dropping out of the new wave rat race in favor of cultivating an eccentric English garden. It was a move that mirrored the Kinks ignoring psychedelia for songs about subdivisions and afternoon tea, but when XTC decided to cut loose, they did so by adopting alter egos to create a riotous tribute to the very psychedelia the Kinks shunned. They turned into the Dukes of Stratosphear and cut the EP 25 O’Clock, a brilliant, clever distillation of the sounds of 1967, filled with knowing allusions and outright thievery from psychedelic classics both popular and well-known. For those well-versed in ’60s rock, it’s irresistible to draw parallels to the Beatles, the Yardbirds, the Move, and Pink Floyd, but 25 O’Clock practically begs listeners to connect the dots through its swirling kaleidoscope of phased tapes, fuzz guitars, murmured voices, and burbling Mellotrons — and that’s not even taking into account lyrical allusions, like how “Bike Ride to the Moon” twists around Tomorrow’s “My White Bicycle.” All this makes 25 O’Clock something closer to pop art than mere homage, but what makes it enduring — even strangely timeless — pop music is how XTC’s reinvigorated creativity extends far beyond the mere form to the songs themselves. The six songs on the EP are XTC at their very best, their braininess tempered by the discipline of writing six songs that could have been legitimately seen as forgotten gems from the late ’60s (which indeed this EP was initially presented as upon its April Fools Day release in 1985). Although there is certainly considerable pleasure in peeling back the layers of the production to puzzle out the references or simply revel in its sound, what is striking about 25 O’Clock is how joyous and immediate it feels, a trait it shares with the very best pop music — which it certainly is.
-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com
The Dukes of Stratosphear-25 O’CLOCK (1985)