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Monthly Archives: December 2009

The CD reissue of Alice Coltrane’s landmark Journey to Satchidananda reveals just how far the pianist and widow of John Coltrane had come in the three years after his death. The compositions here are wildly open and droning figures built on whole tones and minor modes. And while it’s true that one can definitely hear her late husband’s influence on this music, she wouldn’t have had it any other way. Pharoah Sanders’ playing on the title cut, “Shiva-Loka,” and “Isis and Osiris” (which also features the Vishnu Wood on oud and Charlie Haden on bass) is gloriously restrained and melodic. Coltrane’s harp playing, too, is an element of tonal expansion as much as it is a modal and melodic device. With a tamboura player, Cecil McBee on bass, Rashied Ali on drums, and Majid Shabazz on bells and tambourine, tracks such as “Stopover Bombay” and the D minor modally drenched “Something About John Coltrane” become exercised in truly Eastern blues improvisation. Sanders plays soprano exclusively, and the interplay between it and Coltrane’s piano and harp is mesmerizing. With the drone factor supplied either by the tamboura or the oud, the elongation of line and extended duration of intervallic exploration is wondrous. The depths to which these blues are played reveal their roots in African antiquity more fully than any jazz or blues music on record, a tenet that exists today over 30 years after the fact. One last note, the “Isis and Osiris” track, which was recorded live at the Village Gate, features some of the most intense bass and drum interplay — as it exists between Haden and Ali — in the history of vanguard jazz. Truly, this is a remarkable album, and necessary for anyone interested in the development of modal and experimental jazz. It’s also remarkably accessible.

-Thom Jurek,

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Thelonious Himself is a mostly solo set by pianist Thelonious Monk. Monk’s hesitant stride and thoughtful yet very unpredictable flights are always a joy to hear. He performs a variety of swing standards (including “April in Paris” and “I’m Getting Sentimental over You”), his blues “Functional” and as a bonus track, there is an alternate take of “‘Round Midnight” from the earlier date. The one non-solo track is “Monk’s Mood,” a ballad that finds Monk joined by tenor saxophonist John Coltrane and bassist Wilbur Ware. The overall results are not quite essential but they should greatly interest Thelonious Monk fans who do not have his huge Riverside box set.

-Scott Yanow,

Thelonious Monk-THELONIOUS HIMSELF (1957)
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“MUSICVISION PHOENIX is twenty tracks that changed our lives”, with Thomas Mars, Deck d’Arcy, Laurent Brancowitz, Christian Mazzalai, a film by Guillaume Delaperriere.

Phoenix is definitely a band that can put out a tasteful pop rock album, their last one is probably my single favorite new album of this year. Watching this, you can definitely see they’re smart and have done their homework.

Thanks to Andy Heylook of Another Sucker On The Vine for showing me this. Check out his blog for his killer top records of the year countdown!

This is just great. It’s a mindblowing piece of minimalism like Steve Reich, but it has a joyful sense of humor really lacking in modern classical. There’s a 192 rip floating around now because of HPN, and I wasn’t happy with that so I hunted down a FLAC rip, provided to me by friendly commenter Pablo. This is OOP except for some weird Japanese box set of Italian prog that I can’t even find for purchase. -Ian!

After the mind blowing and epically majestic first album Sonanze, the prolific and eclectic Roberto Cacciapalia explored diverse musical aesthetics. Before to define his music in more mainstream pop territories in later albums he had a short excursion into classical-minimalist music. Sei Nota in Logica is the result of this transition. As usual it’s perfectly achieved with a real sense of harmony and composition. However in term of ideas and musical creation this is not really challenging. Sei Nota in Logica only re-visit recognizable intricate sound patterns released by U.S minimalist researches (I’m notably thinking about the most asceptic parts of Steve Reich’s minimal structuralism). The gamelan, the sax and the piano’s intertextual moves progress into a peaceful-dreamy envinonement interrupted by suspensfully electronic scintillations. The atmosphere is intimate, percussive and full of short rythmical modules but not quite dense. Sei Nota in Logica is gently calm and decorative without growing into absorbing-lysergic droning waves. Highly recommended for fans of minimalist-arpeggiated musical impressionism (early Philip Glass, Reich and Gibson).


Roberto Cacciapaglia-SEI NOTE IN LOGICA (1978)
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No special occasion, just felt like it. Here’s the tracklist:

01. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Radio Waves
The Reruns – So So Alone
Curtis Mayfield – Do Do Wap Is Strong In Here
Fire – Father’s Name Is Dad
The Knickerbockers – High On Love
Ike & Tina Turner & The Ikettes – Contact High
Cass Elliot – California Earthquake
The Beach Boys – All I Wanna Do
Gil Scott-Heron – We Almost Lost Detroit
David Bowie – Win
Neil Young – Love In Mind
Mike James Kirkland – Hang On In There
Bobby Hutcherson – The From “Blow Up”
Van Dyke Parks – Occapella
Social Climbers – Chicken 80
Link Wray – La De Da

No, it’s not all super rare stuff or anything. Some is out there on CD, most of it is vinyl ripped and OOP but not rare secondhand. Just felt the right mix today. Also an excuse to break some rules and sneak something out.

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mostly 320kbps

Was taken down. Why does anyone care enough about the Buckaroo Banzai score to send a takedown notice? It’s not even commercially available! Is somebody putting it out soon or something?

Some other things were taken down too, but that one really weirds me out.

I’m not going to lie and say these are essential Wipers albums. There are great songs that are ultimately marred by some weird production choices. The drums have weird 80s reverb on them, the guitars are too clean sounding. I can’t help thinking everything could have been flatter sounding, or done with natural room reverb instead. Dunno. I figure Wipers is Wipers and deserves available decent rips.

Remember, this is not the place to start with the Wipers. For that, you absolutely need THE BOX SET.

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THE HERD (1996)
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This is actually an absolutely killer comp, don’t let the garish mid-90s Photoshop artwork fool you! -Ian!

The Small Faces’ catalog is one of the most confusing in rock & roll history, featuring multiple compilations bearing the same title but considerably different track listings, reworked original albums, and haphazard retrospectives

The double-disc Anthology: 1965-1967 goes a long way toward correcting those problems, yet it stops just short of being definitive.

Containing all of the material the band recorded for Decca Records — including “Whatcha Gonna Do About It?,” “Sha-La-La-La-Lee,” “Hey Girl,” “All or Nothing,” and “My Mind’s Eye” — which means it cuts off just as the Small Faces were entering their most creative period.

Still, the Small Faces were an excellent British R&B group and that phase is captured in all its glory on this set

-Stephen Thomas Erlewine,

Small Faces-DECCA ANTHOLOGY 1965-1967 (1996 compilation)
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While part of the Big Idea behind punk rock was to rewrite the rules of what a rock band could do, surprisingly few groups bothered to challenge the basic framework of the traditional rock band — most punk bands consisted of two guitars, bass, and drums, just like the majority of the acts they were supposed to render obsolete. One of the rare exceptions to this was the Screamers, who were among the most radical (and, surprisingly, also among the most popular) of the first wave of L.A. punk outfits. Refusing to bow to the hegemony of the guitar, the Screamers’ lineup consisted of two heavily distorted electronic keyboards (Tommy Gear on ARP synthesizer, and usually Paul Roessler on Fender Rhodes electric piano), a violently metronomic drummer (K.K. Barrett), and a howling maniac on lead vocals (Tomata du Plenty). While the absence of guitars certainly gave the band a sound all its own, even the most cursory listen to the music makes it clear this wasn’t synth pop or experimental art music — this was punk rock in all its ranting glory. By all accounts, the Screamers were one of the most popular bands on the Los Angeles scene between 1977 and 1980, where they could sell out most clubs for two- or three-night stands, and nearly every account of the early California punk movement testifies to their influence and importance.

However, beyond a handful of gigs in New York, they never played outside the West Coast and, for a variety of reasons, the band never put out a record. “In a Better World” is a gray-market collection (reportedly created with the participation of two former members of the band) that compiles a number of live performances and rare studio demos from the Screamers. If the fidelity isn’t terribly consistent, it’s at least adequate and sometimes quite good and, between the band’s wild, blaring sound, du Plenty’s remarkable stage banter, and the passionate energy of the songs — sometimes comical (“Magazine Love,” “I’ll Go Steady With Twiggy” ) and sometimes sinister (“122 Hours of Fear,” “I Wanna Hurt” ) — this set finally offers hard evidence that the band’s legend had a very real basis in fact. Just as California punk was generally faster, wilder, and less arty than its New York counterpart, the Screamers were the L.A. scene’s relative corollary to Suicide, and “In a Better World” makes clear they were just as smart, just as innovative, and just as gifted as that fine band. Until the day that a fully authorized Screamers anthology comes along, this set will fill the void quite nicely.

-Mark Deming,

The Screamers-IN A BETTER WORLD (2001 compilation)
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Here’s all the other Boettcher-related stuff. -Ian!

Pay attention here, because although this release contains a lot of material by the Millennium, it’s not exactly a Millennium album and not exactly an expanded edition of the Begin album, although everything from that record is here. This three-CD package is really a roundup of numerous Curt Boettcher-affiliated recordings from 1965-68, focusing mostly on tracks by the Millennium and his prior band, the Ballroom. Disc three is all Millennium, featuring not only the Begin album, but the unreleased “Blight”/”Just About the Same” single that was added to the 1990 Begin reissue, and the single versions of “It’s You,” “I Just Want to Be Your Friend,” “5 A.M.,” “Prelude,” “To Claudia on Thursday,” and “There Is Nothing More to Say.”

Begin, very much a group project, although Boettcher was the most important member, remains an impressive pinnacle of sunshine psychedelic pop, though the chipper songs are not as substantial as the florid, multi-hued and multi-textured production and harmonies. Disc two has the original versions, as done by the Ballroom, of three songs that would be redone on the Millennium’s Begin album (“5 A.M.,” “Karmic Dream Sequence #1,” “The Island”). There’s lot’s more on this anthology, though, including the scarce 1967 Warner Bros. single by the Ballroom that represented their sole release; an entire album’s worth of stuff, unreleased at the time, done by the Ballroom in late 1966; yet more unreleased Ballroom songs and instrumental backing tracks; and odds and ends from other projects Boettcher worked on in the mid- to late ’60s, including solo cuts, a duet with Dottie Holmberg, the 1965 single by Summer’s Children (a male-female duo he was in), and a couple of items by Sagittarius. The Ballroom tracks, and most of the other non-Millennium cuts, are inventive but fluffy sunshine pop, with intricate, multi-layered helium-high harmonies, and lyrics that often dive into a never-never land of psych-pop romance. In general, they’re more lightweight than the Millennium record, so those new to Boettcher’s work should start with Begin itself before deciding whether to take such a deep plunge. For someone heavily into the Boettcher clan, though, it’s a valuable archive release, with a thorough 24-page booklet.

-Richie Unterberger,

Curt Boettcher-MAGIC TIME: THE MILLENNIUM/BALLROOM SESSIONS 1965-1968 (2001 compilation)