YES-TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS-DELUXE EDITION BOX SET.

YES-TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS-DELUXE EDITION BOX SET.

After a three month break, Yes’ 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour was due to resume on the 8th of March 1973. This was the fifth leg in what had been a gruelling world tour. The new lineup of Yes had criss-crossed the world, playing North America and then Europe. Then after a three day break between 12th and 15th of September 1972, Yes returned to North America. They played thirty-nine dates between the 15th of September and the 20th November 1972. After that, Yes had twenty-five days of rest and recuperation. Then the tour resumed again. 

The fourth leg of Yes’ 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour fourth leg featured three dates in Europe. They took place in Manchester and London between the 15th and 17th of December 1972. After that, Yes had nearly three months off. 

After a well deserved rest, Yes headed out on the Japanese leg of the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour. It consisted of just six dates. The first three concerts were due to take place in Tokyo between the 8th and 10th of March 1973, with Yes taking to the stage at three different venues. So between the 8th and 10th of March 1973, Tokyo became a home away from home for Yes.

It was during that time in Tokyo, that Jon Anderson’s thoughts turned to the band’s next album. He was looking for a theme that would run through their sixth album. One of the ideas that he was contemplating was a large scale composition. Especially after he came across a footnote in the book he was reading, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography Of A Yogi.

It was when Jon Anderson came to page eighty-three of the tome, that he came across the a lengthy footnote. This described four bodies of Hindu texts, which collectively, were known as shastras. Soon, Jon Anderson was fascinated by what discovered were compressive treatises. They dealt with all aspect of religious and social life, plus subjects like law, medicine, architecture and art. Jon Anderson read how each shastra conveyed: “profound truths under a veil of detailed symbolism.” Having read about the four shastras, Jon Anderson began to contemplate a four part album based on the four shastras.

As the Japanese leg of the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour continued, Jon Anderson continued to contemplate his idea for Yes’ sixth album. However, he wasn’t quite ready to discuss the idea with other band members. He needed time to think and work on the idea.

By the 14th of March 1973, the Japanese leg of the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour was over. Next stop was Oceanic leg of the tour. Yes would play five concerts in Australia between the 17th and 26th of March 1973. After that, Yes returned to North America for the third time, on what was the seventh leg of the tour.

Yes were booked to play eighteen dates in North America between the 4th and 22nd April 1973. It was during that leg of the tour that Jon Anderson approached songwriter and arranger Steve Howe about a four part album based on the four shastras. Straight away, he was interested in the idea.

Soon, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe were spending their spare time working on the idea. After shows, they had candlelight songwriting sessions, where the two friends worked on ideas and motifs that fitted in with the album’s theme. Sometimes, it was trial and error, with someone playing a riff and the other rejecting it. Occasionally, an idea that had been rejected would later, be reused. That was the case with a guitar riff that later became part of The Ancient. Slowly, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe were making progress. 

Things changed when Yes arrived in Savannah, Georgia on 20th April 1973. Yes played what was the sixteenth of eighteen concerts in the North American leg of the tour. It was the seventh and final leg of what had been an epic and successful tour. After the show in Savannah, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe retired to a hotel room for another songwriting session at 1am. This time, everything fell into place. 

Over six hours, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe wrote the lyrics and outlined the vocals and instrumentation that would by used on the album. By 7am, Yes’ sixth album had taken shape. It was another concept album. However, this was no ordinary concept album. It was an ambitious double album, Tales From Topographic Oceans which recently was released by Panegyric as a  two CD and two DVD  box set. However, not everyone was enthusiastic about the album Jon Anderson and Steve Howe had written,

The next morning, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe were still elated and feeling exhilarated from the success of their marathon songwriting session. They had completed writing and planning what would be their sixth album in just six hours. This they couldn’t wait to share with the rest of Yes. However, when Jon Anderson and Steve Howe told the other members of Yes about their plan for a double concept album that featured just four lengthy tracks, not everyone share their enthusiasm. 

The other members of Yes were going to take some convincing about the merits of the double concept album. Still though, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe were elated by what had been a truly magical night. Neither man had enjoyed such a fruitful songwriting session, and for the next few days felt ten feet tall. By then, Yes had completed their 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour.

Nearly nine months after the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour began, it ended on 22nd April 1973. This wasn’t meant to be the final tour date, Instead, the tour was meant to end in Acapulco, Mexico on the 1st of May 1973. Alas, the concert was cancelled and Yes arrived home early.

Given the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour had been a gruelling tour, the members of Yes were desperately needing some time off. Not for long though. Yes had an album to rehearse and record.

Refreshed after their break, the members of Yes reconvened at Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Manticore Studios in Fulham, London. For one member of Yes, they were about to make their debut on a Yes album. This was Alan White, who had replaced Bill Bruford, who had resigned just before the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour began. Having played on the tour, Alan White was now preparing to make his recording debut with Yes.

As the rehearsals began, Yes practised and honed the material. There were some dissenting voices about the material Jon Anderson and Steve Howe had written. Bassist Chris Squire was worried. He realised that there was: “a lot of substance” to the four tracks, but worried that sometimes, album was too eclectic. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman was worried by the move towards avant-garde and fusion. He was wondering if he anything to contribute to the album? It seemed not all the members of Yes shared Steve Howe and Jon Anderson’s enthusiasm for the album.

After a month of rehearsing, Jon Anderson decided to head to Marrakesh with his wife for short holiday. During his stay, he honed the lyrics for the forthcoming album. Meanwhile, back in London, Chris Squire spent sixteen or seventeen hours in the studio each day on pre-production. When Jon Anderson returned home, the lyrics had taken shape. Things were looking up form Yes.

Behind the scenes, things were very different. There had been arguments about where to record the album. Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson wanted to record in the countryside. Jon Anderson took this further. He envisaged recording the album in a forest during the night. This was quickly vetoed. Steve Howe and Chris Squire wanted to record the album in London. New recruit Alan White decided discretion was the better part of valour, never voiced a preference. It was stalemate.

Meanwhile, engineer and co-producer was Eddy Offord was trying to convince Yes’ manager Brian Lane to record the album in the countryside. This he hoped, might reduce the tension and bad feeling the album had caused within the band. Alas, it was to no avail. 

Eventually, Steve Howe and Chris Squire won the day. Brian Lane decided the album should be recorded in a London. The city had many top studios. One of the best, was Morgan Studios, London. It was equipped with some of the most advanced recording equipment, This included a twenty-four track Ampex reel-to-reel recorder. For a band about to record an ambitious and complex album, this was perfect. Morgan Studios was the perfect studio for Yes. 

Yes arrived at Morgan Studios, in late summer of 1973. This time round, their rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Alan White, bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman joined lead guitarist and vocalist Jon Anderson. He was augmented by backing vocals from the rest of Yes. They were about to co-produced one of the most ambitious albums of their career with Eddy Offord. Before that, Jon Anderson and Yes’ manager Brian Lane decided to decorate the studio.

Once Yes had settled into Morgan Studios, Jon Anderson and Brian Lane decided to decorate the studio like a farmyard. Jon Anderson stuck pictures of farmyard animals to the wall and put plant and flowers around the studio. A picket fence was even added, and at one point, keyboards and amplifiers rested on a bales of hay. This seemed to unite the once divided band.

Now Yes could begin work on what was a complex and ambitious double concept album. The four tracks, The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn), The Remembering (High The Memory), The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun) and Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) ranged between eighteen and twenty-two minutes. Given the length and complexity of the four tracks, recording took five months. During that period, keyboardist became disenchanted with the way Yes’ music was heading.

Granted Yes continued further down the road marked progressive rock, but added elements of avant-garde, folk-rock, jazz and psychedelia. During the four lengthy suites, Yes take the listener on a captivating adventure across complex, multilayered, genre-melting musical landscapes which feature a myriad of  Eastern themes and sounds. The music is cerebral, ruminative and sometimes, atmospheric, beautiful and dramatic as the arrangements ebb and flow. Seamlessly, there’s changes in time signature as the one part of the suite gives way to the next. Constantly, nuances, subtitles and surprises unfold as the rich musical landscape changes. Alas, for Rick Wakeman, these changes were too much to take.

His fears came to fruition. Before the recording began, Rick Wakeman felt he had nothing to contribute. Despite this, he arrived each day and recorded his keyboard parts. For the rest of the time, Rick Wakeman headed to Morgan Studios’ bar, where passed the time drinking and playing darts. Gradually, his disenchantment grew.

Fortunately, Black Sabbath were recording Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in the other studio. Rick Wakeman began to spend time with Black Sabbath. Later, they were looking for someone to play a Minimoog part on the track Sabbra Cadabra. Rick Wakeman was happy to help out and headed to studio. Soon, he had recorded his part. Given he was helping friends, Rick Wakeman wouldn’t accept payment for playing on Sabbra Cadabra. So Black Sabbath decided to pay him in beer. It was one of the lighter moments of the recording session.

Midway through the recording Yes’ new album, all the plants had died and the picket fence and pictures had been covered in graffiti. The studio started to resemble a barn. This didn’t bother Yes. They embrace the organic nature of the surroundings. Everything was going to plan. 

Apart from Jon Anderson’s request to create a bathroom sound effect on his vocals. Yes’ lightning engineer tried to build a wooden box which was then tilled. Soon, the tiles started to fall off the box. It failed to recreate the requested bathroom sound. That was a minor blip, as the album took shape. Eventually, after five months, the unnamed album was complete. However, very nearly, Yes’ five months of hard was almost lost.

With the album complete, Eddie Offord began mixing the album. He was within a couple of days of completing the album. However, after spending much of the night mixing the album, Eddie Offord and Jon Anderson headed home. As Eddie Offord left the studio with the master tapes, he was frantically searching his pockets for his car keys. When Eddie Offord reached his car, he sat the tapes on the car roof. Having found his keys, Eddie Offord drove off forgetting the tapes were still on the roof. Meanwhile, a horrified Jon Anderson looked on.

By the time he caught up with Eddie Offord, the tapes had fallen off the roof. When Jon Anderson saw them lying on the road, he managed to stop a bus just before it ran over the tapes. Disaster was diverted.

When mixing of the album was complete, Yes took the album to their record label Atlantic Records. By then, Jon Anderson was contemplating calling the album Tales From Tobographic Oceans. Tobographic was a word than Jon Anderson claimed to have invented. However, Jon Anderson’s plans changed after he had dinner Atlantic Records’ Nesuhi Ertegun.

He pointed out Tales From Tobographic Oceans sounded similar to Tales From Topographic Oceans. When this was pointed out to Jon Anderson, he decided that was a much better title for Yes’ sixth album. 

Meanwhile, work began on the album cover. Roger Dean who had designed and illustrated previous Yes album covers was brought onboard. He surpassed his previous efforts with a classic and iconic album cover. The inspiration for the cover came from a conversation Jon Anderson and Roger Dean during a flight from London to Tokyo via Anchorage in 1973. Jon Anderson had told Roger Dean about a book he had reading which featured pictures of landscapes. With this conversation in mind, Roger Dean designed one of the greatest album covers of his career. Tales From Topographic Oceans was almost ready for release.

Before that, critics had their say on Yes’ much-anticipated sixth album, Tales From Topographic Oceans. Yes who were one of the most successful progressive rock bands, had established a reputation for producing ambitious, complex albums of multi-layered, genre-melting music. Tales From Topographic Oceans was no different. However, what was different was that it was a double concept album that was inspired by the footnotes on page eighty-three of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography Of A Yogi.

It detailed the four bodies of Hindu texts, which collectively, were known as shastras. They were compressive treatises that dealt with all aspect of religious and social life, plus subjects like law, medicine, architecture and art. Each of the four shastras inspired one of the lengthy suites on  Tales From Topographic Oceans. This was very different album from the majority of the music that critics had heard during 1973.

When the critics heard Tales From Topographic Oceans, the reviews were mixed. Some critics didn’t seem to “get” Tales From Topographic Oceans.  Words like beautiful, brilliant and sublime were used. Alas, so were disappointing, repetitive and self-indulgent. A few critics thought that album was way ahead of its time, and its importance would only be recognised later. They would be proved correct, and over the next forty-two years, history would be rewritten. Meanwhile, the jury was out on Tales From Topographic Oceans. Record buyers had the final say.

Tales From Topographic Oceans was due to be released on 7th December 1973. As the released day drew nearer, record burrs pre-ordered copies of Tales From Topographic Oceans on both sides of the Atlantic. So many copies were pre-ordered in the UK, that Tales From Topographic Oceans was certified gold before its release. When Tales From Topographic Oceans was released, it reached number one in the UK for two weeks. In America, the Tales From Topographic Oceans reached number six and was certified gold. Elsewhere, the album reached number four in Canada; nine in Japan and eight in Holland, Sweden and Norway. Against the odds, Tales From Topographic Oceans had been a commercial success. Alas, it came at a cost.

After the release of Tales From Topographic Oceans, Yes embarked upon another lengthy tour. When they returned home, a disenchanted Rick Wakeman left Yes. However, his swan-song was what’s now regarded as one of the greatest albums of the progressive rock era, Tales From Topographic Oceans. It’s a classic album, that as a few critics forecast would only be appreciated later. That proved to be case, and is why recently Tales From Topographic Oceans was released as a box set by Panegyric. 

Disc One and Two.

The Deluxe Edition is no ordinary box set. Instead, it features two CDs and two DVDs. Discs one and two features Steven Wilson’s 2016 mix of Tales From Topographic Oceans. This is quite different from the original mix. Steven Wilson appears to have taken great care with the remastered remix. It’s certainly not over loud and has a punchiness. The remix seems slightly larger and wider. There’s also a slightly more open sound and the remix also benefits from a greater degree of separation. Some of the instruments sound much clearer. However, this remix won’t suit everyone. There will be purists that say a classic album should never be remixed. Probably, the best way to look at remixed albums as something to augment, not replace the original album. 

Disc two also features an extended version of Dance Of The Dawn and single edits of each track from Tales From Topographic Oceans. Indeed, there’s two separate single edits of Ritual included. This will please collections.

DVD One and Two.

This leaves just DVD One and Two. They feature Tales From Topographic Oceans mixed in 5.1 Lossless Surround and extra track mixed from original multi-track sources. There’s also the new 2016 Album mix and a flat transfer of the original version of Tales From Topographic Oceans. Both mixes are in high resolution stereo. As an added bonus, there’s alternate version of Tales From Topographic Oceans, single edits and exclusive audio extras. Quite simply, this is one of the most comprehensive releases of Tales From Topographic Oceans.

The reissue of Tales From Topographic Oceans is a reminder of a true classic album.Tales From Topographic Oceans was a groundbreaking album that was way of ahead of its time. It was only later that people began to understand and cherish what was a ambitious, complex and innovative album. 

Yes took as their starting point progressive rock, but added elements of avant-garde, folk-rock, jazz and psychedelia. This was the start of what was a captivating musical adventure. 

It comprises four lengthy suites that are complex and multilayered. Genres melt into one during these musical soundscapes. They feature a myriad of  Eastern themes and sounds. The music is cerebral, ruminative and sometimes, atmospheric, beautiful and dramatic as the arrangements ebb and flow. Seamlessly, there’s changes in time signature as the one part of the suite gives way to the next. Constantly, nuances, subtitles and surprises unfold as the rich musical landscape changes, and a classic album unfolds. 

That classic album is Yes’ sixth album Tales From Topographic Oceans, which was released on December 7th 1973. Just over forty-three years later, Tales From Topographic Oceans is a timeless classic that’s testament to the vision and imagination of Jon Anderson and also Steve Howe. 

Originally, it was Jon Anderson that came up with the concept of Tales From Topographic Oceans. Steve Howe came onboard at the planning stage and the with help of the other members of Yes, recorded what was a groundbreaking, timeless classic Tales From Topographic Oceans.

YES-TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS-DELUXE EDITION BOX SET.

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ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA THE STUDIO ALBUMS 1973-1977.

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA THE STUDIO ALBUMS 1973-1977.

In 1970, Birmingham based songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood decided to form a new band with drummer Bev Bevan. This new group they christened the Electric Light Orchestra. 

At first, the Electric Light Orchestra was regarded as an offshoot of The Move, which Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood and Bev Bevan were all members of. However, over the years The Move’s lineup had been fluent.

By the time The Move recorded Message From The Country during 1970 and 1971, this was the fourth lineup of the band. When Message From The Country was released on 8th October 1971, there had been another change to the lineup. Bassist Rick Price deported and was replaced by Richard Tandy. This was his second spell with The Move. The other new addition Bill Hunt, who played horns and woodwind. His addition was a strategic move.

Message From The Country proved to be The Move’s swan-song. It was their way of saying goodbye to their fans after five years. By 1972, The Move were no more.

Electric Light Orchestra.

Seamlessly, the fifth and final lineup of The Move became the Electric Light Orchestra. They were joined by violinist Steve Woolam. The first lineup of the Electric Light Orchestra recorded an album that had ben written by Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne.

He wrote 10538 Overture, Nellie Takes Her, Mr. Radio, Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre) and Queen Of The Hours. Roy Wood penned Look At Me Now, The Battle Of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644), First Movement (Jumping Biz) and Whisper In The Night. These tracks would eventually become Electric Light Orchestra.

Recording of Electric Light Orchestra began in July 1970 at Philips Studios, London, and was completed in June 1971. During that eleven month period, Electric Light Orchestra fused pop, rock, progressive rock, and classical music. Woodwind, strings and horns were favoured instead of guitars. This resulted in a very different,and much more experimental symphonic sounding album from what other bands were doing. Critics remarked upon this.

With Electric Light Orchestra, complete the album was scheduled for release in December 1970. Before that, critics had their say on Electric Light Orchestra. With its experimental and symphonic fusion of pop, rock and classical music, Electric Light Orchestra’s innovative Baroque-and-roll sound won the approval of critics.

When Electric Light Orchestra was released on Harvest in December 1971, it reached thirty-two in the UK. 10538 Overture was released as the lead single and reached number nine in the UK. Meanwhile, Electric Light Orchestra reached fifty-four in Australia. However, Electric Light Orchestra wasn’t in America until early 1972.

Three months later, Electric Light Orchestra was released in March 1972 America as No Answer. This supposedly came about after someone from United Artists tried to contact Electric Light Orchestra about the album. When they couldn’t contact the person, they wrote down “no answer.” This was mistaken as the album the title. However, No Answer just reached 196 in the US Billboard 200. While this wasn’t a huge success, it was something to build on. 

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ELO 2.

Just two months after the release of No Answer, work began on Electric Light Orchestra’s sophomore album ELO 2. However, during the early recording sessions, Roy Wood announced he was leaving Electric Light Orchestra to join Wizard.

This meant that Jeff Lynne became Electric Light Orchestra’s leader and songwriter-in-chief. He wrote four of the five tracks. The other track was a cover of Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven. These songs were recorded at AIR Studios, in London.

For the recording sessions, the original members of Electric Light Orchestra, multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne, drummer and percussionist Bev Bevan and keyboardist and guitarist Richard Tandy were joined by some new faces. This included bassist Mike de Albuquerque, violinist Wilfred Gibson and cellists Mike Edwards and Colin Walker. Roy Wood had played bass and cello on In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2) and From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1). Taking sold charge of production on ELO 2

was Jeff Lynne. He oversaw the recording of ELO 2 from May 1972 until late 1972.

Once ELO 2 was complete, Harvest decided to release the album in UK in January 1973. The album would be released in February 1973 as Electric Light Orchestra II. This would be the final time an Electric Light Orchestra would be given a different title on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Before the release of ELO 2, critics had their say on the album. Once again, they were won over by the slick, polished progressive and symphonic sound of the Electric Light Orchestra in full flight. They continued to combine elements of rock and pop with progressive rock and classical music. To this, they added the what was being described as symphonic rock. ELO 2 seemed to catch the imagination of critics. Especially, the Electric Light Orchestra’s cover of Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven. It was totally transformed and become something Chuck Berry could never have envisaged. Critics too marvelled at Roll Over Beethoven, which part of truly ambitious album.

When ELO 2 was released in January 1973, it reached just thirty-five in the UK. A month later, ELO 2 was released in February 1973 and eventually reached number sixty-two. Just like many British bands in the early seventies, it looked as if the Electric Light Orchestra were going to be more popular in the US than UK

That was until Roll Over Beethoven was released as the lead single. It reached number six in the UK, fifty-three in Australia and forty-two in the US Billboard 100. Things were looking up for the Electric Light Orchestra in UK.

So much so, that after the Electric Light Orchestra’s two album deal with Harvest ran out, they signed to Warner Bros. This was the start of a new chapter in the Electric Light Orchestra story. Part of this story is documented on a recently released box set Electric Light Orchestra The Studio Albums 1973-1977 released by Sony Music Group. It features five albums On the Third Day, Eldorado, Face The Music, A New World Record and Out Of The Blue. However, this new chapter in the Electric Light Orchestra story began with On the Third Day.

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On the Third Day.

Having signed to Warner Bros, the Electric Light Orchestra wanted no time getting to work on their third album On The Third Day. This was the first album that Roy Wood would play no part in. He had played a minor part on ELO 2. However, this time, it was Jeff Lynne who took charge of the Electric Light Orchestra.

Jeff Lynne wrote seven of the eight tracks on On The Third Day. The exception was a cover of Edvard Grieg’s In The Hall Of The Mountain King. It was reinvented by Jeff Lynne and became a memorable example of symphonic rock.

Recording of On The Third took place during April and May of 1973 at De Lane Lea Studios, London and AIR Studios, London. Never before had the Electric Light Orchestra recorded an album so quickly. Their first two albums had taken much longer to record.

This time, the Electric Light Orchestra worked quickly. Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne produced On the Third Day. He was joined by a rhythm section drummer and percussionist Bev Bevan, bassist Mike de Albuquerque and guitarist and keyboardist Richard Tandy. They were augmented by cellists Mike Edwards and Colin Walker plus violinists Wilfred Gibson and Mik Kaminski, who was the latest new recruit. Marc Bolan added guitar on Dreaming of 4000 and In The Hall Of The Mountain King. After two months of recording at two separate studios, On The Third Day was complete. 

Warner Bros. scheduled the release for November 1973. This left plenty of time to promote On The Third Day. Later, critics received their copies of On The Third Day. Again, the music was a fusion of rock and pop with progressive rock and symphonic rock. What was different, was who the album was structured.

The four songs on side one of On The Third Day became a continuous suite. However, side two featured shorter songs. They had been recorded not long after the ELO 2 sessions. On The Third Day was the original album of two sides. It found the Electric Light Orchestra’s music evolving On The Third Day.

Alas, On The Third Day didn’t find favour with all the critics. The reviews were mixed. One publication took a real dislike to On The Third Day…the contrarian Rolling Stone magazine. The

Electric Light Orchestra were just the latest group British group that Rolling Stone disliked. Mostly,the reviews were mixed. That was despite tracks of the quality of Bluebird Is Dead, Oh No Not Susan, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle and In The Hall Of The Mountain King. For the Electric Light Orchestra the reviews of On The Third Day were disappointing.

Six months after the completion of On The Third Day, the album was released in the UK in November 1973. Incredibly, the album failed to chart. Eventually though, On The Third Day sold enough copies to be certified silver in the UK. Before that, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle was released as a single, it reached number twenty-two in the UK. However, Daybreaker failed to chart. For the Electric Light Orchestra, the performance of On The Third Day had been disappointing.

Meanwhile, On The Third Day reached number ten in Australia. Across the Atlantic, On The Third Day reached fifty-two in the US Billboard and became the Electric Light Orchestra’s most successful album. Things were looking good for the Electric Light Orchestra stateside.

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Eldorado.

Work began on the Electric Light Orchestra’s fourth album, Eldorado in February 1974. Eldorado was the first complete concept album that Electric Light Orchestra would release.

Eldorado was a project that Jeff Lynne had been working on for some time. He came up with the storyline first. It documents a Walter Mitty character whose disillusioned, so travels into fantasy worlds in his  daydreams. This allows him to escape from his mundane and boring life. Having come up with the storyline, Jeff Lynne penned ten tracks. They would become Eldorado.

Recording of Eldorado took place at De Lane Lea Studios, in London. Unlike On The Third Day which was recorded in two months, the Electric Light Orchestra took their time recording the album. The recording began in February 1974, with multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne producing Eldorado. 

Jeff Lynne was joined by a rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Bev Bevan, bassist Mike de Albuquerque and guitarist and keyboardist Richard Tandy. He had just been made a permanent member of the Electric Light Orchestra. However, he had additional responsibilities on Eldorado. This included arranging the backing vocals, orchestral and choral arrangements. Meanwhile, the other members of the band were playing an increasingly important role.

The strings were more prominent on Eldorado. Some of the strings were provided by the Electric Light Orchestra’s string players: cellists Mike Edwards and Colin Walker plus violinists Wilfred Gibson and Mik Kaminski. They were augmented by an orchestra. 

This came about after Jeff Lynne’s father remarked that the Electric Light Orchestra’s back-catalogue were tuneless. So rather that over-dubbing strings, Jeff Lynne brought onboard an orchestra to sweeten Eldorado. The strings were arranged by Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy with Louis Clark. Eventually, after seven months of recording, Eldorado was completed in August 1974.

Just over a month later, Eldorado was released. Before that, critics had their say on Eldorado. It found the Electric Light Orchestra companioning art rock and pop with progressive rock and symphonic rock on what was the band’s most melodic album. What many critics were quick to notice, was The Beatles’ influence on Eldorado. Especially on Mister Kingdom, which seems to owe a debt of gratitude Across The Universe. Critics hailed Eldorado the Electric Light Orchestra’s album. Even the usually contrarian Rolling Stone gave Eldorado a favourable. That was progress.

When Eldorado was released in September 1974, the album failed to chart in the UK. Neither Can’t Get It Out of My Head nor Boy Blue charted when released as a single. However, Eldorado  fared better elsewhere.

Eldorado reached number four in Holland and thirty in New Zealand. In America, Eldorado reached number sixteen in the US Billboard 200, and was certified gold not long after the album’s release. Across the border in Canada Eldorado was certified platinum. However, when Can’t Get It Out of My Head was released as a single, it reached number nine in the US Billboard 100. The rise and rise of the Electric Light Orchestra continued in America.

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Face The Music.

Buoyed by the success of Eldorado in North America, the Electric Light Orchestra headed out to tour the album. It was a lengthy tour, and featured the debut of bassist and cellist Kelly Groucutt. He replaced Mike de Albuquerque who left during the recording of Eldorado. Once the tour was over, the Electric Light Orchestra’s thoughts turned to their fifth album.

This would eventually become Face The Music. Just like previous albums, Jeff Lynne penned the eight tracks. He would also produce Face The Music, which found the Electric Light Orchestra heading to Munich, in Germany.

The Electric Light Orchestra’s destination was Musicland Studios, which was owned by the Italian musician, songwriter and producer Giorgio Moroder. Musicland Studios was where Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Marc Bolan and T Rex had recorded albums. Now the Electric Light Orchestra were about to make the journey to Musicland Studios.

When the Electric Light Orchestra arrived at Musicland Studios, in May 1975, there had been a couple of changes in the band’s lineup. Joining multi-instrumentalist and producer Jeff Lynne was a rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Bev Bevan and new bassist and cellist Kelly Groucutt. They were joined by keyboardist Richard Tandy, violinist Mik Kaminski and new cellists Hugh McDowell and Melvyn Gale. The three new additions joined the backing vocals and orchestra which was conducted by Louis Clark. He arranged the orchestral and choral arrangements with Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy. By June 1975, Face The Music was complete. For the second time in their career, the Electric Light Orchestra had recorded an album in just two months. 

They were hoping that Face The Music would fare better than On The Third Day. It had received mixed reviews from critics. However, Face The Music was a very different album. The Electric Light Orchestra’s classic sound was starting to take shape. It was slick, polished and melodic. Two songs stood out, 

Evil Woman and Strange Magic, as they had a commercial, radio friendly sound. Art rock combined with pop and symphonic rock on Face The Music. Evil Woman even a disco influence. This was a first. However, Face The Music won the approval of critics who regarded it as a worthy successor to Eldorado. It surely would enjoy the same success?

Alas, not in the UK, where Face The Music failed to trouble the charts on its release in September 1975. This was disappointing, as Face The Music was the Electric Light Orchestra’s debut album for Don Arden’s Jet Records. However, the lead single Evil Woman reached number ten in the UK. The followup Nightrider failed to chart, while Strange Magic stalled at a lowly thirty-eight. Elsewhere, Face The Music proved popular.

Face The Music reached thirty in Australia, eleven in Holland and forty-one in Sweden. However, it was in Australia where Face The Music was most popular. It reached number eight in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Electric Light Orchestra’s second gold disc in America and a gold disc in Canada. That however, wasn’t the end of the success in America.

Evil Woman reached number ten in the US Billboard 100. The followup Nightrider failed to chart, while Strange Magic reached fourteen in the US Billboard 100. The Electric Light Orchestra’s new sound looked as if it was a game-changer.

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A New World Record.

After the release of Face The Music, the  Electric Light Orchestra headed out on another lengthy tour. They had now settled into the routine of recording an album, and then touring it. However, the Face The Music tour was one of the Electric Light Orchestra most important tours. 

They had changed direction on Face The Music, and were moving towards what would become known as their classic sound. When Face The Music was released, the new sound had proved popular in three continents. So the Electric Light Orchestra headed out on tour to showcased their new sound. When they returned they were determined to build on the success of Face The Music.

Jeff Lynne, who had settled into the role of songwriter-in-chief and producer wrote the eight tracks that would become A New World Record. Just like Face The Music, A New World Record  was recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich.

The Electric Light Orchestra arrived at Musicland Studios in July 1976 to record A New World Record. It was the same lineup that had recorded Face The Music. Multi-instrumentalist and producer Jeff Lynne was joined by a rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Bev Bevan and bassist and cellist Kelly Groucutt. They were joined by keyboardist Richard Tandy, violinist Mik Kaminski and cellists Hugh McDowell and Melvyn Gale. Backing vocals and an orchestra which was arranged and conducted by Louis Clark augmented the Electric Light Orchestra

By late July 1976, A New World Record was complete. Having recorded A New World Record in the space of a month, the album was scheduled for release in September 1976. This was exactly a year after Face The Music. That was what the Electric Light Orchestra were about to do.

Critics had received their promotional copy of A New World Record, and were about to have their say. On A New World Record, the Electric Light Orchestra continued to combine art rock with pop, progressive rock and symphonic rock.  Again, the album was slick, polished and melodic. Many of the songs were shorter and sweeter, and didn’t lack hooks. Just like Face The Music, they had a much more commercial and radio friendly sound. Especially songs like Telephone Line, Rockaria and Livin’ Thing. They had single written all over them. Jeff Lynne was coming into his own as songwriter. He had also produced what many critics called Electric Light Orchestra’s finest hour.

Even the forever contrarian and hard to please Rolling Stone magazine gave A New World Record a positive review. So did Robert Christgau, the self-styled dean of American rock critics. This was high praise indeed.  Mostly, it was critical acclaim that accompanied the release of A New World Record.

When A New World Record was released in September 1976, it reached number six in the UK and was certified platinum. Belatedly, the Electric Light Orchestra had made a breakthrough in their home country. Elsewhere, A New World Record reached number one in Australia and Sweden. A New World Record reached number nine in Austria and Norway; seven in Germany; two in Holland and four in New Zealand. Across the Atlantic, A New World Record reached number five and was certified platinum. Meanwhile, A New World Record was certified double platinum in Canada and gold in Holland. For the Electric Light Orchestra, A New World Record had transformed their fortunes. However, the success continued.

In October 1976 Livin’ Thing was released as a single, reaching four in the UK and thirteen in the US Billboard 100. Rockaria! was released as the followup in February 1977, and released number nine in the UK. Meanwhile, Do Ya was released as a single in America, and reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100. The final single from A New World Record was Telephone Line. It reached number eight in the UK and seven in the US Billboard 100. For the Electric Light Orchestra, A New World Record had been a game-changer. Their music found an audience in Britain, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and North America. How were they going to surpass A New World Record, which has sold over five-million copies?

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Out Of The Blue.

The answer to that, was with their seventh studio album Out Of The Blue. This was the most ambitious album of the Electric Light Orchestra’s career. It was a seventeen song double album penned by Jeff Lynne. This Jeff Lynne wrote over a three-and-a-half week period he spent in the Swiss Alps. Recording Out Of The Blue took slightly longer.

To record Out Of The Blue, the Electric Light Orchestra returned to Musicland Studios, in Munich for a third time. Between May and August 1977, Electric Light Orchestra recorded the seventeen songs. By then, the band’s lineup had changed.

Multi-instrumentalist and producer Jeff Lynne was joined by a rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Bev Bevan and bassist and cellist Kelly Groucutt. They were joined by keyboardist and guitar Richard Tandy and violinist Mik Kaminski.

Cellist Hugh McDowell is credited but didn’t appear. Melvyn Gale is also credited, but his only role was a playing the jangling, tack piano on Wild West Hero. Augmenting the Electric Light Orchestra, were an orchestra conducted by Louis Clark. He joined with Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy to arranged the orchestral and choral arrangements. After two months, Out Of The Blue was completed in August 1977. 

When critics heard Out Of The Blue, they hailed the album the Electric Light Orchestra’s Magnus Opus. It was a glorious fusion of art rock, pop, progressive rock and symphonic rock. Just like the Electric Light Orchestra two previous albums, the music was slick, polished, melodic and hook-laden. The Electric Light Orchestra seemed to have been inspired by The Beatles and Beach Boys on this critically acclaimed and almost flawless album. Somehow, the Electric Light Orchestra had managed to fill four sides with a major musical faux pas. Songs like Turn Ti Stone, It’s Over, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Steppin’ Out and Sweet Is The Night were among Out Of The Blue’s finest moments. So was side three.

For many critics, side three was captivating. It was subtitled Concerto For A Rainy Day, and was a four track musical suite based on the weather and how it affects people’s mood. Jeff Lynne deployed recordings of rain and thunder as the suite moved melodically along from Standin’ In The Rain to Big Wheel and Summer and Lightning. However, Electric Light Orchestra’s had saved the best to last, the joyous and hook-laden Mr. Blue Sky, which was a single-in-waiting.

Out Of The Blue was released on October 3rd 1977. By then, four million copies had been ordered before the release. When Out Of The Blue was released, it reached number four in the UK and was certified platinum. Elsewhere, Out Of The Blue reached number three in Australia, six in Germany and New Zealand; three in Holland and Norway and two in Sweden. Across the Atlantic, Out Of The Blue reached number five in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Meanwhile, Out Of The Blue was certified platinum in Canada and gold in Germany and Holland. This wasn’t the end of the success.

Five singles were released from Out Of The Blue. Turn To Stone was released in October 1977, reaching eighteen in the UK and thirteen in the US Billboard 100. Mr. Blue Sky followed in January 1978, reaching number six in the UK and thirty-five in the US Billboard 100. Sweet Talkin’ Woman was then released in February 1978. It reached number six in the UK and seventeen in the US Billboard 100. Wild West Hero followed in May 1978, and also, reached number six. The final single fittingly, was It’s Over in October 1978. Alas, it only reached thirty-four in the UK. However, Out Of The Blue had been a the most successful album of Electric Light Orchestra’s career.

Eventually, when all the sales were counted, Out Of The Blue had sold over ten million albums worldwide. Forty years later, and Out Of The Blue is regarded as a classic album. It was the third album that the Electric Light Orchestra had recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich. That had coincided with a change in fortune for Electric Light Orchestra.

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From Face The Music through A New World Record to Out Of The Blue, Electric Light Orchestra’s classic sound emerged. It was slick, polished, melodic and hook-laden. This was quite different to their early albums. Especially, the first two albums that Electric Light Orchestra released. Electric Light Orchestra and ELO 2 are very different from their next five albums. They feature in the Electric Light Orchestra Studio Albums 1973-1977 box set. It released by Legacy and documents the Electric Light Orchestra continued to evolve musically between 1973 and 1977. 

During this period, It was certified platinum in Canada gold in America, the Electric Light Orchestra sold the best part of twenty million albums. This includes some of the best music of Electric Light Orchestra’s career. There’s the concept album Eldorado and the five million selling A New World Record. It features a slick, polished, melodic and hook-laden sound. This continues on the Electric Light Orchestra’s Magnus Opus, Out Of The Blue. Nothing else came close to the Electric Light Orchestra’s classic album.

Not even the followup to Out Of The Blue, Discovery. It may have outsold Out Of The Blue, but it doesn’t reach the same dizzy heights. Indeed, the Electric Light Orchestra never matched Out Of The Blue. That is despite releasing five further albums. 

For many people, the Electric Light Orchestra released their finest music between 1973 and 1977. That’s the period that the Electric Light Orchestra The Studio Albums 1973-1977 covers. It was relaxed by Sony Music Group and includes five albums that are spread across six CDs. This is the perfection introduction, or reminder to, one of the greatest British bands of the seventies, Electric Light Orchestra at their creative zenith. 

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA THE STUDIO ALBUMS 1973-1977.

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IMPULSE! 1961-1974 BOX SET.

IMPULSE! 1961-1974 BOX SET.

In 1955, the American Broadcasting Company decided the time was right to diversify into the record business. So on June 14th 1955 as Am-Par Record Corporation was incorporated. Samuel H. Clark became the Am-Par Record Corporation’s first president. He oversaw the birth of what would become one of the biggest record companies in America.

Soon, the nascent label was producing and releasing records, licensing masters from independent record producers and purchasing records that had been regionally. These were then distributed nationwide by Am-Par Record Corporation. Some of the singles and albums proved popular and indeed profitable for the new label. 

Over the next five years, the Am-Par Record Corporation continued to expand. New artists joined their roster, as success began to come the Am-Par Record Corporation’s way. Soon, the label was looking at expanding. One genre they were particularly interested in, was jazz.

So in 1960, Am-Par Record Corporation decided to form their own jazz label. This they decided to call Impulse! Arranger and producer Creed Taylor was hired and became the nascent label’s A&R manager. 

One of the earliest signings made by Creed Taylor was Ray Charles. Another of Impulse!’s early signings was Oliver Nelson. He released his post bop album The Blues and the Abstract Truth in February 1961. It sported Impulse!’s distinctive black, orange, and white livery. A month later, in March 1961, Ray Charles released His Genius + Soul = Jazz was released in March 1961, and gave the label it’s first successful album. The decision to appoint Creed Taylor as Impulse!’s A&R man had paid off. 

Despite the success of Ray Charles’ His Genius + Soul = Jazz Creed Taylor decided to leave Impulse! in the summer of 1961. He had been approached to run Verve Records. Replacing Creed Taylor was the man who would be synonymous with Impulse!, Bob Thiele.

He would play a huge role in the rise and rise of Impulse! Bob Thiele ran Impulse! between 1961 and 1968. During that period, he produced many groundbreaking jazz albums. This includes many that feature in the Impulse 1961-1974 box set. It features twenty-five CDs including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Chico Hamilton Quintet, Earl Hines, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane Quartet, Shelly Manne, Charlie Haden and Tom Scott. There’s everything from big bands to trios, quartets and soloists. Similarly, a variety of sub-genres of jazz are represented on the Impulse 1961-1974 box set. It was recently released by Decca and celebrates the first thirteen years of the Impulse! story.  

With Bob Thiele now in charge of Impulse!, he began to expand the label. He had two very different roles, A&R and production. Somehow, he was to juggle the two roles. This he managed to do successfully. Soon, Bob Thiele was adding some of the biggest names in jazz to Impulse!’s roster. Then he would produce their albums for Impulse!

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers-Jazz Messengers!!!!!

The first album Bob Theile produced at Impulse was Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers’ album Jazz Messengers!!!!! This was a landmark recording, as it was the first time the group had recorded as a sextet.

The result was Jazz Messengers!!!!!, an impressive album of hard bop. Critics hailed Jazz Messengers!!!!! as one of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers best albums of recent years. This was the perfect way for Bob Thiele to open his account at Impulse!

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Max Roach-Percussion Bitter Sweet.

Not long after producing Jazz Messengers!!!!!, Bob Thiele returned to the studio to produce Max Roach’s album Percussion Bitter Sweet. It was recorded over five days where Max Roach and his band fused Cuban rhythms with post bop and hard bop on what was a emotionally charged album with political themes. Playing a starring role was a trumpeter Booker Little.

Sadly, two months after the recording of Percussion Bitter Sweet, Booker Little passed away. He never lived to see Max Roach’s ambitious, genre-melting album released to critical acclaim in late 1961. This was the second successful album Bob Thiele had produced since his arrival at Impulse! S

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The Gil Evans Orchestra-Into The Hot.

As 1962 dawned, Impulse! were preparing to release Into The Hot, the album The Gil Evans Orchestra had recorded in September and October 1961. This time, though, the album had been produced by Creed Taylor. He was responsible for producing an album tha featured the great and good of New York jazz.

The Gil Evans Orchestra featured some of the top New York jazz musicians. They featured on three of the tracks, while Cecil Taylor’s band featured on the other three tracks. Sometimes they played as a quintet, other times as a septet. 

When Into The Hot was released in 1962, it found favour with critics. They had been won over The Gil Evans Orchestra switched between bop and a much more contemporary jazz sound on Into The Hot. However, it’s not the only orchestra album in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set.

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Quincey Jones and His Orchestra-The Quintessence.

While many artists spent a decade at Impulse!, Quincey Jones only released the one album for the label. This was Quincey Jones and His Orchestra’s 1962 album The Quintessence. It had been recorded in November and December 1962 and featured an offshoot of the band that were used on Free and Easy Broadway show. This includes some familiar faces, including Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Oliver Nelson and Thad Jones. 

Given the quality of the personnel that played on The Quintessence, and that it was produced by Bob Thiele, it was no surprise that album was well received by critics on its release in February 1962. They were impressed by what was an album of big band music and hard bop. This was interesting combination. However, one wonders if The Quintessence is worthy of its place in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set? Surely, there are more worthy contenders?

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Benny Carter and His Orchestra-Further Definitions.

When Benny Carter recorded Further Definitions in late 1961, was  a veteran of jazz. He had been around since the twenties. However, by 1961 Benny Carter and His Orchestra had an all-star lineup. They got the chance to showcases their considerable talents on Further Definitions.

It’s a reminder of an another music age, Benny Carter and His Orchestra switch as big band music and swing. Despite seeming like a relic from jazz’s past, Further Definitions was well received upon its release in April 1962. It’s now regarded as a minor genre classic and a reminder of a jazz legend.

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Shelly Manne-2,3,4.

Another of the artists Bob Thiele recruited to Impulse! was Shelly Manne, who had helped popularise West Coast jazz. However, Shelly Manne’s Impulse! debut was quite different to his previous albums.

Joining Shelly Manne were Coleman Hawkins and Thad Jones. They play their part on album where there’s a duets, two trio recordings and three performed by a quartet. That was how the title 2,3,4, came about. What was also unusual was that on  Take A Train and Cherokee, the band played at two time signatures consecutively. Indeed, on Cherokee Shelly Manne plays at double time. The result was an album that surprised critics.

When 2,3,4, was released in August 1962, it was hailed as an ambitious album that was full of subtleties and surprises. With its move towards hard bop, from the cool school, this should’ve been a new chapter in the Shelly Manne story. Alas, he only released the one album for Impulse!

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Roy Haynes Quartet-Out Of The Afternoon.

For too long, Roy Haynes has been one of most underrated jazz drummers. That is despite playing on countless albums. Recently, though, there’s been a resurgence in interest in his music. One of his oft-overlooked recording is Out Of The Afternoon, which the Roy Haynes Quartet recorded for Impulse! in 1962.

 Out Of The Afternoon, which features Roland Kirk on tenor saxophone, was an ambitious and indeed, adventurous album where the Roy Haynes Quartet switched between bop and hard bop. When the Bob Thiele produced Out Of The Afternoon was released in August 1962, it was too critical acclaim. That is no surprise, as Out Of The Afternoon showcases a musical pioneer as he pushes musical boundaries to their limit.

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Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins.

In May of 1962, Bob Thiele was privileged to produce a session that featured two legendary jazzmen, Duke Ellington and Coleman Hawkins. He had first met Duke Ellington twenty years previously, but had never recorded with him. Somewhat belatedly, Duke Ellington who was sixty-three, and fifty-nine year old Coleman Hawkins recorded Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins in August 1962.

Despite having never played together, the two men had recorded a classic album of swing. It was released in February 1963, and nowadays, Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins is now regarded as one of the finest albums either man recorded. It’s also regarded as one of the great jazz albums of the sixties. That’s reason enough to include Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set.

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Freddie Hubbard-The Artistry Of Freddie Hubbard.

By 1963 twenty-four year old, Freddie Hubbard was on a hot streak. He had released two critically acclaimed albums for Blue Note during 1962, Hub-Tones and Ready For Freddie. Bob Thiele spotting the potential in Freddie Hubbard, signed him to Impulse! It had already established a reputation as a label that released ambitious and innovative music. What better place for Freddie Hubbard.

With Bob Thiele taking charge of production, Freddie Hubbard headed in Van Gelder Studio, on 2nd July 1962 to record his fifth album and Impulse! debut album. This was the aptly titled The Artistry Of Freddie Hubbard. 

When it was released in February 1963, critics marvelled as rumpeter Freddie Hubbard delivered a musical masterclass on this album of hard bop. One of the highlights was a ten minute reinvention of the standard Summertime. It was a tantalising taste of what Freddie Hubbard was capable of.

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Chico Hamilton-Passin’ Thru.

By September 1962, drummer Chico Hamilton was no stranger to the recording studio. His recording career began in 1955, Since then, he had released seventeen albums. However, the album Chico Hamilton was about to record, Passin’ Thru, would be his Impulse! debut.

Producing Passin’ Thru with Bob Thiele. He watched as Chico Hamilton’s all-star band worked their way though six tracks at Rudy Van Gelder Studio. Passin’ Thru started off as a hard bop album, but sometimes veered towards avant-garde. This was an ambitious and innovative recording.

Critics realised this when Passin’ Thru was released in March 1963. It was released to widespread critical acclaim and hailed as a groundbreaking release. Chico Hamilton has released one of  the most ambitious and innovative albums of his career, Passin’ Thru.

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John Coltrane-Ballads.

John Coltrane had consistently released groundbreaking albums, including Blue Train, Giant Steps, My Favourite Things and Ole! Olé Coltrane. However, over a series of sessions that took place between December 1961 and November 1962, John Coltrane’s quartet recorded Ballads. They took an unusual approach to recording the album.

The quartet had never played the songs before setting foot in true studio. Instead, they spent roughly thirty minutes rehearsing each song, before recording them each in one take. That was apart from All Or Nothing At All.

Despite this unusual approach to recording Ballads, where the quartet switch between the cool school and modal jazz proved a huge success. Ballads was released in February 1963, to critical acclaim. Once again, John Coltrane had recorded another classic album. It’s another welcome inclusion to Impulse! 1961-1974.

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Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves-Salt and Pepper.

On September the 5th 1963, tenor saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves headed to the Van Gelder Studio. With their band, they recorded five tracks, including Perdido and Stardust. These tracks would become Salt and Pepper.

Ten months later, Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves’ album of post bop was released in July 1963. Salt and Pepper was well received by the critics. However, one track stood out; the cover of Stardust. Ironically, Sonny Stitt switches to alto sax on Stardust and plays a starring role on this beautiful track. Sadly, there was no followup to Salt and Pepper, which is an underrated album of post bop.

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Charles Mingus-Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus.

Although many people won’t recognise the titles on Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, it’s essentially a greatest hits album. What Charles Mingus did, was take some of best known songs and give them a new title. The only new track is Celia. It was recorded during a two sessions that took place in January and September 1963. 

Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus was released in 1964. It was hailed by critics as an essential collection of Charles Mingus’ finest moments during his post bop era.

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McCoy Tyner-Today and Tomorrow.

McCoy Tyner’s career began at Impulse! in 1962, when he released his debut album Inception. Two years later, in October 1964, McCoy Tyner was about to release his fourth album Today and Tomorrow. 

It had been recorded between June 1963 and February 1964. Unlike previous albums, Today and Tomorrow is much more eclectic as McCoy Tyner switched between post bop and modal jazz. This won over critics, who hailed Today and Tomorrow as one of the finest moments of his nascent career.

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Oliver Nelson-More Blues And The Abstract Truth.

On the 10th and 11th November 1964, Oliver Nelson began recording More Blues And The Abstract Truth. This was the much-anticipated followup to The Blues And The Abstract Truth. It had been released to critical acclaim in 1961. Three years later, and arranger, bandleader, composer and conductor Oliver Nelson decided the time had come to record the followup to what had been one of his finest hours.

This time, Oliver Nelson was content to arrange and conduct More Blues And The Abstract Truth. Meanwhile, Bob Thiele produced the album. It featured a truly talented band, who pull out all the stops on what was a fitting followup to The Blues And The Abstract Truth.

More Blues And The Abstract Truth was released in February 1965. Critical acclaim accompanied an album where post bop and a much more contemporary jazz sound shine though. It’s an accomplished album, which oozes quality. However, the album’s highlight is Midnight Blue, which features a masterclass from saxophonist Ben Webster. This is one eight reasons why More Blues And The Abstract Truth deserves its place in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set.

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Shirley Scott-Queen Of The Organ.

By December, 1964, Philly born Shirley Scott was just thirty. However, she had established a reputation as one of the finest Hammond organ players. She was a prolific artist, had recorded over thirty albums by 1964. The album she would record at the Front Room, Newark, New Jersey, was Queen Of The Organ.

Joining her was tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. He and Shirley Scott had married in 1960. Since then, the pair had formed a formidable partnership. They played on each other’s albums, and often were hired to play on albums by the great and good of jazz. However, Queen Of The Organ was another chance for Shirley Scott’s to shine.

One listen to Queen Of The Organ and critics realised this was no exaggeration. It was released in August 1965, to critical acclaim. Not only was Shirley Scott one of finest Hammond organ players, but one of the finest practitioners of the soul jazz. That would continue to be the case, and nowadays, Shirley Scott is remembered as the Queen Of The Organ.

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Earl Hines-Once Upon A Time.

When Earl Hines began work on Once Upon A Time on the 10th and 11th of January 1966, he was sixty-four. Despite approaching veteran status, he hadn’t lost his touch. With many members of Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, accompanying him he leads them through a genre-melting album.

Earl Hines was content to play a supporting role. He stays in the background as this hugely talented band switch between swing and boogie. Sometimes, they’re transformed into a big band and  produce an impressive and memorable sound. When Once Upon A Time. was released in July 1966, it  won over critics. That’s despite being  very different to the jazz that was being produced around this time. Instead, Once Upon A Time was a memorable reminder of jazz’s past. 

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Sonny Rollins and Oliver Nelson-Alfie.

When Sonny Rollins was asked to provide the soundtrack for Alfie, he brought Oliver Nelson onboard as arranger. This seemed like an unlikely partnership. However, when work began in January 1966, it soon became apparent that it was a partnership that was working. 

By the time the soundtrack to Alfie was complete, Sonny Rollins and Oliver Nelson had achieved something that hardly ever happened. The soundtrack to Alfie worked as a recording in its own right. That hardly happens with soundtrack albums. However, Alfie was no ordinary soundtrack. It was an accomplished album of hard bop and post bop. When the Bob Thiele produced Alfie was released in October 1966, critics hailed the album one of the finest jazz soundtrack albums of recent years.

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Stanley Turrentine-Let It Go.

Stanley Turrentine was, without doubt, one of the finest saxophonists of his generation. His career began in 1960, when he released Look Out on Blue Note. Seven years later, and Stanley Turrentine was about to record his debut album for Impulse! 

This came about after Stanley Turrentine played on his wife Shirley Scott’s 1965 album Queen Of The Organ. A years later, in April 1966, Stanley Turrentine was about to record an album of cover versions and new songs. They became Let It Go.

Ten month later, Let It Go was released to critical acclaim in February 1967. By then, Stanley Turrentine was one of the finest practitioners of the soul jazz sound. That’s apparent on Let It Go, which was the latest in a series of successful albums Stanley Turrentine released during the mid to late sixties.

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Dizzy Gillespie-Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac.

It’s not just studio albums that feature in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. Dizzy Gillespie’s live album Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac has been included. This may be a controversial inclusion, as live albums can be hit or miss affairs. There’s always the exception to the rule.

Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac was recorded at Memory Lane, Los Angeles on the 25th and 26th of May 1967. Five tracks from the two nights were chosen and became Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac. 

They find Dizzy Gillespie’s music evolving to ensure it stays relevant. He switches between and sometimes, combines bop and Latin music. The highlight of the set is Kush, a near sixteen minute epic. Alas, when Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac was released in September 1967, the reviews of the album were mxied. Despite that, that the album sold reasonably well. Nowadays, Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac is regarded as something of a curiosity in Dizzy Gillespie’s back-catalogue. This makes Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac a strange inclusion in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. There are many more albums more worthy of inclusion.

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Tom Scott-Rural Still Life.

In early 1968, nineteen year old jazz saxophonist Tom Scott was about to record his sophomore album Rural Still Life. Bob Thiele took charge of production as Tom Scott lead a quartet in what was an early attempt at fusion. It was still in its infancy, and Tom Scott was determined to pioneer this new sound.

Rural Still Life was released in November 1968, but wasn’t well received by critics. The musical genres didn’t combine seamlessly as they would in later fusion albums. As a result, Rural Still Life came across as a clumsy attempt at fusion. This makes the inclusion of Rural Still Life seem debatable. However, it’s an interesting musical artefact as fusion takes shape Fusion would eventually ride to rescue of jazz, and save it from irrelevance and obscurity.

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Charlie Haden-Liberation Music Orchestra.

Although bassist Charlie Haden was a seasoned musician, he had yet to release a solo album. Many had moving from sideman to bandleader a step to far. Not Charlie Haden. His debut album  Liberation Music Orchestra would become a genre classic.

Charlie Haden recorded Liberation Music Orchestra in Los Angles with producer Bob Thiele. He watched on as Charlie Haden and his band recorded an ambitious and innovative free jazz classic. Alas, by the time Liberation Music Orchestra was released, Bob Thiele had left Impulse!

After eight years, where he transformed Impulse! into one of jazz’s premier labels, Bob Thiele severed his ties with Impulse! He had grown disenchanted with life at Impulse! To make matter worse, an irate sales manager entered the studio when Bob Thiele was recording with Louis Armstrong. The sales manager didn’t like What A Wonderful World, and thought Louis Armstrong should record a more traditional jazz song. As a result, ABC failed to promote What A Wonderful World. Meanwhile, the sing;e was a huge hit in Britain. For Bob Thiele, this was the final straw. He left Impulse! and founded his own label, Flying Dutchman Productions.

By the time Liberation Music Orchestra was released in January 1970, Flying Dutchman Productions was releasing groundbreaking albums. This included album like Liberation Music Orchestra. Although it was well received by critics, it failed to find an audience. As a result, Charlie Haden left Impulse! shortly after its release. However, nowadays,Liberation Music Orchestra is a free jazz classic.

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Alice Coltrane-Journey In Satchidananda.

After the death of her husband John Coltrane, harpist Alice Coltrane threw herself into her music. By February 1971, she was about to release her fourth album Journey In Satchidananda. 

It had been recorded between July and November 1970. Most of the music on Journey In Satchidanandahad had been recorded in Alice Coltrane’s home studio during November 1970. That was apart from Isis And Osiris a near twelve minute epic. Just like the rest of the album, Alice Coltrane was accompanied by a multitalented band on Journey In Satchidanandahad. This included saxophonist Pharoah Sanders who had been part of John Coltrane’s band. He added his legendary and inimitable sheets of sound.

They played their part in what was a groundbreaking, genre-melting album. Avant-garde jazz was combined with post bop and modal jazz on Journey In Satchidananda.. It was an ambitious album, and one that found favour with the critics on its release in February 1971. Nowadays, Journey In Satchidananda is regarded as one Alice Coltrane’s finest albums, and a reminder of a true musical pioneer.

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Gato Barbieri-Chapter One: Latin America.

Gato Barbieri had signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions in 1970, and later that year, released his sophomore album The Third World. This was the first of a quartet of albums Gato Barbieri released on Flying Dutchman Productions. However, in 1973, Gato Barbieri left Flying Dutchman Productions and signed to Impulse!, the label that Bob Thiele left four years earlier.

During April of 1973, Gato Barbieri recorded what would become Chapter One: Latin America. Most of the album was recorded in Buenos Aires, in Argentina. The exception was To Be Continued, which was recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With the album complete, it was delivered to Impulse!

Six months later, Chapter One: Latin America was released in October 1973. Critical acclaim accompanied what was an ambitious album of Latin jazz. Sadly, Chapter One: Latin America wasn’t a commercial success and since then, has been a hidden gem in Impulse!’s back-catalogue. Its inclusion on the Impulse! 1961-1974 is to be welcomed.

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Keith Jarrett-Death and The Flower.

The twenty-fifth and final album in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set is Keith Jarrett’s fourth Death and The Flower. It was recorded on between the 9th and 10th of October 1974 at  Generation Sound Studios, in New York. 

Keith Jarrett lead a five piece band that featured bassist Charlie Haden. They recorded a trio Keith Jarrett compositions. This included Death and The Flowers, a twenty-three minute atmospheric epic where free jazz meets avant-garde. It opens the album and sets the bar high. However, Keith Jarrett never lets his standards drop on what’s a truly captivating and beautiful album. Alas, when Death and The Flower was released in February 1975, the reviews were mixed and the album failed to find the audience it deserved. Since then, Death and The Flower has been an oft-overlooked hidden gem. Thankfully, it makes a welcome return on the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set.

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The Impulse! 1961-1974 is no ordinary box set. Instead, it’s a mammoth twenty-five disc box set. It features some giants of jazz, including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Chico Hamilton Quintet, Earl Hines, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane Quartet, Shelly Manne and Charlie Haden. There’s everything from big bands to trios, quartets, soloists, soundtracks and even a live album. Similarly, a variety of sub-genres of jazz are represented on the Impulse 1961-1974 box set, which was recently released buy Decca.

Everything from avant-garde to bop to the cool school, free jazz, fusion, hard bop, Latin and post bop makes an appearance on the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. They’re the perfect introduction to one of jazz’s great labels, Impulse! It’s up there with Atlantic Records, Blue Note, Prestige and Verve Records, 

That’s no surprise. Many of the giants of jazz spent time signed to Impulse! They seem to have been afforded creative freedom. There was nobody trying to tell artists what direction their music should head in. While this may not have resiled in music that was hugely successful commercially, much of the music Impulse! released was innovative, inventive and influential. Especially during the period Bob Thiele was at the hem of Impulse!

Nowadays, Bob Thiele’s name is synonymous with Impulse! He was at at the helm between 1961 and 1969. That was when Impulse! released some of its most important and influential music. Alas, when Bob Thiele left Impulse!, his replacement was thirty-five year old Ed Michel. 

Suddenly, commentators wondered whether Impulse! would no longer the same label? Still, Impulse! continued to release important, innovative, inventive and influential. However, not as regularly as it once had. Some of the albums were hit or miss affairs. Impulse! continued to release albums regularly, but no longer was the label consistently releasing classic albums. They were in short supply. 

Still, many of the artists signed to Impulse! after Bob Thiele’s departure were pioneers. They continued to released ambitious and groundbreaking music. Some of that music features in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. However, there’s much more that that could’ve featured in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. It’s a similar case with the music released between 1961 and 1969, when Bob Thiele was at Impulse!’s helm. So much so, that there’s enough for at least a second box set.

It’s been suggested that even a fifty disc box set wouldn’t do justice to the Impulse! back-catalogue. That is certainly the case. There’s enough for at least three twenty-five disc box sets. This would come close to doing justice to Impulse!’s illustrious back-catalogue. Meanwhile, the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set is the perfect introduction to one of jazz’s great labels, which was home to many of the giants and pioneers of jazz.

IMPULSE 1961-1974.

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CHIP WICKHAM-LA SOMBRA.

CHIP WICKHAM-LA SOMBRA.

Manchester like Glasgow, Liverpool and London is regarded as one of Britain’s musical cities. That has been the case for over fifty years. During that period, Manchester has always had a vibrant, thriving and eclectic music scene. One man who has been a familiar face on the Manchester music scene is reed man Chip Wickham.

He spent the two decades of his career in Manchester, working with some of the leading lights of the city’s music scene. During that period, Chip Wickham established a reputation as one of Manchester’s top jazz musicians. Then in 2007, Chip Wickham decided to head to sunnier climes. 

Madrid became home for Chip Wickham. For the next six years, he was a familiar face on the city’s music scene. Especially, within Madrid’s soul-jazz scene. Later, Chip changed direction, and began fusing raw funk with Latin music. This proved popular, and soon, Chip was recording two singles for the Madrid based label Lovemonk. Then in 2013, Chip was on the move again. 

Next stop was Dubai, which has been his home to Chip Wickham ever since. However, when the time to record what would become his debut album La Sombra, Chip returned to Madrid. La Sombra, which is the long-awaited and much-anticipated debut album from Chip Wickham, will be released on Lovemonk  on 20th January 2017. However, Chip’s career began twenty-five years ago in Manchester.

Before embarking upon a musical career, Chip Wickham had spent time studying in Manchester between 1988 and 1992. During that time, Chip often made the journey along the M62 to Leeds, where he was a familiar face in the jazz and funk clubs. By the time his student years were over, Chip’s interest in music had grown to such an extent that he was ready to make the transition from spectator to participant.

Not within Leeds’ thriving and vibrant musical scene. Instead, Chip Wickham was ready to participate in Manchester’s vibrant music scene. This was the of era of Acid House, Factory Records, the Hacienda and as the nineties dawned,the Madchester era. 

Manchester was regarded as one of the most important musical cities in the world. Almost en masse, critics and cultural commentators headed to Manchester.They were determined to document the rise and rise of Manchester. This resulted in musical tourists beating a path to Manchester, in search of the music they had read about.

Within Manchester, numerous disparate music scenes coexisted happily. This included the UK hip hop and breakbeat scene. Manchester was at the heart of the UK hip hop and breakbeat scene. Many labels had sprung up, hoping to cash in on rise in popularity of the UK hip hop and breakbeat scene. One of the more established labels was Grand Central Records. 

They were looking for an in-house session musician. Manchester flautist and saxophonist Chip Wickham fitted the bill. He was ostensibly a jazz musician, but was versatile and seemed to be the perfect person to accompany Grand Central Records’ enviable roster of artists.

From 1996 onwards, Chip Wickham worked with artists signed to Grand Central Records. Over the next few years, he worked with AIM, Rae and Christian, Fingathing, Veba, The Pharcyde, QnC, YZ and Supernatural at Grand Central Records. This allowed him to continue to hone his sound, during what was akin to a musical apprenticeship. Chip learnt about the various aspects of production, and also, made important contacts within the music industry.

This lead to Chip Wickham working with some of the top British producers, including Nightmares On Wax, Graham Massey of 808 State, Jimpster and Andy Votel. Soon, Chip was touring with some of the biggest names in music.

One of the biggest names Chip Wickham worked with was veteran vibes man Roy Ayers. Later, Chip Wickham would work with fellow Mancunian, Badly Drawn Boy. Around this time, Chip met another Manchester based musician, trumpeter Matthew Halsall. They became firm friends and Chip would later, head out on tour and record with Matthew Halsall. Meanwhile, Chip was always in demand to play live or on sessions.

In June 2003 Chip Wickham got the opportunity to work with one of the biggest names in British music, Badly Drawn Boy. Just like Chip, Badly Drawn Boy was a familiar face in the Manchester music scene. He had released his debut album The Hour Of Bewilderbeast in 2000. Three years later in June 2003, Badly Drawn Boy was preparing to record his third album One Plus One Is One. Chip was brought onboard to play on five of the tracks. One Plus One Is One was released in 2004 and was one of the highest profile and most successful releases Chip had played on.

By 2004, Chip Wickham had worked on everything from breakbeat and hip hop to deep house, downtempo and indie. Working with such a wide variety of artists and producers ensured that Chip became a versatile musician, who could seamlessly switched between musical genres. This ensured that Chip was always in-demand to play on sessions or head out on tour with a variety of artists. Despite this, Chip decided to head for sunnier climes in 2007.

Chip Wickham decided to head to another city with a thriving musical scene, Madrid. Having settled in the city, Chip’s electronic Latin band Malena, released their much-anticipated debut album, Fried Samba later in 2007. 

This was somewhat overdue. Chip Wickham, Daniel Broad and Susana Montero had been releasing successful singles as Malena since 2000. However, Malena had never gotten round to releasing an album. Somewhat belatedly, Fried Samba was released to critical acclaim in 2007. It was we’ll worth the wait.

A year later, and Chip Wickham had been asked to play on Matthew Halsall’s debut album Sending My Love. When it was released in 2008, it introduced Matthew Halsall to a much wider audience. Matthew Halsall’s star was in the ascendancy. So was Chip’s

By 2008, Chip Wickham become a familiar face within Madrid’s music scene. Especially within the soul-jazz scene. He worked with Gecko Turner, Speak Low, The Sweet Vandals, Siete Pulgadas, Ann Sexton and Luz Casal. However, after a while, Chip changed direction musically, and began fusing raw funk with Latin music. This resulted in Chip releasing two singles on the Madrid based Lovemonk label.

The first single, Feelin’ Alright, was released in 2009. Chip Wickham’s fusion of raw funk and Latin music proved popular. So much so, that in 2011, a second single was released, Hit and Run. Stylistically, it followed in the footsteps of Feelin’ Alright. Just like its predecessor, Hit and Run proved successful. It also came to the attention of Craig Charles.

He invited Chip Wickham to join Craig Charles Fantasy Funk Band. It featured the creme de la creme of the British soul and funk scene. This included James Taylor of the James Taylor Quartet, Snowboy and Mick Talbot who was once a member of The Style Council. They now plied their trade with the Craig Charles Fantasy Funk Band. Chip was about to join some of the top musicians from the British soul and funk scene. He didn’t look out of place. Far from it, the fifteen years he had spent playing professionally made Chip a welcome addition to the Craig Charles Fantasy Funk Band. So much so, that he improved their already impressive sound. For Chip this was the start of a new chapter in his career.

In 2013, another chapter in Chip Wickham’s career came to a close, when he left Madrid. Next step was Dubai. It became his base as a new chapter in his career began to unfold. After three years living in Dubai, Chip was living when he began to think about recording his debut solo album. This was the one thing he still had to do.

As Chip Wickham thoughts turned to his solo album, he realised this was the perfect opportunity to revisit the music that had influenced and inspired him, jazz. Especially the jazz music that his heroes Roland Kirk, Yuseef Lateef and Harold McNair had produced. This would very different to the jazz, funk, soul, hip-hop, Latin and electronica that Chip had produced over the past three decades. 

Having decided to record a jazz album, Chip Wickham wrote six tracks, La Sombra, Sling Shot, Red Planet,The Detour,Pushed Too Far and Tokyo Slow Mo. The other track that Chip decided to cover was La Leyenda Del Tiempo. It was penned by Federico García Lorca and Ricardo Pachón Capitán and would eventually close La Sombra. 

After writing and choosing the music that would feature on La Sombra, Chip Wickham decided to record the album in Madrid. He booked Red Led Studios for the recording sessions. This made sense, as he would be working with Spanish musicians. 

So Chip Wickham started looking for musicians who would feature on La Sombra. Eventually, he settled on a quartet. Joining Chip at Red Led Studios, in Madrid were a rhythm section of drummer and vibraphonist Antonio Pax and David Salvador on double bass. They were augmented by pianist Gabriel Casanova. Chip would switch between tenor saxophone, flute and alto flute. He also arranged and produced La Sombra.  Once the album was complete, Chip mixed his long-awaited debut album La Sombra. 

Once the album was complete, Chip Wickham took the album to the Madrid based Lovemonk label. They had released the two singles Chip released in 2009 and 2011. Six years later, they would release Chip’s debut album La Sombra on 20th January 2017. It’s an album that Chip’s been working towards for twenty-five years.

Opening La Sombra is the title-track. A dark piano plays slowly and almost ominously. Gradually, this changes as flourishes of piano are joined by rinsing cymbals and a wistful flute. It meanders along, as the rhythm section and vibes add to the wistful, ruminative sound. Every member of the band plays their part as the arrangement ebbs and flows. When the flute drops out, the piano takes centre-stage, adding a poignancy to the understated, meandering arrangement. Soon, the piano grows in power, and its beauty dominating the arrangement. That’s until the flute and vibes add a melancholy sound to this beautiful, ruminative track. It’s set the standard for what’s to come

Straight away, Sling Shot transports the listener back to the late-sixties. There’s a funky sound to the bass that propels the arrangement along. Soon, it’s joined by the drums, vibes and piano. This brings back memories of Dave Pike. Before long, Chip’s saxophone joins the fray, and soars high above the arrangement. It drops out, but soon returns, locking into a groove with the piano and vibes. They become one, as the rhythm section power the arrangement along. Later, the vibe  and piano crete a hypnotic backdrop as Chip unleashes braying, blazing solo. When it drops out, the bass and then piano enjoy their moment in the sun. So briefly, do the vibes, before Chip returns as the arrangement breezes joyously along. Then as Sling Shot reaches its crescendo, Chip passes the baton to vibraphonist Antonio Pax on this memorable and joyous track.

It’s just a jaunty piano that opens Red Planet. Soon, the rhythm section and Chip’s flute join the frae as the arrangement breezes along. That’s until the piano piano and drums briefly 

slow things down. Soon, the momentum builds as the rhythm section and piano lock into a groove. Meanwhile, Chip unleashes a masterclass on the flute, playing with flair, power and control. Then the baton passes to pianist Gabriel Casanova. His fingers dance across the keyboard, music flowing through his as a drum pounds and cymbal crashes. Later, Chip returns and again, plays with power and control producing a chirping sound, as the rest of the band drive the track to an impressive crescendo.

Drummer Antonio Pax  counts the band in on The Detour. At first, it’s just the rhythm section that play. That’s until the vibes and piano enter. The vibes make a brief appearance before the flute enters. Again, Chip’s playing with power, control and determination. He drinks air deeply into his lungs, before expanding energy and passion as he plays. It’s a truly committed performance. When the flute briefly drops out, the piano, vibes and drums all enjoy their moment in the sun. Soon, Chip returns, playing with the same power, commitment and energy. After he gasps, the flute soars and rasps as Chip reaches new heights. Meanwhile, the rest of the band take their lead from Chip, and lock into a hypnotic groove. Rolls of drums, glistening vibes and a walking bass accompany Chip as he unleashes a powerhouse of a performance. It drops out, just before the track reaches its crescendo. By then, one can’t help but marvel at a fully committed powerhouse of a performance by one of Britain’s top jazz musicians.

There’s a wistful sound to Pushed Too Far. The rhythm section play slowly as the piano adds a mesmeric backdrop. Meanwhile, the alto sax adds a thoughtful, sometimes dreamy sound. It’s joined by the vibes, and they remain as the alto drops out. This allows the rest of the band to showcase their considerable skills. When he alto returns, the arrangement is slow, understated and meanders along and continues to unfold. Still, it’s a beautiful, thoughtful and cinematic track that continues to tug at the heartstrings.

The tempo stays slow, on Tokyo Slow Mo while the arrangement is spacious. Just the rhythm section, vibes and piano combine before the sultry saxophone enters. It hangs lazily in the air, as the bass wanders and the piano adds a mesmeric backdrop. As the piano seesaws, the sultry saxophone glides along, while the drums are played softly and bass plucked gently. Later, when the saxophone drops out, the glistening vibes enter and play a starring role. However, they exit stage left before the lazy, sultry saxophone returns. It adds to track that has veered between thoughtful, melancholy and hopeful. Always, though, beauty is omnipresent on Tokyo Slow Mo.

An urgently plucked bass opens La Leyenda Del Tiempo, which closes La Sombra. Soon, the drums join the piano. It’s played with a similar urgency. So is Chip’s flute. Again, he plays with power, hungrily drawing air into his lungs so he can unleash another powerhouse of a solo. He combines speed and power, but is always in control. Even when the flute soars way above the arrangement. It then drops out, and piano takes centre-stage. Buoyed by Chip’s performance, Gabriel Casanova fingers fly across the keyboard, as the rhythm section match him every step of the way. It’s an impressive performance, that brings back memories of jazz’s heyday. Especially, when Chip returns briefly. He basses the baton to bassist David Salvador who ensures the track and indeed, La Sombra ends on a high.

After seven tracks lasting just over forty-six magical minutes, Chip Wickham’s long-awaited debut album La Sombra is over. It’s taken Chip twenty-five years to get round to recording La Sombra, but it’s been well worth the wait. 

From the opening bars of La Sombra to the closing notes of La Leyenda Del Tiempo, Chip Wickham never miss a beat. That’s no surprise. Chip put together a tight, talented band that feature some of Madrid’s top jazz musicians. They showcase their considerable talents on La Sombra, which will be released on the Lovemonk label on 20th January 2017. 

Sometimes, when the tempo increases on tracks like Sling Shot, Red Planet and The Detour,  and his band enjoy the opportunity to kick loose and play with a freedom. Then when the tempo drops on Pushed Too Far and Tokyo Slow Mo, the band play slowly and thoughtfully on tracks where beauty is omnipresent. Always, Chip Wickham and his give nothing less than 100% as they draw inspiration from and pay homage to some of the giants of jazz.

Among the artists who have influenced Chip Wickham, are Yusef Lateef. The influence of his early albums can be heard on tracks like La Sombra and Pushed Too Far. Then on Sling Shot and Red Planet, immediately one thinks of the music Freddie Hubbard released for Blue Note. However, for much of La Sombra, the jazz of the late sixties and early seventies seems to be the primary influence for Chip Wickham. That is no surprise.

Jazz was Chip Wickham’s first musical love. He grew up listening to his heroes Roland Kirk, Yuseef Lateef and Harold McNair. Alas, it wasn’t jazz that Chip ended up playing. Instead, he spent three decades, playing funk, soul, hip-hop, Latin and electronica. After these dalliances with various other genres, Chip Wickham realised the time had come to return to his first love.

After twenty-five years apart, Chip Wickham realised the time had come to his return what was first love, jazz. Chip Wickham was reunited with jazz on La Sombra. It’s the long-awaited and much-anticipated debut album of one of Britain’s top reed men, Chip Wickham, who showcases his considerable talents of La Sombra.

CHIP WICKHAM-LA SOMBRA.

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LEONARD COHEN-YOU WANT IT DARKER.

LEONARD COHEN-YOU WANT IT DARKER.

In 2004, Leonard Cohen’s daughter Lorca started to suspect her father’s manager of financial impropriety. Deep down, this was something Lorca didn’t want to believe. Kelley Lynch wasn’t just a business manager, but a close personal friend. So close was the friendship that Kelley Lynch was almost regarded as part of the Cohen family. This was why Lorca must have hoped that her suspicions would prove unfounded.

Having told her father of her suspicions, Leonard Cohen decided to check his bank accounts. It transpired that Kelley Lynch had paid a $75,000 credit card bill using Leonard Cohen’s money. On discovering this, Leonard Cohen began checking all his bank accounts. They had just about been cleaned out. This was a huge shock. Leonard Cohen had been betrayed by one of his closest friends.

Now that Leonard Cohen had discovered the misappropriation of funds, he ordered an audit of his finances. The auditors discovered that over $5 million from Leonard Cohen’s retirement fund was missing. All that was left was $150,000. That was just part of the story.

Money was missing from Leonard Cohen’s trusts funds and charitable funds. To rub salt into the wound, auditors had discovered that the misappropriation of funds had started eight years previously, in 1996. This was when Kelley Lynch began selling the publishing rights to Leonard Cohen’s music. Over the next eight years, Kelley Lynch had misappropriated the majority of Leonard Cohen’s savings. For seventy year old Leonard Cohen this was a huge blow.

No longer was Leonard Cohen going to be able to enjoy a comfortable retirement after a long and successful career. That was unless he could received the money misappropriated by Kelley Lynch. The only way for Leonard Cohen to do this, was to sue Kelley Lynch.

This is what Leonard Cohen decided to do. To do so, he had to mortgage his house and sell of assets. This was a huge risk, and one not to be taken lightly. 

Despite that, Leonard Cohen filed suit in October 2005, alleging that Kelley Lynch had misappropriated in excess of $5 million from his retirement fund. All that remained was $150,000. This was not a lot to show for a career that had spanned five decades. However, things were about to get worse for Leonard Cohen.

It was announced that he was being counter-sued by some of his former business advisers. One adviser, Neal Greenberg alleged that Leonard Cohen was aware of his financial situation, and that the lawsuit was an attempt to recoup the misappropriated monies. Things were getting messy, and indeed expensive.

In March 2006, Leonard Cohen won his civil suit at Los Angeles County superior court. He was awarded $9 million. However, Kelley Lynch had ignored the lawsuit and failed to respond to a subpoena for he financial records. It was looking like Leonard Cohen would be unable to recover the $9 million he had been awarded. Not only was Leonard Cohen no further forward, but had financed an expensive lawsuit. 

This had further depleted Leonard Cohen’s finances. His already perilous financial situation had gotten even worse. The lawsuit had been a waste of time and money. It also resulted in Leonard Cohen’s affairs being splashed across the front page of newspapers. For an intensely private and sensitive man, this intrusion was humiliating for Leonard Cohen. He wasn’t used to being in the spotlight. 

Instead, Leonard Cohen had been living a quietly. He was a private person, who shied away from the celebrity lifestyle. Leonard Cohen was happy to spend his time writing songs, poems and painting. Occasionally,  Leonard Cohen would release an album. 

His most recent album Dear Heather, was released in 2004 and was Leonard Cohen’s first album since Ten New Songs in 2001. Ten New Songs was the first album Leonard Cohen had released since The Future in 1992. Leonard Cohen was far from a prolific artist. Dear Heather was only his eleventh since his 1967 debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen. It was a similar when it came to touring.

2008-2010 Tour.

The last time Leonard Cohen embarked upon a tour was 1993. However, this was about to change. Having failed to recover the $9 from Kelley Lynch, Leonard Cohen decided to embark upon a lengthy world tour. It was scheduled to begin on the 11th May 2008, in Fredericton, in New Brunswick, Canada. By then, Leonard Cohen was just a few months short of his seventy-fourth birthday.

Leonard Cohen would celebrate his seventy-fourth birthday on his World Tour. It was proving hugely popular. Night after night, Leonard Cohen played sell-out shows. He would be greeted by enthusiastically by two generations of record buyers. Many weren’t even born when Leonard released his debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen in 1967. However, they were familiar with his music and welcomed Leonard Cohen to their city. That continued to be the case as the tour continued into 2009.

By July 2009, Leonard Cohen arrived in Europe to undertake what was described as a marathon tour. Everything went well until Leonard Cohen passed during a concert in Valencia, in Spain on September 18th 2009. Reports stated that Leonard Cohen had been suffering from stomach problems, and most likely, he suffered a bout of food poisoning. Three days later, on September 21st 2009, Leonard Cohen  had recovered, and took to the stage in Barcelona. That night he celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday with the Catalan audience. This was just the latest successful concert during  Leonard Cohen’s mammoth world tour. 

It returned to America later in 2009 for the sixth leg. By then, the tour had grossed $9.5 million. Still though, the tour wasn’t over. Further dates had been added, and the next leg was due to begin in March 2010. However, a back injury meant the seventh leg of the tour couldn’t begin until September 2010. 

As the seventh leg began, Sony Music released a live CD/DVD set on September 14th 2010. It featured performances from the 2008-2009. Ten days later, on 24th September 2010, Leonard Cohen played the final date on his world tour in Tel Aviv, Israel. The next day, Leonard Cohen was seventy-five.

He had spent nearly two-and-a-half years touring the world.  While this should’ve improved Leonard Cohen’s perilous financial position, it came at a cost to his health. Problems  with Leonard Cohen’s back had resulted in the seventh leg of the tour having to be rescheduled. However,  still Leonard Cohen had completed the marathon tour.

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New Ideas. 

Once he returned home, Leonard Cohen continued to write poetry and songs. The world tour seemed to have given Leonard Cohen a new lesson of life. He wrote the ten songs that explored themes like mortality, sex, depression, and the search for love. These songs became Leonard Cohen’s critically acclaimed twelfth album Old Ideas. 

It was released on January 31st 2012 and topped the charts in eleven countries. Meanwhile, Old Ideas reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and two in the UK. This resulted in gold discs in the UK and Sweden. However, in Leonard Cohen’s home country of Canada, Old Ideas reached number one and was certified platinum. The seventy-seven year old become the oldest person to top the Canadian charts. Despite the success of Old Ideas, Leonard Cohen wasn’t about to rest on his laurels.

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Grand Tour 2012-2013.

Leonard Cohen was about to embark upon another world tour. The first leg of the Grand Tour began in Europe on August 12th 2012. Just like his previous tour, Leonard Cohen was accompanied by the newly expanded Unified Heart Touring Band. They had added a violinist to the band. This new lineup of the Unified Heart Touring Band accompanied  Leonard Cohen each night, as he worked his way through a three hour set.  Just under two months later, October 7th 2012, the European leg of the Grand Tour ended. By then, Leonard Cohen was seventy-eight.

He was showing no signs of slowing down. The North American leg of the Grand Tour began in the spring of 2013, and featured fifty-six dates. Once the North American leg was over, Leonard Cohen headed to Australia and New Zealand. 

During November and December of 2013, Leonard Cohen toured Australia and then New Zealand. The last show on the Grand Tour was in Auckland. That was Leonard Cohen ’s sixty-ninth show of 2013, and his 387th concert since he returned to touring in the summer of 2008. Closing a three hour show where new songs rubbed shoulders with old friends, was fittingly and poignantly, I Tried to Leave You and a cover of Save the Last Dance for Me. That night, Leonard Cohen transforms a song made famous by The Drifters and makes it his own. As the song closes, Leonard Cohen tips his and takes a bow as the audience give him a standing ovation.  Leonard Cohen who was seventy-nine takes his leave for the last time on the Grand Tour.

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Popular Problems.

Following the completion of the Grand Tour, Leonard Cohen returned home. Then as 2014 dawned, his thoughts turned to his thirteenth studio album Popular Problems. Recording began during 2013. Now it was just a matter of completing the album.

Popular Problems would eventually feature nine songs. Leonard Cohen  played a part in each of these songs. He wrote Born In Chains, and cowrote A Street with Anjani Thomas. The other seven songs, Leonard Cohen penned with Patrick Leonard. These songs were recorded with a small, tight and talented band. They were augmented by a trio of backing vocalists as Popular Problems took shape. It was completed in early 2014.

Just Old Ideas in 2012, Popular Problems was released to widespread critical acclaim. It was released the 22nd of September 2014, a day after Leonard Cohen turned eighty. The commercial success Popular Problems was another cause for celebration. 

Popular Problems reached the top ten in twenty-one countries. However, in America, Popular Problems reached just fifteen in the US Billboard 200. Across the Atlantic, Popular Problems reached number five. Elsewhere, Popular Problems reached number one in ten countries, including Canada. The success of Popular Problems resulted in the album being certified silver in the UK; gold in Austria, Canada and Switzerland and platinum in Denmark and Poland. Forty-seven years after releasing his debut album The Songs Of Leonard Cohen, still, his music continued to find a wide and appreciative audience across the world. This would continue to be the case.

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You Want It Darker.

Buoyed by the success of Popular Problems, Leonard Cohen began work on his fourteenth studio album in 2015.  This would eventually become You Want It Darker. However, by the time recording began on You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen was suffering from various health problems.

These health problems were probably a result of the five years that Leonard Cohen spent touring between 2008 and 2013. The constant travelling on buses and planes,  plus the sound-checks and three hour shows would’ve taken their toll on a man half Leonard Cohen’s age. They were taking their toll on Leonard Cohen. He was suffering from multiple fractures of his spine and had mobility problems. Despite this, Leonard Cohen had written a new album by May 2015.

By then, Leonard Cohen had written the lyrics to nine songs. He also wrote the music to Treaty, Leaving the Table, Steer Your Way and String Reprise/Treaty. Just like on previous albums, other songwriters contributed the music to You Want It Darker. Patrick Leonard wrote the music You Want It Dark, If I Didn’t Have Your Love, It Seemed The Better Way cowrote the music to Traveling Light with Adam Cohen. Sharon Robinson wrote the music to On the Level. Many of the lyrics on You Want It Darker were of a personal nature. There was a reason for this.

At the time, Leonard Cohen knew he was dying and he was turning his attention to death and God on You Want It Darker. However, there was a lighter, humorous side to some of the album. It was recorded in Leonard Cohen’s home, due to his mobility and health problems.

When recording of You Want It Darker began in May 2015, Leonard Cohen’s living room was turned into a makeshift studio. There weren’t the same distractions that there would’ve been. Nor was there a constant stream of people asking how he was. A determined and driven Leonard Cohen continued to concentrate on recording You Want It Darker. For much of the time, pain wracked Leonard Cohen’s body. Despite this, he continued to work on what he now realised was going to be his swan-song. Eventually, he had laid the vocals to the nine songs down.

Meanwhile, the rest of the musicians that worked on You Want It Darker, recorded their parts in studios. Due to advances in technology over the past twenty years, it was now possible for Leonard Cohen to email his vocals to the band. Just like his last studio album, Popular Problems,  the band was small, tight and talented.

The rhythm section featured drummer Brian Macleod and bassist and keyboardist Michael Chaves who programmed some of the drum parts. Bill Bottrell added the electric guitar and pedal steel guitar parts.  Adam Cohen played classical guitar on some tracks. They were joined by two multi instrumentalists.

This included Zac Rae, who played classical guitar, guitar, mandolin, octophone, keyboards, celesta, mellotron, piano, Wurlitzer and floor tom.  The other was Patrick Leonard. He played bass guitar, bass synth, keyboards, organ, piano, percussion and program some drum parts. Patrick Leonard also co-produced You Want It Darker with Leonard and Adam Cohen. By  July 2016, You Want It Darker was complete.

Three months later, You Want It Darker was released on 21st of October 2016. Just like its predecessor Popular Problems, it was released to critical acclaim. Leonard Cohen’s musings on death and God were ruminative, poignant, thought provoking and obviously, tinged with sadness. You Want It Darker was a deeply personal album which features a reflective Leonard Cohen. Sometimes, You Want It Darker has a spiritual sound. Other times, an ethereal sound shines through. Throughout You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen variously offers advice; gives thanks on If I Didn’t Have Your Love, while he sounds rueful on It Seemed The Better Way and is almost defiant on the title-track. However, Leonard Cohen realised that the end near, and that soon, he would be Leaving The Table. This adds to a poignant, thoughtful album which features both beauty, darkness and even a hint of humour. Alas, You Want It Darker proved to be Leonard Cohen’s swan-song.

When You Want It Darker was released by Columbia  on 21st of October 2016, it reached number seven in the US Billboard 200 and number four in the UK. Elsewhere, You Want It Darker reached the top twenty in twenty-six countries. Of these twenty-six countries, You Want It Darker reached number one in twelve countries, including Canada. This resulted in gold discs in Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. However, in Austria, Belgium and Poland You Want It Darker was certified platinum. You Want It Darker had been Leonard Cohen’s most successful album  since I’m Your Man in 1988.

Sadly, You Want It Darker proved to be Leonard Cohen’s swan-song.Leonard Cohen who was a singer-songwriter, novelist and poet passed away on 7th November 2016, aged eighty-two.  That day, music lost a true great, whose recording career had spanned nearly fifty years. 

During that time, Leonard Cohen released fourteen studio albums and eight live albums. They’re a remainder of one of music’s most enduring and cerebral singer-songwriters. Leonard Cohen constantly asked the big questions and tackled subjects other singer-songwriters shied away from. That was the case right up until his swan-song You Want It Darker. 

On You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen revisited the subject of death and God. Maybe Leonard Cohen found this therapeutic or cathartic? After all, he knew he was dying as he recorded You Want It Darker. It may be that Leonard Cohen this was Leonard Cohen’s may of coping with death. This is similar to Dylan Thomas writing the villanelle Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. However, Leonard Thomas didn’t: “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

He was rueful, reflective, offered advice and gave thanks on If I Didn’t Have Your Love. It was one of nine songs on You Want It Darker; which was the swan-song of one of the greatest lyricists in the history of modern music, Leonard Cohen.

LEONARD COHEN-YOU WANT IT DARKER.

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IKARUS-KRAUTROCK’S NEARLY MEN.

IKARUS-KRAUTROCK’S NEARLY MEN.

In Greek mythology, Icarus, the son of the master craftsman Daedalus, who created the Labyrinth, met a tragic ending. Icarus and Daedalus were desperate to escape from Crete. So Daedalus constructed wings made of feathers and wax. As Icarus prepared to make his escape, Daedalus warned his son of complacency and hubris. 

Icarus shouldn’t neither fly too high, nor too low. If he flew too high, the sun would melt the wax. However, if he Icarus flew too low, the dampness of would weigh down the feathers. It seemed Icarus was between the devil and the deep blue sea.

And so it proved to be. Icarus chose to ignore his father’s wise words, and flew too close to the sun. The sun’s rays melted the wax, and Icarus fell into the sea. He became the first of many people who flew too close to the sun.

Sadly, this includes many musicians. Among them are Syd Barrett, Skip Spence and Brian Wilson. These three legendary musicians flew too close to the sun, and as a result, never quite filled their early potential. Sadly, neither did Ikarus.

They could’ve gone on to become one of the greatest German rock bands of their generation. Sadly, Ikarus’ discography consists of just one studio album Ikarus. It was released on the Plus label in 1971i. Ikarus showcased a talented, pioneering group, who many thought were destined for greatness. Their story began a few years earlier.

It was in the mid-sixties, in the musical hotbed that was Hamburg, that Ikarus were formed. Ikarus were just the latest beat group that had been formed in Hamburg. This was where The Beatles served their musical apprenticeship a few years earlier. Now a whole host of local groups wanted to follow in the fab four’s footsteps. 

Ikarus were no different. So they spent evenings and weekends practising in various Hamburg basements. They were determined to hone their sound, before making their debut.This didn’t take long, as Ikarus featured some talented musicians.

This included classically trained keyboardist Wulf Dieter Struntz and bassist Wolfgang Kracht. His party trick was to play a violin with his gloves on. Music seemed to come easily to the members of Ikarus, and it wasn’t long until they began to play live.

By 1966, Ikarus made tentative steps onto Hamburg’s live scene. Ikarus’ earliest concerts took place in youth clubs, where they played cover versions of popular song. At first,Ikarus were called Beautique In Corporation. Soon, this was soon shortened to BIC. This found favour among the band’s audience.

Although a relatively new group, BIC quickly won over audiences. Soon, they had large and enthusiastic audience. BIC played what they wanted to hear. They weren’t above playing covers of hits by Elvis Presley and Tom Jones. This was easy on the ear of the audience. However, before long, BIC’s setlist changed.

The band members began to write their own songs. Audiences expected to hear original material. They didn’t just want to hear cover versions. This suited the members of BIC, who were classically trained musicians. Composition came easy to them.

These new songs were added to BIC’s sets. Some of these songs had a psychedelic sound. BIC’s music was evolving, as music evolved. This proved popular when BIC played live.

By then, BIC had graduated from the youth club circuit, and were by now familiar faces on the Hamburg and North German music scene. Their music was a mixture of psychedelia and rock. However, there was an element of comedy in BIC’s sets. 

Some of the members of BIC enjoyed the new generation of German vaudeville comedians. So they began to combine vaudeville comedy with their psychedelic sound. It proved a potent and successful combination.

Soon, BIC were one of the most successful Hamburg bands. They were well on their way to becoming one of the leading lights of the Hamburg scene. So when they saw an advert for the 1969 Hamburg student beat band competition, BIC decided to enter.

All of the top Hamburg bands entered. The competition was fierce. Hamburg had a thriving music scene. While the other bands were professional, BIC were still an amateur band. This didn’t matter. When BIC took to the stage, they quickly won over the judges with their psychedelic sound. Once all the bands had played, the judges conferred and the winner was announced. It was BIC, the only amateur band in the competition. They had triumphed, and won what was Hamburg’s most prestigious competition.

Having won the 1969 Hamburg student beat band competition, BIC were invited to in the 1970 Hamburg Pop and Blues festival. It took place between the 1st and 3rd of April 1970. BIC were going to rub shoulders with some of the biggest band on that early seventies. Among them, were Chicken Shack, Steampacket, Alexis Corner and Hardin and York. Despite such an illustrious lineup, it was the hometown band that won the hearts and minds of the audience. BIC had stolen the show.

After their performance at the 1970 Hamburg Pop and Blues festival, things happened quickly for BIC. A live album of BIC’s performance at the Hamburg Pop and Blues festival was released as their debut album. It was augmented by performances from Frumpy and Tomorrow’s Gift. The album sold fairly well, and it looked like BIC’s star was in the ascendancy.

Just a few months later, BIC’s lineup changed, when two new names joined the band. Now BIC was a five piece band. The new lineup of BIC was then asked to open for British band Uriah Heep on their forthcoming tour. This was the start of the rise and rise of BIC.

Not long after this, BIC acquired a manager, who was also a  concert promoter, Will Jahncke. One of his first suggestions was that BIC changed their name to Ikarus. While this seemed more in keeping with the psychedelic and progressive rock scene, BIC were a popular and successful band. However, the five members decided to change the band’s name to Ikarus.

Following the name change, Ikarus’ music changed. They were inspired to do so, by King Crimson, Yes, Colosseum and Frank Zappa. Soon, Ikarus were fusing fusion with progressive rock and experimental music. There was still a slight psychedelic sound to their music. However, the new sound didn’t please everyone.

When Ikarus played live, the audience were divided by the stylistic change. While some embraced and welcome Ikarus’ new sound, some weren’t as sure. They weren’t won over by the move towards progressive rock. Instead, they felt the lengthy songs, and changes in tempo and time signature were self-indulgent. However, critics disagreed, and continued to champion Ikarus.

With the critics championing their music, it made sense for Ikarus to record their debut album in the second half of 1971. So the five members of Ikarus made their way to the Windrose Studio, Hamburg. 

By then, the members of Ikarus had written four songs. Each of the songs were collaborations between members of the band. That was apart from The Raven Including “Theme For James Marshall.” It was an Edgar Allan Poe poem set to music written by four members of Ikarus. This became a near twelve minute epic that featured on side two of Ikarus. With the album written, the band began recording their debut album. 

At the Windrose Studio, there was a sense of anticipation.The original members of the band had spent six years playing in clubs and festivals. All this was preparation for the day that Ikarus recorded their eponymous debut album. If things went to play, Ikarus music would be heard by a much wider audience. 

The members of Ikarus realised this as they setup their equipment. By then, Ikarus’ rhythm section featured drummer Bernd Schröder, bassist Wolfgang Kracht and guitarist Manfred Schulz. Jochen Petersen played guitar, but also switched between 12-string guitar, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute and clarinet. Wulf Dieter Struntz played organ and piano. Lorenz Köhler took charge of the lead vocals on three tracks; while Manfred Schulz featured on Early Bell’s Voice. Producing Ikarus was Jochen Petersen. Eventually, Ikarus was complete. Now all that was left was to release Ikarus.

With Ikarus complete, it was scheduled for release in February 1972. Miller International had decided to release it on their Plus imprint. However, before that, critics had their say on Ikarus.

For some time, critics had championed Ikarus’ music. Their eponymous debut album was no different. Ikarus, with its combination of fusion, progressive rock and psychedelia met with the critics approval. Critically acclaimed reviews followed, and Ikarus, who were still an amateur band, looked like they had a successful album on their hands.

So it proved to be. Ikarus sold well, and soon, the band were playing sellout shows across Germany. In Hamburg, Ikarus’ home town, they were asked open for Deep Purple. It looked like Ikarus were were well on their way to becoming one of the stars of the German music scene. Those that heard Ikarus concurred.

For some time, critics had championed Ikarus’ music. Their eponymous debut album was no different. Ikarus, with its combination of fusion, progressive rock and psychedelia met with the critics approval. Critically acclaimed reviews followed, and Ikarus, who were still an amateur band, looked like they had a successful album on their hands.

Although Ikarus only featured four tracks, they ooze quality. That’s apparent from Eclipse the opening bars of Eclipse to the closing notes of Early Bell’s Voice. Ikarus take the listener on a Joycean musical journey. It features thought proving lyrics with a social conscience. Especially, on the first two tracks, Eclipse and Mesentry. Throughout Ikarus, musical genres melt into one, including everything from avant-garde and experimental music to folk rock, free jazz and fusion to Krautrock, progressive rock,  psychedelia and rock. Sometimes, musical genres melt into one resulting in a inventive and innovative genre-melting sound. There’s constant stylistic change and changes in tempo as the music constantly heads in new directions.

The music veers between impassioned, dramatic, symphonic and urgent, to emotive, theatrical and thoughtful. Sometimes, the music is pastoral and understated before becoming soulful, experimental and futuristic. Other times, the music becomes jazzy, moody, gothic, lysergic and cinematic. Constantly, Ikarus  throw curveballs and nuances, subtleties and surprise unfold. The result is music that’s inventive and innovative. Ikarus were musical pioneers. 

That was the case with the artists that have obviously influenced Ikarus. This includes King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd, Queen and Soft Machine. They influence Ikarus’s captivating, genre-melting, Joycean musical journey.

Sadly, Ikarus was the only album that Ikarus ever released. The Ikarus’ story is a case of unfilled potential.

On Ikarus, listeners were introduced to what could’ve been one of the most successful German bands of the seventies. Their was bang ‘on trend’. Progressive rock and fusion were both hugely popular by the mid-seventies. 

That’s when Ikarus were offered a contract by Metronome. They were the owner of the legendary Brian label. For Ikarus, this was the opportunity to dine at the top table in German rock music. Surely, this was an offer that Ikarus couldn’t and wouldn’t resist?

They did. In the mid-seventies, Ikarus were still an amateur band. Its member felt that becoming a professional band was risky. There was no guarantee that their albums would sell. As an amateur band, they had the best of both worlds. Music was a hobby, one they were good at and that they made money with.

The live circuit was lucrative. It was a good way for the members of Ikarus to augment their income. However, to become a full-time band was a step too far for some members of Ikarus, and they decided the band should split-up. It was a case of what might have been.

Listening to Ikarus nearly forty-four years after its release, and one can’t help but wonder if the members of Ikarus regret their decision? Do they ever wonder what would’ve happened if they had signed to Metronome? Maybe they would’ve gone on to enjoy the same success as Can, Guru Guru, Eloy or Birth Control. Or maybe, it would’ve been another generation before Ikarus’ music finally received the recognition it deserves. That was the case with Neu!, Harmonia and Cluster. What I do know, is that Ikarus had the talent to reach the higher echelons of German rock music.

That’s apparent on Ikarus, which is a tantalising reminder of another of the nearly men of German rock, Ikarus, who could’ve and should’ve, enjoyed a long and successful career. 

IKARUS-KRAUTROCK’S NEARLY MEN.

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BUDGIE-MCA ALBUMS 1973-1975.

BUDGIE-MCA ALBUMS 1973-1975.

By 1973, Budgie were one of the rising stars of British rock. The hard rocking Welsh trio had been formed in Cardiff in 1967. Originally, Budgie were known as Hills Contemporary Grass. However, after playing several gigs in 1968, Burke Shelley, Tony Bourge and Ray Phillips decided to changed the band’s name to Six Ton Budgie. Before long, this was shortened to Budgie. Little did anyone know that one of the most influential British heavy rock bands had just been christened.

Budgie would go on to influence a new generation rock bands. They became known as the new wave of British heavy metal. Bands like Judas Priest, Saxon, Iron Maiden, Raven and Def Leppard were among the bands that were inspired by Budgie’s music. This includes the three albums they recorded for MCA between 1973 and 1975. 

The first of this trio of albums was Budgie’s third albums Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. It was released in 1973. In For The Kill followed in 1974 and Bandolier in 1975. These album feature in the MCA Albums 1973-1975 three album box set that was recently released by Universal Music Group. It’s the perfect introduction to Budgie, an oft-overlooked band. Their hard work and persistence began to pay off during the period the MCA Albums 1973-1975 box set covers.  It had taken six years for Budgie to get to this stage.

Having changed their name to Budgie in 1968, the band began honing their sound by playing live. This was the tried and tested way that bands had honed their sound. There were no short cuts. Instead, it was just hard work and persistence. 

Night after night, Budgie like many bands before them,  pubs and clubs. Early on, Budgie played locally. Before long, Budgie began to play further afield. Gradually, Budgie began to attract a following. After nearly two years of playing live, decided to Budgie record their first demo.

Bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley, guitarist Tony Bourge and drummer Ray Phillips entered the studio and recorded what became their first demo in 1971. It was used to try and attract interest from record companies.

The first demo didn’t result in record companies rushing to Cardiff to sign Budgie. They were prepared to be patient, and play the long game. Eventually, Budgie’s patience paid off, and they were signed by MCA.

Budgie.

Once they had signed to MCA, the label began looking for the right producer for Budgie. Meanwhile, they were putting the finishing touches to the album they were writing. Eventually,  Budgie were paired with Black Sabbath’s producer Roger Bain. 

He had an enviable track record. Roger Bain had produced Black Sabbath’s first two albums. When Black Sabbath was released in February 1970, it was certified gold in the UK and platinum in America. Seven months later, Black Sabbath released Paranoid in September 1970. It was certified gold in the UK and four times platinum in America. Black Sabbath’s first two albums had sold five million copies in America along, and the man that produced the albums was about to work with Budgie.

For a band about to record their debut album, this was beyond their wildest dreams. Secretly, the three members of Budgie must have been dreaming that Roger Bain could do the same for Budgie. 

They had finished writing the eight tracks that became debut album. Each of the tracks were credited to Burke Shelley, Tony Bourge and Ray Phillips. To record their debut album, Budgie were about to head to one of the prestigious studios, Rockfield Studios, in Monmouth, in Wales.

At  Rockfield Studios, Budgie began recording the eight tracks with Roger Bain. Budgie decided to augment their core sound. Most things stayed the same though. Ray Phillips played drums and percussion and Tony Bourge guitar. Bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley played a mellotron on what became Budgie. It was completed during the first half of 1971.

The release of Budgie was scheduled for June 1971. Before that, the critics had their say. Mostly, the reviews of Budgie were positive. Alas, some critics weren’t convinced by Budgie. They were in a minority. Most were won over by heavy, hard rocking, blues rock sound and lightning fast, blistering guitar solos. Especially on Homicidal Suicidal and Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman, which were two of the highlights of Budgie, and why most of the reviews forecast that Budgie would be a success.

Upon the release of Budgie in 1971, the album failed to chart in the UK.  Neither did the non=album single Crash Course In Brain Surgery. This was a huge disappointment for Budgie, Roger Bain and MCA. Later, like Metallica covered Crash Course In Brain Surgery. 

Soundgarden and Thrush Hermit would all cover songs from Budgie. However, back in 1971, it was back to the drawing board for Budgie. 

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Squawk.

After the commercial failure of their eponymous debut album, Budgie returned to the live circuit. They were starting to build a following. Eventually, though, Budgie began work on their sophomore album.

Just like their debut album, the three members of Budgie wrote a total of nine tracks. They would later become Squawk. Just like Budgie,  recording took place at Rockfield Studios with producer Roger Bain.

Work began at Rockfield Studios, Budgie during the first half of 1972. Drummer and percussionist Ray Phillips was joined in the rhythm section by bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley. He also played mellotron piano. Completing Budgie’s lineup, was guitarist Tony Bourge guitar. The album was recorded live. Budgie it seemed, were trying to capture the essence of one of their live performances. When the album was completed it became Squawk.

For Squawk’s album cover, MCA commissioned Roger Dean. By 1972, he was already regarded as one of the top album designers. He produced a truly memorable and thought provoking album cover. The first people to see it were the critics.

Just like Budgie, the majority of the reviews of Squawk were positive. There were still a few critics who were yet to be convinced. Mostly, Budgie’s hard rocking sound found favour with critics. Tracks like Rocking Man, The Beatles’ inspired Rolling Home Again, folk-tinged Make Me Happy and anthemic Drugstore Woman were among the highlights of Squawk. It was released in September 1972.

When Squawk was released, the album failed to much of an impression on the charts. This was another disappointment for Budgie. They returned to the live circuit and considered their options. 

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Never Turn Your Back On A Friend.

By the time Budgie thoughts turned to their third album, they had decided to make some changes. They quickly became apparent as work began on what would become Never Turn Your Back On A Friend.

For Never Turn Your Back On A Friend, Budgie penned six tracks. The other track was a cover version. This was a first. Usually, Budgie wrote their own material. However, Big Joe Williams’ Baby, Please Don’t Go was a blues classic. This was fitting for a group who had started life as a blues rock band.

Although Budgie were originally a blues rock band, their music was beginning to change on Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. Progressive rock was King in 1973, and Budgie moved towards progressive rock on Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. Still, though, Budgie were primarily a hard rocking band. They combined the hard rock and progressive rock on Never Turn Your Back On A Friend.

When recording begn at Rockfield Studios, there was no sign of Roger Bain.  Budgie had decided to produce Never Turn Your Back On A Friend themselves. They had learnt from Roger Bain, and were ready to make their production debut on Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. It had a much leaner sound.

There was neither a piano nor mellotron on . Instead, it was just drummer Ray Phillips,  bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley and guitarist Tony Bourge. They worked their way through seven tracks. where Budgie switched between blues rock, hard rock, progressive rock and proto-speed metal.  These tracks eventually became Never Turn Your Back On A Friend.

Once Never Turn Your Back On A Friend was complete, MCA sent copies of the album to critics. They hailed the album Budgie’s finest yet. One of the highlights was Breadfan, which Metallica later covered. Parents a ten minute epic, is regarded as one the track that launched the speed metal genre. However, Never Turn Your Back On A Friend was the album that had most influence on the new wave of British heavy metal. It would inspire a new generation of bands. Despite doing so, Never Turn Your Back On A Friend wasn’t a huge commercial success.

Far from it. When Never Turn Your Back On A Friend was released in June 1973, the album failed to chart. That was Budgie’s third album that had failed to trouble the charts. For one member of Budgie, that was enough for him to call time on career with the band.

In late 1973, Ray Phillips left Budgie. He was replaced by Pete Boot. His timing was impeccable.  Budgie’s fortunes were about to improve.

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In For The Kill.

After the departure of Ray Phillips, a new chapter began in Budgie’s career. For the first few weeks,  Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge gave the new recruit a crash course in Budgie’s back-catalogue. The new drummer, Pete Boot, had three albums to learn. Budgie were also in the process of working on their fourth album,  In For The Kill.

Unlike Ray Phillips, Pete Boot took no part in writing In For The Kill. Instead, Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge wrote six of the seven songs on In For The Kill. The other track was Crash Course In Brain Surgery, which had been released as a single in 1971. It had been penned by the original lineup of Budgie, Ray Phillips, Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge. However, rather than use the original track, Budgie decided to remix the track.

There was a reason for this. This would allow the guitars to play a more prominent role in the track. It was a track used effectively and successfully by Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi. If had been good enough for Black Sabbath, then it was good enough for Budgie. They began work on remixing Crash Course In Brain Surgery, and recording In For The Kill.

This took place at the familiar surroundings of Rockfield Studios in Monmouth. It was where Budgie’s three previous albums had been recorded. Three was about to become four, when the new lineup pressed play.  The new lineup of  drummer Pete Book, bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley and guitarist Tony Bourge worked their way though the seven songs. Just like Never Turn Your Back On A Friend, In For The Kill was produced by Budgie. Once the sessions at Rockfield Studios were complete, some further recording took place at Lee Sound, in Birmingham. Only then, was In For The Kill complete.

With In For The Kill complete, MCA scheduled the release of the album for May 1974. They wanted to build in the increasing popularity of Budgie. Their star was in the ascendancy. They had continued to increase their fan-base over the last few years.  It had taken time, patience and persistence.  Maybe In For The Kill would be a game-changer? That would depend on what the critics said.

Critics on hearing In For The Kill, hailed the album Budgie’s finest hour. However, they had said the same thing about Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. There were plenty of reasons to justify the critics conclusions. 

This included In For The Kill, which featured a  blistering guitar solo from Tony Bourge. Hot on its heels came the remixed version of Crash Course In Brain Surgery. With the power chords playing a prominent role in the track, it was regarded as one of the album’s highlights. So was the thoughtful Wondering What Everyone Knows, which seemed to have been inspired by The Beatles. Hammer and Tongs found Budgie at their hard rocking best, while Burke Shelley’s vocal adding an element of drama. Closing In For The Kill was the nine minute epic Living On Your Own. In For The Kill was indeed Budgie’s finest hour.

When it was released in May 1974, record buyers agreed. In For The Kill reached twenty-nine in the UK charts. After four albums, and seven years hard work and persistence, Budgie had made a breakthrough. 

The sad thing was that the original drummer had Ray Phillips left Budgie just before the band made their breakthrough. His replacement Pete Boot was enjoying the fruits of his labours. He hadn’t spent six years crisscrossing Britain playing in pubs in clubs. However, Ray Phillips would later form his own band Ray Phillips Woman in the mid-seventies. By then, Budgie had lost their second drummer.

In late 1974, Budgie’s ‘new’ drummer Pete Boot left the band. This left Budgie in the lurch. Luckily, Steve Williams filled the void when Budge toured In For The Kill. Steve Williams later became a permanent member, and played on Budgie’s fifth album, Bandolier. 

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Bandolier.

Despite the success of In For The Kill, it was over a year before  Budgie returned with the followup album, Bandolier. They had spent much of 1974 and part of 1975 touring. Budgie’s popularity was continuing to grow and this meant spending more time on the road. However, the time came to return to the recording studio.

By then, Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge had written five of the six songs on Bandolier. They were joined by a cover of Andy Fairweather Low’s Ain’t No Mountain. These six tracks were recorded at what had become Budgie’s studio of choice, Rockfield Studios.

Drummer Steve Williams, bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley and guitarist Tony Bourge began work on Bandolier at Rockfield Studios. Much of the album was recorded there. However, some recording took place at Mayfair Sound, in London. Eventually, Budgie had recorded six songs. They would become their fifth album, Bandolier.

With Bandolier completed, it was delivered to MCA. They scheduled the release of Bandolier for September 1975. This left plenty of time to promote Bandolier. Meanwhile, the critics had their say on the album.

They were won over by Bandolier, which found Budgie at their hard rocking best. Critics pointed out that Budgie were maturing and improving with each album. After five albums, Budgie had the potential to become one of the biggest British rock bands.

This was helped by Budgie’s new drummer Steve Williams quickly settling into his new role. He playing was powerful and punchy as he played with a newfound freedom. His drums helped propelled the arrangements along. Meanwhile, some critics were comparing Burke Shelley to Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Man. The similarity is noticeable on Who Do You Want For Your Love ?/Never Turn Your Back On A Friend and See My Feelings/Rock Climbing.  As usual, Tony Bourge’s scorching, blistering, soaring guitar solos were playing a leading role in the sound and success of Bandolier. Especially on tracks like Breaking All The House Rules and I Can’t See My Feelings/Rock Climbing and I Ain’t No Mountain. Everything was coming together for Budgie on Bandolier. 

They were still working hard and continued to reassess and reinvent their music. Constantly, they tweaked their sound adding or changing it. Over the past five albums, Budgie had moved from their early blues rock towards hard rock. Later, they incorporated folk, drew inspiration from The Beatles and moved in the direction of progressive rock. However, for much of the time, Budgie were an inventive, hard rocking band that always featured talented musicians. Proof of this was their four previous albums, and their fifth album Bandolier.

When Bandolier was released in September 1975, the album reached  thirty-six in the UK. Alas, Bandolier hadn’t quite matched the success of In For The Kill. It had reached twenty-nine in 1974. However, Bandolier was certified gold. This was a first for Budgie.

A gold disc was the perfect way for Budgie to end their time at MCA. After five albums, where Budgie’s sound continued to evolve, the inventive Welsh trio’s popularity blossomed. By the time Bandolier was released in 1975, they had reached new levels of popularity. It was ironic that Budgie were about to leave MCA and sign for A&M Records.

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The five albums that Budgie had recorded for MCA featured some of the best, and most successful of Budgie’s career. This includes Never Turn Your Back On A Friend, In For The Kill and Bandolier. They feature on the recently released MCA Albums 1973-1975 three album box set that was recently released by Universal Music Group. It’s the perfect introduction to Budgie, who are an oft-overlooked band. Their hard work and persistence began to pay off during the period.

In For The Kill reached twenty-nine in the UK and Bandolier thirty-six. That looked like it was the start of the rise and rise of Budgie. Many critics thought that within a year or two, Budgie would be rubbing shoulders with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Sadly, Budgie never built on the success of 

However, they never built on the success of In For The Kill and Bandolier. Budgie’s next three albums, 1976s If I Were Brittania I’d Waive the Rule, 1978s Impeckable and 1980s Power Supply  all failed to chart. By then, the only original member was Burke Shelley.

In 1981, Budgie’s Nightflight ninth album reached number sixty-eight in the UK charts. A year later, Deliver Us From Evil reached sixty-two in the UK. Six years later, Budgie disbanded and didn’t release another album for twenty-four years.

Budgie returned in 2006 with You’re All Living In Cuckooland. Only Burke Shelley and Steve Williams remained from the previous incarnation of Budgie. Despite touring You’re All Living In Cuckooland., it failed to chart. For Budgie, their eleventh album was their swan-song.

For anyone yet to discover Budgie’s music, then MCA Albums 1973-1975 is a good place to start. It’s just a pity that their first two album, Budgie and Squawk were included and this would’ve featured everything that Budgie recorded for MCA. However, MCA Albums 1973-1975 is a reminder of one of the hardest rocking bands of the early seventies, Budgie who could’ve and should’ve gone on to become one of biggest names in British rock.

BUDGIE-MCA ALBUMS 1973-1975.

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MELISSA MANCHESTER-HOME TO MYSELF/BRIGHT EYES/MELISSA AND HELP IS ON THE WAY.

MELISSA MANCHESTER-HOME TO MYSELF/BRIGHT EYES/MELISSA AND HELP IS ON THE WAY.

It was almost inevitable that Melissa Manchester would end up embarking upon a musical career. The Manchester family were a highly creative family, and music played an important part in everyday life. That was no surprise. Melissa’s father was a bassoonist in the New York Metropolitan Opera. She would later follow in his footsteps, and would enjoy a career in music.

Unlike her father, Melissa Manchester would embark upon a career as a singer-songwriter. Melissa was twenty-two when she signed to Bell Records in 1973. Later that year, she released her debut album Home To Myself. It’s one of four album that BGO Records released as a two CD set. Home To Myself is joined by Bright Eyes, Melissa and Help Is On The Way. These four albums document the start of Melissa Manchester’s lengthy musical career. Her story began on 15th February 1951 

That was when Melissa Manchester was born in the Bronx, New York. Her mother was a clothing designer, and would later found her own company. However, Melissa’s father was a musician. He was a bassoonist in the New York Metropolitan Opera. So music played an important part in the family home. It was no surprise that Melissa embraced music from an early age.

Having started singing at an early age, Melissa Manchester enrolled at Manhattan’s High School of Performing Arts. That was where she learnt to play piano and harpsichord. It was during this time, that Melissa started singing on jingles for radio and television. Soon, Melissa was demoing the songs that was writing.

Already Melissa Manchester was a prolific songwriter. She spent much of her free time writing and honing songs. Despite being a prolific songwriter, when Melissa recorded her debut single for MB, neither the single Beautiful People, nor the B-Side A Song For You were her compositions. When the Beautiful People was released in 1967, it failed to make an impression on the charts. However, a year later, and a new opportunity arose for Melissa. 

When Melissa was seventeen, and still a student at the High School of Performing Arts, she became a staff writer for Warner Chappell. Already, it was inevitable that she was going to pursue a career in music.

After Melissa left the High School of Performing Arts, she enrolled on the songwriting course at the prestigious New York University. One of her tutors was none other than Paul Simon. He advised Melissa to find her own voice as a songwriter. This she realised was good advice, and her songwriting quickly improved.

In the evenings and weekends, Melissa sang in clubs. She had been doing that for years. During that period, she graduated from folk clubs and open-mics to Manhattan clubs. Melissa was going up in the world. Her rise was about to continue.

It was while Melissa was singing in a Manhattan club during 1971, that she first met Barry Manilow. He would later be credited as ‘discovering’ Melissa Manchester. When he first saw, Melissa singing, he realised that she was a talented and accomplished singer. So he decided to introduce Melissa to his employer, Bette Midler.

Since earlier in 1971, Barry Manilow had been working as Bette Midler’s arranger and pianist. He also co-produced Bette Midler’s first two albums. Barry Manilow introduced Melissa to Bette Midler. Later in 1971, Melissa became one of Bette Midler’s backing singers The Harlettes.

During her time with Bette Midler, Melissa met songwriter Carole Bayer Sager. The pair soon became fiends and started writing songs together. Little did they realise that their formidable songwriting partnership would later write some contemporary classics. That was still to come.

Before that, Melissa featured on the 1972 album National Lampoon Radio Dinner. She appeared on the track Magical Misery Tour as Yoko One and sung backing vocals on Deteriorata. However, the next time she featured on an album would be her debut album.

Home To Myself.

Melissa Manchester was approached by Bell Records, who had spotted her potential. By then, she had spent time as one of Bette Midler’s backing singers The Harlettes and formed a songwriting partnership with Carole Bayer Sager. Signing a recording contract was the next logical step. It hadn’t been easy though.

Time after time, Melissa sent demos to record companies. They would listen to the demo, and jump to the wrong conclusion. Many record companies thought that Melissa remembers they: “would think I was a black girl based on the sound.” Bell Records who had been watching Melissa’s progress didn’t make that mistake.

Bell Records were willing to give Melissa total creative freedom when she recorded her debut album. She would be able to record the album that she wanted. There was a reason for their largesse though.

Previously, Bell Records was known as a singles label. They were keen to change that. So Bell Records started to add artists to their roster who would produce albums and singles. Melissa Manchester fitted the bill.

With her recording contract signed, Melissa began work on her debut album. The Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager partnership contributed If It Feels Good (Let It Ride), Easy, Something To Do With Loving You, Pick Up The Good Stuff (Reprise), Be Happy Now, One More Mountain To Climb and Home To Myself. Melissa penned Funny That Way, Jenny and Doing The Best (That He Can). These songs were recorded in New York.

To produce what would later become Home To Myself, Hank Medress and Dave Appell were brought onboard. They oversaw recording at Century Sound Studios, in New York. No expense was spared. Strings, horns and woodwind sections augmented by a band that featured some of New York’s top session musicians. They began recording the ten songs. When they were complete, they would become Home To Myself.

Later in 1973, Bell Records were preparing for the release of Melissa Manchester’s debut album Home To Myself. Critical acclaim accompanied the album’s release, as Melissa brings life, meaning and emotion to the lyrics. Especially on the ballads that feature on Home To Myself. There’s a confessional quality to ballads like If It Feels Good (Let It Ride), Easy,Funny That Way, One More Mountain To Climb, Doing The Best (That He Can) and Home To Myself. Sometimes, it’s as if Melissa is laying bare her soul. Then as the tempo rises, the piano playing singer-songwriter sometimes, combines power and passion on Something To Do With Loving You and Be Happy Now. During Home To Myself, Melissa switched between and combined musical genres.

Elements of pop, rock, folk and soul were combined. Stylistically, comparisons were drawn with Carole King, Bette Midler and Laura Nyro, who had such an influence on Melissa. What surprised many critics was how accomplished and polished a singer Melissa was. It was hard to believe Home To Myself was her debut album. However, she had spent six years honing her sound. Melissa Manchester was hoping that this would pay off.

When Home To Myself was released later in 1973, it charted and began climbing the US Billboard 200. Eventually, it reached 156. Considering it was only Melissa Manchester’s debut album, this was regarded as a success. Previously, many debut album had failed to even trouble the charts. Melissa Manchester had something to build on.

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Bright Eyes.

After the relative success of Home To Myself, Melissa Manchester began working on her sophomore album Bright Eyes. This time, the Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager partnership only penned the one track, Ruby And The Dancer. Their partnership would resume on Melissa’s third album. For her sophomore album, Bright Eyes, Melissa had a new songwriting partner lyricist Adrienne Anderson. 

They too, would establish a successful songwriting partnership. For Bright Eyes Melissa and Adrienne Anderson wrote Bright Eyes, Alone, No.1 (Ahwant Gemmeh) and He Is The One. Melissa contributed  O Heaven (How You’ve Changed Me) and Inclined. 

They penned Bright Eyes, Alone, No.1 (Ahwant Gemmeh) and He Is The One. The other track was a cover of Vernon Duke and George Gershwin’s I Can’t Get Started. Melissa had decided to cover it for her sophomore album Bright Eyes.

When recording of Bright Eyes began, Melissa was joined by two familiar faces, Hank Medress and Dave Appell. They returned to produce Bright Eyes. Just like Home To Myself, recording of Bright Eyes took place at Century Sound Studios, in New York.

Again, the arrangements were featured strings, horns and woodwind sections and band that included some of New York’s top session musicians. With Hank Medress and Dave Appell taking charge of production, they recorded Bright Eyes. Once it was complete, Bell Records began preparing for the release of Bright Eyes.

Home To Myself had introduced Melissa Manchester to critics and record buyers. Now Bell Records wanted Melissa’s music to reach a wider audience. Before that, the critics had their say.

Just like Home To Myself, Bright Eyes was well received by critics. They were quick to compare Melissa’s new songwriting partnership with Adrienne Anderson to her partnership with Carole Bayer Sager. The verdict was that the Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager won the day. That wasn’t surprising. Carole Bayer Sager was well on her way to becoming one of the top songwriters of her generation. However, both songwriting partnerships played an important part on Bright Eyes.

What was noticeable on Bright Eyes, was that Melissa was beginning to establish her own musical identify. There’s still a nod to her hero Laura Nyro on Bright Eyes and O Heaven (How You’ve Changed to Me). Elsewhere, Melissa was blossoming and proving a versatile vocalist.

Alone was a beautiful, jazz-tinged, piano lead, hurt-filled ballad. Another ballad is Inclined. It’s a heartfelt paean was penned by Melissa. She was maturing as a songwriter and was responsible for one Bright Eyes’ finest moments.

No.1 (Ahwant Gemmeh) was an uptempo track, where Melissa unleashes a vocal powerhouse on this tougher sounding track. It allows Melissa to showcase her versatility.  This she continues to do.

The gospel-tinged paean Ode To Paul, finds Melissa  paying tribute to her songwriting mentor Paul Simon. Her jazzy cover of I Can’t Get Started, has a late night smokey sound. The gospel-tinged He Is The One is the best song from Melissa and Adrienne Anderson’s songwriting  partnership. It also features a powerful vocal that oozes emotion and sincerity. Without doubt, it’s one of Bright Eyes’ highlights. So is the heartfelt ballad Ruby and The Dancer, the only song penned by Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager.  Just like her debut album,  Bright Eyes  won over by critics.

Given the positive reviews of Bright Eyes, Bell Record had high hopes for Melissa’s sophomore album. Upon its release later in 1974, the album it reached just 159 in the US Billboard 200. This was a disappointment for everyone concerned. Bell Records and Melissa had been looking to build on the success of Home To Myself. What didn’t help, was that the wrong song was chosen as the lead single.

There were several contenders for lead single. Eventually, O Heaven (How You’ve Changed Me) was chosen. It featured The Dixie Hummingbirds. However, rather than release the version on the album, the song was rerecorded. Despite all this effort, the song never came close to troubling the charts. This added to the disappointment. However, Bell Records who were about to be renamed Arista, kept faith with Melissa.

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Melissa.

After Bright Eyes had stalled at 159 in the US Billboard 200, several changes were made for Melissa Manchester’s third album, Melissa. This included everything from songwriting partners to the producer that was hired and even the studio that Melissa was used. Arista president Clive Davis, it seemed were looking for a result.

For Melissa, Melissa and Carole Bayer Sager resumed their songwriting partnership in earnest. They wrote We’ve Got Time, Stevie’s Wonder, This Lady’s Not Home Today and I Got Eyes. Melissa also wrote It’s Gonna Be Alright with Adrienne Anderson. However, her new producer contributed a song.

Hank Medress and Dave Appell had been replaced by Vini Poncia. He  and Melissa penned Just Too Many People. Similarly, Melissa and the guitarist from her new band, David Wolfert cowrote  Party People. Completing Melissa were two cover versions, Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright’s Love Havin’ You Around and Randy Newman’s I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore. These songs would be recorded with a new producer and band at a new studio. Nothing was left to chance.

For the recording of Melissa, two studios were used.  With Melissa  now living in LA., it made sense to record much of the album at Sunset Sound Studios, in Los Angeles. Other sessions took place at A & R Studios, in New York. Vini Poncia took charge of production and marshalled the cast of musicians and backing vocalists. This included for the first time on a Melissa Manchester album synths. However, strings were still used to sweeten the album. So were horns  as Melissa took shape. Eventually, Melissa was completed and ready for release. 

Once Melissa was completed, a release date was scheduled for later in 1975. This time, great thought went into choosing the right single. Executives at Arista hoped that Melissa would introduce Melissa Manchester’s music to a much wider audience. However, partly, that would depend upon what critics said about Melissa Manchester’s third album, Melissa.

Melissa was quite different from previous albums. It was an album that was  a mixture of two types of songs, ballads and uptempo tracks. Unlike previous albums, the albums was divided equally between ballads and uptempo tracks, This allowed Melissa to showcase her versatility. 

The beautiful ballad We’ve Got Time that opens Melissa. It was the first of the songs penned by Melissa and Carole Bayer Sager. Their partnership was blossoming. Melissa was continuing to mature as a vocalist, and didn’t so much sing the lyrics as live them. 

Party Music and Just Too Many People showcased a new sound. Both were slick, mid tempo tracks with a commercial and radio friendly sound. The tempo rises on Stevie’s Wonder, another of Melissa’s tribute songs, Melissa delivers another vocal powerhouse. This trio of songs showcase a different side to Melissa Manchester.

For many people, Melissa is at her best on the ballads. That’s apparent on This Lady’s Not Home, which was penned by Melissa and Carole Bayer Sager.  

It’s followed by Melissa’s cover of Love Having You Around.  Just like on We’ve Got Time, backing vocalist accompany Melissa and augment her vocal as it veers between tender, heartfelt and thoughtful. After that, it’s all change and Melissa continues to switch between uptempo tracks and ballads. 

With horns, harmonies and jazzy piano accompanying her, Melissa unleashes a soulful powerhouse of this oft-covered and familiar song. However, the highlight of Melissa is the beautiful, hopeful ballad Midnight Blue. It’s the highlight of Melissa and features one of the best productions.  The tempo rises on  It’s Gonna Be Alright. Soulful and funky, with a tougher sound, Melissa switches seamlessly between styles and with a tight and talented band, produces a slick and soulful song. This leaves just two ballads, including the cinematic I’ve Got Eyes. Closing Melissa was a emotive, hurt-filled cover of Randy Newman’s I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore. Just like on Bright Eyes, Melissa closes with a beautiful ballad where Melissa lives the lyrics. 

With critical acclaim accompanying the release of Melissa, the album was released later in 1975. It reached number twelve in the US Billboard 200, and sold over 500,00 copies. Melissa Manchester received her first gold disc. That was no surprise.

Midnight Blue the ballad that Melissa cowrote with Carole Bayer Sager in 1973, was released as the lead single from Melissa in May 1975. It reached number six in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the Adult Contemporary charts. Buoyed by this success, sales of Melissa grew in America. Across the border on Canada, Midnight Blue reached number five and number one Adult Contemporary charts. However,  it had been hard work promoting Midnight Blue.

Arista was quite unlike Bell Records. President Clive Davis wanted his artists to work hard to break singles. So Melissa criss crossed America, meeting and greeting DJs and various movers and shakers. It was hard work, but eventually it paid off. The first song that Melissa cowrote with Carole Bayer when they first met had given her the biggest hit single of her career. 

Following the success of Midnight Blue, Just Too Many People was released as the followup. It reached number thirty in the US Billboard 100 and number two in the Adult Contemporary charts. For Melissa, her third album had transformed her career. Now came the hard part, replicating the success of Melissa. 

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Better Days and Happy Endings.

Following the success of Melissa, work began on Better Days and Happy Endings. This was the first of two albums Melissa released during 1976.  Arista hoped that she would replicate the success of Melissa and Midnight Blue. However, that was easier said than done. 

Melissa had featured some of the best songs of Melissa Manchester’s career. They were written by Melissa and Carole Bayer Sager. The pair had forged a successful partnership on Melissa’s first three albums. Playing an important part in Melissa was Vini Poncia. He returned to produce Better Days and Happy Endings.

So did many of the musicians who worked on Melissa. They joined Melissa at Davlen Studios, North Hollywood. A total of ten tracks were recorded. Vini Poncia concentrated on producing an album of lush, feel good music. When it was complete, Arista and Melissa began work on promoting her fourth album, Better Days and Happy Endings.

Critics were won over by Better Days and Happy Endings. Melissa they noted, continued to mature as a singer, and had the potential to become one of the most successful female singer-songwriters of the seventies. Especially if she continued to produce albums with slick, polished and lush arrangements. Just like on Melissa, the album was

d well produced, with ballads and uptempo tracks rubbing shoulders with one another. It was critics said, a fitting followup to Melissa. 

When Better Days and Happy Endings was released in 1976, it reached number twenty-four in the US Billboard 200. The lead single Just You and I reached number twenty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the Adult Contemporary charts. Better Days then stalled at seventy-nine in the US Billboard 100, but reached number nine in the Adult Contemporary charts. Happy Endings failed to reach the US Billboard 100 and reached just thirty-three in the Adult Contemporary charts. When the single was flipped over, the B-Side of Happy Endings, Rescue Me reached just seventy-six in the US Billboard 100. Despite that blip, Better Days and Happy Endings continued the Melissa Manchester success story. Arista hoped it would continue later in 1976.

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Help Is on the Way.

Buoyed by the success of Better Days and Happy Endings,  work began on the followup album. Arista were hoping that Melissa would enjoy another successful album. Her last two albums had sold well, and featured five hit singles in the US Billboard 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. So Melissa got to work.

This time around, Melissa and Carole Bayer Sager only wrote two songs, Help Is On The Way and There’s More Where That Came From. This left a huge void to be filled.

Filling that void was Melissa. She penned Talkin’ To Myself, Headlines and So’s My Old Man. The Melissa Manchester and Arienne Anderson penned Singing From My Soul. Melissa also wrote Be Somebody with Vini Poncia, and Johnny Vastano. Completing Help Is On The Way were a trio of cover versions.

This included Michael Franks’ Monkey See-Monkey; Do; Steely Dan’s Dirty Work and A Fool In Love. These songs and the rest of Help Is On The Way were recorded in L.A.

Two studios were used to record Help Is On The Way. Recording sessions took place in Hollywood at Sound Labs Inc. and at the Burbank Studios, Burbank.  Vini Poncia returned for the third time, and was joined by some of the band that played on Melissa and Better Days and Happy Endings. Having worked together twice before, the sessions ran smoothly, and the album was ready in time to be released later in 1976.

Arista were keen to release Melissa’s fifth album, Help Is On The Way, hot on the heels of Better Days and Happy Endings. Melissa was enjoying the most successful period of her career, and Arista wanted to build upon it. So promotional copies of Help Is On The Way were sent out.

Just like Better Days and Happy Endings, critics gave Help Is On The Way positive reviews. It was another carefully crafted selection of songs that allowed Melissa to showcase her versatility.

Help Is On The Way opened with one of Melissa’s compositions, the ballad Talkin’ To Myself. Pop meets rock as Melissa combines power and emotion. Be Somebody is a beautiful hopeful ballad. It’s all change on the rocky A Fool In Love.  Melissa unleashes a sultry, soulful powerhouse of a vocal. Headlines is another of Melissa’s compositions, and just like Talkin’ To Myself is a ballad. Here, Melissa’s vocal veers between tender, heartfelt and emotive to powerful. However, Help Is On The Way is the standout track. It was penned by Melissa and Carole Bayer Sayer. They’re responsible for a beautiful, heartfelt and hopeful ballad. With strings, piano and harmonies accompanying Melissa, she reaches new heights on Help Is On The Way.

Monkey See, Monkey Do is very different to what’s gone before. Elements of soul, R&B and jazz combine as Melissa reinvents the song. She stays faithful to Steely Dan’s Dirty Work, but producer  Vini Poncia adds swathes of strings, harmonies and a piano. Suddenly, a familiar song takes on new meaning. After this, the tempo drops on the wistful ballad So’s My Old Man. It’s another song that Melissa wrote, and shows how with every album she’s maturing as a singer and songwriter. She breathes meaning and emotion into her lyrics. There’s More Where That Came From is the second song penned by Melissa and Carole Bayer Sager. Again, this ballad is one of the highlights of Help Is On The Way. It closes with the beautiful string drenched ballad Singing From My Soul. Just like the rest of Help Is On The Way it oozes quality. 

Given the critical response to Help Is On The Way, Arista thought the album would follow in the footsteps of Melissa and Better Days and Happy Endings. However, when Help Is On The Way was released later in 1976, the album stalled at just sixty in the US Billboard 200. Again, Arista backed the wrong horse when it came to the lead single. They chose Monkey See, Monkey Do, which failed to chart. Neither did Be Somebody. For Melissa, Help Is On The Way had been a disappointment. 

Things could’ve been very different if a different lead single had been chosen. Monkey See, Monkey Do was the wrong choice. By the time that Be Somebody was released, the album had stalled. It was  a frustrating time for Melissa. 

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Despite that, the last three years had been a roller coaster for Melissa Manchester. An important factor in the rise of Melissa Manchester was her songwriting partnership with Carole Bayer Sager. They formed a successful and enviable partnership. Not only would the songs they wrote bring success Melissa’s way, but for many other artists. It was a fruitful and profitable partnership. It helped launch Melissa’s career in 1973.

Her 1973 debut album Home To Myself established an audience for her music. That audience were here to stay when Bright Eyes was released in 1974. However, Melissa’s fortunes changed in 1975.

This coincided with Bell Records becaming Arista. Clive Davis, who was Arista’s president wanted his artists to provide him with hits. It didn’t matter how hard they had to work for these hits. So 

Melissa Manchester criss-crossed America, glad-handling DJs and music industry movers and shakers. All her hard work and persistence paid off when Midnight Blue, a song she penned with Carole Bayer Sager gave her a top ten hit. The success of Midnight Blue helped Melissa’s third album Melissa, sell over 500,000 copies.

The success continued when Melissa released Better Days and Happy Endings in 1976. Later that year, Melissa released her second album of the year. Sadly, Help Is On The Way failed to fulfil its potential and failed to match the success of Melissa’s two previous albums.

Nowadays, Help Is On The Way is one of the most underrated albums Melissa Manchester released. It’s one four albums on BGO Records recently released two CD set. Home To Myself is joined by Bright Eyes, Melissa and Help Is On The Way have all been digitally remastered, and just like all the BGO Records releases, the sound quality is of the highest quality. This quartet of albums are the perfect introduction to one of the most versatile and talented,  singer-songwriters of her generation, Melissa Manchester.

MELISSA MANCHESTER-HOME TO MYSELF/BRIGHT EYES/MELISSA AND HELP IS ON THE WAY.

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CONRAD SCHNITZLER/SCHNEIDER TM-CON-STRUCT.

CONRAD SCHNITZLER/SCHNEIDER TM-CON-STRUCT.

One of the most important and influential figures in German music was Conrad Schnitzler. He was a composer, concept artist and one the leading lights of Germany’s electronic music and avant-garde scenes. Conrad Schnitzler was also a musical pioneer, who created music that was innovative and often, way ahead of its time. That was throughout his long and illustrious career.

Having studied under Joseph Beuys, Conrad Schnitzler cofounded the legendary Zodiak Free Arts Lab in Berlin with Hans-Joachim Roedelius. For next the two years,  the Zodiak Free Arts Lab became one of Berlin’s cultural hubs. Artists and musicians made their way to  the Zodiak Free Arts Lab, seeking out like minded individuals. They found them.  This included Klaus Schulze, plus members of Can, Ash Ra Tempel, Agitation Free and Tangerine Dream, who Conrad Schnitzler joined in 1969.

By then, Tangerine Dream had become the Zodiak Free Arts Lab’s house band right up until its closure in March 169.  Regularly Tangerine Dream played five and six our sets of loud, improvised music. Often these sets ended with the band smashing their equipment up. Tangerine Dream it seemed, were making a statement. This they certainly did on their debut album.

Conrad Schnitzler joined Tangerine Dream just in time to play on their groundbreaking debut album Electronic Meditation in October 1969.  Tangerine Dream fused elements of avant-garde, electronic music, free jazz and rock. This proved popular with critics and cultural commentators.

Nine months later, Electronic Meditation released on Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser’s Ohr label. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of this future Krautrock classic. However, by the time Electronic Meditation was released Conrad Schnitzler had parted company with Tangerine Dream.

After leaving Tangerine Dream,  a new chapter in the career of Conrad Schnitzler began later in 1969.  He and Hans-Joachim Roedelius decided to form a new band, Kluster with Dieter Moebius. 

Kluster wasted no time in recording their debut album. To record their debut album, Kluster had managed to secure sponsorship from a local church. This would offset the cost hiring the Rhenus-Studio on 21st December 1969. That day, Kluster were joined by Christa Runge who added religious texts to Kluster 1. Just like Kluster 2, it was an ambitious improvised piece where Kluster combined avant-garde and experimental music.These tracks became Klopfzeichen, which was released in November 1970. By then, Kluster had recorded their sophomore album.

Just two months after recording their debut album, Kluster returned to the Rhenus-Studio on  February 23rd 1970 to record Zwei-Osterei. Just like Klopfzeichen, it was financed by a local church. Manfred Paethe added religious texts Electric Music and Text.  It became part of Zwei-Osterei, a fusion of avant-garde, experimental music and Krautrock. However, Kluster’s sophomore album wasn’t released until 1971. 

Later in 1971, Kluster performed what would be their swan-song. That night, the tapes were running and captured Kluster at their purest. There were no religious texts accompanying the two lengthy improvised pieces. They find Kluster’s music evolving towards the electronic sound that featured on later Cluster albums. That night, Kluster came of age musically, having saved the best until last. It was released in late 1971 as Schwarz. By then, Conrad Schnitzler was contemplating a solo career.

Conrad Schnitzler’s solo career began in 1973 would span four decades. During his long career, Conrad Schnitzler continued to  create ambitious and pioneering music and regularly played live.

For these live performances, Conrad Schnitzler spent time each day exploring the settings on his collections of synths. He was looking for new and exciting sounds that he could keep for his live performances. Gradually, the sonic explored had a vast collection of sounds. This continued to grow as Conrad Schnitzler added to his audio archive over his four decade solo career. It was a true labour of love that Conrad Schnitzler had continued to cultivate.

As a new decade dawned in 2010, Conrad Schnitzler was seventy-three. He was one of the grand old men of German music. However, he had lost none of his thirst for music. Still he made music and added to his private audio archive. It had been a lifetime’s work. Nobody had seen or heard Conrad Schnitzler’s audio archive. This would change later in 2010.

Conrad Schnitzler decided the time had come to grant access his vast and enviable audio archive. The problem was deciding to entrust with what had been four decade’s work. Eventually, Conrad Schnitzler decided to grant access to Jens Strüver, who was then head of the m=minimal label. 

For Jens Strüver this was a huge privilege. He was the first person to see and hear Conrad Schnitzler’s vast audio archive. The thing that struck him, was the sheer scale. Vast was an understatement. That was no surprise. This had been four decades work for Conrad Schnitzler. As he took in and explored the audio archive, Jens Strüver came up with the Con-Struct concept.

Soon, Jens Strüver’s was explaining his idea to Conrad Schnitzler. What Jens Strüver envisaged, was electronic musicians using the material from Conrad Schnitzler’s audio archive and constructing new material from it. The result would be new tracks, not remixes. Having explained the idea to Conrad Schnitzler, Jens Strüver awaited his response. When it came, the answer was yes. The Con-Struct series had been born.

For the first instalment in the Con-struct series, Jens Strüver teamed up with Christian Borngräbe. The two producers collaborated on eight new pieces of music that became Con-struct. 

When Con-struct was released, it was billed as a collaboration between Conrad Schnitzler and Borngräber and Strüver. It was released on M=minimal label on the 1st of August 2011. Three days later, tragedy struck. 

On August the 4th 2011, Conrad Schnitzler passed away,aged  was seventy-four. He had been suffering from stomach cancer. German music had lost a true musical pioneer, who had influenced and inspired several generations of musicians. 

This included the two men who had worked so hard on the first instalment in the Con-struct series, Jens Strüver and Christian Borngräbe. Just like many other musicians, they had been inspired by Conrad Schnitzler. So would future generations of musicians. Conrad Schnitzler had left behind a rich musical legacy.

Part of that musical legacy was Conrad Schnitzler’s vast audio archive. After the death of the man who had cultivated and curated the archive over four decades, Jens Strüver must have wondered what the future held for the Con-Struct series? 

Everything eventually became clear. Jens Strüver’s Con-Struct series would continue. Further instalments in the series were released with Conrad Schnitzler credited posthumously. Now that future was clear, work could begin on the second instalment in the series.

This time, it was Andreas Reihse that Jens Strüver brought onboard to work on the second instalment in the Con-Strut series. Once Andreas Reihse had completed eight new tracks, the M=minimal label scheduled the release for later in 2012. That was when the second volume in the Con-Struct series was released by Conrad Schnitzler and Andreas Reihse. Despite the critical acclaim that accompanied the release of Con-Struct, it would be three years before the series returned.

When it did, the Con-Struct series had a new home, the Hamburg based Bureau B label. Although the series had a new home, Jens Strüver was still the coordinator of the series. This time, he had brought onboard Kurt Dahlke, a.k.a. Pyrolator for the third instalment in the Con-Struct series. 

Just like the artist who had previously worked on the Con-Struct series, Jens Strüver guided Pyrolator through Conrad Schnitzler’s musical archive. Jens Strüver was the only man who had sorted through and listened to every piece of music. He had become the musical equivalent of tour guide, curator and historian. With his guidance, Pyrolator found the material for twelve new tracks. They were released later in 2015 as the third instalment in the Con-Struct series. The collaboration between Conrad Schnitzler and Pyrolator won over critics and cultural commentators. This was a good way to start this new chapter in the Con-Struct series.

It continued in late 2016, when Bureau B released the latest instalment in the Con-Struct series. This F time, it’s a collaboration between Conrad Schnitzler and Schneider TM. He’s a veteran of the German music scene.

Schneider TM’s career began in the late eighties. Back then, he was still Dirk Dresselhaus. He began playing and singing in indie, noise rock and pop bands in 1989. This included Locust Fudge and Hip Young Things. However, in 1997, Dirk Dresselhaus changed direction musically.

That was when Dirk Dresselhaus began to focus on electronic music. It was also when Schneider TM was born. This was the start of Schneider TM’s twenty year journey. 

Two years later in 1999, Schneider TM were supporting Pan Sonic on their European tour. When the tour arrived in Berlin, 

Ilpo Väisänen met Dirk Dresselhaus. Soon, the pair became friends and formed Angel. Since then, Angel have recorded five albums and collaborated on two other albums. Angel’s most recent album was Terra Null, which was released in 2014. However, each year, Ilpo Väisänen met Dirk Dresselhaus play in Berlin as Angel. It’s a celebration of when they first met nearly eighteen years ago.

Two years later, and Schneider TM was working on the latest instalment of the Con-Struct series. Seven tracks were recorded and mixed in Berlin between May and July 2016. They would become the fourth instalment in the Con-Struct series. It was released four months later, by Bureau B with Conrad Schnitzler and Schneider TM receiving equal billing. The musical archive that Conrad Schnitzler had curated for four decades had inspired a new album of music five years after his death. Even in death, Conrad Schnitzler was capable of playing his part in ambitious and innovative music.

Schneider TM explained how the project took shape. There was: “Conrad playing his pre-recorded sound-files or modular system and me dubbing and processing it live on the fly… almost as if it was a live-concert situation.” To do this, Schneider TM would make use of the latest musical technology. A DAW like Ableton Live Suite 9 and launchpads would allow to record his parts: “on the fly.” The result was the seven soundscapes that featured on Con-Struct.

Doozer opens Con-Struct. Urgent beeps and squeaks pulsate, as a myriad of crackling, metallic, cheeping sound are fired off. This brings to mind a retro computer game or a pinball machine. Other times, there’s a robotic sound. Midway through the soundscape, it’s stripped bare, and is then reconstructed.  Suddenly, the urgency returns and an array of futuristic, crackling and  metallic sounds flit in and out. Later, all that remains of the arrangement are a buzzes and beeps. They quickly give way to the next soundscape.

This is Dabb, where a rumbling sound resonates, reverberating in the distance. They take on a dubby, industrial sound. Soon, synths are added, to the myriad of buzzes, beeps, squeaks and crackles. There’s even a free jazz sound to this fusion of avant-garde, industrial and musique concrète. Washes of music surge, assail and surround the listener. Always they captivate and stimulate the imagination as they provide the soundtrack to a film that’s yet to be made.

Straight away, it sounds as if samples are being played backwards on Wollwachsalkohol. There’s also a sample of pizzicato strings in amongst the dark, lumbering soundscape. Grinding, squeaking and squealing sounds are added. They add an otherworldly sound. Still, the pizzicato strings are omnipresent and provide a contrast. However, the dark, lumbering, otherworldly and cinematic sound remains. Wollwachsalkohol sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to a 21st Century sci-fi or horror film.

A pitter, patter sound opens the minimalist sounding Parabelflug. It sounds as if water is dripping. Gradually, this quickens before an array of sounds are added. This includes percussion, ethereal harmonies and strings. Atop sits a myriad of vibrating, scratching and mesmeric sounds. Meanwhile, the backdrop veers between elegiac, thanks to the washes of ethereal harmonies, to eerie, chilling and cinematic. Later, beeps, squeaks, scratches and metallic sounds are added. They overpower the rest of the arrangement. Soon, only the pitter, patter and dripping sound remains. This bookends perfectly a truly compelling soundscape that’s full of subtleties and surprises. Its success is down to two me, Conrad Schnitzler and Schneider TM. Their contributions may be very different, but both play an equal part in the sound and success of the track

There’s an urgency as the mesmeric, robotic Inspektion, as it bursts into life. Drums and steel pans are joined by a grinding sound. This adds to the mesmeric, machinelike sound. Soon, it’s joined by an array of beeps and squeaks. Futuristic and cracking sounds join what sounds like an alternative orchestra. Especially when joined by lumbering drones and what sounds like robotic chatter. They’re part of a melodic, cinematic and later futuristic, sci-fi soundscape. Especially, when later, futuristic sounds dominate the soundscape, adding to the otherworldly sound.

As Wie geht die unfolds, Conrad Schnitzler and Schneider TM’s alternative orchestra provide an eerie and chilling soundtrack. It creeps and lumbers slowly along, its droning, ghostly and cinematic sound proving unsettling and chilling. 

Wurmloch closes the fourth instalment in the Con-Struct series. It’s a twenty-three minute epic. As the soundscape unfolds, it showcases a minimalist sound. Washes of synths join what sounds like gusts of wind and droning strings. Again, there’s eeriness to the soundscape. Especially as it sounds like something has landed. Washes of airy, bubbling, ethereal and droning synths are added. Then midway through the track, it returns to its earlier minimalist sound. Before long, Schneider TM begins ti reconstruct the track. Somethings sweeps down, hovers and takes off again. Adding to the eerie, cinematic sound are drones and dripping sounds. Later, a reverberating sound can be heard, as hovering, droning sounds reappear. So do sweeping strings, drones and celestial harmonies. Sometimes, they drift in and out, making the briefest of appearance. Other times, they play a starring role as the arrangement builds and an element of drama is added to this cinematic Magnus Opus. Conrad Schnitzler and Schneider TM it seme, have kept the best until last.

Just over five years after the death of Conrad Schnitzler, the fourth instalment in the Con-Struct series was released. This time, it was a collaboration between Conrad Schnitzler and Schneider TM. As collaborations go, it’s truly compelling and captivating. Another word that springs to mind is cinematic. 

Each of the seven soundscapes on Con-Struct have a cinematic sound that’s sure to set the listener’s imagination racing. Sometimes, the music is minimalist and understated, while other times, it’s elegiac and ethereal or eerie and chilling. Then the next track can be futuristic with a myriad of otherworldly, sci-fi sounds. Just like the other Conrad Schnitzler that Bureau B released during 2016, Con-Struct sounds as it’s Musik For Films. 

The sounds that Conrad Schnitzler collected and curated in his musical archive have been put to good use during the Con-Struct series. Especially, in the latest instalment in the Con-struct series, where Schneider TM dips into Conrad Schnitzler archives in search of sounds and inspiration. He found plenty of both. These sounds Conrad Schnitzler collected and curated over four decades. Schneider TM puts them to good use, in his collaboration with Conrad Schnitzler, as they construct the fourth and best instalment of the Con-Struct series,

CONRAD SCHNITZLER/SCHNEIDER TM-CON-STRUCT.

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TIM MAIA-1972 AND 1973.

TIM MAIA-1972 AND 1973.

After the success of his sophomore album Tim Maia 1971, the Brazilian singer-songwriter headed to London to celebrate his newfound success. He had just enjoyed two successful albums, after six years of struggling to make a breakthrough. Tim wanted to celebrate, and enjoy the fruits of his labour. It was during this trip to London, that Tim first discovered his love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. 

Realising that he was only here for a visit, Tim Maia embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Almost defiantly, Tim Maia lived each day as if it was his last. He hungrily devoured copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. They became part of Tim Maia’s daily diet. Fortunately, his new found lifestyle didn’t seem to affect Tim’s ability to make music. That was until Tim discovered a new drug that would prove to be his undoing.

In London, Tim Maia discovered L.S.D. He became an advocate of its supposed mind opening qualities. He took two-hundred tabs of L.S.D. home to Brazil, giving it to friend and people at his record label. Little did Tim know that he had just pressed the self destruct button. 

Somehow, Tim Maia was still seemed able to function normally on his daily diet of drink and drugs. He continued to be one of the rising stars of Brazilian music over the next two years. Just like Tim Maia’s first two albums, they too were entitled Tim Maia. Nowadays, they’re known as Tim Maia 1972 and Tim Maia 1973. Both album were reissued by Oficial Arquivos at the end of 2016, and document the rise of Tim Maia.

1972.

Having returned from London, Tim Maia began work in his third solo album. It was important to build on the momentum that had been built over the last two years. Tim Maia realised this, and began to write his third album.

Eventually he had written ten of the twelve tracks that would find their way onto Tim Maia 1972. This was a far cry from his first two album. Tim only wrote two and cowrote three songs on his debut album. On his sophomore album, Tim wrote seven and cowrote two of the twelve tracks. It seemed Tim was maturing as a songwriter. 

Tim Maia had written Idade, My Little Girl, O Que Você Quer Apostar, Canário Do Reino, These Are The Songs, O Que Me Importa, Sofre?, Razão De Sambar,Pelo Amor De Deus and Where Is My Other Half. They tracks were joined by  Carlos Dafé and Rosana Fiengo’s Já Era Tempo De Você and Cury’s Lamento. These twelve tracks were recorded at studios in two Brazilian cities.

Recording of Tim Maia 1972 took place Estúdios Eldorado in São Paulo and Studio Somil in Rio de Janeiro. Just like Tim’s two previous albums, he employed a vast cast of musicians and backing vocalists. This included string, woodwind and horn sections. However, using two separate studios increased the amount of musicians that featured on Tim Maia 1972. By the time the twelve tracks were completed, over forty musicians had played on the album. It must have been the most expensive album of Tim Maia’s career. Failure wasn’t an option.

Going by Tim Maia’s track record, that seemed unlikely. And so it proved to be. Critical acclaim preceded the release of Tim Maia 1972. Critics called Tim Maia 1972 his third masterpiece. Record buyers agreed and Tim Maia 1972 reached the upper reaches of the Brazilian album charts. The rise and rise of Tim Maia continued as Tim Maia combined disparate musical genres. That was the case from the get-go.

Tim Maia 1972 gets off to a storming start with the joyous, soulful and funky Idade. Continuing in a similar theme is the beautiful ballad My Little Girl. It’s a fusion of soul, funk and jazz where Tim Maia showcases his vocal prowess. This continues when the strings usher in Tim’s heartfelt, hopeful vocal on O Que Você Quer Apostar. It gives way to the forro-pop ballad Canário Do Reino. After this, it’s all change.

Against Já Era Tempo’s jazz-tinged arrangement, Tim sings call and response with his backing vocalists. They help him reach new heights of soulfulness. This continues on These Are The Songs. The tempo drops on this beautiful string-drenched, ballad. Accompanied by harmonies and Latin percussion, Tim delivers one of his most tender, heartfelt vocals. However, ballads have always been Tim Maia’s speciality. So it’s no surprise that the balladry continue on Tim Maia 1972. 

On O Que Me Importa, Tim delivers a tender, heartfelt vocal against an understated arrangement. It’s a similar case on Lamento, where Tim’s soul-baring vocal takes centre-stage. Then on Sofre, Tim combines power and passion as the arrangement builds and his band fuse elements of soul, funk and rock. It gives way to Razão De Sambar is a dreamy, genre-melting track where strings accompany Tim. The quality continues on the wonderfully wistful ballad Pelo Amor De Deus. This leaves just Where Is My Other Half, where a heartbroken Tim delivers a hurt filled vocal. Tim had kept one of the best until last on Tim Maia 1972. 

It ensured that the success continued for Tim Maia. He had just released a critically acclaimed album that some critics were calling a masterpiece. Tim Maia 1972 sold well, reaching the upper reaches of the Brazilian album charts. Belatedly, Tim Maia was one of the biggest names in Brazilian music. He was determined to enjoy his newfound fame and fortune. The party continued. 

Each day, Tim Maia continued to hungrily devour copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. They became part of Tim Maia’s daily diet. Still though, he was managing to function almost normally. There was always the chance that his lifestyle would catch up with him. However, having grown up in poverty and struggled for years to make a breakthrough, it was almost understandable that Tim Maia embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. That was until the time came to record his next album.

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1973.

After the success of Tim Maia 1972, the pressure was on Tim to come up with a successful followup. So he began writing what would eventually became his fourth album Tim Maia 1973.

When Tim Maia returned from writing Tim Maia 1973, again, he had written most of the album himself. He had written nine of the tracks, including Réu Confesso, Compadre, Over Again, Até Que Enfim Encontrei Você, O Balanço, Do Your Things Behave Yourself, Música No Ar, Preciso Ser Amado and Amores, Tim also cowrote New Love with Roger Bruno. Just like last time, there were only two tracks Tim hadn’t played a part in writing. Gostava Tanto De Você was an Edson Trindade composition. A Paz Do Meu Mundo É Você had been penned by the veteran samba soul singer and percussionist Dom Mita. These cover versions were among the twelve songs Tim would record for Tim Maia 1973.

Just like previous recording sessions, Tim Maia was accompanied by some of the top  musicians and backing vocalists that Brazil had to offer. They joined Tim who produced  Tim Maia 1973, at two studios in Rio De Janeiro. This was very different to Tim Maia 1972.

It had been recorded in two studios in two different cities.  This time around, Tim Maia decided to record his fourth album in Rio De Janeiro. He chose Estúdios Da Seroma and Phonogram Studios. That was where he was joined by a much smaller band.

For the recording of Tim Maia 1973, Tim had scaled his band back. The rhythm section featured drummer Myro, bassist Barbosa and Tim Maia on rhythm guitar. They were joined by lead guitarist Paulinho; Neco on twelve-string guitar; pianist Cidinho Teixeira; organist Pedrinho; percussionist and conga player Ronaldo P. Leme and Dom Mita who played the cowbell. Just like previous albums, Tim brought in strings, horns and backing vocalists. This time though, they were helping him to record a very different album.

When Tim Maia 1973 was completed, advance copies of the album were sent to critics. They discovered what was a very different album. 

Tim Maia 1973 opens with the samba soul classic Réu Confesso.  This sets the bar high. It’s followed by the soul-baring Compadre, which is the first of the ballads. This gives way to the timeless sunshine soul ballad Over Again, which is without doubt, one of the highlights of the album. Following in its footsteps is Que Enfim Encontrei Vocêm a heartfelt ballad where Tim and band combine funk, soul and samba. After this, Tim heads in a new direction.

Balanço is the first of two swamp funk tracks. Just like Do Your Thing, Behave Yourself, it sounds as if it was recorded in Louisiana not Rio De Janeiro. This shows another side to Tim Maia as he he seeks to reinvent his music.

In between the two swamp funk tracks was the ballad New Love. It features one of Tim’s most heartfelt vocals on what’s a  beautiful paean. It’s followed by another ballad, and one that would give Tim one of the biggest hits of his career, Gostava Tanto De Você. As his band combine soul, pop and a variety of contemporary Brazilian genres, Tim delivers a hopeful, needy vocal. Adding the finishing touches are lush strings and stabs of blazing horns. The result is one of the finest moments on Tim Maia 1973. That isn’t the end of the balladry. Not by a long chalk. 

It continues on the Música No Ar, a soulful ballad where lush strings accompany Tim. Elements of Philly Soul combine with Latin, pop and even rock as he combines power and passion. It’s a similar case on A Paz Do Meu Mundo É Você. The only difference is the addition of gospel-tinged harmonies. By comparison, the ballad Preciso Ser Amado has a much more understated sound. This less is more approach works well, allowing Tim’s tender vocal to take centre-stage. However, the closing track, the instrumental Preciso Ser Amado marks another change of direction. Suddenly, Tim and his band are paying homage to Memphis’ very own Booker T. and The MGs on the smouldering Memphis funk of Amores. Again, it shows another side of Tim Maia. This won over the critics and record buyers.

Having had time to digest Tim Maia 1973, critics were won over by what was a mixture of the old and new. Sunshine pop, swamp funk and the smouldering Memphis funk of Amores rubbed shoulders with ballads and uptempo tracks. Just like previous albums, some critics hailed Tim Maia 1973 another masterpiece. There were a few dissenting voices who weren’t won over by the swamp pop sound. Mostly, though, Tim Maia 1973 was hailed a resounding success.

Record buyers agreed. Tim Maia 1973 climbed the Brazilian album charts, and eventually, reached the upper reaches. Then when  Gostava Tanto De Você was released as a single, it gave Tim Maia one of the biggest hits of his career. It seemed that he could do no wrong.

The two albums that Tim Maia had written, recorded and released since he returned from London in 1971, had been released to critical acclaim and commercial success. Now Tim Maia was one of the biggest names in Brazilian music. That was what he had worked towards throughout his career. Tim Maia, should’ve been enjoying his newfound fame and fortune. However, there was a problem.

Tim Maia became unhappy at the royalty rate he was receiving from his publisher. So Tim founded his own publishing company Seroma. This coincided with Tim signing to RCA Victor.

They offered Tim Maia the opportunity to record a double album for his fifth album. Tim excited by this opportunity, agreed to sign to RCA Victor, and began work on his fifth album. Somehow, Tim was still seemed able to function normally on his daily diet of drink and drugs. He had already recorded the instrumental parts. All that was left was for Tim to write the lyrics. 

Seeking inspiration for the lyrics, Tim Maia decided to visit Tibério Gaspar. They had previously written together. That was where Tim found a book that would change his life, and sadly,  not for the better. That book was the Universo em Desencanto (Universe in Disenchantment), which revolved around the cult of Rational Culture. They didn’t believe in eating red meat or using drugs. Considering Tim had a voracious appetite for drink and drugs, it seemed unlikely that he would join the cult. However, he did.

Straight away, the cult’s beliefs affected Tim Maia and his music. Ever since he joined cult of Rational Energy, who fixated on UFOs, Tim was now clean-shaved, dressed in white and no longer drank, ate red meat, smoked or took drugs. Always in his hand was a mysterious book. Even his music changed.

The lyrics for his fifth album, and RCA Victor debut, were supposedly about his newly acquired knowledge. This came courtesy of Universo em Desencanto. With the ‘lyrics’ complete, Tim’s vocals were overdubbed onto what became Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2. With the album completed, Tim took it to  RCA Victor. They who promptly rejected the album. 

Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2 it appears, wasn’t of a commercial standard. To make matters worse, the lyrics made absolutely no sense. The only small crumb of comfort was that Tim’s voice was improving. That hardly mattered for RCA Victor, who weren’t going to release the album. For RCA Victor, it was huge disappointment. 

They thought they had signed an artists who would become one of the biggest names in Brazilian music. Instead, their star signing had joined a cult, and handed over the worst album of his career. Tim and RCA Victor found themselves at an impasse. There seemed to be no way forward. 

That was until decided to buy the master tapes from RCA Victor. Tim then released the album independently. However, it failed to match the commercial success of his four previous albums. For his many fans, Tim Maia was no longer the artist he once was. Then in 1976, Tim quit the cult.

When Tim quit the cult, after Racional Volume 2, he’d fallen out with its leader. He felt duped and wanted Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2 destroyed. That was the past. Now Tim wanted to move forward.

Tim Maia’s music changed after Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2. He released a new album in 1976, entitled Tim Maia, released in 1976. This was the start of the most prolific period of Tim’s career.

From 1976 right through to 1998, Tim Maia continued to release albums. He released another twenty-five albums between 1977 and 1998. By then, Tim had released around thirty-four albums. Just like his live shows, the albums were hit and miss affairs. 

Sometimes Tim would turn up, play an outstanding set. Other times he would play a mediocre or shambling set. On many occasions, he’d fail to turn up. He returned to is rock and roll lifestyle, living life to the fullest. 

The last album Tim released was Nova Era Glacial in 1995. Other albums were released bearing Tim’s name right up until 1998. However, Nova Era Glacial is regarded as Tim Maia’s swan-song He passed away on March 15th 1998, aged just fifty-five. Sadly, by then Tim’s shows and behaviour had become predictable. That had been the case since his 1976 post-Racional comeback. Tim Maia was never the same man or musician after his dalliance with the cult of rational behaviour.

It’s fair to say that the four album Tim Maia released prior to joining the cult were the highlights of a career that spanned three decades and thirty-four albums. Tim Maia 1970 introduced Brazilian record buyer to one of their most talented sons. He returned a year later in 1971, with his second genre classic, Tim Maia 1971. Two became three when Tim Maia 1972 was released. It was another genre-melting album where Tim fused and soul with samba and Baião. There were even hints of jazz and rock on Tim Maia 1972. A year later, Tim Maia released what many regard as his fourth genre classic, Tim Maia 1973. This was a very different album.

Sunshine pop and swamp funk joined smouldering Memphis funk on Tim Maia 1973. They rubbed shoulders with where funk, soul, jazz pop and rock. The addition of sunshine pop was a welcome addition to Tim Maia’s musical armoury. He was reinventing his music to ensure that his music remained relevant. However, Tim Maia was at his best on the ballads. This had been the case throughout his four album career. It’s the ballads that are among Tim Maia 1973’s finest moments. Sadly, this was the final instalment in Tim Maia’s golden quartet of albums. 

Never again did Tim Maia reach the same heights as he had between the release of Tim Maia 1970 and Tim Maia 1973. For three short years, Tim Maia’s star shawn the brightest. A reminder of this period are Tim Maia’s golden quartet, which include Tim Maia 1972 and Tim Maia 1973.

TIM MAIA-1972 AND 1973.

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MANUEL GOTTSCHING-E2-E4

MANUEL GOTTSCHING-E2-E4

It was late 1981, when Manuel Göttsching returned home after a lengthy tour with Klaus Schulze. The two pioneers of the Berlin School of electronic music had spent much of 1981 touring their latest albums. 

Manuel Göttsching’s most recent album was Belle Alliance. This was his fifth solo album, and the fourth to bear the Ashra name. Belle Alliance had been released by Virgin Records in 1980, and was the followup to Correlations, which had been released in 1979. Correlations was another genre classic, and introduced Ashra’s music to a much wider audience.

Many newcomers to Ashra’s music began delving deep into Ashra’s impressive and burgeoning back-catalogue. They discovered not just the delights of the previous Ashra albums, but the albums Manuel Göttsching had recorded with Ash Ra Tempel. In total, there were ten albums that bore either the Ashra or Ash Ra Tempel name. This included several genre classics from one of the most innovative and influential German musicians of his generation.

The rise and rise of Manuel Göttsching hadn’t happened overnight. It had taken time. Ash Ra Tempel’s early albums didn’t find the wider audience that they so richly deserved. Instead, they won over a small, but discerning group of musical connoisseurs. They were based not just in Germany, but in France and Britain. Soon, Ash Ra Tempel was more popular in Britain and France than in Germany. Gradually, though, Ash Ra’s music began to find a wider audience. 

This had taken time. Manuel Göttsching had divided much of the last ten years recording and touring. He recorded an album, and then headed out on tour to promote the album. After a while, touring became second nature to Manuel Göttsching. 

He had grown used to the time he had spent travelling and staying in hotels. It was a means to an end,and meant that night after night, he was able to take to the stage and play live. That was what made everything worthwhile. Especially as the audiences grew and his music began to reach a wider audience. By the time 1981 tour was over, it had been one of the most successful of his career.

Buoyed by this success, Manuel Göttsching returned home in late 1981. Despite have spent much of 1981 playing live, he decided to play one more concert. This time, he would play to an audience of one…himself. 

So Manuel Göttsching made his way to his home studio, Studio Roma. That was where Manuel Göttsching had kept his vast collection of keyboards, rhythm computers, sequencers and synths since 1975. Since then, Manuel Göttsching had put together an impressive array of cutting edge equipment. It was switched on night and day, just in case Manuel Göttsching felt inspired to make music. That was the case on the 12th of December 1981. 

As Manuel Göttsching entered his home studio, his guitar, keyboards, rhythm computers, sequencers and synths were ready to use. For some time, he had been working on a few themes. They were far from finished though. Maybe he could develop them during his concert for one? After he had finished his preparation, Manuel Göttsching was ready to play. For some reason, he reached over and pressed record. 

For the next hour, Manuel Göttsching was lost in the music. He played with fluidity, the music flowing through him as he used just two chords.  Everything seemed to fall into place. That was the case when Manuel Göttsching switched between instruments. There wasn’t a note out of place. Little did Manuel Göttsching realise that this was a once in a lifetime experience, that most musicians could only dream of. This only became apparent later.

After nearly an hour, Manuel Göttsching’s concert was over. Out of curiosity, he rewound the tape and began sat down to listen to his performance. As Manuel Göttsching listened to this hour long piece of music, musical genres melted into one. Elements of ambient, avant-garde, Balearic, Berlin School, electronica, Krautrock and rock shawn through. The music was variously understated and minimalist, sometimes taking on experimental, Eastern and futuristic sounds. Other times, it was elegiac and ethereal, while, the rhythm computer added a mesmeric, hypnotic quality. Later, Manuel Göttsching added glistening crystalline guitar solos. They combined with washes of synths and a myriad of left-field sounds. It was a captivating journey that featured nine separate phases. Each of these phases had one thing in common,..they were flawless. 

Somehow, Manuel Göttsching had managed to play for an hour without making a mistake. This was a once in a lifetime experience. He had managed to write, record and produce an album in one night. This wasn’t how it was meant to happen.

After the release of Belle Alliance, Manuel Göttsching’s thoughts turned to his sixth solo album. He thought it might take a year complete the album. By the time, he pressed play on the 12th of December 1981, Manuel Göttsching had only got as far as few themes that he hoped to expand on. These themes came to fruition that night. This presented a problem though. What should Manuel Göttsching do with the recording?

He had two options, add it to his archives or take it to Virgin Records. However, Manuel Göttsching was unsure where he stood with Virgin Records. His four album deal had expired, and he was unsure if they were going to take up the two album option. Things were up in the air. If he was going take the recording to Virgin Records, Manuel Göttsching needed a title for the album.

The title he came up with was E2-E4. This was the classic opening gambit in a game of chess. E2-E4 was also the title of a computer program that Manuel Göttsching had been using. This he thought would be the perfect title for a piece of electronic music. However, there was a third reason why E2-E4 worked as a title. It was a reference to the guitar tuning Manuel Göttsching used. The lower string was tuned from E2 and the high string from E4. Manuel Göttsching had the title to his sixth album. All he had to do, was convince Virgin Records to release E2-E4. 

Not long after completing E2-E4, Manuel Göttsching boarded a flight from Berlin to London. His destination was the headquarters of Virgin Records in London. On his arrival, he discovered a very different record company to the one he had signed to in 1977. No longer was Virgin Records releasing the cerebral music it once had. 

Virgin Records were no longer releasing the same type of music that it once had.  Gone was much of the folk and progressive rock that the label released during formative years. A few familiar faces remained, including Gillan, Mike Oldfield and fellow Berlin School pioneers Tangerine Dream and Edgar Froese.  However, the musical landscape had been transformed. By 1981, Virgin Records was releasing the remnant of punk, plus post punk, synth pop and the vacuous music of the New Romantics. It was a far cry from Virgin Records’ glory days.

Despite this, Manuel Göttsching travelled to meet Virgin Records founder Richard Branson at his houseboat on the Thames. He was no longer played an active role in the day to day running of Virgin Records.  Despite this, he wanted to hear E2-E4. The two men listened E2-E4, and the baby Richard Branson was nursing fell asleep. This prompted him to quip: “Manuel you can make a fortune with this music.” However, by the time the meeting was over, Manuel Göttsching had come to a decision.

He had decided not to release E2-E4. It wasn’t the time. E2-E4’s time would come.

Three years later, and E2-E4’s time had come. The album that Manuel Göttsching had recorded on the 12th December 1981, was ready for release. Not by Richard Branson’s Virgin Records though.

They hadn’t picked up the two album option that was included in Manuel Göttsching’s recording contract. This left Manuel Göttsching without a recording contract. Not for long. Soon, he had signed to the German label Inteam GmbH. They were about to release E2-E4.

This was the eleventh album of Manuel Göttsching’s career, and his first since Belle Alliance in 1980. Despite being recorded in late 1981, critics hailed E2-E4 as an album that was another innovative and groundbreaking album. It marked another stylistic departure from a true musical chameleon. However, little did anyone realise the influence that E2-E4 would have. 

By the late eighties,  E2-E4 was influencing the nascent techno and house scenes. The first generation of house and techno producers were looking to E2-E4 for inspiration. Some, including Sueño Latino sampled E2-E4 for their 1989 track Sueño Latino. Suddenly, E2-E4 was being hailed as one of the most important and influential electronic albums of the eighties.

As the eighties gave way to the nineties, E2-E4 continued to influence and inspire a new generation of producers. Some sampled one of E2-E4 nine phases. However, in 1995, one of the new breed of German production partnerships, Basic Channel remixed E2-E4. It became E2-E4 Basic Reshape as it made its debut on the BCD compilation album. The album that Manuel Göttsching wrote, recorded and produced  one night in December 1981 was continuing to influence and inspire a new generation of producers.

That’s still the case today. E2-E4 which is a genre classic, continues to influence and inspire yet another generation of producers. They look to Manuel Göttsching’s  E2-E4 for inspiration, hoping that they too, will produce a timeless, genre classic.  A 35th Anniversary Edition edition of E2-E4 was recently rereleased by MG.ART. It’s a welcome reissue of one of the most important electronic albums of the eighties. 

E2-E4 played a huge part in the development of house music and techno during the late eighties. Since then, several generations of producers have sought inspiration from E2-E4.  Alas, none of these producers have followed in Manuel Göttsching’s footsteps and produced a timeless, genre classic. This was just the latest genre classic Manuel Göttsching had released during the first thirteen years of his career. 

Nowadays, Manuel Göttsching is regarded as one of the most important German musicians of his generations. He’s a true innovator who influenced and inspired future generations of musicians and producers with a string of critically acclaimed and groundbreaking albums. That was the case throughout his career. 

Especially during the period between 1971 and 1983. This was one of the most fruitful and productive periods of Manuel Göttsching’s career. From his early days with Ash Ra Tempel, right through to his solo career as Ashra, Manuel Göttsching could do no wrong. Albums like Ash Ra Tempel, Schwingungen, Join Inn, Inventions For Electric Guitar, New Age Of Earth and Correlations feature a true musical pioneer at his creative zenith. So does E2-E4.

Thirty-five years after Manuel Göttsching recorded E2-E4 at his Studio Roma, on the 12th of December 1981, this timeless genre classic continues to influence and inspire a new generation of musicians and producers. That will be the case for the foreseeable future.

MANUEL GOTTSCHING-E2-E4.

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KATE BUSH-BEFORE THE DAWN.

KATE BUSH-BEFORE THE DAWN.

Touring isn’t for every artist or band. Some like Free, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath loved touring, and spent much of their career on tour. Kate Bush never enjoyed touring. So much so, that for thirty-five years, Kate Bush never took to the stage. She toured once in 1979. After that tour, Kate Bush’s fans had to be patient.

It was thirty-five years before Kate Bush made her return to the stage. The announcement came on Friday 21st March 2014,  via Kate Bush’s website. She was going to return to the stage on the 26th of August 2014. This was the first of fifteen concerts she would play at the Hammersmith Apollo, in London. Soon, Kate Bush’s return to the stage was one of the biggest news stories.  Even Kate Bush was unprepared for the response to this announcement.

Tickets were due to go on sale on Wednesday 26th March 2014. Before that, Kate Bush fans had to register their interest. Kate Bush fans from all over the world were registering for tickets to the Before The Dawn tour. They wanted to make a pilgrimage to London to see Kate Bush live. However, demand was outstripping demand many times over.

So many people had signed up to Kate Bush’s website expressing an interest in tickets, that another seven dates were added. Now Kate Bush was now going to play twenty-two dates between the 26th of August and the 1st of October 2014. When the tickets went on sale, they were probably the most prized ticked since Led Zeppelin made their long-awaited comeback.

The first lot of tickets went on sale via Kate Bush’s website on 26th March 2014. They soon sold out. Two days later, on Friday 28th of March 2014, the tickets were made available to members of the public. At 9:30 a.m tickets for the twenty-two concerts went on sale. By 9:45 a.m, the tickets had sold out. Kate Bush’s return to the stage was the hottest ticket of 2014.

Those that had been lucky enough to secure tickets to the Before The Dawn concerts had no idea of what was in store. This was no ordinary concert. Instead, Kate Bush had planned and would present a lavish multi-media event.

While Kate Bush was the star of the twenty-two shows, concertgoers would be treated to a myriad of supporting acts. This included dancers, puppets, 3D animation and an illusionist. There was also mask-work, shadows and conceptual staging. Before The Dawn was a truly ambitious project which was a mixture of music and theatre. Kate Bush went to great lengths to ensure her live comeback was a success.

She was even willing to spend three days in a floatation tank for part of the Before The Dawn show. This was part of scenes that were filmed and played during Before The Dawn. The dialogue that accompanied these scenes was written by English novelist David Mitchell. He was one of a huge cast that played their part in the staging of Before The Dawn.

This included Adrian Noble, the former artist director and chief executive officer of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was drafted in to direct Before The Dawn with Kate Bush. They brought onboard top designers to design everything from the sets and costumes that would be used during Before The Dawn’s twenty-two night run.

Among the specialists brought onboard, were award winning lighting designer Mark Henderson. He was joined by set designer Dick Bird, costume designer Brigitta Reiggenstuel and creative consultant Robert Allsopp. They were part of a vast staff. It also included ‘creative director’ Albert McIntosh. This was Kate Bush’s son, whose other roles included backing vocalist and keyboardist. However, before Before The Dawn made its debut, a cast of actors, dancers and musicians were put through their paces.

Gradually, the sets, lighting and costumes came together. Meanwhile, a cast of actors, puppeteers and the chorus were practising for the Before The Dawn concerts.

This included Kate Bush and her band. They had to be perfect before the first night on 26th of August 2014. However, it had been thirty-five years since Kate Bush played live. It had been a while since Kate Bush had even released a new album.

Three years had passed since the release of her previous album 50 Words for Snow in November 2011. It was very different to the early part of Kate Bush’s career. 

During the early part of her career, Kate Bush averaged an album a year. Her debut album The Kick Inside was released in February 1978. Lionheart followed in November 1978, with Never For Ever following in September 1980. Nearly two years later, and Kate Bush returned with The Dreaming in September 1982. After the gaps lengthened between albums.

Three years later, Kate Bush returned with Hounds Of Love in September 1985. However, three years became four and when The Sensual World was released in October 1989. After another four years, Kate Bush returned with her seventh studio album, The Red Shoes. Although it wasn’t as successful as previous albums, nobody expected what happened next.

Twelve long years passed before Kate Bush returned with a new album, Aerial. It was released to critical acclaim in November 2005 and matched the success of The Sensual World. Despite this, it was another six years before Kate Bush returned.

She had been busy, and would release two albums in the space of six months. Director’s Cut was released in May 2011, with 50 Words For Snow following in November 2011. Neither album matched the success of previous albums. Both were certified gold in the UK. That was as good as it got. Kate Bush had released the two least successful albums of her career. 

Despite this, just three years later and Kate Bush was working towards her live comeback. Given how quickly the tickets had sold, Kate Bush was still hugely popular and a had vast fan-base. Many were about to travel halfway around the world to see Kate Bush make her long-awaited live comeback. She was determined that she would be ready.

Kate Bush had put together a vastly experienced and talented band. Its rhythm section featured drummer Omar Hakim, bassist and double bassist John Giblin and guitarist David Rhodes. They were augmented by percussionist Mino Cinelu;

Friðrik Karlsson who played guitar, bouzouki and charango. Jon Carin, who previously, had worked with Pink Floyd and more recently, Dave Gilmour, played guitar, keyboards and took charge of programming. The final member of Kate Bush’s band was Kevin McAlea. He was the only member of the band that had played on Kate Bush’s 1979 tour. This time around, he would play keyboards, accordion and uilleann pipes. With the lineup in place, Kate Bush who occasionally played piano and keyboards, had been practising what was a vast setlist.

Unlike many artists making a comeback after a lengthy absence, Kate Bush wasn’t about to do setlist that featured her greatest hits. Instead, it was a twenty-nine song set that featured three acts. Act one featured seven miscellaneous songs, including Hounds Of Love, Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) and King Of The Mountain. The second act featured the complete Ninth Wave suite which originally, featured on side two of the Hounds of Love album. Then the third act featured  A Sky of Honey from Kate Bush’s 2005 album Aerial. With twenty-nine tracks to learn, this was a steep learning curve for the band.

Especially, when they were going to be joined by a vast cast of actors, puppeteers, a chorus and an illusionist. There were also everyone involved in putting the production on. Sound, stage and lighting techs, were joined sound and systems engineers. Some nights by a film crew and recording crew arrived. Before The Dawn was to be filmed on 16-17th September 2014, and 

recorded over several nights. Kate Bush planning to release Before The Dawn via her Fish People label. They eventually released Before The Dawn in late 2016, as a three CD set. By then, one of the most ambitious concerts in recent years had been staged.

After weeks and months of planning, preparation and practice, the 26th of August 2014 came round. This was the first night of the Before The Dawn tour. Kate Bush was about to return to the stage after a thirty-five year absence. Despite this absence, Kate Bush was one of the most successful singer-songwriters of her generation. She had released ten studio albums, that had sold in vast quantities. They had been certified silver, gold, platinum and double platinum everywhere from American and Canada to Britain, France, Germany and Holland. Kate Bush had enjoyed a glittering career, and on the 26th of August 2014 made her way onstage to reconnect with her fans after a thirty-five year absence.

It was a triumphant return, with critics and cultural commentators hailing Kate Bush as the comeback Queen. Her lavish multimedia stage-show was a mixture of music and theatre. The audience were spellbound as Kate Bush and her band were joined by a vast cast. This included everything from actors and puppets to an illusionist and a chorus. Sometimes, excerpts of film played, during what was hailed as one of the most ambitious concerts to take to the stage at the Hammersmith Apollo Playing a starring role during the Before The Dawn concerts were Kate Bush and her band.

Over the next twenty-two nights, a number of the Before The Dawn concerts were recorded. Kate Bush was planning to release a live album. Rather than release a recording of one night’s show, a decision was made to cherry pick the best recordings. They would replicate the three acts of the Before The Dawn show.

Act One.

Opening Act One of Before The Dawn, is Lilly a track from Kate Bush’s 1993 album The Red Shoes. As the song unfolds, it’s a mixture of music and theatre, and sets the scene for the rest of Act One.

This includes one of Kate Bush’s best known songs Hounds Of Love. It gives way to Joanni from Aerial and Top Of The City from The Red Shoes. Neither may seem like the most obvious choices, but ensure the set flows and continues to captivate. Soon, though, Kate Bush returns to This Sensual World for the beautiful ballad Never Be Mine and Hounds Of Love Running Up That Hill. It’s one of the highlights of Act One. However, closing Act One is King Of The Mountain from Aerial. There’s an element of drama and theatre as the song builds, and Act One draws to a close.

Ace Two.

Act two featured the complete Ninth Wave suite which originally, featured on side two of the Hounds of Love album. However, a spoken monologue opens act two. It’s followed by And Dream Of Sheep, which gives way to the cinematic Under Ice and Waking The Witch which features one of the best performances by the band. They put their countless years of experience to good use as Kate Bush adds to the drama. Still, though, there’s a slightly dated sound to the track. 

Watching You Without Me which is two minutes of dialogue. While this is an important part of the Ninth Wave suite, it seems out of place on a live album. Many listeners will reach for the remote control. 

Normal service is resumed on the Celtic sounding Jig Of Life and Hello Earth where the chorus play an important part in the sound and success of the track. Closing act two is the understated ballad The Morning Fog. It’s one of highlights of Ninth Wave suite. Maybe though, it would’ve been better for Kate Bush and her band to play  a selection of the highlights from the Ninth Wave suite? 

Act Three.

Act three features A Sky of Honey, which is taken from Kate Bush’s 2005 album Aerial. It opens with prelude and then a ten minute prologue. Just like An Architect’s Dreams and The Painter’s Link, it has an understated sound. It’s a similar case on Sunset, where the understated arrangement allows Kate Bush’s vocal to take centre-stage. The underrated sound continues on Aerial Tal. However, very different is Kate’s vocal. She scats and ab-libs against a recording of birdsong. 

 Somewhere In Between is a quite beautiful ballad, is without doubt, one of the highlights of act three. It’s followed by Tawny Moon, the ethereal Nocturn and Aerial, the final part of A Sky of Honey. It’s where the drama comes to a head and the band then unleash one of their best performances on this ten minute epic. However, that is not the end of Before The Dawn.

Kate Bush dips into 50 Words For Snow for what’s one of its finest moments, Among Angels. It’s a truly beautiful and understated piano lead band. Closing act three and Before The Dawn is Cloudbusting, from Hounds Of Love. It seems that Kate Bush has kept one of the best until last. After that, she takes her bow. Hopefully, it won’t be another thirty-five years until Kate Bush returns.

When Before The Dawn was released late in 2016, it was to critical acclaim. Just like the twenty-two nights at the Hammersmith Apollo, Kate Bush had won over the critics again. Alas, Before The Dawn wasn’t the commercial success that many critics forecast.

Before The Dawn was most successful in Britain, where it reached number four and was certified silver. Across the Atlantic, Before The Dawn reached eighty-nine in Canada and 121 in the US Billboard 200. In Australia, Before The Dawn reached twenty-eight and four in New Zealand. Meanwhile, in Europe, where Kate Bush had always been popular, Before The Dawn reached number nine in France, eleven in Germany, twenty-two in Holland, ten in Norway and forty-eight in Sweden. Despite the success of the twenty-two Before The Dawn concerts, the live album wasn’t the success many had forecast.

Before The Dawn was an extremely ambitious project. It was a mixture of music and theatre where Kate Bush and a vast cast work their way through a twenty-nine song set that featured three acts. 

Act one featured seven miscellaneous songs, including Hounds Of Love, Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) and King Of The Mountain. This was a taste of a reminder of what Kate Bush was capable of.

The second act featured the complete Ninth Wave suite which originally, featured on side two of the Hounds of Love album. Mostly, this works. However, parts of the Ninth Wave suite sound dated. There’s that eighties sound that hasn’t aged well. Similarly, the dialogue doesn’t work as part of a live album. It’s the weakest part of the Ninth Wave suite, coming across as sounding slightly pretentious. It would’ve been better if Kate Bush had played only the highlights of the Ninth Wave suite. This would’ve left time for some of her other, better known songs.

Having said that, the third act features another suite of songs. This time, it’s A Sky of Honey from Kate Bush’s 2005 album Aerial. It works better than the Ninth Wave suite.  Whereas the Ninth Wave suite fails to flow, A Sky of Honey which features several understated songs features Kate Bush at her best. Her ethereal, elegiac vocals find Kate Bush rolling back the years to her glory years. 

When she made her live comeback in 2014, Kate Bush was still one of the most talented singer-songwriters of her generation. Proof of that are the ten studio albums she released between 1978 and 2011. Since then, Kate Bush hasn’t released another studio album. 

That isn’t unusual. Recently, it’s been a case of feast or famine during Kate Bush’s recording career. In 2011, she released two albums two albums in the space of six months. Director’s Cut was released in May with 50 Words For Snow following in November 2011. These were the first albums Kate Bush had released since Aerial in 2005. Kate Bush works at her own speed  and releases albums when she wants. It’s a similar case with touring.

Before the Before The Dawn concerts, Kate Bush hadn’t toured since 1979. Thirty-five years later, Kate Bush made her live comeback on over twenty-two nights at Hammersmith Apollo. Rather than embark upon a tour of Britain, the audience headed to London to hear the comeback Queen. Her comeback is documented and celebrated over the three discs on Before The Dawn. 

Mostly, it finds Kate Bush rolling back the years. A few of the tracks on the Ninth Wave suite fail to work and disappoint. Many people would’ve preferred to heard some of the songs that launched Kate Bush’s career. Sadly, songs like Wuthering Heights, Army Dreamers, Wow and Babooshka are omitted. However, the most disappointing aspect of Before The Dawn is the sound quality. 

For much of Before The Dawn, the sound  quality is poor.  Sometimes, it’s thick, muddy and boomy. There’s also a lack of dynamic range on a number of tracks. Other times, the sound quality improves slightly. However, overall, Before The Dawn is a disappointing musical document of Kate Bush’s comeback concerts. Before The Dawn should’ve been a celebration of comeback queen Kate Bush returning to the stage after a thirty-five absence. Instead, it’s a disappointing recording. Kate Bush’s loyal fans deserved better than Before The Dawn. 

KATE BUSH-BEFORE THE DAWN.

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THE RISE OF THE PARIS SISTERS.

THE RISE OF THE PARIS SISTERS.

The Paris Sisters weren’t an overnight success. Far from it. It took nearly a decade of hard work and dedication before they made a commercial breakthrough. Suddenly, all the hard work was worthwhile. 

Especially when I Love How You Love Me reached five on the US Billboard 100 in October 1961, and in the process, sold over one million copies. This is just one of The Paris Sisters’ hit singles enjoyed during their  Their story began in the early fifties.

That’s when former opera singer, Faye Filzer decided that her three talented daughters had the potential to pursue a career in the world of entertainment. So Priscilla, her elder sister Albeth and their middle sister Sherrell became The Paris Sisters, San Francisco’s latest singing trio. 

Faye Flzer, it seemed had looked towards “sister groups” like the Andrews Sisters and McGuire Sisters for inspiration. She decided that her daughters would follow in their footsteps, and hopefully, enjoy the same success.

In the early days, The Paris Sisters appeared at Elk Clubs and Navy bases. However, soon, it became apparent that The Paris Sisters would have to hone their singing talents.

With their mother’s help, The Paris Sisters honed their voices. So much so, that by 1954, they were recording for the local Cavalier label. Faye Filzer wanted to document their progress. Anything else was a bonus. However, not long after this, Faye Filzer managed to secure the endorsement of the Andrews Sisters for The Paris Sisters. This lead to the nascent group signing to Decca Records.

By then, The Paris Sisters were constantly appearing at fairs and clubs. These appearances ensured that The Paris Sisters were already well known across the western states. This should’ve meant that Decca Records had a captive audience for The Paris Sisters’ singles.

That wasn’t the case. The Paris Sisters released six singles between 1955 and 1958 for Decca Records, and then Imperial. They all failed to catch the attention of record buyers. Maybe that’s why Faye Filzer decided to let a manager take charge of The Paris Sisters.

Norman Weiss became The Paris Sisters’ manager, in exchange for a twenty-five percent of their earnings. Straight away, he got them a booking in the Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas. The Paris Sisters were booked to do four fifty minute shows a night. It was no surprise that Priscilla’s vocal was damaged. Luckily, she recovered and soon, was back on the road.

By then, The Paris Sisters had all finished their schooling. Then in 1959, Albeth met dance instructor Clancy Grass in Vancouver. The Paris Sisters were in Vancouver to do a show, when Albeth met her future husband Clancy Grass. The relationship didn’t go down well with Albeth’s parents, Faye and Walter Filzer.

Norman Weiss tried to intervene, and act as a go-between, This backfired, and Faye Filzer started shopping The Paris Sisters to other management companies. Some of these companies were in Los Angeles, where Faye and Walter Filzer now lived. That’s where Faye Filzer met Lester Sill.

He was a veteran of the music business, and could spot talent at twenty paces. Lester Sill realised that The Paris Sisters had bags of potential, and began telling Faye Filzer about his new business partner Phil Spector, who was in the process of forging a career as a producer.

Before long, The Paris Sisters were were introduced to Phil Spector, who set about changing their style. It would be very different to other groups who Phil Spector would later work with. Priscilla’s almost reserved, demure vocal took charge of the lead, while Albeth and Sherrell added cooing harmonies. Sometimes, Sherrell switched to lead, the other two sisters added harmonies. With these changes in place, Phil Spector took The Paris Sisters into the recording studio.

For Phil Spector’s first recording session with The Paris Sisters, Gold Star Studios was chosen. That’s where the ballad Be My Boy was recorded. Once Be My Boy was recorded, Lester Sill struggled to sell the master. 

So he decided to release the single on the Gregmark label, which he owned with Lee Hazelwood. When Be My Boy was released in March 1960, comparisons were drawn to The Teddy Bears. However, soon, the single was climbing the charts, but stalled at just fifty-six in the US Billboard 100. For The Paris Sisters, this was their first hit single. It wouldn’t be their last.

Following the success By My Boy, Phil Spector continued to hone The Paris Sisters’ sound. Only then, would he record The Paris Sisters’ next single I Love How You Love Me which saw a move towards rock ’n’ roll on this string drenched ballad. Again, comparisons were drawn with The Teddy Bears, and To Know Him Is To Love Him. However, when I Love How You Love Me was released in August 1961 on Gregmark, it quickly found favour with DJs and record buyers. Eventually, the single reached number five in the US Billboard 100, and sold one million copies. By then Norman Weiss was no longer The Paris Sisters’ manager.

Faye Wilzer has extricated her daughters from their contract with Norman Weiss. Replacing him was Jess Rand who was Sam Cooke’s manager. He had a busy schedule, managing The Letterman and Sam Cooke. However, after December 11th 1964, he would have much more space in his diary.

Little did Jess Rand realise that The Paris Sisters had enjoyed the biggest hit of their career. They would enjoy further hits, but never had as a big a hit as I Love How You Love Me. It wasn’t through trying though.

One of the first things Jess Rand did, was hire a publicist. They were in place as The Paris Sisters released He Knows I Love Him Too Much as a single in March 1962. It was released on Gregmark,but reached just thirty-two in the Billboard 100. Given the success of I Love How You Love Me this was a disappointment. However, Gregmark was just a small label. The Paris Sisters should’ve been signed to a major. This was hampering The Paris Sisters’ career.

Not long after the release He Knows I Love Him Too Much, Let Me Be The One was released as a single on Gregmark later in 1962. It looked like Phil Spector had been building up a supply of songs from The Paris Sisters. Maybe he feared they would leave for a bigger label, and wanted some songs in reserve? 

When Let Me Be The One was released it stalled at just eighty-seven on the Billboard 100. This was another disappointment for The Paris Sisters. Less than a year earlier, they were enjoying a million selling single.

Things didn’t improve for The Paris Sisters. Neither Let Me Be The One, nor Yes, I Love, which was released in November 1962, charted. To make matters, Phil Spector and his business partner Lester Sill were clashing. At the root of the problem, was Phil Spector’s success, and his decision to found his own label, Phillies. Adding fuel to the fire, was Phil Spector encouraging Priscilla to pursue a solo career. By then, Phil Spector and Priscilla were alleged to have been dating. There were even rumours of a marriage proposal. Things were getting complicated.

Especially when Phil Spector and Lester Sill began a legal battle that lasted years. Then came the announcement that The Paris Sisters album was cancelled. It’s thought that Phil Spector had destroyed the tapes. By then, Jess Rand was spending more of his time managing The Letterman. So Clancy Grass became The Paris Sisters’ co-manager. This was perfect timing, as in August 1963, there was some good news for The Paris Sisters. They signed to Columbia Records.

At last The Paris Sisters were on a major. With a manager who was determined to look after The Paris Sisters’ best interests, things were looking good for The Paris Sisters as a period of change began.

No longer was Phil Spector producing The Paris Sisters. Instead, Terry Melcher, Doris Day’s son, took charge of producing The Paris Sisters. The rise and rise of Terry Melcher had been rapid.

Initially, Terry Melcher worked in the post room at his mother’s record company. Then he secured a junior post in A&R at Columbia. From there, he moved into production, where he was entrusted with The Paris Sisters’ career.

At his first session, with The Paris Sisters, Terry Melcher concentrated on building a big, bold arrangement on Play It One More Time. He also double-tracked Priscilla’s vocal, which was meant to give her vocal a teenage sound. This was no different to what Phil Spector had been doing. Despite recording several tracks, none of the tracks recorded during the Terry Melcher session were ever released by Columbia. 

After their encounter with ‘producer’ Terry Melcher, The Paris Sisters’ were assigned to a new production team. This time, Fred Benson and Nik Venet, took charge of production duties during the next The Paris Sisters’ session. Ben-Ven Productions were responsible for The Paris Sisters 1964 single Dream Lover, and the flip side Lonely Girl. Recording took place to fit in with The Paris Sisters’ schedule. They still seemed to be undertaking a gruelling schedule, and in 1964, appeared on American Bandstand. Still The Paris Sisters were hugely successful live.

Despite this, when Dream Lover was released later in 1964, it flopped. That’s despite being one of The Paris Sisters’ best singles in recent years. By then, The Paris Sisters were recording their long-awaited debut album. It was meant to feature a mixture of standards and pop covers. However, Columbia were having cold feet. The next single would be crucial.

In August 1964, The Paris Sisters covered Nat King Cole’s When I Fall In Love. It was released as a single, but failed commercially. A decision was made to cancel The Paris Sisters’ debut album. Another year would pass before Columbia released another single by The Paris Sisters.

A year after the release of their last single, The Paris Sisters entered the studio with producer Mike Curb. He produced the heartfelt ballad Always Waitin’ on MGM Records. On the B-Side was Why Do I Take It From You which was penned by Priscilla. She delivers a wistful, breathy vocal that’s so good, it deserved to fare better than a B-Side. Sadly, commercial success continued to elude The Paris Sisters. However, they were just as busy as ever with live work.

Despite this the next two years saw The Paris Sisters release a string of singles for Reprise Records. In 1966, The Paris Sisters entered the studio with producer Jack Nitzsche, and they cut two fine singles. My Good Friend was a much more uptempo track, that showed another side to The Paris Sisters. You was another uptempo cut, with I’m Me, a beautiful rueful ballad on the flip side. Although neither single charted, The Paris Sisters released their debut album.

When Sing From “The Glass House” was released, it wasn’t the album that The Paris Sisters had envisaged a few years earlier. They had been asked to provide the soundtrack to a television show The Glass House. So Priscilla Paris penned six of the ten tracks, and Mike Curb wrote Help Me. Once the album was complete, it was announced that The Glass Show wouldn’t be aired. For The Paris Sisters this was a huge blow, as the show was being aired coast to coast. Despite this Sing From “The Glass House” was released by Unifilms in 1966, but never was the success that The Paris Sisters had hoped. This was a disappointing end to what had been one of the busiest years of The Paris Sisters’ recording career.

1967 proved to be just as busy. Some Of Your Lovin’ was released as a single, but doesn’t feature on Always Heavenly-The Paris Sisters Anthology. The B-Side, I Came A Long Way To Nowhere which is a heart-wrenching ballad, was produced by Clancy Grass and Mike Curb. It shows how The Paris Sisters music was evolving, and moving with the times. Later in 1967, The Paris Sisters released their second and third album. 

Sing Everything Under The Sun!!! was released by Reprise Records in 1967. It featured the tracks The Paris Sisters had recorded between 1966 and 1967. This included My Good Friend, You, It’s Me and See That Boy. They all feature on Always Heavenly-The Paris Sisters Anthology. These are among Sing Everything Under The Sun!!!’s highlight. Later in 1967, came The Paris Sisters’ third album.

It was Mike Curb who noticed that The Paris Sisters had never released a Greatest Hits album. So he suggested The Paris Sisters rerecord some of their earlier hits, and some new songs. Eventually, three new songs found their way onto Golden Hits Of The Paris Sisters. This included Together, See That Boy and Won’t You Help Me. Together and See That Boy seem to hark back to the golden age of the classic girl group sound. These new songs should’ve appealed to diehard fans of The Paris Sisters. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and Golden Hits Of The Paris Sisters failed commercially. It seemed The Paris Sisters recording career was at a crossroads.

By 1968, The Paris Sisters were signed to Capitol Records, and released Greener Days as a single. On the B-Side was Golden Days. Alas, when Greener Days was released, it failed commercially, and The Paris Sisters moved on.

Next stop was GNP-Crescendo, where in August 1968, The Paris Sisters released The Ugliest Girl In Town. On the flip-side was Stand Naked Clown. Sadly, history repeated itself and The Ugliest Girl In Town flopped. Three months later and The Paris Sisters were history.

In November 1968, The Paris Sisters announced they had split-up. Their recording career had lasted fourteen years, but three years had passed since The Paris Sisters enjoyed a hit single. It was the end of era for The Paris Sisters.

Their career had outlasted many other girl groups. There were several reasons for this. The Paris Sisters were versatile and equally comfortable singing  ballads and uptempo tracks, and throughout their career, reinvented themselves musically. That’s why for a while, they were one of the most successful girl groups of the sixties. However, The Paris Sisters weren’t an overnight success. 

Far from it. It took nearly a decade of hard work and dedication before they made a commercial breakthrough. However, when Phil Spector produced their million selling single I Love How You Love Me Suddenly in 1961, all the hard work was worthwhile. After that, The Paris Sisters constantly toured America, going coast to coast and enjoying the success while it lasted.

Sadly, nothing lasts forever, and by 1966 the hits had dried up. Luckily, The Paris Sisters were still a popular live draw, and right throughout until they spilt up in 1968.  By then, The Paris Sisters Anthology, were one of the most successful girl groups of the sixties.

THE RISE OF THE THE PARIS SISTERS.

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PINK FLOYD-CRE/ATION: THE EARLY YEARS 1967-1972.

PINK FLOYD-CRE/ATION: THE EARLY YEARS 1967-1972.

One box set that divided opinion during 2016, was Pink Floyd’s The Early Years 1965–1972. It featured eleven CDs, DVDs, blu-ray discs, vinyl, and memorabilia. There was everything from unreleased material to live recordings and non-album singles. The Early Years 1965–1972 was marketed as the most comprehensive overview of the first seven years of Pink Floyd’s recording career. However, it came at a price.

That price was £375. The Early Years 1965–1972 was the most expensive box set of recent years. This was bound to divide the opinion of even the biggest Pink Floyd fans.

Pink Floyd fans were divided. Many Pink Floyd had no qualms about buying what was a comprehensive overview of the band’s career. There was twenty-five hours of music on a variety of different formats. This had never been released before. For fans who had followed Pink Floyd’s career for over fifty years, this was a must-have box set. This was a once in a lifetime purchase. Other Pink Floyd fans weren’t so understanding.

Indeed, from the moment The Early Years 1965–1972 was announced, their had been outrage among Pink Floyd fans. They took umbrage at the price point. Some tried to calculate how much each item would cost individually. Having done so, they decided that The Early Years 1965–1972 wasn’t value for money. Even when each item was taken into account. Some Pink Floyd fans felt they were being exploited. 

2016 had already been an expensive year for Pink Floyd fans. During 2016, Pink Floyd’s albums were being rereleased on vinyl. Despite having bought the albums several times on different formats, many Pink Floyd fans dug deep and bought the reissues. Unfortunately, there have been reports that a small number of copies of the reissued albums were faulty. So when The Early Years 1965–1972 was announced and the price set at £375, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

To make matters worse, on 5th November 2016, six days before the release of The Early Years 1965–1972, an announcement was made via social media that proved somewhat embarrassing for Pink Floyd. Due to an error, The Early Years 1965–1972 would included an extra disc, Live At Pompeii.

The Live At Pompeii CD had been placed inside the Volume 6: 1972: Obfusc/ation box set, instead of the 2016 mix of the Obscured By Clouds album. As a result, a copy of Obscured by Clouds was included separately in a plastic wallet. It was an embarrassing mistake, and one that critics of the pricing The Early Years 1965–1972 gleefully pointed out. 

By then, rumours were doing the rounds that The Early Years 1965–1972 wasn’t the only way to hear most of the material in the box set. These rumours proved to be true. What Pink Floyd were intending to do, was release the six of the seven volumes separately. Only the seventh volume wouldn’t be released. This meant that everyone had the opportunity to hear most of the music on The Early Years 1965–1972. It was idea that should’ve been applauded.

Many people had no interest in the DVDs, blu-rays or singles. All they wanted to hear was the music on the seven volumes. So releasing the six volumes was the next best thing. Meanwhile, many people were happy to make to with another two CD set that was released by Pink Floyd Records on the 11th November 2016, Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972.

This was the equivalent to a sampler, that featured some of the highlights of The Early Years 1967–1972 box set. A total of twenty-seven tracks had been chosen and feature on the two discs on Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972. This was an important period for Pink Floyd.

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

Their recording career began when they realised The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn on the 4th of August 1967. It reached number six in the UK and 131 on the US Billboard 200. This resulted the album being certified gold in Britain and later, in America. For Pink Floyd, this was the start of forty-seven year recording career. During this period, Pink Floyd released a total of fifteen albums, two soundtracks and three live albums. Sadly, one of Pink Floyd’s founders, Syd Barrett only played on their first two albums.

Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd swan-song was A Saucerful Of Secrets, which was released on 28th of June 1968. It reached number nine in the UK and was certified silver. Sadly, by the time the album was released, Syd Barrett had left Pink Floyd. 

His mental health had been deteriorating since mid-1967. This continued right up until the end of 1967. By then, Syd Barrett’s mental health was deteriorating. He was one of the earliest musical acid casualties. One of music’s potential greats would be reduced to playing a minor role on Pink Floyd’s sophomore albums.

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 A Saucerful Of Secrets.

That was tragic. Syd Barrett had written the majority of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. He played a reduced role on A Saucerful Of Secrets. Syd Barrett wrote just the one song, and left the band later in 1968, before the album was completed. Pink Floyd were reduced to a quartet.

By then, Pink Floyd’s lineup featured Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Rick Wright and David Gilmour. He was the most recent addition, joining in January 1968. However, Pink Floyd only played as a five piece between the 12th and 20th January 1968. That would be the lineup of Pink Floyd that featured on the other albums Pink Floyd released between 1967 and 1972.

Just a month after the release of their sophomore album, Pink Floyd contributed Interstellar Overdrive to the soundtrack of Tonite Lets All Make Love in London. The soundtrack was released on 8th July 1968. This must have stimulated Pink Floyd’s interest in soundtracks.

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More.

Pink Floyd’s next album was More, which was released on the 13th of June 1969. More was their third album and their first venture into the world of soundtracks. They had contributed just one track to Tonite Lets All Make Love in London. This time, though, Pink Floyd wrote the entire soundtrack to More. It reached number nine in the UK and 153 in the US Billboard 200. However, in France More reached number two and was certified gold. Since then, More has been oft-overlooked and is without doubt, one of Pink Floyd’s most underrated albums.

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Ummagumma.

Later that year, on 25th of October 1969, Pink Floyd returned with their first double album, Ummagumma. It was a mixture of live material and tracks recorded in the studio. This proved to be the most popular album of Pink Floyd’s career. Ummagumma reached number five in Britain and seventy-four in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in a silver disc in Britain, gold discs in France and Germany and a platinum disc in America, where Ummagumma sold over a million copies. Pink Floyd were now well on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands in the wold.

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As the seventies dawned, Pink Floyd returned to the world of soundtracks. When the soundtrack to Zabriskie Point was released in February 1970, it featured a trio of tracks from Pink Floyd, Heart Beat, Pig Meat, Crumbling Land and Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up. The latter is a rerecording of Careful with That Axe, Eugene. However, later in 1970, Pink Floyd returned with their first studio album of the seventies, Atom Heart Mother.

Atom Heart Mother,

When Atom Heart Mother was released on the 2nd of October 1970, it gave Pink Floyd their first number one in Britain. Atom Heart Mother reached fifty-five in the US Billboard 200, becoming the highest chart placing of any Pink Floyd album. Elsewhere, Atom Heart Mother was proving to be the most successful album of Pink Floyd’s three year recording career. It was certified gold in Britain, America, Austria, France and Germany. However, for Pink Floyd, things were about to get even better.

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Meddle.

Just over a year later, Pink Floyd released Meddle on the 5th November 1971. It reached number three in Britain and seventy in the US Billboard 200. Again, Meddle sold well across Europe, North America and Australasia. Meddle was citified gold in Germany, two times gold in France, platinum in Britain and double platinum in America. Pink Floyd were now one of the world’s most successful groups.

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Obscured By Clouds.

To some extent, the success continued when Pink Floyd released Obscured By Clouds on the 2nd of June 1972. It was based on the soundtrack to the French film La Vallée, which was directed by the Iranian director and producer Barbet Schroeder. He had asked Pink Floyd to provide the soundtrack to La Vallée. Pink Floyd agreed, and the result was Obscured By Clouds. Despite reaching number six in the UK and forty-six in the US Billboard 200, the album was only certified silver in Britain and gold in America. However, the period between 1967 and 1972, which is documented and celebrated on Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972.

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Disc One

Disc one of Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972 opens with two of Pink Floyd’s best known tracks from the early part of their career, Arnold Layne and See Emily Play. There’s also 2010 remixes of Matilda Mother from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and Jugband Blues from A Saucerful Of Secrets. Another of the 2010 remixes is the rocky jam In the Beechwoods. It’s never been officially released before, and is a welcome addition to disc one. However, the decision to remix these tracks will divide opinion. Some Pink Floyd fans will see this as sacrilege. Others will see it as an interesting exercise. Having said that, remixing albums which seems to fashionable is another matter.

Paintbox was originally recorded for The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. However, it never made it onto the album, and made its debut on the 1971 Relics compilation. When The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn box set was released in 2007, Paintbox was included. Its psychedelic sound is a welcome addition to Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972. 

So too is the 1968 single Point Me At The Sky and the B-Side Careful With That Axe, Eugene. There’s also the version of Embryo that featured on Harvest Records sampler Picnic. However, one track many people could’ve lived without is the US Radio ad for Ummagumma. It interrupts the flow of disc one, is a disappointing inclusion.

A welcome addition on disc one are a quartet of tracks Pink Floyd recorded for a BBC Radio Session, on 12th May 1969. Back then, the BBC had the best equipment and engineers. They ensured that the recordings made were of the highest quality. That is apparent on Grantchester Meadows, Cymbaline, Green Is the Colour and Careful With That Axe, Eugene. These tracks show how Pink Floyd had matured and evolved as a band. They were better songwriters and musicians, and were a much tighter unit. That’s apparent on the version of Interstellar Overdrive that was recorded at the Paradiso, Amsterdam, during August 1969. It closes disc one of Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972.

Disc Two.

The first five tracks were written and recorded for the soundtrack to Zabriskie Point. However, only three tracks made it onto the original soundtrack. Even when Zabriskie Point was reissued, On The Highway, Auto Scene Version, The Riot Scene, Looking At Map and Taking Off weren’t included. These versions however,aren’t the original versions. Instead, they’re the  

Zabriskie Point remixes. Some Pink Floyd fans may have preferred the original version, but the remixes give them an opportunity to hear these long lost tracks. They’re among the hidden gems in Pink Floyd’s back-catalogue.

Among the other tracks on disc two are an alternate version of Embryo, which was recorded at a BBC Radio Session on 16th July 1970. There’s also a version of Atom Heart Mother live at Montreux, on the 21st of November 1970. Nothing, Part 14 which is seven minutes long, is described as work-in-progress. It was recorded in 1970, and is an interesting addition. One can’t help wonder what it might have become if it had been completed? The other three tracks on disc two are 2016 remixes. This includes Childhood’s End, Free Four and Stay from Obscured By Clouds. These remixes allow the listener to compare and contrast to the original. Good as they are, most Pink Floyd purists will prefer the original. Having said that, these remixes are a taster of what can be found within the The Early Years 1965–1972 box set. 

Maybe the twenty-seven tracks on Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972 will persuade some Pink Floyd fans to purchase The Early Years 1965–1972 box set. However, it’s a limited edition, and there’s every chance the box set will soon sell out. Many people however, will be put off by the price point. 

They may decide not to upgrade their copy of Cre/ation:The Early Years 1967–1972. Some may decide to buy the six volumes separately. However, that will depend upon the price point. If it’s too high, many Pink Floyd will forego copies of the forthcoming six volumes. That is understandable. There is only so often that a band can go to the well. 

After a while, fans of any band, including Pink Floyd begin to feel like a cash cow, whose raison d’être is to top up the pension fund of their heroes. That’s a sad state of affairs, and a long way from when Pink Floyd were formed in what was a brave new musical world. Maybe though, Pink Floyd will have learnt from their mistakes with the pricing of The Early Years 1965–1972 box set, and the six forthcoming volumes from the box set will be priced reasonably. Ideally, the price point would be the same as most legacy box set. This would be the perfect way for Pink Floyd to thank their loyal fans who have bought fifteen albums, two soundtracks, three live albums and nine compilations. The most recent Pink Floyd compilation is Cre/ation:The Early Years 1967–1972. With its singles, B-Sides, unreleased tracks, remixes and live tracks it’s a tantalising taste of what’s in-store in for Pink Floyd fans on the The Early Years 1967–1972 box set and the six forthcoming volumes that will be released later in 2017.

PINK FLOYD-CRE/ATION: THE EARLY YEARS 1967-1972.

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ASHRA-CORRELATIONS COMPLETE BOX SET.

ASHRA-CORRELATIONS COMPLETE BOX SET. 

When Manuel Göttsching released Inventions For Electric Guitar in 1975, this was meant to be the start of a new chapter in his career. Inventions For Electric Guitar was meant to be Manuel Göttsching’s debut solo album. Some eagle eyed record buyers weren’t so sure about that.

Atop the album cover to Inventions For Electric Guitar’s album were the words Ash Ra Tempel VI in small print. This muddied the waters somewhat. Did this mean that Inventions For Electric Guitar was the sixth album by Ash Ra Tempel? Maybe Manuel Göttsching had been talked into releasing one more Ash Ra Tempel album and this was the band’s swan-song? Some record buyers weren’t convinced.

If that was the case, why put Manuel Göttsching’s name on the album cover? Maybe this was paving the way for his solo career? The debate and confusion continued.

Nowadays, though, Inventions For Electric Guitar is regarded as Manuel Göttsching’s debut album. It seemed that the addition of Ash Ra Tempel VI was part of Ohr Records’ marketing campaign. Ash Ra Tempel was already a relatively well known ‘brand name’ within German music. So if record buyers didn’t recognise Manuel Göttsching’s name, there was every chance they would recognise  Ash Ra Tempel. Inventions For Electric Guitar was indeed, a new chapter for him. 

This new chapter continued in 1976. So did the confusion. The first place that Manuel Göttsching released his sophomore solo album New Age Of Earth, was in France. Again,  the album bore the Ash Ra Tempel name. However, despite bearing the Ash Ra Tempel name, New Age Of Earth was a solo album. Manuel Göttsching had composed, played all the instruments and produced New Age Of Earth at his Studio Roma in Berlin. It seemed that the continued use of the Ash Ra Tempel name was proving problematic.

So when Manuel Göttsching signed to Virgin Records in the spring of 1977, he decided to dispense with the Ash Ra Tempel name. However, rather than release his solo albums as Manuel Göttsching, he made the decision to release them as Ashra. The first album to feature the Ashra name was New Age Of Earth. This added to the confusion.

Now there were two different versions of New Age Of Earth available. The French version bore the name Ash Ra Tempel, and the British version was credited to Ashra. However, Ashra were about to play a flying visit to Britain to promote the New Age Of Earth.

Ashra arrived in Britain in August 1977, not long after the release of New Age Of Earth. The purpose of the visit was twofold.  There was the usual round of promotion meeting and gland-handling that accompanied the release of any album. Considering New Age Of Earth was Ashra’s debut for Virgin Records in Britain, there was more promotion than usual. Part of this was the second reason for the visit to London, a concert.

This was no ordinary concert. Ashra were going to play a concert at the Open-Air Theatre in Regents Park. This would mark the debut of Ashra. For Ashra, this was a high profile concert. So Manuel Göttsching brought with him, a couple of his musical friends. 

To accompany him, Manuel Göttsching had brought along Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf. They would accompany him when he took to the stage at the Open-Air Theatre in Regents Park. This would introduce the world to Ashra, and hopefully, put an end to the confusion. After this, Ashra had to return home. Manuel Göttsching had a new album to record. 

Under the terms of his recording contract, Ashra had to begin work on his new album almost immediately. So on his return to Berlin, Manuel Göttsching began work on his next solo album. Recording began at Manuel Göttsching’s own Studio Roma in September 1977. He wrote and record a total of six tracks. They became Blackouts, his third solo album. It would be released by Virgin Records in 1978.  

Before that, Ashra were due to fly out to Japan in late 1977. Despite being a solo artist, Manuel Göttsching decided to enlist the help of a couple of his musical friends for the Japanese tour. For the forthcoming Japanese tour, Manuel Göttsching was joined  by Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf. They became the expanded lineup of Ashra.

With the newly expanded lineup of Ashra in tow, Manuel Göttsching embarked upon the Japanese tour. It proved a huge success, with the new lineup of winning friends across Japan. After the success of the Japanese tour, Manuel Göttsching returned home, and his thoughts turned to his next album.

By then, the next Ashra album had been recorded, and Blackouts would be released in 1978, Manuel Göttsching couldn’t afford to rest on his laurels. He would need to begin work on the followup early in 1978. Most people expected it to be a solo album. After all, Manuel Göttsching had embarked upon a solo album in 1975. Since then, his star was in the ascendancy. His first two album Inventions For An Electric Guitar and New Age Of Earth were received to critical acclaim and furthered Manuel Göttsching’s reputation as a pioneer and and of the leading lights of German music. So why change what was a winning formula?

Despite this,  Manuel Göttsching was beginning to think that the next Ashra album wouldn’t be a solo album. Especially given how well the trio had played during the Japanese tour. Maybe the trio should reunite for the next Ashra album. Eventually,  Manuel Göttsching decided to ask Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf to join him for the recording of his next album. That album would become Correlations, which was recently reissued as the Correlation Complete five disc box set.

Correlations.

When Manuel Göttsching decided to ask Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf to join him for the recording of the next Ashra album, the pair agreed. For Lutz Ulbrich this was just like the old days, when he and Manuel Göttsching were both members of Ash Ra Tempel. The pair had recorded and released five albums between 1971 and 1973. Correlations was the first time they had recorded together for five years.

Before the record sessions began, Manuel Göttsching began rehearsing. For the rehearsals, he took Ashra to the old Ufa film studios in Berlin. Manuel Göttsching had managed to book one of the large rooms. This the other members of Ashra thought, was the perfect place to rehearse. This was just as well, it would be their second home for three weeks.

Before the rehearsals could begin, Ashra began to setup their instruments and equipment. The other thing he brought along was his trusty old Revox A77 mono tape recorder.

With the equipment setup, Manuel Göttsching pressed play as Ashra began to jam. That was all they did for the next three weeks. These lengthy sessions were recorded and would eventuality form the basis for the album.

After the rehearsals, the framework for some of the album. in place. Eventually, eight tracks were composed. Ice Train, Morgana Da Capo and Pas De Trois were written by the three members of Ashra. Manuel Göttsching wrote Oasis, Bamboo Sands and Phantasus. The other track on the album was Springtime. These tracks were recorded at three studios.

After the rehearsals, Ashra began work on the the album. Much of the recording took place at Erd-Studios, in Berlin with Ashra taking charge of production. Ashra brought along an array of traditional and modern equipment. This included Lutz Ulbrich’s guitar, synth strings, piano and mellotron. Drummer and percussionist Harald Grosskopf also brought along his synths. Manuel Göttsching came armed with an array electric guitars and synths. He also took charge of sequencing parts of Correlations. The recording took time, but eventually, Ashra completed the album.

With the album recorded and mixed, Ashra were ready to let executives at Virgin Records hear the new album. This new album, Ashra planned to call Phantasus. 

When Ashra played Phantasus to the executives at Virgin Records, they weren’t impressed by the album. It wasn’t quite there yet they felt. There was still work to be done on the album.

For the three members of Ashra, this was a huge blow. They had spent months recording the album. However, Ashra seemed to be on the right road. They didn’t to rerecord the entire album. Some parts of the album had to be rerecorded.

Over the next weeks and months, the members of Ashra locked themselves away in the studio to salvage the album. Gradually, the album began to take shape. One track, Springtime didn’t make it onto to what became Correlations. Instead, it was replaced by Oasis, a Manuel Göttsching composition. Once the rerecording was complete, Manuel Göttsching handed the tapes over to the three engineers who had been chosen to remix the album.

Two studios and three engineers were used to remix Phantasus. Remixing took place at Audio Studio, in Berlin and at Panne-Paulsen Studio, in Frankfurt. The three engineers that were used were Udo Arndt, Eberhard Panne and Mick Glossop. He who ended up receiving a credit as co-producer. For Ashra, the decision to remix Phantasus was an expensive one, but one that paid off.

Phantasus which was renamed as Correlations, was a genre classic in waiting. When it was eventually released in 1979, critical acclaim would accompany the release of Correlations.

It was a genre-melting album where Ashra married elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, funk, jazz, Krautrock, post rock, progressive rock and rock.The result was an album where Ashra, now a fully fledged band, moved towards a much more rock oriented sound. This should’ve brought Ashra to the attention of a much wider audience.

Until then, Ashra had slipped under the musical radar, both at home and abroad. That was the case with the majority of the Krautrock and Berlin School bands and artists. While Ashra were by no means selling vast amounts of albums, they were more popular than many of their contemporaries. Ashra had also released several classic albums.

Correlations was just the latest. It marked another turning point in the chameleon like career of Manuel Göttsching. He had continually reinvented his music since the earliest days of Ash Ra Tempel. That had been the case since he Manuel Göttsching as a solo career. Now though, he was back as a member of a band, Ashra. 

Their career had gotten off to a false start when they were Virgin Records rejected the original version of Phantasus. Maybe that was for the best? Ashra returned with a stonewall classic album Correlations Complete. It was recently reissued by MIG as a five disc box set. This is the perfect way for newcomers to discover a true classic album, Correlations.

Disc one of the Complete Correlations box set features the version of Correlations that was released in 1979, and has since become part of German musical history. Despite being regarded as a classic album, it’s an album that still divides the opinion of many music lovers. Even today, there are many people who prefer the original version of Phantasus.

That’s despite Correlations being regarded as a classic. They will be able to rediscover Phantasus. Similarly, newcomers to Correlations and Phantasus will be able to make their own mind hear both albums. While Correlations features on disc one of the Complete Correlations box set, the original version of Phantasus has been included and features on disc two. 

It’s what Phantasus sounded before parts were rerecorded and the album remixed. The inclusion of Phantasus allows the listener to compare and contrast the original version of Phantasus with what later became Correlations.

What’s immediately apparent is that the track listing to Phantasus is quite different. Although Ice Train opens the album, Phantasus is followed by Bamboo Sands and Springtime, which was left off Correlations. It’s followed by Club Cannibal, Morgana Da Capo and Pas De Trois. Although great thought has gone into the sequencing of Phantasus, and the album ebbs and flows nicely, it’s not quite as good as Correlations.

Good as Phantasus sounds, tracks like Ice Train, Club Cannibal, Bamboo Sands have a much more polished and complete sound on Correlations. Some of the tracks on Phantasus sound slightly unfinished. They required the extra work that Ashra put in. This extra effort paid off.

Especially, the glacial symphonic sounding Morgana Da Capo and Pas De Trois, which is much more reminiscent of Ashra’s solo albums. While many of the songs on Correlations were longer than the original versions, Phantasus has been edited and although slightly shorter has a much more focused sound that marries Ashra’s old and new sounds. This brought to an end what was a much slicker and polished album that was a classic in waiting. The only disappointment was the omission of Springtime, which deserved to find its way onto Correlation. That would be the only way to improve on what’s a classic album.

During the recording of Correlations, Ashra recorded much more than a classic album. Some of these recording featured on the other three discs in the Correlations Complete box set. They’re all entitled The Making Of.

On disc three, The Making Of there’s three tracks recorded during the Correlations sessions. This includes Paradise Express. a forty-six minute epic jam. It’s a tantalising reminder of Ashra in full flight. The other two tracks are After The Flood and Steamer, which is another lengthy jam. This time though, it clocks in at just under sixteen minutes where Ashra enjoy the moment to stretch their legs and play with freedom and inventiveness. That is the case throughout The Making Of.

It’s as if the three musicians are enjoying being part of a group again. This shines through on disc four. The Making Of comprises just four tracks. Three are lengthy jams, where Ashra play with freedom, fluidity and invention on Promotion which lasts a total of fifteen minutes. However, that’s nothing compared to Tempus Fungi and Donna Wetter. They’re twenty-two and twenty-seven minutes long respectively. D’Accord which closes disc four lasts a mere five minutes, but oozes quality as Ashra feed off each other and encourage each other to greater feats of inventiveness. These tracks are a fascinating snapshot of the making of what was a classic album, Correlations.

So are the five track on disc five in the Correlations Complete box set. The ten minutes of A Scottish Flavour proves an amuse-bouche, as give way to a sprawling thirty-nine version of Pas De Trois. No Angel No Cry is something of a hidden gem, while the versions of Ice Train is a mere four minutes long. It sounds as if this is was the version that gave birth to the track? However, The Formula at 12.44 long, is the final track on the three discs that document and celebrate The Making Of 

Correlations. It was the latest classic album from Ashra, which had been reinvented as a trio for Correlations. This was a new chapter in the career of Manuel Göttsching, as Ashra’s music moved towards a much more rock oriented sound. Forever the musical chameleon, Manuel Göttsching continued to reinvent his music, to ensure that it stayed relevant His determination to reinvent his music paid off, and the result was another innovative, genre-melting album, Correlations.

With his new band, Ashra created a genre-melting album where they married elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, funk, jazz, Krautrock, post rock, progressive rock and rock. The resultant album, Correlations became a classic album, and introduced Ashra to a much wider audience.

Thirty-seven years after the release Correlations, MIG decided to reissue the album as a five disc box set. Correlations Complete features Correlations on disc one. Then on disc two, there’s the original version of Phantasus which was rejected by Virgin Records. Discs there to five are entitled The Making Of, and trace the birth of Correlations. There are early versions of the songs and lengthy jams which were recorded during the rehearsals and recording of Correlations. It’s the most comprehensive reissue of Correlations. However, the remastered version Correlations Complete has been reissued before.

Although Correlations Complete was advertised as a new release, it’s actually a reissue of MIG’s 2008 box set. This is something they’ve done before. That might not bother people who don’t have a copy of Correlations Complete. However, for those who own the 2008 version of Correlations Complete, there will be no point in purchasing this box set. For everyone else, the recent reissue of the Ashra Correlations Complete box set will be a welcome addition to a any collection. Especially for connoisseurs of the Berlin School and Krautrock. For them, Correlations Complete is everything you wanted to know about Correlations, but were too afraid to ask.

ASHRA-CORRELATIONS COMPLETE BOX SET. 

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FREE-REMASTERS 1969-1973.

FREE-REMASTERS 1969-1973.

It’s not often that someone get the opportunity to witness history being made. Those that happened to be in the Nag’s Head pub, in Battersea, London on 19 April 1968 saw history being made. They watched as four young men took to the stage for the first time. What some members of the audience noticed was how young the band were. 

Two of the band didn’t look old enough to buy a round in the Nag’s Head. Especially the bassist. Andy Fraser was just fifteen. His partner in the rhythm section, drummer Simon Kirke, was eighteen. Lead guitarist Paul Kossoff was just seventeen, while the vocalist  Paul Rodgers eighteen. Many of the regulars were veterans gig goers, and weren’t expecting much of the young band. They were in for a pleasant surprise as the young blues rock made their debut. However, nobody present that night what would happen over the next five years.

By November 1968, Alexis Korner had christened the nascent band Free. They would sign to Island Records in 1969, and later that year, recorded their debut album Tons Of Sobs. It would be released in 1970, and the first of six studio albums and one live album Free released between 1969 and 1973. During that period, the band broke up, the lineup changed several times and Free sold twenty-million albums. Sadly, Free split-up in 1973, and that was the end of the road for the hard rock pioneers. Their albums were recently reissued by Island Records, and document the history of Free.

Tons Of Sobs.

Having recently signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, London based blues rockers Free entered the Morgan Studios, in London with producer Guy Stevens. He had been allocated a budget of just £800 to produce what became Tons Of Sobs. This was going to be a challenge.

Free were one of the youngest bands Guy Stevens had worked with. Despite their youth, Free had spent the last few months playing live. This allowed them to hone their sound and set. That set Free would replicate at Morgan Studio.

Free’s set included a number of tracks by lead vocalist Paul Rodgers. He wrote Over the Green Hills (Pt. 1), Worry, Walk in My Shadow, Sweet Toot and Over The Green Hills. Paul Rodgers also cowrote three other tracks. This included Wild Indian Woman and I’m A Mover with Andy Fraser plus Moonshine with Paul Kossoff. The other two tracks were cover versions. They were St. Louis Jimmy Oden’s Goin’ Down Slow and The Hunter which was penned by the Stax Records’ house band by Booker T. and The MGs. This combination of cover versions and new songs would become Free’s debut album Tons Of Sobs.

With such a limited budget, Guy Stevens decided to take a minimalist approach to recording Tons Of Sobs. This he hoped, would allow him to replicate how Free sounded live. Their sets showcased the blues rock sound that was then popular in late-1968. 

When Free arrived in the studio, drummer and percussionist Simon Kirke joined bassist and pianist in the rhythm section. Meanwhile, Paul Kossoff switched between lead and rhythm guitar. Paul Rodgers took charge of the lead vocals. As Free played, they were loud, raw and far from polished. That was no surprise given Free’s youthfulness and inexperience. Given time and a bigger budget, Guy Stevens could’ve overcome this.There was a problem though. 

Island Records expected all producers to complete an album on time and within budget. It didn’t matter who the artists was, whether they were making their debut or were veterans. Guy Stevens succeeded, and Tons Of Sobs was completed in December 1968. However, given more time and money, Guy Stevens could’ve produced a much slicker, polished album. In a way, this was just as well, as Tons Of Sobs was representative of Free in the early part of their career.

Just three months after the completion of Tons Of Sobs, Island Records were preparing for the release of Free’s debut album. It was scheduled for release on 14th March 1969. The reviews had been mixed.

In Britain, Tons Of Sobs had been well received by critics. They were won over by Free’s raw and raucous blues rock sound. However, across the Atlantic, Rolling Stone magazine weren’t impressed by Tons Of Sobs. This was no surprise. The magazine seemed to dislike any British blues rock band. Free were just the latest to incur the wrath of Rolling Stone. This was disappointing, as it was an influential publication in America, and could affect sales of Tons Of Sobs.

Ironically, when Tons Of Sobs was released on 14th March 1969, the album fared better in America than Britain. Tons Of Sobs failed to chart in Britain, but crept into the US Billboard 200 at a lowly 197. For Free and Island Records, the commercial failure of Tons Of Sobs must have been a huge disappointment. Despite this, Free continued to record their eponymous sophomore album.

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Free.

Work began on Fee in January 1969, and the band spent the next six months recording their eponymous sophomore album. This time, Paul Rodgers cowrote most of Free with Andy Fraser.

Their songwriting partnership began on Tons Of Sobs and began to blossom on Free. They penned eight tracks and cowrote Trouble on Double Time with drummer Simon Kirke. These songs were recorded with a new producer.

This time around, Island Records’ owner Chris Blackwell decided to produce Free. He joined Free at Morgan Studio and Trident Studio, London. Drummer and percussionist Simon Kirke was joined in the rhythm section by bassist Andy Fraser who also played piano and rhythm guitar. Paul Kossoff playedlead and rhythm guitar, and Paul Rodgers added the lead vocals. When it came to recording Mourning, Sad Mourning, flautist Chris Wood was drafted in. Gradually, the album began to take shape. Eventually, after six months of recording in two studios, Free was complete.

Four months after the completion of Free, the album was released in October 1969. By then, the album had been well received by most critics. They noticed the Free’s music was evolving from their blues rock roots. There’s a move towards classic rock and hard rock. However, on Lying In The Sunshine and Mourning Sad Morning there’s a folk rock influence. Free’s music was changing, and changing fast. Their sophomore album was a much more polished and mature album.

Partly, this was because of the new role that Andy Fraser’s bass played on Free. It was fulfilling the role of a rhythm guitar, helping to drive the arrangements along, before the lead guitar takes over. However, another of Andy Fraser’s actions didn’t go down well with Paul Kossoff. 

He had played all the guitar parts on Tons Of Sobs. On Free, Andy Fraser played some of the rhythm guitar parts. He cowrote each of the nine songs on Free, and decided to teach Paul Kossoff the rhythm guitar parts that he had written for him. This didn’t go down well, and the relationship between the two men. Before they released their sophomore album, all wasn’t well within Free.

When Free was released in October 1969, the album reached twenty-two in the UK. Across the Atlantic, Free failed to trouble the charts. While this was a disappointment, at least Free had made inroads into the British charts. Maybe things would improve when they released their third album Fire and Water?

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Fire and Water.

Having released Free in October 1969, Free spent much of the remainder of the year touring. They were spending more and more of their time on the road. Indeed, when Free weren’t in the studio, they were on the road. However, by January 1970 the time came for Free to record their third album Fire and Water.

Just like on Free, the Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser songwriting partnership cowrote the majority of the album. They five of the seven tracks, including Fire and Water, Remember, Heavy Load, Don’t Say You Love Me and All Right Now. Mr. Big became the first Free song to be written by the four band members. Oh How I Wept was penned by Paul Rodgers and Pau Kossoff. It became part of Free’s third album, Fire and Water.

For Fire and Water, the changes had been rung. There was no sign of producer Chris Blackwell. Instead, Free co-produced Fire and Water with John Kelly and Roy Thomas Baker. This time around, Free went back to basics. Andy Fraser let Paul Kossoff lay down the rhythm guitar parts. It was back to how it had been on Tons Of Sobs.

Recording took place at Trident Studios and Island Studios. Drummer and percussionist Simon Kirke joined bassist and pianist Andy Fraser in the rhythm section. Meanwhile, Paul Kossoff switched between lead and rhythm guitar. Paul Rodgers took charge of the lead vocals on  Fire and Water. Recording of the album took six months, and  Fire and Water was completed in June 1970. 

Fire and Water was released on 26th June 1970. Critical acclaim accompanied an album that was a mixture of blues rock, classic rock and hard rock. This was Free’s most cohesive album. That was the case from the opening bars of Fire and Water to the closing notes of All Right Now. A number of tracks on Fire and Water stood out. This included the rocky album opener Fire And Water and the ballads Oh I Wept, Heavy Load and Don’t Say You Love Me. However, the song that had hit written large all over it, was the album closer All Right Now. That proved to be the case.

When Fire and Water was released on 26th June 1970, the album reached number two in the UK and seventeen on the US Billboard 200. When All Right Now was released as a single, it reached number two in the UK and four on the US Billboard 100. The promoters of one of the major British music festivals were taking note.

After the success of All Right Now, Free were asked to appear at five day Isle of Wight Festival between Wednesday the 26th of August to Sunday the 30th of August 1970. Given their recent success, Free played on the Sunday. 

Free opened their set with Ride On A Pony. It gave way to Mr. Big, Woman, The Stealer and Be My Friend. As 600,000 people watched on expectantly, Free played Fire and Water and then  I’m A Mover, a cover of The Hunter and their recent hit single All Right Now. However, closing their set at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was a cover of Robert Johnson’s Crossroads. It allowed Free to pay tribute to one of the artists who had inspired them to form a band. This band Free, was on its way to becoming one of the biggest in the world.

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Highway.

After the Isle of Wight Festival, Free began work on their fourth album Highway. Again, Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser wrote seven of the nine songs on Highway. They penned The Highway Song, On My Way, Be My Friend, Sunny Day, Ride On A Pony, Brodie and Soon I Will Be Gone. Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser also cowrote The Stealer with Paul Kossoff, while Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke wrote Love You So. These songs were recorded at Island Studios, in London.

When work began on Highway, there someone missing, a producer. For the first time, Free were producing an album. They had co-produced Fire and Water. This was the next natural step. However, there was a problem. 

All of sudden the spotlight was shawn on Free. They were finding it hard to cope with the newfound success. Especially guitarist Paul Kossoff, whose drug addiction was worsening. He had taken the death of Jimi Hendrix badly. Paul Kossoff idolised Jimi Hendrix, and his death just added to the pressure he was feeling. He wasn’t alone.

Although they were financially secure, the members of Free felt under pressure to produce another hit single that followed in the footsteps of All Right Now. Similarly, it wasn’t going to be easy to replicate the success of Fire and Water. However, Free were determined to try and do so.

Free stuck to the same formula as on Fire and Water. Highway was a mixture of blues rock, classic rock and the hard rock style that Free had been pioneering. To do this, drummer and percussionist Simon Kirke joined bassist and pianist Andy Fraser in the rhythm section. Paul Kossoff played lead and rhythm guitar, while Paul Rodgers took charge of the lead vocals on Highway. The album was recorded during September 1970 at Island Studios. 

Three months later, later and Highway released by December 1970. The reviews of the album had been disappointing. To make matter worse, Island Records’ owner Chris Blackwell wasn’t convinced by Free’s choice for the lead single, The Stealer. He preferred Ride On A Pony and felt it had more chance of giving Free another hit single. However, Chris Blackwell allowed Free to have the last word, and The Stealer would be released as a single.

When The Stealer was released as a single, it failed to chart in the UK, but reached number forty-nine in the UK. For the followup, Ride A Pony was chosen. However, it failed to chart on both sides of the Atlantic. This was a huge disappointment. 

So was the performance of Highway, when it was released in December 1970. It stalled at forty-one in the UK and 190 in the US Billboard 200. Free weren’t so much disappointed, as shocked at how badly Highway had been received by critics and record buyers. Everyone had a theory on the failure of Highway. 

Engineer Andy Johns placed the blame on Highway’s album cover.  It didn’t display Free’s name prominently enough he believed. That’s not so far fetched. Nowhere on Highway’s album cover is the word Free. This may have cost Free dearly.

Soon, the post mortem into the failure of Highway began. By then, the relationship between Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser reached an all-time low. Paul Kossoff’s drug addiction continued to spiral out of control. It was alleged that he had become addicted to Mandrax. Meanwhile, drummer Simon Kirke tried to keep Free from tearing itself apart. This wasn’t easy.

In early 1971, Free returned to the studio, and recorded four more songs. This included My Brother Jake. However, the relationships and problems within the band had worsened. After recording four songs, Free decided to split-up. 

Before that, Free had to fulfil the live dates that had been booked. If they hadn’t, the various promoters would’ve sued Free. So they decided to play the remaining live dates, before calling time on Free in April 1971. 

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Free Live!

By the time Free split-up, My Brother Jake had reached number four in the UK. Record buyers it seemed, hadn’t lost interest in Free. Far from it. Instead, there was a resurgence in interest in Free. Partly, this was because of the success of My Brother Jake and the publicity caused by Free splitting-up. Island Records decided to rush release a live album, Free Live!

Island Records had obviously been planning on releasing a live album. They had sent a mobile recording studio and engineer Andy Johns to two of the towns where Free were especially popular, Sunderland and Croydon. The recordings took place in Sunderland in January 1970 and in Croydon in September 1970. 

Eventually, only two tracks from the concert in Sunderland were used, All Right Now and The Hunter. The other four songs, I’m A Mover, Be My Friend, Fire and Water, Ride On Pony and Mr. Big were recorded in Croydon. Tagged on at the end of Free Live! was an acoustic rendition of Get Where I Belong. This was a Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser song that had been recorded during the recording sessions before Free split-up. It was added as a bonus track to Free Live!, on its release.

Five months after Free had split-up, Free Live! was scheduled to be released in September 1971. Before that, critics had their say on the album. It was well received by critics, who were won over by what was an unusual setlist.Apart from All Right Now, the rest of the songs were album tracks. Free had eschewed the familiar, and dug deeper into their back-catalogue. Free Live! featured spirited performances by a tight, talented and versatile band. They seemed to put their problems aside when they stepped onto the stage. That had been, and would be the case throughout Free’s career. Free seemed happiest as they constantly toured and played live in front of huge, adoring audiences. 

When Free Live! wash released in September 1971, it reached number four in the UK. Despite splitting up five months earlier, Free were still a hugely popular band. Across the Atlantic, Free Live! reached just eighty-nine in the US Billboard 200. That seemed like a disappointing way for Free to end their career. 

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Free At Last.

Although Free had split-up in April 1971, the band decided to reform in early 1972. Unlike many bands, monetary gain wasn’t the reason behind the reunion. 

Instead, Andy Fraser, Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke were determined to save their comrade in arms Paul Kossoff from himself. His drug usage was worsening, and spiralling out of control. Mandrax was Paul Kossoff’s drug of choice, and his addiction had worsened since the demise of Free. When the other three members of Free realised that, they decided to reunite in a last gasp attempt to save Paul Kossoff from himself.

Before work began on Free At Last, the members of Free decided that when it came to songwriting credits, every member of the band would be credited. For Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser, Free’s principal songwriters, this was a generous and potentially, costly gesture. This however, was part of their attempt to help Paul Kossoff turn his life around. 

His drug addiction was proving costly, and he was burning through the money he had made. Paul Kossoff didn’t write many songs, so didn’t have the same income from royalties as Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser. If the album they were about to record proved successful, this could be lucrative for Paul Kossoff and afford him some financial security.

Recording of Free At Last took place at Island Studios, in London in February 1972. Again, Free decided to produce Free At Last. This was a big risk, as the first album Free produced had been their least successful. However, they were older and more experienced. They had learned from their mistakes as they began work on the nine songs Free had penned.

At Island Studios, drummer and percussionist Simon Kirke joined bassist and pianist in the rhythm section. Meanwhile, Paul Kossoff switched between lead and rhythm guitar. Paul Rodgers took charge of the lead vocals and played piano. The recording sessions went well. Paul Rodgers, Andy Fraser and Simon Kirke were determined that the sessions would run smoothly for the sake of their friend, Paul Kossoff. That proved to be the case, and Free At Last was completed by March 1972.

Once Free At Last was completed, the album was delivered to Chris Blackwell at Island Records. He scheduled the release of Free At Last for June 1972. Before that, critics were sent a copy of Free’s comeback album, Free At Last.

The critics discovered a very different album to Free’s previous albums. The songs were slower, but gradually quickly. Mostly, the songs had a wistful quality. They also had an introspective quality that invited reflection. Given the wistful sound and the lyrics, many critics immediately concluded that that they were about troubled Free guitarist Paul Kossoff? His problems were worsening as the release date approached.

Island Records wanted Free to tour Free At Last. However, Paul Kossoff’s drug addiction continued to worsen. He was struggling to cope and function as a musician. This didn’t auger well for Free At Last tour.

Before that, Free At Last was released in June 1972, and reached number nine in the UK. In America, Free At Last reached sixty-nine. This was Free’s most successful album since Fire and Water. The success continued when Little Bit Of Love was released as a single, and reached number thirteen in the UK. However, the success of Free At Last was overshadowed by the Free At Last tour.

During the Free At Last tour, Paul Kossoff started to miss concerts. Other times, he turned up and was unable to play his guitar. He was struggling to function as a person, never mind a musician. Members of the audience were distraught at the sight of Paul Kossoff. Some openly wept, distressed at what they saw unfolding in front of their eyes. The person who was affected most was Andy Fraser. 

He couldn’t bear to watch the events continue to unfold before his eyes. His friend was slowly destroying himself. Andy Fraser decided to leave Free permanently. He was only twenty. 

Following in the footsteps of Andy Fraser was Paul Kossiff. The press and public were told he was seeking treatment for his drug addition, and would return to the Free fold.

Meanwhile, the departure of Andy Fraser left a huge void within Free. The search began for a replacement. This was found in the band that Paul Kissoff and Simon Kirke had cofounded after Free split-up in April 1971, Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit.

Bassist Tetsu Yamauchi joined Free. So did keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick. They made their Free debut during the Free At Last tour. After the tour, the pair would join an extended lineup of Free.

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Heartbreaker.

Following the Free At Last tour, the newly expanded lineup of Free began work on their sixth studio album. It was a very different band that headed to Island Studios, in London.

Free had brought bassist Tetsu Yamauchi in to replace Andy Fraser. He was now a full-time member of Free. So was keyboardist John “Rabbit” Burdock. Many fans were puzzled by the decision to bring him onboard. 

John “Rabbit” Burdock had been brought to compensate for, and augment Paul Rodgers. He had played keyboards on Free At Last. Since then, he was becoming unreliable. Fearing a repeat of the situation with Paul Kossoff, a replacement was brought onboard for the recording of Heartbreaker. This wasn’t the only change.

Although it was alleged that Paul Rodgers was becoming unreliable, he still played a huge part in the writing of Heartbreaker. In total, Paul Rodgers wrote four of the eight tracks and cowrote two more songs. It seemed that Paul Rodgers was Free’s songwriter-in-chief. Come Together In The Morning, Heartbreaker, Easy On My Soul and Seven Angels were all penned by Paul Rodgers. He wrote Wishing Well and Travellin’ in Style with Paul Kossoff, Simon Kirke, Tetsu Yamauchi and John “Rabbit” Burdock. The new keyboardist contributed Muddy Waters and Common Mortal Man. These two songs, like the rest of Heartbreaker were recorded in the familiar surroundings of Island Studios.

The sessions for Heartbreaker began in October 1972. Just like their two previous albums, Free produced Heartbreaker with Andy Johns. Free whose lineup now numbered five, were joined by a few friends.

As the session began, drummer and percussionist Simon Kirke played rhythm guitar on Muddy Water. He was joined in the rhythm section by bassist Tetsu Yamauchi and Snuffy Walden, who made a guest appearance on three tracks. Meanwhile, vocalist Paul Rodgers played rhythm guitar on four tracks, played lead guitar on two tracks and played piano on Easy On My Soul. Paul Kossoff played lead guitar on just four tracks. The other guest artist was percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah. He made a brief appearance on Wishing Well. That was his only contribution to Heartbreaker, which took two months to record. By November 1972, Heartbreaker was complete. 

There was a problem though. Chris Blackwell didn’t like Free’s mix of Heartbreaker. So much so, that he drafted in Andy Johns to remix Heartbreaker. This resulted in him receiving a credit as co-producer. Now somewhat belatedly, Heartbreaker was ready for release.

With Heartbreaker complete, Island Records scheduled the release for January 1972. This left little time to promote Heartbreaker. Copies were sent out to critics, who hailed Free’s sixth studio album, Heartbreaker as one of their finest. The newly expanded lineup was responsible for what was Free’s finest album since Fire and Water. One track stood out, Wishing Well and was released as a single.

Wishing Well was released as the lead single from Heartbreaker, and reached number seven in the UK. Then in January 1973, Heartbreaker was released to widespread critical acclaim. It reached number nine in the UK, and became Free’s third top ten album in their home country. Across the Atlantic, in the lucrative American market, Heartbreaker reached forty-seven in the US Billboard 200. This was an improvement on Free At Last, and became Free’s most successful album since Fire and Water. However, all this meant nothing to one member of Free.

Two words on the album cover of Heartbreaker resulted in Paul Kossoff reaching his lowest ebb. He was listed as an additional musician. After six studio albums and one live albums, one of the founding members of Free was reduced to the status of sideman. Paul Kossoff was distraught. This was the ultimate betrayal. The question that has to be asked, is who was responsible for this betrayal?

Someone within Free’s camp must have known that Paul Kossoff was going to be listed as an additional musician. The band’s management would’ve been aware of who was being credited for what on Heartbreaker? Indeed, bands are usually asked about credits. Whoever was responsible for this ultimate betrayal sent Paul Kossoff’s life on a downward spiral.

Paul Kossoff was so badly affected that he was unable to travel to America for the forthcoming tour. Free found a replacement in Wendell Richardson from Osibisa. He was nowhere as good a guitarist as Paul Kossoff. Paul Rodgers wasn’t sure Free had recruited the right guitarist.

They hadn’t. Wendell Richardson was the wrong choice. He wasn’t suited to the role. Osibisa were an Afro-pop band. Free were a rock band, whose music ranged from blues rock, to classic rock and heavy rock. Free’s newest recruit was in the wrong movie. Once the American tour was over, Free called time on their career.

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This time, it was for good. They had released six studios albums and one live album during the five years they were together. During that period, there had been highs and lows. There had also been bust ups and betrayals, and triumph and tragedy. Free had split-up once before, and the lineup had changed. However, the one constant had been the music.

Free’s music evolved throughout the five years they were together. They began as a blues rock band, before the music began to evolve. Briefly, Free’s music moved towards folk rock. Mostly, though, their albums showcased classic rock, folk rock or hard rock. However, Free never quite turned their back on their early blues rock sound. Sometimes, Free eschewed their hard rocking sound for heartfelt balladry. This showed another side to one of the pioneers of hard rock, Free. Their music found a wide and appreciative audience.

Over the five years Free were together, they hardly stopped touring. That was apart to record six studio albums. Free seemed happiest as they toured the world, playing live. They played 700 arena concerts and festivals. The classic lineup of Free, drummer Simon Kirkem bassist, guitarist Paul Kossoff and vocalist Paul Rodgers were one of the hardest working bands. They’re also one of the most successful.

By the time Free called time on their career, they sold twenty million copes of Tons Of Sobs, Free, Fire and Water, Highway, Free Live!, Free At Last and Heartbreaker. These albums were recently remastered and rereleased by Island Records. They’re one of the greatest British rock groups of the late-sixties and early seventies. 

Sadly, though, sometimes, Free are overlooked in favour of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath or Deep Purple. However, they enjoyed much longer careers than Free. They seem to have slipped under the radar, and nowadays, most people remember only two of their biggest hits,  All Right Now and Wishing Well. That however, is just a tantalising taste of the music Free released between 1969 and 1973. 

During that four year period, Free achieved more than most. After all, how many bands sell twenty-million albums during a four year period? Free managed to do so during  a period where the competition was fierce. They were up against some of the biggest names in rock. Despite this, Free become one of the biggest and most successful British rock bands, and left behind a rich musical legacy that has stood the test of time.  

FREE-REMASTERS 1969-1973.

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CREAM-CLASSIC ALBUM SELECTION.

CREAM-CLASSIC ALBUM SELECTION.

Nowadays, Cream are regarded as the first British supergroup. Cream were formed in July 1966 and were together for just over two years. During that period, Cream released a quartet of albums, Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, Wheels Of Fire and Goodbye. These albums sold over fifteen million copies worldwide, and influenced everyone from Jimi Hendrix and The Jeff Beck Band to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Even today, many musicians cite Cream as an influence. So it’s fitting that fifty years after they were formed that Commercial Marketing released the Classic Album box set. It documents Cream’s short, but illustrious successful career.

The Cream story began in July 1966. Eric Clapton who was regarded as the greatest British blues guitarist of his generation, was looking beyond life with John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. That was the group Eric Clapton had joined after his departure from The Yarbirds

By July 1966, Eric Clapton was in his second spell with John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. He originally joined in April 1965 and was a Bluesbreaker until August 1965. Three months later, Eric Clapton returned to the fold in November 1965. For the next eight months, Eric Clapton was a Bluesbreaker. During this period, John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers recorded their classic album Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton in April 1966.

Three months later, and Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton was released by Decca on the 22nd July 1966. Critical acclaim accompanied what’s regarded as a British blues classic. It reached number six in the UK charts. This should’ve been a reason to celebrate. However, Eric Clapton was neither happy nor feeling fulfilled musically.

Instead, he felt constrained musically. Eric Clapton was unable to stretch his legs within John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. There was certainly no room for invention. This was frustrating for Eric Clapton. So much so, that he was even considering forming his own band. However, Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton had just been released and looked like being the band’s most successful album. For Eric Clapton, his nascent career was at a crossroads. 

To take his mind off his problems, Eric Clapton decided to go and see blues guitarist Buddy Guy in concert. That night, Buddy Guy took to the stage with a trio. When Eric Clapton saw the trio live, he was so impressed that he decided to form a new band. They would also be a trio, Cream.

Having made the decision to leave John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton began looking for musicians to join his band. He knew drummer Ginger Baker, who was a member The Graham Bond Organisation. Ginger Baker was tiring of Graham Bond’s drug addiction and bouts of instability. So much so, that he was considering his future. 

When Eric Clapton approached Ginger Baker about joining his trio, the answer was yes. However, there was a catch. Eric Clapton had to agree to hire The Graham Bond Organisation’s bassist Jack Bruce. 

Eric Clapton already knew Jack Bruce and played alongside him on two occasions. The first came in November 1965 when Jack Bruce sat in with John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers during November 1965. More recently, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce were part of Steve Winwood’s band Powerhouse, which also featured Paul Jones. During the two sessions, Eric Clapton had been impressed by Jack Bruce proficiency and prowess as a bassist. Jack Bruce who had previously enjoyed working with Eric Clapton, agreed to join the band. However, he was surprised that Ginger Baker had recommended him to Eric Clapton.

During their time with The Graham Bond Organisation, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce had a volatile relationship. The two members of the rhythm section were known to argue onstage. Sometimes, things got so bad that they traded blows. However, that was the past. Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce agreed to put their differences aside. A musical truce was declared. Suddenly, there was peace in our time. All for the good of the new group.

With the lineup complete, the nascent band set about establishing the ground rules. They envisaged that songs would be collaborations, with each member playing a part in writing the lyrics and music. Next on the agenda was a name for the group. It didn’t take long for them to come up with the name Cream. The music press had been describing the new band as the: “cream of the crop” of British musicians. Cream was essentially the first British supergroup. They were about to make what was their unofficial debut.

This took place on the 29th of July 1966, at the Twisted Wheel nightclub in Manchester. That night, it was hosting the Sixth Annual Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival. Cream were special guests, and in absence of new material, ran through a set of blues covers. Little did those in the audience realise that they had just witnessed history being made.

Just three months later, in October 1966, Cream took to the stage with another legend of sixties music, Jimi Hendrix. He was a fan of Eric Clapton’s was keen to jam with his new band on his arrival of London. Little did anyone realise that by the end of the sixties, both Cream and Jimi Hendrix would’ve become two of the biggest names of the late-sixties music scene.

Later in 1966, Cream were still experimenting musically. They had yet to decide who would be the group’s lead vocalist. Eric Clapton’s shyness meant he was reluctant to take charge of the lead vocals. Instead, Jack Bruce became Cream’s lead vocalist. However, during Cream’s lifetime, Eric Clapton would add harmonies and the lead vocal on a number of tracks.This included a track on Cream’s debut album Fresh Cream.

Fresh Cream.

Almost straight away, work began on Cream’s debut album, which later became  Fresh Cream. It featured ten songs. They were a mixture of new songs and cover versions.

The new songs included Jack Bruce’s N.S.U. and Dreaming. He cowrote Sleepy Time Time with his first wife and songwriting partner Janet Godfrey. She cowrote Sweet Wine with Ginger Baker, who wrote the instrumental Toad. Other songs included a cover of song Cat’s Squirrel, which was arranged by Cream and a quartet of blues classics. 

This included Willie Dixon’s Spoonful. Cream decided to cover Robert Johnson’s From Four Until Late which Eric Clapton arranged. It was joined by Rollin’ and Tumblin’ which Muddy Waters penned using his real name, McKinley Morganfield. The final blues classic was Skip James’ I’m So Glad. These songs were recorded over a three month period.

Recording of Fresh Cream took place between July and October 1966 at two separate studios in London. Some sessions took at Rayrik Studios, while others took place at Ryemuse Studios. Drummer Ginger Baker joined bassist Jack Bruce in the rhythm section. He also played harmonica, piano and took charge of seven of the eight lead vocals. Guitarist Eric Clapton added the lead vocal on Four Until Late. Meanwhile, Robert Stigwood produced what would later became Fresh Cream. It was completed by October 1966.

The release of Fresh Cream was scheduled for the 9th of December 1966. Before that, Cream released their debut single Wrapping Paper in October 1966 . It  was penned by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, but didn’t feature on Fresh Cream. Wrapping Paper showcased a psychedelic pop sound that Cream returned to. This proved popular and reached thirty-four in the UK charts. Things were looking good for Cream.

Nearer the release of Fresh Cream, critics had their say on the nascent supergroup’s debut album. Nearly every critic lavished praise and plaudits on Fresh Cream. They were won over by an album that ranged from blues rock to psychedelia and a much more hard rocking sound. Cream’s debut was an eclectic and accomplished album. Especially the psychedelic sound of N.S.U, the bluesy Sleepy Time and the Jack Bruce penned ballad Dreaming. Four Until Late shakes off his shyness and makes his debut on lead vocal on the cover Robert Johnson’s Four Till Late. However, one of Cream’s finest moments on Fresh Cream was their reinvention of I’m So Glad. It’s transformed into something that Skip James could never have envisaged. Given the critical reaction to Fresh Cream, it seemed that the future looked bright for Cream.

They prepared to release Fresh Cream on the 9th of December 1966 on Robert Stigwood’s new independent record label, Reaction Records. The same day, Cream released their sophomore single, I Feel Free. Just like their debut single, it didn’t feature on Fresh Cream. Despite that, I Feel Free reached number eleven in the UK and fifty-three in Australia. Meanwhile, Fresh Cream reached number six in the UK, ten in Australia and twenty in France. This resulted in Fresh Cream being certified gold in Britain and France. The success continued when Fresh Cream was released in America.

The American version of Fresh Cream was released by Atco. It featured a slightly different track listing. I Feel Free opened the album, with the British version of Fresh Cream following. This proved popular among American record buyers. Fresh Cream eventually reached thirty-nine in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. For Cream, this meant that their debut album Fresh Cream had been certified gold in three different continents. Critics wondered how they could they followup such a successful album? Cream returned with a classic album, Disraeli Gears.

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Disraeli Gears. 

Following the success of Fresh Cream, Cream headed out on tour. In March they landed in America, to play their first American tour. They were part of a package tour, and were booked to play nine dates at the Brooklyn Fox Theater in New York. 

Each day, Cream played three times. However, the early concerts weren’t well received. DJ turned promoter Murray the K wasn’t impressed. He placed Cream at the bottom of the bill. Towards the end of the run, they were reduced to playing just one song during each set. The New York part of their American tour had been a disaster. They wouldn’t forget Murray the K in a hurry. 

Having returned home from their American tour, Cream’s thoughts turned to their sophomore album. They had been writing what later became Disraeli Gears for some time. 

When Cream was formed, the plan had been for the band to collaborate on songs. Alas, none of the eleven tracks on Disraeli Gears were written by the three members of Cream. They arranged the traditional song, Mother’s Lament. Sometimes, the members of Cream wrote alone. Jack Bruce wrote We’re Going Wrong and Ginger Baker penned We’re Going Wrong. Mostly, the members of Cream wrote alone or formed songwriting partnerships with other musicians and songwriters.

Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton cowrote Sunshine Of Your Love with Pete Brown. It would become one of their known songs. So would Strange Brew, which Eric Clapton wrote with Felix Pappalardi Gail Collins penned. Meanwhile,Jack Bruce wrote Dance the Night Away, SWLABR and Take It Back with Pete Brown. Eric Clapton wrote just the one song. This was Tales of Brave Ulysses with Martin Sharp. However, Eric Clapton arranged Arthur Reynolds’ Outside Woman Blues. It was one of just three covers on Disraeli Gears. Another was World Of Pain, which the Felix Pappalardi and Gail Collins songwriting partnership wrote. Just like the rest of Disraeli Gears, it was recorded in New York, during May 1967.

The prestigious surroundings of Atlantic Studios, New York were where Cream began work on Disraeli Gears. This time around, Felix Pappalardi had replaced ‘musical impresario’ Robert Stigwood. Twenty-seven year old was a classically trained musician who having turned his back on classical music, became a successful singer, songwriter, bassist and producer. One of his biggest projects was producing Disraeli Gears. It was a much more complex album than Fresh Cream.

Ginger Baker played drums and percussionist and joined his cohort, bassist Jack Bruce in the rhythm section. Jack Bruce also played harmonica, piano and took charge of seven of the eight lead vocals. Eric Clapton switched between lead guitar, rhythm guitar and twelve-string guitar. He also added the lead vocal on Strange Brew, World of Pain and Outside Woman Blues. It seemed that Eric Clapton was well on his way to overcoming his shyness, as Cream changed direction musically.

Critics realised this when they received their promotional copies of Disraeli Gears. It took its name from a malapropism which alluded to the former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Eric Clapton had been taking about buying a racing bike during a car journey. Mick Turner who was driving the car responded that it should have: “Disraeli Gears” when he meant derailleur gears. That malapropism gave birth to tittle of the album critics were holding. When they listened to Disraeli Gears, they soon realised that Cream were moving away from the blues’ roots. 

That was apart from on the cover of Blind Boy Reynolds’ Outside Woman Blues and Take it Back. It had been inspired by American students burning their draft cards. These were the only bluesy tracks on Disraeli Gears. Mostly, Cream moved towards psychedelia on Disraeli Gears. Tracks like Strange Brew, Sunshine Of Your Love, Dance The Night Away, Tales Of Brave Ulysses and We’re Going Wrong found Cream embracing psychedelia on an album that stood head and shoulders above the competition. Critic acclaim accompanied the release of Disraeli Gears.

On 2nd November 1967, Cream released their sophomore album Disraeli Gears. In Britain, Disraeli Gears reached number six and was certified platinum. Meanwhile, Disraeli Gears reached number two in France and twenty in Norway. Halfway round the world, Disraeli Gears reached number one in Australia and was certified platinum. However, Disraeli Gears was a huge success across North America. It reached number ten in Canada and number four in America. By then, Disraeli Gears had sold over a million copies. This resulted in Cream receiving their first platinum disc in America. However, that wasn’t the end of the success for Cream.

They released Sunshine Of Your Love as a single in January 1968. It reached seventeen in the UK, eighteen in Australia, three in Canada and five in the US Billboard 100. This resulted in Sunshine Of Your Love  being certified gold in Britain, Australia and America. After just two albums, Cream were one of the biggest bands in the world. They were keen to build on this success, and began work on their third album, Wheels Of Fire.

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Wheels Of Fire.

For their third album Wheels Of Fire, Cream decided to release a double album. This was no ordinary album. The first album was recorded in the studio, while the second disc was entitled Live At The Fillmore. Wheels Of Fire was an ambitious project for one of the most successful bands in the world.

Some of the tracks that became part of disc one of Wheels Of Fire had already been recorded. Others were still to be recorded. A total of nine tracks were chosen.

This included White Room, As You Said, Politician and Deserted Cities of the Heart which were penned by the Jack Bruce and Pete Brown songwriting partnership. Ginger Baker formed a songwriting partnership with Mike Taylor, and cowrote Passing The Time, Pressed Rat and Warthog and Those Were The Days. They were joined by two cover versions, Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon’s Sitting on Top of the World and Booker T. Jones and William Bell’s Born Under A Bad Sign. These nine songs were recorded between July 1967 and June 1968.

The Wheels Of Fire sessions took place at a variety of studios. This included the IBC Studios during July and August 1967. From there, Cream headed Atlantic Studios, New York. They  spent January and February of 1968 recording at the famous studios. Later in 1968, Cream returned to Atlantic Studios, New York during June 1968. During the various sessions, Cream used a myriad of instruments.

Each member of Cream had expanded their musical arsenal. Ginger Baker played drums and percussionist. He also added bells, glockenspiel, timpani and add the spoken word part on Pressed Rat and Warthog. Bassist Jack Bruce played acoustic guitar, calliope, cello, harmonic and recorder. Jack Bruce took charge of the lead vocals. Meanwhile, Eric Clapton laid down the guitar parts. Augmenting Cream, was Felix Pappalard, who played organ pedals, Swiss hand bells, tonette, trumpet and the viola. This left just Live At The Fillmore to be recorded.

Despite being entitled Live At The Fillmore, only Toad was recorded at the Filmore in San Francisco on 7th March 1968. However, Toad is transformed and becomes a sixteen minute epic where Cream stretch their legs and improvise. At last, Eric Clapton had the freedom he missed so much during his last spell with John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. After the show at the Filmore, Cream headed to another venue in San Francisco, Winterland. 

Just like at the Filmore, Cream were due to play two shows each night. On first show of 8th of March 1968, Cream’s set included Traintime a Jack Bruce composition. It made it onto  Live At The Fillmore. Two nights later, Cream played two more shows at Winterland. During the first show, Cream covered Robert Johnson’s Crossroad and Willie Dixon’s Spoonful. Eric Clapton’s takes charge of the vocal on Crossroads. Later in the set, Cream cover and transform Willie Dixon’s Spoonful. Cream enjoy the opportunity to improvise and take the song in new directions over a sixteen minute period. This was a tantalising taste of Cream live.

Critics agreed when they received their copies of Wheels Of Fire. They were won over by what was an ambitious double album of studio and live recordings. Cream seemed to be maturing as a band. Especially live, where they enjoyed deconstructing and reconstructing songs. That was the case with Spoonful and Toad, which featured Cream at their best live. Critical acclaim preceded the release of Wheels Of Fire

Wheels Of Fire was released during July 1968, and quickly became Cream’s most successful album. It reached number three in the UK, two in France, fifteen in Germany and sixteen in Norway. In Australia, Canada and America, Wheels Of Fire reached number one. This resulted in Wheels Of Fire being certified platinum in Australia, America and British. For Cream this should’ve been a reason to celebrate.

Sadly, all wasn’t well within Cream. It hadn’t been for some time. Musically, the three members of Cream were no longer on the same page. Eric Clapton was now interested in the music that Bob Dylan was producing. He also cast envious glances at Bob Dylan’s former backing band, The Band. He was interested in their music, and the way that it was heading. Meanwhile, the truce Eric Clapton had been brokered between Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker was over. Their arguing was putting pressure on the very future of Cream. It was almost inevitable that the three members of Cream would decide to call it a day. 

What had hastened the demise of Cream was when Eric Clapton read a review of Cream in the contrarian publication, Rolling Stone. The reviewer in what was nothing more than a hatchet job of review, resorted to name calling. Cream the reviewer said were a: “master of the blues cliché.” When Eric Clapton read the review, he decided that it was the end of road for Cream.

They embarked upon a Farewell Tour that began in Oakland on 4th October 1968. The tour ended fifteen days later at the Forum,  Los Angeles, on the 19th of October 1969. That show was recorded, and became part of of Cream’s final album, Goodbye Cream.

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Goodbye.

For their fourth and final album, the three members of Cream returned to London to record three tracks at IBC Studios in London. This included Badge, which Eric Clapton wrote with Beatle George Harrison. Doing That Scrapyard Thing was penned by the Jack Bruce and Pete Brown songwriting partnership. It had been a source of successful song’s during Cream’s lifetime. Ginger Baker contributed What a Bringdown. This meant that each of the members of of Cream wrote new song on their swan-song. 

Joining Cream at IBC Studios, was producer Felix Pappalardi. When recording Badge, Doing That Scrapyard Thing and What a Bringdown at IBC Studios, keyboards were used extensively.  This was a first. Cream were innovating to the end. Cream also used a Leslie speaker on Badge and Doing That Scrapyard Thing. This added to the psychedelic sound of both tracks. The three tracks that were recorded at IBC Studios became half of Goodbye.

The rest of Cream consisted of a trio of live tracks. They had been recorded at the Forum, in Los Angeles, on the 19th of October 1969. Skip James’ I’m So Glad, Jack Bruce and Pete Brown’s Politician and Walter Vinson and and Lonnie Chatmon’s Sitting on Top of the World featured Cream at their very best.

So much so, that when critics heard Goodbye, they hailed the live tracks as better as those on Wheels Of Fire. This was a glimpse of what Cream were capable of producing live. Similarly, the three songs recorded at IBC Studios were regarded as groundbreaking, and saw Cream reinventing their music. Badge critics said, was the standout track, and without doubt one Cream’s finest hours. It looked as if Cream were about to bow out at the top.

By the time Goodbye was released in March 1969, Cream had been dissolved. They played a farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall, in London. Despite this, Goodbye reached number one in the UK, three in France, nine in Germany and seven in Norway. In Australia, Goodbye reached number six. Meanwhile, Goodbye reached number five in Canada and number two in America. This resulted in Goodbye being certified platinum in the UK and gold in America and Australia. Cream bowed out at the top, with their fourth albums in just under three years. 

Each of these albums were released to critical acclaim and went on to sell in vast quantities. Cream’s four albums were certified gold and platinum on three continents. Britain’s first supergroup became one of the country’s most successful bands.  Cream sold over fifteen million copies of  Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears and Wheels Of Fire and Goodbye. That’s why, nowadays,  Cream are regarded as rock royalty. 

They were also the first British supergroup. Other followed in Cream’s wake. However, Cream achieved more than most in just under three years. Each of their albums found Cream’s music evolving as they continued to create groundbreaking music. This ranged from blues rock to hard rock and psychedelia. All this can be heard on Commercial Marketing’s  recently released Classic Album box set. It documents Cream’s short, but illustrious successful career. The quartet of albums Cream’s released between December 1966 and March 1969 can be found in the Classic Album Selection box set. It’s the perfect introduction to the first, and many say best British supergroup, Cream.

CREAM-CLASSIC ALBUM SELECTION.

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JODI-POPS DE VANGUARDIA.

JODI-POPS DE VANGUARDIA.

Innovator, pioneer and visionary are just three of the words that were used to describe German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. His career spanned six decades and nowadays, he’s regarded as one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th Century. Karlheinz Stockhausen was also one of the pioneers of electronic music, aleatoric music, serial composition, and musical spatialisation. He was also a highly respected academic who taught and influenced many musicians and composers.

This included members of Can, Jean-Michel Jarre, Tom Constanten of the Grateful Dead, avant-garde musician Jon Hassell, composers Gerald Shapiro and Gerald Barry. Students travelled from far and wide to study under Karlheinz Stockhausen. Among them, were brothers, Joern and Dirk Wenger, who had travelled all the way from Paraguay to study under Karlheinz Stockhausen. 

After the demise of their band The Rabbits, Joern and Dirk Wenger were keen to complete their musical education. Having heard The Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, the brothers were inspired to create their own experimental music. However, they wanted to take this further. So they travelled from Asunción in Paraguay, to study arts at the Folkwang University of the Arts. That was where they encountered Karlheinz Stockhausen. He taught the two brothers music. The time the Wenger brothers spent studying under Karlheinz Stockhausen was a hugely important and  influential part of their musical education. 

After their time studying under Karlheinz Stockhausen, the Wenger brothers returned home and began building their own studio. This they christened the Jodi Experimental Studio. The Wenger brothers then spent their time recording what they called spontaneous pop. Some of their recording found their way onto Jodi’s 1971 debut album, Pops de Vanguardia.

Nowadays, Pops de Vanguardia is a real rarity that’s much in demand among record collectors. Given demand outstrips supply, prices of original copies of Pops de Vanguardia are prohibitive, and beyond the budget of most record collectors. Recently, though, Out-Sider Music, an imprint of Guerssen Records reissued Pops de Vanguardia complete with five bonus tracks. They’re a reminder of the Wenger brothers’ spontaneous pop.

Its roots can be traced to Joern and Dirk Wenger’s childhood in Asunción, Paraguay. Their family were industrialists who owned a factory that made paint related products. That factory would later play an important part in the Wenger brother’s musical career.

When they were growing up, their father and grandfather brought a variety of musical instruments into the family home. They taught Joern and Dirk how to play these instruments. Before long, Joern, the eldest brother, could play piano, guitar, violin, bandoneon and solfege. Soon, both brothers had mastered several different instruments. Like teenagers the world over, music began to play an important part in the Wenger brothers’ lives.  It offered an escape from the reality of growing up in Paraguay.

Following a coup d’état on the 4th of May 1954, Paraguay was ruled by dictator Alfredo Stroessner. That was the case until 1989. During this period, Paraguay expanded economically and underwent a degree of modernisation. However, the Stroessner regime was an oppressive one. Human rights abuse was commonplace and those that opposed the Stroessner regime did so at their peril. As a result, Paraguay wasn’t the ideal place for the Wenger brothers to embark upon a musical career.

Just like in other countries ruled by dictators, artists, writers and musicians were viewed with a degree of suspicion by the authorities. They were often seen as subversives. However, Joern and Dirk just wanted to make music. That was what they wanted to pour their youthful energy and enthusiasm into. However, they too had a dream. 

The Wenger Brothers dreamt of building their own recording studio, and were determined to make this a reality. They had even identified the perfect site for their studio. This was within a disused part of the family factory. With that part of the factory not being used, the two brothers were given permission to turn their dream into reality in 1966.

Once the studio was complete, it was christened the Jodi Experimental Studio. The brothers took the first two letters of each of their christian names (Joern and Dirk) and combined this to create the Jodi name. Joern was sixteen, and Dirk who was nineteen, set about experimenting musically and creating what they called spontaneous pop. 

The Jodi Experimental Studio became a musical laboratory, where the two brothers were able to experiment with a myriad of different musical instruments. They were also able to experiment with the latest music recording techniques. There was only one problem.

Paraguay didn’t have a music industry as such. This meant that Joern and Dirk didn’t have access to much of the equipment musicians elsewhere took for granted. Especially effects units. This meant that the brothers had to work out a way to replicate reverb or echo. To do this, Joern and Dirk often laboured long into the night seeking a solution. Usually, they managed to do so as their creativity blossomed.

This continued during 1967. The two brothers immersed  themselves in an eclectic selection of music seeking inspiration. Two albums made a big impression on them, The Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Sometimes, the Wenger brothers listened to the Bee Gees and James Brown, other times to Little Richard, Louis Armstrong or Oscar Peterson. For the Wenger brothers this was part of their musical education. However, some of these artists would inspire and influence Joern and Dirk when they decided to form their first band.

Up until then, the Wenger brothers had spent most of their free time experimenting musically. They were dedicated to honing and perfecting their songs. Now two brothers were ready to record and release their first EP. To do that, required a little help from their friends.

When they decided to form their first band, the Wenger brothers were still at school. So they decided to enlist some of their friends from the Goethe School, in Ascuncion. Gilberto González, Naldo Nardi, Rodrigo Campos and Willy Schubeius joined the Wenger brothers in their new band, which they named The Rabbits.

Joern who was three years older than his brother Dirk, became The Rabbits de facto leader. He played organ while his brother Dirk played one of the two sets of drums. Gradually, the nascent garage band’s music began to take shape. While Joern and Dirk had spent months honing their sound in the studio, the rest of the band had some catching up to do. Soon, though, The Rabbits were on the same page. Now they could record their debut EP.

For The Rabbits’ Lo Más Nuevo EP, they decided to record Never Funny, Buscándote, Gloria and Todos Los Instantes. On these tracks, The Rabbits combined elements of psychedelia a and garage rock. Once the recording was complete, The Rabbits took the EP to the Guarania label. 

When the Guarania label was formed on August 13th 1955, it became Paraguay’s very first record label. Just under fourteen years later, and it would release copies of The Rabbits’ debut EP. Only 300 copies of the Lo Más Nuevo EP were pressed and released later in 1969. Alas, there was no followup.

Not long after the release of the Lo Más Nuevo EP disbanded. This was the end of the first chapter in the Wenger brothers’ career. 

The next chapter began when the Wenger brothers travelled from Ascuncio in Paraguay to Germany. Their destination was the Folkwang University of the Arts. That was where the brothers studied arts. Their music teacher was none other than 

composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. He was already regarded as a musical pioneer and one of the most innovative and influential composers of his generation. Studying under Karlheinz Stockhausen was the perfect way to complete the Wenger brothers’ musical education.

After completing their studies at Folkwang University of the Arts, the Wenger brothers returned home and began work on their next project. This they called Jodi, after their recording studio where the project came to fruition.

Between 1969 and 1971, Joerk Wenger wrote much of what later became Pops De Vanguardia. Some of the material had been recorded before the sessions in 1969. Some were recorded as far back as 1966. Each of the twelve tracks were recorded at the Jodi Experimental Studio. 

Two reel-to-reel recorders were used to record the Wenger brothers. Joern plays the majority of the instruments, including  guitar and organ. He also takes charge of the lead vocals. Meanwhile Dirk plays drums and percussion. Eventually, Jodi had enough material for an album. These twelve songs would become Pops De Vanguardia, which was released later in 1971.

Before that, critics had their say on Jodi’s debut album. Sadly, the critics didn’t understand the eclectic and innovative nature of Pops De Vanguardia. With its groundbreaking fusion of garage rock and psychedelia, Pops De Vanguardia was way ahead of its time. 

When Pops De Vanguardia was released later in 1971, the album failed commercially. Just like the critics, record buyers never understood the album. Pops De Vanguardia passed record buyers by. That’s despite Jodi showcasing a new and groundbreaking sound on Pops De Vanguardia.

Opening Pops De Vanguardia is Experimento (Experiment), which  literally bursts into life. The experimental psychedelic rock of the previous track continues. Guitars and the rhythm section explode into the life, and with Joern’s vocal, power the arrangement along. Washes of swirling Hammond and bursts of bubbling bass are added. Later, so are flamboyant flourishes of Hammond organ. Jodi play with freedom and confidence. So much so, that Joern whistles during another blistering and memorable psychedelic rocker. It’s another heady brew from Jodi, and one to drink deep.

Recuerdos De Un Amigo Ruso (Memories Of A Russian Friend) is another psychedelic track. A lone piano is played, the tempo quickening as the rhythm section, chirping, choppy guitars and Joern’s urgent vocal combining. It’s a mixture of drama, urgency and emotion. Later as Joern scats, the arrangement becomes melodic. Soon, though, the emotion returns and memories come flooding back on this poignant psychedelic song. 

Just a lone guitar plays before the drums, vocal and washes of Hammond guitar enter on Reflexiones Heladas (Icy Reflexions). Joern stabs at the Hammond organ as effects transform his vocal, and add a lysergic sound. Later, as he vamps the arrangement is rocky and psychedelic. Again, effects are used, but used sparingly. They help create the groundbreaking psychedelic rock sound that Jodi pioneered in Paraguay.

The tempo increases on Onda Suave (Mild Wave). A scrabbled guitar joins the bass to create an understated arrangement. They provide the backdrop for Joern’s lead vocal and harmonies. It’s the interplay between the lead vocal and harmonies that are key to sound and success of another memorable and melodic song.

Washes of swirling Hammond organ are joined by a scorching guitar and drums on Primavera Amarilla (Yellow Spring). Stabs and swirling washes of Hammond organ join the bristling, searing guitar licks. Meanwhile, Dirk keeps a steady beat, adding occasional drum rolls and fills. Soon, they’ve locked into a groove and are playing with an inventiveness. This materialises when Joerk unleashes an ascending effects laden organ solo. Effects are added to the guitar as innovative instrumental unfolds. It’s a marriage of R&B, rock and psychedelia and is without doubt, one of the best instrumentals you’ve never heard.

An urgent scrubbed guitar drives and powers the arrangement along Arrivederci along. It’s accompanied by Joern’s vocal and multi-tracked harmonies. They’re reminiscent of Big Star, and a generation later, the Teenage Fanclub. Meanwhile, effects launched above the arrangement, adding a futuristic and cinematic sound. Jodi continue combine garage rock, psychedelia with proto-punk to create groundbreaking and melodic musical fusion.

 Jodi showcase their versatility on Jodi-Ritmo (Jodi Rytmus). Joern’s guitar has a surf rock sound. Meanwhile, he unleashes a snarling proto-punk vocal. Behind him, the the rhythm section and percussion add to the sense of urgency. Later an organ is added, augmenting and briefly replacing the vocal. When it returns, it continues to showcase the bravado fuelled, proto-punk style vocal that Rotten, Strummer, et al would later claim as their own. However, this was nothing new, as Joern Wenger was one its pioneers.

Flourishes of swirling organ are to the fore on Imagen En Rojo (Red Image). They’re joined by the rhythm section. Dirk’s drums keep a steady beat. Meanwhile, Joern lays down a bass line and plays the organ. It plays a starring role, swirling, stuttering and breezing along, on this R&B inspired instrumental which sounds as if was recorded in Memphis, not Ascuncion. Jodi were it seems, a truly versatile band.

Sueño De La Catedral (Cathedral Dream) is an organ driven track where Jodi showcase their psychedelic rock sound. This they do with an organ that replicates the sound of a cathedral organ. They’re never played this way. Joern powers his way across the keyboard, adding flamboyant flourishes and delivering a vampish vocal. Dirk lays down the heartbeat, while Joern is transformed into Lizark King on one of Jodi’s finest moments.

Guitars are at the heart of Fantasmas Del Sonido (Sound Fantasm), and with the rhythm section helping to drive the arrangement along. Soon, they’ve locked into a groove. Joern lays down the guitar and bass lines. Meanwhile, Dirk plays drums and percussion. All the years two brothers have played together has paid off. They’re a tight unit, who don’t necessary stick to the script. Sometimes, it seems their playing is inventive and off the cuff. Occasional fills and flourishes are added, during this driving, genre-melting instrumental. Everything from surf rock, R&B and rock have been combined to create one of the great lost instrumentals.

It’s all change on Cancion Cariñosa (Loving Song). Jodi return to their melodic garage rock sound. Again, the guitar and vocal play leading roles. Joern’s vocal is tender and heartfelt. He plays his guitar with speed and accuracy, using the occasional effect to produce a variety of sound.This range from a chirping to choppy sound, on what’s a hook-laden paean.

The psychedelic sound of Jodi returns on Espiritu Fosforecente (Glowing Spirit), which closes  Pops de Vanguardia. A choppy, effects laden guitar combines with washes of Hammond organ and drums. Joern’s vocal is deliberate and powerful, as Jodi draw inspiration from Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, the Rolling Stones and even Cream. It’s an experimental fusion of rock and psychedelia. This proves a potent and heady brew that proves irresistible. Jodi it seems have kept the best until last on  Pops de Vanguardia.

That’s not the end of Out-Sider Music’s reissue of Pops de Vanguardia. It comes complete with five bonus tracks. This includes three previously unreleased tracks, a track from a private EP and Buscándote from The Rabbits’ 1969 EP Lo Más Nuevo. It’s two magnificent minutes of psychedelic rock at its very best.This is a tantalising taster of The Rabbits Lo Más Nuevo EP, which nowadays is almost impossible to find. 

The other bonus tracks include Sentimental Moment (Momento Sentimental) and Awake (Despierte). Both memorable and melodic reminders of late sixties guitar pop. Little Butterfly (Pequeña Mariposa) is a beautiful and timeless indie pop song. However, the best of the bonus tracks is Poor Man, Rich Man. Jodi combine blues, psychedelia, rock and effects. Joern sounds not unlike John Lennon, on this innovative and genre-melting track. It’s a reminder of a truly talented group, Jodi which featured the Wenger brothers Joern and Dirk.

Pops de Vanguardia was just the start of Jodi’s career. Jodi went on to release two further albums. They transformed the career of Jodi, when commercial success and critical acclaim came their way. Their music was popular across South America. This was a far cry from 1971, when Jodi released their debut album Pops de Vanguardia. 

Critics failed to understand what was a groundbreaking album of where Jodi combined elements of blues, garage rock, indie rock, proto-punk, psychedelia and rock. There were even elements of avant-garde and experimental musical on Pops de Vanguardia. It’s was an ambitious album that deserved to find a much wider audience upon its release in 1971. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

Since then, a new generation of record buyers have discovered the music of Jodi. Their rarest album is their debut album Pops de Vanguardia. It wasn’t a commercial success, and very few copies of the original album exist. Those that do, are prized possessions among record collectors. So Out-Sider Music’s recent reissue of Jodi’s debut album Pops de Vanguardia is a welcome one. 

Jodi’s debut album Pops de Vanguardia showcases the combined and considerable talents of the Wenger brothers. It should’ve been the album that launched their career. Instead, it failed commercially, purely because the critics failed to understand Jodi’s ambitious, groundbreaking and genre-melting album. 

Nowadays, though, Jodi’s debut album Pops de Vanguardia is belatedly receiving the recognition it deserves. So much so, that Pops de Vanguardia is regarded by some musical connoisseurs as a lost genre classic.Pops de Vanguardia is a  true musical hidden gem that showcases the versatile and multitalented Wenger brothers, as they embarked upon a new chapter in their musical career as Jodi. 

JODI-POPS DE VANGUARDIA.

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THE STAINED GLASS-THE STORY OF ONE OF SAN FRANCISCO’S SEMINAL LOST GROUPS.

THE STAINED GLASS-THE STORY OF ONE OF SAN FRANCISCO’S SEMINAL LOST GROUPS. 

Sometimes, despite their undoubtable talent, a group fails to make the impact their talent and music deserves. It’s only, much later, that critics and record buyers belatedly  realise how innovative a group they were. That was the case with The Stained Glass, who originally, started life as The Trolls. They were without doubt, way ahead of their time. Sadly, record buyers neither understood, nor appreciated The Stained Glass’ music.  It pass record buyers by, and as a result, The Stained Glass split-up in 1969, just four years after they were formed in 1965. 

Nowadays, critics, cultural commentators and record buyers realise and appreciate the importance of The Stained Glass’ music. They were musical pioneers, who could and should’ve  enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim . Sadly, it wasn’t to be, in 1967, the dream was over for one of San Francisco’s seminal lost group’s. Things had been very different just two years previously.

The Stained Glass’ story begins in San Jose in 1964. Rodger Hedge had just started at San Jose University. He’d arrived from Southern California, where he’d played bass and guitar in the Sen-Sa-Shuns. They were a successful band, who’d supported the Righteous Brothers and Beach Boys. Opening for the Beach Boys must have been ironic, as Rodger had auditioned as their bass player. That wasn’t to be. He enjoyed a successful period in the Sen-Sa-Shuns. That gave him a taste of what a career as a musician would be like. So, on arrival at University, Rodger decided to form a band. He advertised locally, and straight away, Jim McPherson answered the advert.

Jim was a native of Chicago, and was studying radio and television journalism at San Jose University. Originally, he was a bassist, but when he realised how good Rodger was, switched to rhythm guitar. The next member to join the band was drummer Dennis Carrasco.

Dennis was recommended by Barry Wineroth of The Jaguars. He tipped Rodger and Dennis off about this musical prodigy. Unlike Rodger and Jim, Dennis was a native of San Francisco, but had lived in San Jose since 1960. He was younger than his prospective bandmates. In fact, he was still at Blackford High School. The age gap didn’t matter. As a drummer, Dennis was one of the best in San Jose. He’d started off playing in marching bands and after that, was working with The Stratatones and Blue Flames. With the Blue Fames, Dennis recorded some sessions. None of them were ever released. Now his luck looked like changing. Before that, they needed another member.

Although Rodger Hedge was a good guitarist, the band felt they needed another guitarist to play lead guitar. There were two candidates. One was John Sharkey, of the local group Syndicate Of Sound. The other was Bob Rominger, who’d recently moved to San Jose from Albuquerque, Mexico. He was a talented player, capable of unleashing some flashy licks. There was a problem though. Bob had only played in pickup bands. Despite that, he got the gig as lead guitarist. The band was complete. All they needed was a name. They hit upon The Trolls.

From their early days, The Trolls found work easy to come by. Originally, The Trolls played around the San Francisco area. Having established a reputation as a talented and popular band, they started playing further afield. Their performances featured mostly cover versions, with Rodger and Jim sharing lead vocal duties. Then after a while, The Trolls started adding their own original material. 

Jim McPherson was The Trolls’ songwriter. He was influenced by the British invasion groups. The Kinks, Beatles, Animals, Rolling Stones and Zombies inspired Jim as a songwriter. So did Paul McCartney, who Jim admired, for the way he structured songs. This seemed to rub off on Jim. However, Jim’s songwriting style is more like Bob Dylan. Perceptive, descriptive, surreal and left-field describes Jim’s songwriter. He was part poet and philosopher. Occasionally, Rodger pitched in with a song, Mostly, it was Jim who wrote The Trolls’ songs. This includes the first songs they recorded.

Such Good Friends and She’s Not Right were the first songs The Trolls recorded. They originally featured on an acetate that was sent to local labels. Eventually, The Trolls released Such Good Friends and She’s Not Right, which has a strong British influence. On both tracks, The Trolls could easily be mistaken for one of the British Invasion groups. Not longer after The Trolls recorded their first two tracks, they released their first single.

The two songs chosen were the ballad How Do You Expect Me To Trust You and the harmonica driven Walkin’ Shoes, with its surreal, enigmatic lyrics. There’s still a British Invasion influence, on Walkin’ Shoes. With lyrics that sound like a homage to The Kinks, a bluesy Rolling Stone sound, especially with the harmonica, The Trolls seemed to have decided if you can’t beat the British Invasion groups, join them. However, apart from some radio play on local radio, The Trolls debut single passed almost unnoticed.

Despite their single failing commercially, The Trolls were one of the most popular live bands. They’d captured people’s imaginations and were winning them over with their mixture of covers and new songs. Despite their popularity, when The Trolls played in the Bay Area Battle of The Bands, it was to a disappointingly small audience. However, there was one man in the audience that would play a part in The Trolls’ future, Rene Cardenas.

Until Rene Cardenas saw The Trolls at The Battle of The Bands, he’d been publishing manager for Trident Productions. Having seen The Trolls live, he decided  to form his own company, Jackson Square Productions. The date was 25th April 1966. That day, Rene Cardenas promised to get The Trolls signed to a label. Two weeks later, The Trolls were on their way to Columbia’s Sunset Boulevard Studios, where they’d work with respected arranger Bernie Krause. 

At Sunset Boulevard Studios, Bernie Krause helped the band hone their material. He made a number of suggestions, including changing some of the lyrics to Broken Man, a fusion of pop, psychedelia and blues. The other tracks recorded were Second Day and Lonely Am I, which was penned by Bob Rominger. Following the sessions at Sunset Boulevard Studios, The Trolls made a decision that could’ve had a huge impact on their career. They changed their name. 

The Trolls were now called The Stained Glass Window. That proved somewhat cumbersome, so they became The Stained Glass. However, that was a result of the word Window being left off the group’s paperwork. Ironically, this mistake worked in their favor. Given the enigmatic nature of the group’s lyrics, this added to the mystery that surrounded the group. The only problem was, would people realize that The Trolls and The Stained Glass were one and the same?

Even after the change of name, The Stained Glass were busy. The Bay Area had many venues, all of which were on the look out for popular bands. A popular band meant a full venue and profitable night. Gradually, The Stained Glass found themselves playing to an older audience. Granted they were still playing to younger people, but mostly, their audiences were older. This suited their baroque infused fusion of pop and psychedelia. The Stained Glass were opening for bigger bands and it looked like a breakthrough was imminent. It wasn’t. The deal with Columbia wasn’t going to happen.

When Columbia passed on The Stained Glass, their manager Rene Cardenas started  looking elsewhere. He used his contacts, and The Stained Glass were signed to RCA Victor by the second week in June 1966. Everything looked as it was going well. Then Rene and the RCA Victor producer assigned to The Stained Glass, said they had to record a cover of If I Needed Someone. Written by George Harrison and taken from The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, this seemed strange. After all, hadn’t Rene been a fan of The Stained Glass’ own songs? Maybe RCA Victor and Rene thought a cover of a Beatles song equalled a hit single. On the B-Side was a remake of The Trolls’ How Do You Expect Me To Trust You? Just before If I Needed Someone was released, it featured on the B-Side of The Beatles’ Yesterday and Today. Despite The Beatles’ version being released first, The Stained Glass’ single was a success in the Bay Area. This resulted in a tour round the East Coast, before The Stained Glass recorded their second single for RCA Victor.

At RCA Victor’s New York studio, The Stained Glass recorded My Buddy Sin. Best described as a baroque tinged track, it’s an example of Jim McPherson’s songwriting skills. The band’s songwriter in chief had done it again. Vanity Fair, The B-Side, is an underrated track. Influenced by The Kinks and Beatles, pop and psychedelia combine on a three minute slice of pop perfection. So good is this track, it could’ve come from the pen of Ray Davies. When the single was being recorded, the group didn’t like My Buddy Sin. They felt the addition of the harmonica spoilt the track. It, they felt, took the edge of the song. On its release, in September 1966, My Buddy Sin failed to chart. It would be another five months before The Stained Glass entered the studio. 

When The Stained Glass entered the studios in February 1967, they realized what being signed to a record company entailed. RCA Victor wanted them to record songs by other songwriters. None of them were suitable. Then they hit upon We Got A Long Way To Go, which was penned by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was totally different to the type of songs the group usually recorded. During recording effects were used to create feedback and sustain. This is very different from previous singles. There’s still a psychedelic sound as pop and rock combine. Full of  hooks, would this be The Stained Glass breakthrough single?

On the release of A Long Way To Go, with Corduroy Joy on the B-Side, it didn’t result in the elusive hit single for The Stained Glass. Not long after this, with the lack of success frustrating the band, Rodger Hedge, who’d founded the band was asked to leave. This marked the beginning of the end for The Stained Glass.

Their final single was Mediocre Me, with The Beatles’ inspired A Scene In-Between on the B-Side. Both were penned by Jim McPherson. Sadly, the single failed to chart nationally, but reached number six on KDON’s chart. That’s a small crumb of comfort for one of San Francisco’s most innovative and pioneering groups. Not long after Mediocre Me’s release RCA Victor didn’t renew The Stained Glass’ contract.

This proved to be a blessing in disguise. The Stained Glass signed to Capitol Records and released two critically acclaimed albums. Their debut was Crazy Horse Roads, which was released in 1968. However, disaster struck just before the album was finished. Bob Rominger left the band. For The Strained Glass, this was a blow. Despite this, the album was completed and ready for release later in 1968. 

Despite critics lavishing praise on Crazy Horse Roads, the album failed commercially. For The Stained Glass, this was another huge disappointment. They were down, but not out and later, began work on their sophomore album.

With two replacement members, keyboardist and guitarist Lance Libby and percussionist Louie Schiavo The Stained Glass recorded their sophomore album Aurora. It was released to critical acclaim in 1969m but failed commercially. After that The Stained Glass changed their name to Christian Rapid and spent the next three years touring. They never recorded another album. Aurora marked the end of the The Stained Glass’ story.

The story of The Stained Glass is a familiar one. They were a talented, innovative and pioneering group, but their music was way ahead of its time. That was the case with The Stained Glass, who started life as The Trolls. Quite simply, The Stained Glass were ahead of their time. People neither understood, nor appreciated what they were doing. Sadly, their music failed to make the impact it should’ve. It’s only years later, that people realise how innovative a group The Stained Glass were. From their early days as The Trolls, their music was ahead of the musical curve. Influenced by the British Invasion, The Kinks, Beatles, Animals, Rolling Stones and Zombies inspired The Trolls and The Stained Glass. The other thing that made The Trolls and The Stained Glass standout were their lyrics.

Many of the songs were written by the enigmatic poet philosopher Jim McPherson. He too was influenced by the British Invasion groups. His lyrics are pensive, perceptive, descriptive, surreal and cryptic. Influenced by Ray Davies,  Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, Jim could’ve and should’ve been a hugely successful songwriter. Sadly, just like The Trolls and The Stained Glass, Jim McPherson’s talents went unnoticed for too long. Now a new generation have discovered the music of The Trolls and then The Stained Glass, who between 1965 and 1967, were one of San Francisco’s most innovative lost groups.

That’s why The Stained Glass’ music was such essential listening. That’s the case with all musical pioneers. The Stained Glass were true musical pioneers, who  could’ve gone on to could and should’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. They fused  blues, pop, psychedelia and rock to create their take on pop-psych. This was way ahead of its time musically.  So much so, that record buyers failed to understand The Stained Glass’ music. However, that was only part of the problem.

Unfortunately, The Stained Glass were signed to the wrong label, RCA Victor. They tried to make them something they weren’t. On another label, The Stained Glass might have prospered and become the success story they deserved to be. Sadly, that never happened and after four years of trying to  catch lightning in a bottle, The Stained Glass called time on their career. The Stained Glass became Christian Rapid, who spent the next three years touring.  This resulted  The Stained Glass being consigned to San Francisco’s musical history. 

Over a generation later, and The Stained Glass’ music was rediscovered by a new generation of record buyers. This  resulted in a resurgence in interest in The Stained Glass’ music. Interest in The Stained Glass has continued to grow. That’s still the case today. Nowadays, The Stained Glass’ music is being heard by a much wider, and appreciative audience who have discovered one of  San Francisco’s seminal lost groups.

THE STAINED GLASS-THE STORY OF ONE OF SAN FRANCISCO’S SEMINAL LOST GROUPS.

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THE INDEPENDENTS- WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN?

THE INDEPENDENTS- WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN?

When Charles Jackson first met Marvin Yancy at Chicago’s Black Writer’s Workshop in 1971, he was already twenty-six, and had been working as an art director for Playboy magazine. That was why Charles Jackson had moved to the Windy City in the late sixties. However, Charles had ambitions beyond working as an art director.

In his spare time, Charles Jackson wrote songs. This wasn’t new. Charles had been writing songs for years. He had always been regarded as an artistic child, as he grew up in Greenville, Carolina. However, by 1971 Charles was beginning to realise he had so much he wanted to say via his music. It was his true passion. So Charles went in search of likeminded people.

That was how Charles Jackson found himself at Chicago’s Black Writer’s Workshop, and met with Jerry Butler. He was in the process of choosing songs for his new album, and had decided to record an album of songs penned by members of Chicago’s Black Writer’s Workshop. When Jerry Butler came to choose the songs for his album Jerry Butler Sings Assorted Sounds With The Aid Of Assorted Friends And Relatives, three of Charles Jackson’s songs were chosen. This included It’s Real What I Feel, a duet with Brenda Lee Eager. It reached number sixty-nine in the US Billboard 100 and eight in the US R&B charts. So pleased was Jerry Butler with Charles’ songs, that Walk Easy Me Son was chosen for The Sagittarius Movement. Already, it looked as if Charles was about to embark upon a successful songwriting career. However, what about if he became part of a songwriting team?

Around this time, a twenty-one year old Marvin Yancy attended the Chicago’s Black Writer’s Workshop. He had played the organ in a local church, but was an aspiring songwriter. Marvin Yancy had written songs under the alias of Maurice Barge, and would soon meet his future songwriting partner.

When Charles Jackson and Marvin Yancy began talking, and realised they had much in common. It was only a matter of time before Charles Jackson and Marvin Yancy began to write songs together. When they began to write together, they proved a potent partnership, encouraging each other to even greater heights. Two heads were definitely better than one. Little did Charles and Marvin know that some of these songs would hit potential.

Having penned some songs, Charles hit on the idea of forming a group. Secretly, he had dreamed of becoming a singer. So Charles approached Marvin about forming a group. Marvin Yancy agreed, and the pair began the search for the rest of the nascent group.

It didn’t take long, before the search was over. Benjamin and Company, had been stalwarts of Chicago’s soul scene. However, the band that Ben Hernandez had founded had split-up. Two former members of Benjamin and Company, Helen Curry and Maurice Jackson were singing together in a local club when Charles Jackson saw them. Straight away, he realised that here were the missing pieces in his musical jigsaw.

Charles Jackson approached and asked Helen Curry and Maurice Jackson about joining his nascent band. They were interested, and agreed to join Charles and Marvin’s new band, which they called The Independents.

When Maurice Jackson joined The Independents in 1972, he was already twenty-eight. He was born in Chicago in 1944, and embarked upon a musical career in the early sixties. In 1963, Maurice made his recording debut. Since then, he had moved between labels but never enjoyed any major success. So Maurice decided to put his solo career on hold, and joined The Independents with Helen Curry.

Just like Maurice, commercial success eluded Helen Curry. She had released a quartet of singles between 1968 and 1969, but they all failed commercially. So when she joined Benjamin and Company it was a new start. Sadly, the band split-up, and Helen and Maurice found themselves treading water. That was until they met Charles and Marvin, and joined their new group, The Independents.

Soon, the newly formed Independents were soon signed to Wand Records, which would be home to them for the next two years. The record contract came about through a contact at the Chicago’s Black Writer’s Workshop. However, before long, The Independents were replaying Wand’s faith in them.

In April 1972, The Independents were preparing to release their debut single for Wand. The song that chosen, was Just As Long As You Need Me, which was penned by Maurice Barge and Jimmie Jiles. It’s a beautiful ballad with lush strings and harmonies accompanying the lead vocal. When Just As Long As You Need Me was released, it reached number eighty-four in the US Billboard 100 and number eight in the US R&B charts. Following the success of their debut single, The Independents began work on their debut album.

Just As Long As You Need Me featured on The Independents’ debut album, The First Time We Met. It was a highly accomplished and polished album, that was released later in 1972,  and came complete with an endorsement from Jerry Butler. The First Time We Met reached number 127 in the US Billboard 200 and sixteen in the US R&B charts. However, The First Time We Met also featured another hit single.

Seven months after the release of Just As Long As You Need Me, The Independents released I Just Want to Be There as a single. It was a heart wrenching ballad, with a lush arrangement that featured strings, horns and harmonies. There was almost a Philly Soul sound to I Just Want to Be There. On the flip-side was Can’t Understand It. Both songs were penned by Charles Jackson and Marvin Yancy. When I Just Want to Be There was released in November 1972, the single reached just thirty-eight in the US R&B charts. This was slightly disappointing. However, it was just a blip.

The Independents hit a musical home run with their third single Leaving Me. Just like their first two singles, Leaving Me was another ballad, which The Independents seemed to specialise in. On the flip-side of Leaving Me was Baby I’ve Been Missing You a glorious stomper. With both sides oozing quality, surely The Independents couldn’t fail?

When Leaving Me was released in 1973, it reached twenty-one in the  US Billboard 100 and one in the US R&B charts. Leaving Me which was penned and produced by Charles Jackson and Marvin Yancy sold over 500,000 copies and was certified gold. With Leaving Me having crossed over, it should’ve been skies the limits for The Independents. 

For their fourth single from the album from The First Time We Met, the ballad Baby I’ve Been Missing You was released as a single later in 1973. It was penned by Charles Jackson and Marvin Yancy. The B-Side Couldn’t Hear Nobody Say (I Love You Like I Do) was a Maurice Barge and Jimmie Jilies song. When Baby I’ve Been Missing You was released, it reached forty-one on the US Billboard 100 and four in the US R&B charts. The Independents had found a winning formula and were sticking to it.

Later in 1973, The Independents had finished their sophomore album Chuck, Helen, Eric, Maurice. It featured songs like The Same Old Way, the wistful ballad In The Valley Of My World, One Woman Do Right Man and Lucky Fellow. They showcased a truly talented band who looked like they had the world at their feet. There was a problem though. 

Maurice Yancy didn’t want to tour the album. There was only one option, bring onboard a singer to replicate Maurice. The man who was given the job, was another Chicago born singer Eric Thomas. Having learnt The Independents’ songs, he headed out on tour. Then when he returned home, The Independents became a five piece.

By then, the soul-baring ballad It’s All Over had been released as a single. Just like the B-Side Sara Lee, it was penned by Charles Jackson and Maurice Yancy. When It’s All Over was released, it reached number sixty-five in the US Billboard 100 and twelve in the US R&B charts. 1973 had been another successful year for The Independents.

For their first single of 1974, The First Time We Met was chosen. This was guaranteed to confuse record buyers. The First Time We Met was the title of The Independents’ debut album. However, no such track featured on the 1972 album. Two years later, and The First Time We Met was released as a single, with Show Me How on the B-Side. Both songs were penned by Charles Jackson and Maurice Yancy songwriting team. However, The First Time We Met stalled at just number twenty on the US R&B charts, and never troubled the US Billboard 100. This was no reflection on the quality of the single. Instead, the title was blamed, as leading record buyers to think they already owned the song. As a result, they missed out on a really classy ballad which featured The Independents at their emotive best. Despite the disappointing performance of The First Time We Met, the future still looked bright for The Independents. 

Later in 1974, The Independents toured Europe, but only played US military bases. This was disappointed their fans. However, The Independents were keen to begin work on their third album, which would see them jump onboard the disco bandwagon.

Arise and Shine (Let’s Get In On), a Charles Jackson and Maurice Yancy song was chosen as The Independents’ next single. It was an excursion into soulful disco. This was quite different from the heartfelt, emotive ballads The Independents specialised in. However, the new five piece Independents suited the new sound. I Found Love On A Rainy Day was another dance-floor friendly track from the pen Charles Jackson and Maurice Yancy. However, their first disco single Arise and Shine (Let’s Get In On), reached just number nineteen on the US R&B charts. It failed to trouble the US Billboard 100. Although Arise and Shine (Let’s Get In On) was slightly more successful than The First Time We Met, The Independents were no longer enjoying the same success they’d enjoyed earlier in their career.

When The Independents released Let This Be A Lesson To You later in 1974, this impassioned ballad proved to be their swan-song. Just like the flip-side No Wind, No Rain, Let This Be A Lesson To You was penned by Charles Jackson and Maurice Yancy. When the single was released it reached eighty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and seven on the US R&B charts. At least The Independents bowed out with a top ten single.

With The Independents story at end, Charles Jackson and Maurice Yancy continued to work as producers. Their time with The Independents had established their careers as songwriters and producers. Over the next few years, they wrote and produced for everyone from The Notations to Natalie Cole. However, despite the commercial success and critical acclaim they enjoyed, Charles Jackson and Maurice Yancy must have wondered what heights The Independents could’ve reached?

The Independents enjoyed eight hit singles in the US R&B charts, and five in the US R&B charts. This included four top ten singles, including the number one single Leaving Me. It was one of The Independents’ trademark ballads, which was certified gold after selling over 500,000 copies. This was one of the finest moments of The Independents career. Sadly, their career was short-lived and The Independents were together between 1972 and 1974. For The Independents, it was a case of what might have been

THE INDEPENDENTS-WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN?

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