CULT CLASSIC: MANUEL GOTTSCHING-E2-E4

Cult Classic: Manuel Göttsching- 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. These albums showcased 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, cult classic that is 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.

Nearly thirty-nine 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 and that will be the case for the foreseeable future.

Cult Classic: Manuel Göttsching- E2-E4.

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DJ ANDY SMITH PRESENTS REACH UP DISCO WONDERLAND VOLUME 2.

DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland Volume 2.

Label: BBE Music.

During the last three decades, Andy Smith has been a familiar face in DJ boxes at home and abroad, and has entertained dancers with his eclectic sets which can feature anything from boogie and disco to funk and hip hop, right through to Motown, Northern Soul and even on occasions, Australian rockers AC/DC. It’s a case of expect the unexpected when DJ Andy Smith steps behind the wheels of steel and digs deep into his trusty record box. Dancers know that the next couple of hours are going to be a musical roller coaster, with surprises a plenty in store.

It’s a similar case with the various compilations that DJ Andy Smith has compiled over the last three decades. Just like many within the DJ-ing fraternity, DJ Andy Smith is a self-confessed and unapologetic crate-digger, who dares to go where others fear to tread. Backstreet record shops, dusty basements and warehouses and thrift stores. That is the natural habitat and has led to DJ Andy Smith collaborating with Portishead and becoming their international tour DJ. He’s also provided samples for the Prodigy, and spent the best part of twenty years releasing mix albums and compiling compilations.

The first mix album that DJ Andy Smith released was The Document in 1998, which showcased a truly talented and creative DJ. After that, DJ Andy Smith released two further instalments in The Document series, and later, released mixes  of Northern Soul and reggae. DJ Andy Smith was also asked to compile funk and reggae compilations which was the perfect excuse to embark upon a crate-digging expedition, where he went looking for new music. 

By then, DJ Andy Smith was one of Britain’s best DJs, and was spending much of his time DJ-ing, across Britain, Europe and as far away as Australia. Part of his success was down to his mixing skills, which set him apart from the majority of DJs. However, what made DJ Andy Smith stand out from the crowd was the music he played. He had the patience and ability to unearth hidden gems and long-lost musical treasure during his regular crate-digging expeditions. Some of the hidden gems and musical treasures find their way into DJ Andy Smith’s DJ sets or onto the various compilations that DJ Andy Smith has compiled over the last three decades. 

This included DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland, which was released by BBE Music in November 2017. Now, just over two years later and DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland Volume 2 has just been released as a two-CD set, three-LP set and as a digital download by BBE Music.

Just like the first instalment in the series, disc one of  DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland Volume 2 is a mix CD and features fifteen tracks. Andy Smith’s mixing is seamless and unhurried, as he puts over three decades of experience to good use during what’s a seamless mix. He works his way through fifteen tracks on disc one while the second disc which is unmixed only has thirteen tracks.

The mix opens with Ted Taylor’s Ghetto Disco which was released on Miami based TK Disco in 1977. It’s a funky slice of disco that was arranged and produced by Wendell Qezerque, and sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation. 

You’re The Best is six soulful sounding minutes of music from The Emotions which was mixed by John Morales and released in 1984. It’s one of the two tracks that doesn’t make it onto disc two which is unmixed. The other is Chain Reaction’s genre-melting Dance Freak which was penned by Brown and where disco, funk and jazz funk melt into one resulting a memorable dancer and another welcome addition to Andy Smith’s mix.

Another track that was released by TK Disco in 1977 is The Armada Orchestra ’s cover of The O’Jays’ For The Love of Money. They take this Philly Soul favourite in a  different direction  combining funk, jazz, disco strings and drama to totally transform the track.

New Jersey Connection’s Love Don’t Come Easy was produced by Eddy Saunders and released in 1981. It combines elements of disco, funk and boogie with a soulful vocal to create a track that nearly forty years later will still fill a dancefloor.

Three years after the supposed death of disco, Ronnie Jones released  Laser Love as a single on Lollipop Records in 1982. Tucked away on the B-Side was You and I, which  is another disco track, albeit with a hint of boogie. You and I is a hidden gem that is proof that disco didn’t die in July 1979.

Cela’s I’m In Love was released by the Best Record Italy in 1979. It’s  an oft-overlooked Italo Disco anthem that was popular back in 1979.

Greg Henderson ’s Dreamin’ was released on Sam Records in 1982. It’s a killer dancefloor filler that combined boogie, disco funk and soul to create a track that’s stood the test of time.

Disco Circus’ Get Up and Dance was originally released in 1978 on Columbia. Forty years later, it was edited by Dominic Owen, and his  Bad Bikini Re-Edit features on DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland Volume 2.  It’s an edit that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face and fill a dancefloor.

Quite different from the other tracks is Serious Intention’s You Don’t Know, which was released on Easy Street in 1984. Back then, it was a groundbreaking fusion of disco, electro and garage house from producer Paul Simpson. However, it’s the Crissy Kybosh Remix that features on the compilation.

Claudja Barry released a string of disco singles during the seventies and eighties. Sweet Dynamite was one of her earlier singles and was released on Lollipop Records in 1976. It’s a tough funky, dancefloor filler that features a vocal powerhouse from Claudja Barry, soaring harmonies, stabs of rasping horns and dancing strings. It’s a truly timeless track and one of the highlights of DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland Volume 2.

Lost Without You is a track by Will Sessions and Amp Fiddler feat. Dame Brown that features on their forthcoming album. The version on the compilation is the DJ Andy Smith Reach up Disco Wonderland Re-Edit. It’s a track that combines the music of the past and the present with elements of house, funk, soul and disco  playing their part in the song’s sound and success.

Full Intention and Reach Nick Reach Up feat Jazz Morley contribute the Nu-Disco floorfiller Night Of My Life. It was released in 2018 and since then, has been a favourite of DJs and dancers

In 1978, Gregg Diamond released Star Cruiser, which is another genre-melting track. Elements of funk,  disco and  jazz-funk melt into one on this hook-laden floorfiller.

Closing DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland Volume 2 is The Gibson Brothers’  Heaven. This funky slice of disco is a hidden gem that will be familiar to anyone who flipped over to the B-Side of their 1977 UK hit Que Sera Mi Vida. 

In what’s an overcrowded market, too many compilations are competing for the pound, dollar and Euro. Sadly, these compilations vary in quality. However, some labels have a reputation for releasing quality compilations and this includes BBE Music. They’ve done it again with DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland Volume 2 which is another lovingly curated compilation of quality music.

Disc one is a seamless mix of fifteen tracks which showcases Andy Smith’s DJ-ing skills. He puts all his years of experience to good use as he digs deep into his enviable record collection for what’s a stellar selection of tracks. 

Then on disc two there’s thirteen full length tracks. They’re mostly disco with the occasional excursion into boogie or a hybrid of the two genres. Other tracks also incorporate elements of electro, funk, soul, jazz and jazz-funk.  However, what all the tracks on  DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland Volume 2 are guaranteed to do is fill a dancefloor. That’s the case throughout DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland Volume 2 which features floorfillers aplenty and is sure to become a favourite of DJs dancers and anyone interested in what’s regarded by many as the golden age of dance music.

DJ Andy Smith Presents Reach Up Disco Wonderland Volume 2.

CULT CLASSIC: ROY BUCHANAN- YOU’RE NOT ALONE.

Cult Classic: Roy Buchanan-You’re Not Alone.

In 1976,  guitarist Roy Buchanan signs to Atlantic Records and over the next two years, recorded a trio of albums. This included 1978s You’re Not Alone, proved to be the thirty-nine old’s Atlantic Records’ swan-song. By then, Roy Buchanan was an experienced musician whose career began when he was just fifteen.

That was when he joined Johnny Otis Rhythm and Blues’ review in 1954. For Roy Buchanan, that was the equivalent of a musical apprenticeship, and set him in good stead for the rest of his of career. 

Four years after turning professional, Roy Buchanan made his recording debut on Dale Hawkins’ 1958 single My Babe. For the next couple of years, Roy Buchanan was in Dale Hawkins’ band. That was until Dale’s cousin Ronnie Hawkins came calling.

Dale Hawkins was in the Toronto, in middle of a tour when call came through his cousin Ronnie Hawkins. He was looking for a guitarist for his band, and Roy Buchanan fitted the bill. With Dale’s blessing, Roy Buchanan joined the band. Ronnie wanted Roy to take his existing guitarist under his wing. With Roy’s guidance, the young Robbie Robertson came on leaps and bounds. After a spell with Ronnie Hawkins’ band, Roy left and headed home to America. Later, Ronnie Hawkins’ band became The Band, one of the most important and influential bands of the late-sixties and early seventies.

Meanwhile, Roy Buchanan had released his debut single Mule Train Stomp on Swan in 1961. After this, Roy spent the first half of the sixties playing in various bands, including Danny Denver’s band. By then, Roy had put down roots in the Washington DC area, where he had acquired a reputation as one of the great rock guitarists. 

This lead to guitarists travelling from far and wide to challenge Roy Buchanan to what he call a “pick-off.” Guitarists came Roy conquered them, with this superior, virtuoso skills. That was until Roy changed direction musically. 

In March 1968, John Gossage a photographer who was a friend of Roy’s gave him tickets to see Jimi Hendrix. That night, Roy watched as Jimi Hendrix recreated what he saw as his own unique sound. The difference was that Roy used his hands to create the wah-wah sound, while Jimi Hendrix used a pedal. Despite having carefully crafted his own sound, Roy decided to turn his back on it, and concentrated on a American roots style guitar picking. In doing so, this left the field clear for Jimi Hendrix, who Roy always had the utmost respect for. So much so, that he would later cover some of his songs. Before that, Roy’s decided to change career. 

During the second half of the sixties, Roy was dividing his time between playing in various rock bands and working as a session musician. By then, Roy was married with a family. The life of a professional musician wasn’t the most stable, so Roy decided to retrain as a men’s hairdresser. Roy Buchanan was very nearly lost to music forever.

As the seventies dawned, Roy joined the Danny Denver Band, who had a following around the Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland tristate area. However, when he wasn’t playing with the Danny Denver Band, Roy was playing solo gigs. It seemed he hadn’t given up on his dream of making a career out of music.

The dream became reality in 1971, when Public Service Broadcasting filmed and aired a one hour documentary entitled Introducing Roy Buchanan. Someone from Polydor Records saw the documentary, and soon, they had signed Roy Buchanan to a recording contract. Roy would go on to release five albums on Polydor.

A year after signing to Polydor Records, Roy Buchanan released his critically acclaimed eponymous debut album. It was an understated and sparse album of genre-melting music, where Roy switches between blues, country and rock ’n’ roll. Despite its undoubted quality, commercial success eluded the album. However, this was about to change. 

When Roy returned with Second Album in 1973, it was the album that almost wasn’t recorded. Roy asked Polydor if for his sophomore album, he could record and release a live album? Polydor didn’t want a live album. However, Roy secretly recorded and self-released a live album using the alias Buch and the Snakestretchers. With the same that band that recorded the live album, Roy went in to the studio and recorded Second Album, which stylistically was similar to his eponymous debut album. However, there was a shift more towards the blues, which is Roy now regarded as a pioneer of.

Second Album was released in 1973, to the same critical acclaim as his eponymous debut album. However, Second Album caught the attention of the record buying public and sold over 500,000 copies. This was enough to earn Roy his first gold disc. By then, John Lennon and Merle Haggard were among Roy’s admirers. So to were the Rolling Stones.

They were so impressed by Roy Buchanan’s guitar playing, that they asked him to join the Rolling Stones. Roy turned the Stones down, and cemented his place in rock history as the man that turned down the Rolling Stones. 

Buoyed by the success of Second Album, Roy returned with That’s What I’m Here For, which was produced by Jay Reich, Jr. It was a much heavier, fiery album which featured a blistering version of Hey Joe. It was a showcase for Roy’s lightning fast blues licks, while the album featured moments of spontaneity and genus from one of the finest guitarists of the seventies. 

Proof of that was That’s What I’m Here For, which was a mixture of blues, blues rock and Southern Rock. Although it won favour with some critics, others thought it wasn’t an consistent album as Second Album. Granted there were moments of genius, but sometimes Roy failed to reach the same high standards he had set earlier in the album. As a result, That’s What I’m Here For didn’t replicate the success of Second Album. Despite that, Roy returned with his fourth album.

During the first half of 1974, Roy had assembled what he regarded as his finest band. They would accompany him into the studio in the summer of 1974 to record In the Beginning. It was produced by Ed Freeman, and was released later in 1974.

When In the Beginning was released, it critics discovered a much more consistent album. Roy’s playing was fluid and at the heart of everything that was good on In the Beginning. It was a much more laid back album which featured mostly R&B, including Fontella Bass’ Rescue Me, Al Green’s I’m A Ram, CC Rider and Mike Bloomfield’s You’re Killing My Love. There was even a cover of Joe Zawinul’s Country Preacher, on an album that featured the debut of vocalist Billy Sheffield. His addition was seen by some as an attempt by Polydor to shift units. Ironically, this backfired when the album wasn’t the success that Polydor had hoped. For Roy this was a huge disappointment.

Roy owed Polydor just one more album, and looking for a way to discharge his contractual obligations, he decided to record a live album. It was decided to record two shows at New York’s Town Hall on  the evening of November ’27th; 1974. The result was Live Stock,  which was released by Polydor in 1975. It features seven songs, that prove the perfect showcase for the considerable talents of Roy Buchanan. He unleashes a virtuoso performance on what’s regarded as one of the best live albums by a guitarist. While it wasn’t the most successful album of Roy’s career, it was enough to convince a major label to sign him after his departure from Polydor.

Next stop for Roy was Atlantic Records. He approached Ahmet Ertegun, who had witnessed Roy perform at the Carnegie Hall in 1972. Remembering that performance, and knowing what Roy Buchanan was capable of when he brought his A-Game, Ahmet Ertegun gave Roy a large advance and he signed on the dotted line. 

Not long after this, Roy began work on what was a very personal, autobiographical album, A Street Called Straight. It was Roy’s musings on his battle to stay sober and clean. The album was produced by and featured  a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s If Six Was Nine, and Good God Have Mercy, which was penned by Billy Roberts who also wrote Hey Joe. There was also an instrumental My Friend, Jeff, which was a homage to Roy’s friend and fellow guitarist Jeff Beck. These tracks became part of Roy’s Atlantic Records’ debut A Street Called Straight.

When A Street Called Straight was released later in 1975, the album wasn’t the success that the Roy and Atlantic Records had hoped. While it received praise and plaudits from some critics, others felt it was a slightly inconsistent album. There were moments of greatness, but a couple songs didn’t reach the same heights. However, Roy was heading in the right direction.

Loading Zone.

For the followup to A Street Called Straight, Roy Buchanan was paired with twenty-six year old Stanley Clarke, the classically trained pioneer of fusion. He would produce what became Loading Zone. This seemed an unlikely partnership, given how different backgrounds the two musicians came from. However, just like Roy, Stanley Clarke was a talented musician, and the pair bonded over their mutual love of music.

Despite his relative youth, Stanley Clarke was already an experienced and successful musician with a proven track record. That was apart from when it came to production. However, Stanley Clarke was also a talented songwriter would also play a small part in writing Loading Zone.

When it came to writing Loading Zone, Stanley Clarke penned Heat Of The Battle. Meanwhile, Roy penned Hidden, Adventures Of Brer Rabbit and Tar Baby Ramon’s Blues and Done Your Daddy Dirty. Roy also wrote The Circle with Ron “Byrd” Foster and Scott Musmanno. The rest of the album consisted of cover versions, Booker T and The MGs’ Green Onions and Michael Narada Walden’s Judy and Your Love.  These nine tracks were recorded at Clover Studios in New York and Electric Ladyland in Los Angeles, by Roy and the band.

The recording sessions were quite different to previous Roy Buchanan albums, with different musicians were drafted in to play on different tracks. Producer Stanley Clarke played bass on three tracks and  brought onboard several musicians he had worked before. This included guitarist Roy Gomez, drummer Michael Narada Walden and pianist Jam Hammer. They were augmented by various musicians, backing singers and vocalist Scott Musmanno who featured on The Circle. When it came to recording the cover of Booker T and The MGs’ Green Onions, two MGs made a guest appearance, Donald “Duck” Dunn and Steve Cropper, who also featured on The Circle, Ramon’s Blues and Done Your Daddy Dirty. They were part of what was a talent cast of musicians and vocalists, that played their part in the sound and success of Loading Zone.

Once Loading Zone was completed, critics had their say on the album. It was released to critical acclaim in May 1977, and sold in excess of 500,000 copies. This was enough to for Roy’s second gold disc. No wonder, given the quality of music on Loading Zone. 

It finds Roy Buchanan and his talented band work their way through nine tracks. They’re the perfect showcase for Roy, who unleashes a blistering, fiery solo on The Heat Of The Battle, which has an unmatched intensity. Hidden is a much more underrated thoughtful track, which shows another side to Roy and his playing. So does The Circle, a mid-tempo soulful song with commercial pop rock sound. After this it’s all change.

Adventures Of Brer Rabbit And Tar Baby feature Roy and Stanley Clarke enjoying a “pick-off,” with the guitar and bass intertwining to create a fusion of country blues and ragtime. Ramon’s Blues is a smouldering blues which features a guitar masterclass from Roy. He reaches new heights. Green Onions is then taken in a new direction, with Roy unleashing a scorching guitar solo that steals the show and transforms this classic. Although Judy is a ruminative track, Roy still enjoys the opportunity to showcase his virtuoso skills. Then on Done Your Daddy Dirty, Roy is encouraged by the band to kick loose as he unleashes blues rock solo. He’s got his mojo working. Your Love is a soul-baring, melodic and radio friendly ballad that closed Loading Zone, which was by far, Roy’s most successful album for Atlantic Records.

They were delighted by their latest signing, who had already released two albums. Soon, two would be three when Roy began work on You’re Not Alone. This time, Stanley Clarke had been replaced as producer by Raymond Silva.

You’re Not Alone.

Given the success of Loading Zone, Roy and Atlantic Records were keen to release a followup sooner, rather than later. So Roy got to work recording what would be the seventh album of his career.

For You’re Not Alone Roy penned Supernova and cowrote Fly… Night Bird and 1841 Shuffle with Andy Newmark, Willie Weeks and Jean Roussel. They also wrote You’re Not Alone. Jean Roussel also penned the album opener, The Opening… Miles From Earth. The two other songs, were covers of Joe Walsh and Terry Trabandt’s Turn To Stone and Neil Young’s Down By The River. These songs would become You’re Not Alone.

Recording took place at Atlantic Studios, in New York, with producer Raymond Silva. This time, Roy’s band featured a rhythm section of drummer Andy Newmark, bassist Willie Weeks and rhythm and acoustic guitarist Ray Gomez. They were joined by keyboardist Jean Roussel and Roy who played lead guitar on what was a very different album from Loading Zone.

You’re Not Alone opened with The Opening… Miles From Earth, beautiful mini symphony which a showcase for keyboardist Jean Roussel. Joe Walsh’s Turn To Stone is reworked, with Roy’s searing guitar sitting atop an arrangement that veers between smooth to funky.Fly…Night Bird is an atmospheric and laid-back sounding track that’s reminiscent of Pink Floyd circa Dark Side Of The Moon. Roy’s guitar playing is understated, but effective on this mellow track. After this, Roy bowls a curveball.

1841 Shuffle starts off as showcase for Roy’s guitar, before he and his band launch into a jam. Still, though, Roy’s guitar plays a starring, despite being surrounded by a truly talented and versatile band. Neil Young’s Down By The River is reinvented, with Roy’s scorching guitar ushering in Gary St Clair’s worldweary lead vocal. Mostly, Roy and the band are staying true to the original, apart from when Roy unleashes another solo. In doing so, they breath new life into what’s a classic song. Supernova is the heaviest song on the album. Roy and band explode out of the traps, and power their way through fiery fluid slice of blues rock. You’re Not Alone is a ruminative ballad, where sci-fi synths accompany a reflective Roy during this eight minute innovative epic. It seems Roy’s kept one of the best until last.

Critics on hearing You’re Not Alone, hailed it a much more ambitious, complex and sophisticated album from Roy Buchanan. However, it received the same critical acclaim as Loading Zone. Sadly, You’re Not Alone didn’t match the sales of Loading Zone. When the cover of Down By The River was released as a single, it failed to trouble the charts. For Roy Buchanan, You’re Not Alone was the one that got away.

Since then, You’re Not Alone is an album that’s for tooling  been overlooked by record buyers. That’s a great shame as it shows another side to Roy Buchanan. He was a versatile musician who wasn’t afraid to try new things and that was the case during his Atlantic Records’ years. Stanley Clarke certainly took Roy Buchanan out of his comfort zone on Loading Zone which was one of the most successful albums of his career. He continued to try new things on that followup You’re Not Alone, which sadly, never sold in the same quantities as Loading Zone. You’re Not Alone is a cult classic that shows different sides to Roy Buchanan’s music during what was the final album of his Atlantic Records’ years. 

Although Roy Buchanan is remembered as a blues rock guitarist, he was able to seamlessly switch between genres. Roy Buchanan  does that with aplomb on You’re Not Alone, where he showcases his considerable skills and versatility and is a reminder of why he’s considered one of the most influential and  greatest guitarists of his generation.

Cult Classic: Roy Buchanan-You’re Not Alone.

CULT CLASSIC: GANDALF- MAGIC THEATRE.

Cult Classic: Gandalf-Magic Theatre.

Nowadays, Gandalf is regarded as one of Austria’s most accomplished, innovative and successful musicians. Gandalf who is a talented multi-instrumentalist, is also one of Austria’s most prolific artists. He has released over thirty albums between 1981 and 2016. That’s despite not releasing his debut album until he was twenty-nine. 

Before that, Gandalf had travelled extensively. His travels took him all over the world, including to India. The constant travelling certainly broadened the mind of Gandalf. He also realised that music was a universal language. It was something that people in different countries and continents shared a love of. Gandalf experienced this firsthand.

As he traversed the globe, Gandalf made a living making music. He was the twenty-first Century equivalent of a travelling minstrel. It was during his travels that Gandalf realised that he wanted to make a living as a musician.

This came as no surprise to many that knew Gandalf. He had grownup in the small town of Pressbaum, in Lower Austria. That was where Heinz Strobl was born on the 4th of  December 1952. It would be much later when Heinz adopted the Gandalf moniker. Before that, Heinz proved to be a gifted and natural musician as he grew up.

That was despite having no formal musical education. Heinz could pickup an instrument and soon, was playing along to a song on the radio or a record that was playing. Soon, he could play the piano and guitar. By the time he headed off on his travels, Heinz had mastered a number of different instruments.

On his return from what was the modern equivalent of a Grand Tour, Heinz had mastered a myriad of instruments that he had discovered on his travels. This included a sitar, saz, charango, bouzuki and balaphon. They would play an important part in Heinz’s future musical career.

Initially, Heinz began playing with various rock bands during the seventies. During the seventies, progressive rock was at the peak of its popularity. Heinz was a member of a couple of progressive rock bands. This however, was all part of his musical apprenticeship. 

As the seventies gave way to the eighties, Heinz decided to reinvent himself, and adopted the moniker Gandalf. This stemmed from Heinz’s love of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. Little did he realise that his new moniker would feature on over thirty albums. This included the albums Gandalf would release for WEA. Two of these albums were To The Horizon and Magic Theatre,  would showcase Gandalf’s unique and inimitable style.

Journey To An Imaginary Land.

It began to take shape on Gandalf’s debut album Journey To An Imaginary Land. It was released on WEA in 1981, and marked the debut of Gandalf who later described himself as a “painter of musical landscapes.”

This is quite fitting, Having written the six tracks that became Journey To An Imaginary Land, Gandalf began painting these “musical landscapes” using his has extensive musical palette. It included everything from acoustic and electric instruments to the traditional, ethnic instruments that Gandalf had discovered and collected on his travels. Included in Gandalf’s palette, were various synths and samplers. They would play an important part in not just Journey To An Imaginary Land, but Gandalf’s future albums.

With his impressive array of instruments, Gandalf began recording and Journey To An Imaginary Land at Beginning Soundstudio. He arranged, recorded and produced the album. Gandalf played each and every instrument, including the synths that play such an important part in Journey To An Imaginary Land. Once the album was recorded, Gandalf mixed his debut album. It was then delivered to WEA, who Gandalf was signed to.

WEA scheduled the release of Journey To An Imaginary Land later in 1981. Before that, critics received a copy of Gandalf’s debut album. 

Journey To An Imaginary Land was well received by critics, who were won over by what was hailed an innovative and progressive album. It was a fusion of eclectic musical instruments, influences and genres. When they’re combined by Gandalf, the result is a groundbreaking and genre-melting album, Journey To An Imaginary Land. It features elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica and folk. When they are combined, they become part of what’s a captivating, mythical and symphonic musical journey that gradually unfolds over forty-five minutes. It’s an ambitious and accomplished album. Especially considering it was Gandalf’s debut album.

Buoyed by the reviews of Journey To An Imaginary Land, Gandalf eagerly awaited the release of his debut album. When Journey To An Imaginary Land was released later in 1981, the album failed to find an audience. Suddenly, Gandalf’s dream of making a living as a professional musician were dashed. However, after the initial disappointment, Gandalf was determined that his sophomore album would be his breakthrough album.

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Visions.

Following the commercial failure of Journey To An Imaginary Land, it was a case of back to the drawing board for Gandalf. He wrote fifteen new tracks that would eventually become Visions. They would be recorded at Beginning Soundstudio, later in 1981.

As recording began, Gandalf again showcased his versatility. He played six and twelve string acoustic guitar, bass, mandolin, organ, percussion, six and twelve string electric guitar, sitar and  played synths. Gandalf also deployed a vocoder and sequenced Visions. The only instruments he didn’t play, were the flute and tabla. So he drafted in flautist Robert Julian Horky and Jatinder Thakur to play the tabla. Meanwhile, Gandalf took charge of arranging and producing Visions. When the album was complete, Gandalf mixed Visions, which would be released later in 1982.

Before that, the critics had their say on Gandalf’s much anticipated sophomore album. Visions met with their approval. It was another progressive album where the music had  mystical and mythical sound. There was also a cinematic sound, with Visions sounding like the soundtrack to a movie. Just like on Journey To An Imaginary Land, musical genres melted into one on Visions. 

Especially, elements of ambient and acoustic music which were combined with electronica. Other influences included The Berlin School of electronic music and the music Gandalf discovered during his travels continued to influenced him. On Visions, this included the music he heard in India. So much so, that Gandalf used traditional Indian instruments, including a sitar and tabla. They became part of what was another ambitious album from Gandalf.

Later in 1982, WEA released Visions. It marked a change in fortune for Gandalf. Visions was a commercial success and transformed the fortunes and career of Gandalf. No longer was he struggling to make a living out of music. Instead, Gandalf’s star was in the ascendancy as his thoughts turned to his third album, To Another Horizon. 

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To Another Horizon.

Despite having just enjoyed a successful album, Gandalf wasn’t about to rest on his laurels. He headed back into Beginning Soundstudio to record seven tracks that would become his third album, To Another Horizon. It was a cerebral concept album.

On To Another Horizon, Gandalf who was the father of three young children, looked at the threat posed to the world by nuclear weapons. Gandalf looked at how who the planet was being slowly eroded. The other things subject that inspired Gandalf on To Another Planet was science fiction. These three subjects were part of what was a very different album from Gandalf.

Although Visions had been a commercial success, Gandalf decided to change direction musically. On To Another Horizon, Gandalf’s music headed in the direction of progressive rock and space rock. This was a stylistic departure for Gandalf as he began work on To Another Horizon.

Another departure was that Gandalf brought onboard additional musicians. Drummer Egon Gröger and bassist Heinz Hummer became Gandalf’s rhythm section. They were joined by pianist and organist Peter Aschenbrenner, flautist Robert Julian Horky and vocalist Helmut Kappel a.k.a. N.A.O. Meanwhile, Gandalf played guitar, mellotron, organ, percussion, synths and wind chimes. He also programmed the drum machine, arranged, recorded, produced and later, mixed To Another Horizon. This marked a new chapter in Gandalf’s career.

It would’ve been easy for Gandalf to stick to a winning formula, and record Visions II. However, that wasn’t the way Gandalf operated. He was a pioneer, who recorded ambitious and innovative music. This had been the case since he recorded Journey To An Imaginary Land, and continued on Visions. To Another Horizon was no different.

Prior to the release of To Another Horizon, WEA sent critics copies of the album. Although some critics were surprised by Gandalf’s stylistic departure, they welcomed his decision to reinvent his music. That was a brave and bold move. There was no chance that Gandalf’s music would become stale. Not when he had produced an ambitious concept album that straddled various themes and genres.

While To Another Horizon marked a move towards progressive rock and space rock, Gandalf also incorporated elements of Krautrock and classical music and folk. Just like his first two albums, Gandalf combined elements of ambient, Berlin School, eighties electronica and experimental music were combined on To Another Horizon. It was a cerebral concept album featuring progressive music that thematically, was captivating. 

That was no surprise. The music on To Another Horizon featured some of the best of Gandalf’s carer. It ranged from dramatic and cinematic to progressive on March Of No Reason. Then as Natural Forces Getting Out Of Control glides along, the music becomes futuristic urgent and dramatic. It’s as if Gandalf is desperate to get his message across and plays with urgency and passion. However, Requiem For A Planet has a pastoral, wistful sound. It’s as if Gandalf is mourning for a world troubled by conflict and that’s being eroded and polluted. Flight Of The Crystal Ships showcases Gandalf’s new progressive rock sound. He unleashes scorching, crystalline guitars before the track takes a sci-fi sound and the Flight Of The Crystal Ships continues on its journey. So does Gandalf, as he prepares to deliver a message.

To Another Horizon: The Divine Message has an understated, thoughtful sound, before a futuristic vocoded vocal delivers Gandalf’s message. This gives way To Another Horizon: Change Of Consciousness. It features an understated, Eastern sound that’s mesmeric and later, rocky. This continues on To Another Horizon: Creation Of A New World. As it ebbs and flows, synths and guitars play leading roles. Cosmic Balance has an dreamy, ethereal quality. It’s best described as a progressive fusion of ambient and electronica. Peace Without End closes To Another Horizon and has a pastoral quality before a guitar is added and the track takes on a progressive rock sound. Just like on previous tracks, Gandalf combines different musical genres during what’s without doubt, the most progressive and eclectic album of his career.

It won over critics, who called To Another Horizon Gandalf’s finest hour. His decision to change direction could’ve backfired. This wasn’t the case. Instead, To Another Horizon more progressive sound introduce Gandalf’s music to a much wider audience. This resulted in the most successful album of Gandalf’s three album career. However, he was about the ring the changes again on Magic Theatre

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Magic Theatre.

Buoyed by the success of To Another Horizon, Gandalf began work on his fourth album, Magic Theatre. Gandalf composed the nine tracks that eventually became Magic Theatre. It saw Gandalf’s music head further in the direction of progressive rock and take and showcased a symphonic rock sound.

Just like on To Another Horizon, Gandalf brought onboard sone session musicians. Drummer Egon Gröger joined bassist and flautist Robert Julian Horky in the rhythm section. Pianist and saxophonist Peter Aschenbrenner was also drafted in as work began at Beginning Soundstudio during July 1983. 

As usual, Gandalf juggled a variety of roles. He arranged, recorded and produced Magic Theatre, and played bass, guitar, keyboards and synths. Gandalf also added a variety of effects to Magic Theatre. The sessions lasted two months, and by August 1983, Gandalf’s fourth album Magic Theatre was complete.

It wasn’t until 1984 that Gandalf’s concept album Magic Theatre would be released. Magic Theatre had been inspired by Hermann Hesse’s 1927 novel Steppenwolf. It featured a Magic Theatre.

Within the Magic Theatre, there’s a corridor that features several doors. They all lead to different chambers of the subconscious. Each of these seven chambers are represented by a track on Magic Theatre. The book’s protagonist, Harry Haller visits five of these chambers seeking redemption. In each chamber, he has to conquer his concerns and fears. This Gandalf  sets out to do between the opening track Entrance-The Corridor Of The Seven Doors and the closing track exit. Just like previous Gandalf albums, it’s an ambitious, cerebral album where he combines disparate musical genres.

On Magic Theatre, Gandalf moves further down the road marked progressive rock. There’s also a symphonic rock sound on several tracks. Elsewhere, Gandalf combines elements of acoustic and ambient music with classical, Eastern and electronica combining. Meanwhile, the book’s protagonist confronts fears and concerns. His emotional responses are replicated on Magic Theatre. It’s akin to an emotional roller coaster.

Having made his way down The Corridor Of The Seven Doors in the Magic Theatre, Harry Haller enters Door 1-Reflections From Childhood. Once through the door, the music veers between elegiac, ethereal and pastoral. After this, Harry passes through Door 2 to the Castles Of Sand and the music becomes rueful and ruminative, and later, melancholy and wistful. However, when Harry makes his way through Door 3 he suffers from a Loss Of Identity In The Labyrinth Of Delusions. As a result, there’s an element of darkness and drama. Suddenly, it sounds as if Harry is struggling to overcome his fears and concerns. Meanwhile, elements of free jazz, progressive rock and experimental music combine to replicate Harry’s state of mind on this powerful track.

Things change though, as Harry heads through Door Four and encounters The Magic Mirror. Suddenly, the darkness and drama of the previous track disappears, and is replaced by a much more melodic progressive rock track. It glides along, with synths and guitars playing leading roles. Now there’s hope, where previously there was none. Suddenly, as Harry heads through Door Five, he’s Beyond The Wall Of Ignorance. The music ebbs and flow, beatifically and blissfully showcases ethereal and Eastern sounds. That is not the end of the story.

Beyond The Wall If Ignorance is the sixth door. Behind it, is what Harry’s come in search of, Peace Of Mind. He achieves this, and it’s reflected in what’s without doubt, the most beautiful track on Magic Theatre. Flourishes of piano, a flute and Spanish guitar reflect Harry’s newfound Peace Of Mind. Then when Harry makes his way through the seventh door, he drinks deep from The Fountain Of Real Joy. It’s genre-melting tracks where ambient, acoustic, jazz, progressive rock and fusion combine. To this, Gandalf adds samples and effects. Soon, with his Peace Of Mind restored, Harry heads for the Exit. This is another genre-melting track that gradually builds, and reaches a crescendo. By then, Exit takes on a joyous, celebratory sound, as if Harry has been reborn and is ready to begin his life again.

For Gandalf, Magic Theatre was a powerful, poignant and realistic portrayal of Hermann Hesse’s 1927 novel Steppenwolf. Through the medium of music, Gandalf hoped to introduce the book to a new audience.

Critics hailed the Magic Theatre a musical triumph. It was an  ambitious album that was full of pitfalls. However, Gandalf brought Steppenwolf over just forty-five minutes. During that period, the chameleon like Gandalf continued to reinvent his music. 

That had been the case throughout his career. Magic Theatre was no different. It was as if Gandalf was scared that if he stood still musically, his music would cease to be relevant. There was no chance of that happening. He was musical pioneer, who combined a disparate selection of musical genres, instruments and influences. Gandalf also drew inspiration from many sources, including his travels and literature. Both played their part the sound and success of Magic Theatre.

Upon the release of Magic Theatre, the Gandalf success story continued apace. The album sold well, and found an audience not just in Austria, Italy and Germany, but across Europe and into Britain. Gandalf was making up for lost time.

He was twenty-nine when he released Journey To An Imaginary Land. It was the only album that failed to find an audience. Since then, Visions, To Another Horizon and Magic Theatre all brought success to Gandalf’s door. This was just the start of a long and successful career for a true musical pioneer, who would release over thirty albums. However, many music fans regard Gandalf’s early as some of the best of his forty-five year recording career. This includes To The  Magic Theatre, a cult classic which is the perfect introduction to Gandalf, a music pioneer and “painter of musical landscapes.”

Cult Classic: Gandalf-Magic Theatre.

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CULT CLASSIC: ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM-STONE FLOWER. 

Cult Classic: Antonio Carlos Jobim-Stone Flower.

Nowadays, Brazilian pianist, singer and songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the Bossa Nova in fifties, which he internationalised in the sixties with the help of some American jazz musicians. They fused Bossa Nova and jazz to create a new and successful sound which featured on the groundbreaking and award-winning 1965 album Getz/Gilberto which won three Grammy Awards including Best Album Of The Year and Best Jazz Instrumental Album. This was a game-changer for Antonio Carlos Jobim who had enjoyed a meteoric rise since the early sixties. There was no stopping Antonio Carlos Jobim.

By 1970, Antonio Carlos Jobim was already regarded as one of the finest purveyors of Brazilian music and was signed to Creed Taylor’s CTi Records which was an imprint of A&M Records. This was fitting as Creed Taylor had produced the award-winning Getz/Gilberto, and whenever they worked together seemed to bring out the best out of Antonio Carlos Jobim and managed to do so on Tide and Stone Flower. 

Tide.

When Antonio Carlos Jobim began work on Tide, over two years had passed since he released his previous solo album, Wave in October 1967. It had reached 114 on the US Billboard 200 and number five in the US Jazz charts making Wave his most successful album. While this was a lot to live up to, music had changed since October 1967 and it was a very different musical landscape as he began work on Tide.

For Tide, Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote seven new tracks and covered The Girl from Ipanema which he had written with Vinicius de Moraes and Norman Gimbel. The other song Antonio Carlos Jobim decided to record for Tide was Pedro Berrios, João de Barro and Pixinguinha’s Carinhoso. These nine tracks became Tide, which were arranged by Deodato and produced by Creed Taylor, at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey during May 1970.

Joining  producer Creed Taylor and Antonio Carlos Jobim who played guitar, electric piano, piano and added vocals were some of the top session players of the early seventies. The rhythm section featured drummer João Palma, double bassist Ron Carter and pianist Deodato. They were joined by percussionist Airto Moreira, conga player, Joseph DeAngelis, Ray Alonge on French horn and flautists Everaldo Ferreira, flautists Hubert Laws, Romeo Penque, Hermeto Pascoal and Joe Farrell who also played soprano saxophone. He was joined in the horn section by alto saxophonist Jerry Dodgion,  trumpeters Marvin Stamm and Burt Collins plus trombonists Garnett Brown and Urbie Green. Sweetening the sound of Tide was a string section which added the final piece of the jigsaw.

Six months passed before Tide was released by A&M Records in November 1970. By then, Antonio Carlos Jobim had returned to the studio in June 1970 to record his next album Stone Flower. It had a lot to live up to.

When Tide was released, it was to plaudits and praise with critics hailing Antonio Carlos Jobim’s latest album of jazz-tinged Bossa Nova as a fitting followup to Wave, which had been released three years earlier in October 1967. Sadly, Tide didn’t replicate the success of Wave which was Antonio Carlos Jobim’s most successful solo album upon its release on November 1970. By then, music had changed and maybe Antonio Carlos Jobim’s fans had moved onto other types of music. They missed out on what’s an underrated album from Antonio Carlos Jobim, Tide.

Tide opens with the familiar strains of the classic The Girl from Ipanema which was revisited and reinvented by Antonio Carlos Jobim and takes on a much more dramatic sound thanks to Deodato’s structured arrangement. This sets the bar high for the rest of Tide, which includes an understated but graceful cover of Carinhoso, which gives way to the brisk and breezy Tema Jazz which is one of Tide’s highlights, partly thanks to the contribution of maverick flautist Hermeto Pascoal. The tempo drops on the memorable ballad Sue Ann, before Antonio Carlos Jobim switches between piano and Fender Rhodes on Remember where the track veers between an irresistible Bossa Nova to a samba  beat. 

Melodic, orchestrated and full of contrasts describes Tide where  Antonio Carlos Jobim plays piano and acoustic guitar on a song that owes much to the title-track to his previous album Wave. There’s a return to Bossa Nova on Takatanga where Urbie Green’s rasping trombone plays a leading role in the sound and success of the track. The tempo drops on the romantic sounding Caribe, where Urbie Green and flautist Joe Farrell join forces and play starring roles. Later, the meandering melody becomes fragmented as Antonio Carlos Jobim’s piano punctuates Deodato’s arrangement on another masterful addition to Tide. Closing Tide is Rockanalia, which is built around Ron Carter’s standup bass line while Antonio Carlos Jobim’s plays as a starring role before horns add the final piece of this musical jigsaw. In doing so, they ensure Tide ends on a high.

Stone Flower.

While Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote and recorded Tide during the first half of 1970, he was also working on his next album Stone Flower. He had written eight new songs and decided to cover Ary Barroso’s Brasil for Stone Flower. Just like Tide, Stone Flower was arranged by Deodato and produced by Creed Taylor, at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey during June 1970.

This time around, it was a much smaller band that accompanied Antonio Carlos Jobim who played guitar, electric piano, piano and added vocals. The rhythm section included drummer João Palma, double bassist Ron Carter and guitarist Deodato. They were joined by percussionist Airto Moreira and Everaldo Ferreira, flautist Hubert Laws, soprano saxophone, trombonist Urbie Green and violinist Harry Lookofsky. Antonio Carlos Jobim and his band spent much of June 1970 recording Stone Flower which was released by CTi Records in July 1971.

When Antonio Carlos Jobim’s sixth album Stone Flower was released in July 1970, the album stalled at a disappointing 196 in the US Billboard 200. However, when Stone Flower reached eighteen in the US Jazz albums chart this pleased Antonio Carlos Jobim  and producer Creed Taylor.

Stone Flower opens with Tereza My Love which was a paean to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s wife, that initially is intimate but as the arrangement floats and meanders along, but ultimately becomes sensuous. Initially, the enchanting Children’s Games is airy and intricate as the arrangement waltzes along as Antonio Carlos Jobim’s piano locks into  a groove with the guitar before becoming intense and almost dramatic. Against a backdrop of syncopated rhythms, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s piano take centre-stage on Choro where his fingers fly across the keyboard. He then turns his attention to Brasil which is the unofficial Brazilian anthem. The arrangement’s drive along by a samba beat while Antonio Carlos Jobim delivers a lived-in, worldweary vocal.  

Very different is the progressive sounding Stone Flower, which opened the second side of the original album and veers between dramatic, rueful and urgent, but later, becomes intense and cinematic. It’s a similar case on Amparo, which sometimes sounds as if it’s been influenced by classical music, before veering between dark, dramatic and romantic as Antonio Carlos Jobim toys with the listener’s emissions during  an emotive, cinematic track full of tension. The ballad Andorinha soon takes on a late-night sound as Antonio Carlos Jobim plays Fender Rhodes and delivers a tender vocal against an understated arrangement that gradually builds and provides the perfect accompaniment to the founding father of Bossa Nova. God And The Devil In The Land Of The Sun lasts just over two minutes, and is an innovative track where Antonio Carlos Jobim turns his back on Bossa Nova with the help of Joe Farrell’s blazing jazz saxophone and pulsating rhythm section as the arrangement dances joyously along. Closing Stone Flower is Sabia  which is captivating, laid-back but also hypnotic and sometimes is otherworldly and allegorical that is one of the album’s highlights.

Sadly, Stone Flower was the last album that Antonio Carlos Jobim ever released on Creed Taylor’s CTi Records and he recorded one album for MCA Records before resigning with Warner Bros. However, during his short spell with CTi Records Antonio Carlos Jobim released two albums, including Stone Flower which is one of the finest albums that Antonio Carlos Jobim released during the late-sixties and seventies

When Stone Flower was released on Creed Taylor’s CTi Records imprint it marked the new chapter in Antonio Carlos Jobim’s career. Some of the music had been influenced by new his life in America, and saw him move away from his trademark jazz-tinged Bossa Nova sound. Especially on God And The Devil In The Land Of The Sun which was far removed from the Bossa Nova that made Antonio Carlos Jobim one of the most successful Brazilian musicians of his generation. However, for much of Stone Flower Antonio Carlos Jobim stays true to his jazz-tinged Bossa Nova sound, adding samba and worldweary vocals that have a soulful quality. This was a potent and memorable combination that resulted in critics calling Antonio Carlos Jobim’s  Stone Flower one of his  finest albums.

Stone Flower finds Antonio Carlos Jobim continuing in his mission to introduce his unique brand of jazz-tinged Bossa Nova to an international audience. This he had been doing since the fifties, and nowadays he’s regarded as one of the founding fathers of the Bossa Nova.

By 1971, Antonio Carlos Jobim was at the peak of his powers and one of finest exponents of Brazilian music. Proof of this is, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s oft-overlooked cult classic Stone Flower, which deserved to find a much wider audience than it did. Nowadays, Stone Flower is regarded as one of the hidden gems in Antonio Carlos Jobim’s’s discography and a reminder of a truly talented composer, pianist, songwriter, arranger and singer who was an innovator and without doubt, one of the legends in Brazilian music.

Cult Classic: Antonio Carlos Jobim-Stone Flower.

SPRING NYC SOUL.

Spring NYC Soul.

Label: Kent Soul.

Spring Records was founded in New York by Bill Spitalsky, Roy Rifkind and Julie Rifkind and based at 161 West ‘54th’ Street. This was also home to two new imprints, Event and Posse Records which became part of the city’s thriving and vibrant music scene. The three labels released everything from soul, funk, disco and  gospel to harmony and show tunes, and much later, electro and rap. For three decades Spring Records and the Event and Posse imprints recorded and released a variety of music. This includes the music on Spring NYC Soul, a new compilation that was recently released by Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records.

There’s a total of twenty-four tracks on Spring NYC Soul, including six previously unreleased tracks.There’s contributions by Garland Green, Ronnie Walker, Fatback Band, Joe Simon, Clare Bathé, Jackie Verdell, Phillip Mitchell, Leroy Randolph, The Equations and The Internationals. Then there’s unreleased tracks from The Determinations, Maxine Weldon, Garland Green, Victor Tavares and Little Ava Harris. These tracks are part of another lovingly curated compilation from the Kent Soul crew.

Opening Spring NYC Soul is Save The Best For Me by The Determinations. This is an edited version of a track that first appeared on their 1976 album One Step At A Time. The track is arranged by Andrew Smith and produced by Ray Godfrey. He plays his part in what’s a catchy slice of swinging soul.

I Love You More Than Anything by Ray Godfrey was recorded in 1970, and lay unreleased for fifty years. It was arranged by Bert DeCoteaux and produced by John Richbourg and Joe Simon.  Ray Godfrey’s vocal is heartfelt, emotive and soulful as harmonies and sweeping strings accompany him on this hidden gem that’s a welcome addition to the compilation. So is Hold On an unreleased track from 1979. It’s a soulful and funky  disco track from Ray Godfrey.

Since You’ve Been Gone was recorded by Garland Green in 1975, and produced by Ray Godfrey. However, this wistful mid-tempo dancer lay unreleased in the Spring Records vaults for forty-five years. Thankfully, this hidden gem has been unearthed albeit somewhat belatedly. 

By 1975, The Fatback Band were signed to Event Records and about to released their album Yum Yum. It features If You Could Turn Into Me where they drop the tempo on this beautiful soulful ballad.

When Joe Simon recorded Your Time To Cry it was arranged by Bert DeCoteaux. It released as a single by Joe Simon in 1970, and reached number three in the US R&B charts. Following the success of the single, Spring Records released the album The Sounds Of Simon. One  of the highlights was the soul-baring Your Time To Cry, which showcases Joe Simon’s ability to breath life and meaning into a song.

I’m The Other Half Of You was written and produced by Raeford Gerald aka Ray Godfrey for Maxine Weldon in 1973. Sadly, the song was never released and her emotive rendition of I’m The Other Half Of You makes a welcome debut on Spring NYC Soul.

When Jackie Verdell signed to Spring Records in 1982, she and began work on a modern gospel album. A year later, in 1983, she released Lay My Burden Down which featured The Storm Is Passing Over which showcases a truly talented and versatile singer who also worked as a backing vocalist for various soul and R&B singers.

If We Get Caught, I Don’t Know You was the B-Side to Phillip Mitchell’s 1975 single Jody. It was released on Event, and finds Phillip Mitchell combining humour and soulfulness on this little known track.

Upon leaving the soul group Tavares, Victor Tavares embarked upon a solo career and recorded Falling In Love in 1975. It was never released and the version that features on Spring NYC Soul is the Rob Keyloch Mix. It’s a beautiful quiet storm ballad and one of the best of the unreleased tracks.

When  Spring Records was founded in 1967, New York based singer-songwriter Richard Barbar was signed to the label. He released the  uptempo and soulful Get Right  on Spring Records later in 1967. This was the only single Richard Barbar released for the label, before moving to A&M. 

Closing Spring NYC Soul is I Ride Alone by The Internationals. This was the B-Side to I Ride Alone, which was released on Spring Records in 1972. It’s the only secular side The Internationals released during their short spell on the label. Memorable and soulful it’s the perfect way to close the compilation.

Spring NYC Soul is another lovingly curated compilation from the Kent Soul that was compiled by Ady Croasdell. He’s dug deep into the Spring Records’ vaults, and chosen twenty-four tracks from familiar faces and old friends as well some singers and groups that many people won’t have heard of.  That doesn’t matter as Ady Croasdell has impeccable taste and has chosen tracks that ooze quality. 

This includes the unreleased tracks on Spring NYC Soul. Some of these tracks have lain unreleased for fifty years. and belatedly make a debut on Spring NYC Soul. These unreleased tracks join B-Sides, album tracks, hidden gems and hit singles on Spring NYC Soul. It’s a lovingly curated and eclectic compilation of quality soulful music that will be of interest to anyone with even a passing interest in soul music.

Spring NYC Soul.

RAINER TRUEBY PRESENTS SOULGLIDING.

Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding.

Label: BBE Music.

For the past three decades,  Rainer Trueby has enjoyed a successful DJ-ing career, and has been a familiar face in the DJ box at top clubs and festivals all over the world. Still this globetrotting DJ has managed to find the time to run his own long-running and successful club night Root Down, in Freiburg. Part of its success is Rainer Trueby’s eclectic musical taste which he hopes will comfort the audiences and make them smile. To do that, he spins everything from broken beat, disco and drum ’n’ bass to Nu-Jazz, salsa and soul. This election selection of American, British and Brazilian music has proven popular with dancers who hold Rainer Trueby in the highest regard. However, he’s much more than a DJ.

He’s also a producer,  is a former member of A Forest Mighty Black  and was one of the founders of the Truby Trio who in 2003, released the genre classic  Elevator Music on Compost Records. Then there’s compilations.

Since the early nineties, Rainer Trueby has also compiled many compilations.  This includes the critically acclaimed and much loved Glücklich compilation series which was released between 1994 – 2002. The year previously, 2002, Rainer Trueby compiled an instalment in the long-running DJ Kicks series which was released on K7! However, recently returned with Rainer Trueby a new compilation that has its roots in a Facebook group.

This is Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding which was recently released by BBE Music. It’s a compilation with a difference, as Soulgliding originally started life as a Facebook group. 

The phrase Soulgliding was coined by Rainer Trueby to describe laid-back, languid and smooth, silky sounding tracks that can include anything from boogie, jazz,  modern soul and 2-Step. It’s almost case of anything goes. That’s as long apart from tracks can’t exceed 110bpm. Apart from that there’s no other rules. Unlike some genres, the Soulgliding tracks don’t need to be from one era, and instead, span several decades. That is part of the Soulgliding’s success. 

Soulgliding also has a trademark sound.  Listen carefully to the thirteen tracks on Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding and try to describe the music. Words like airy and spacious to expressive, evocative as well as poignant and powerful. It’s music that takes the listener on a dreamy, cinematic journey across disparate genres where the listener can let their imagination run riot. It’s case of sit back and enjoy the musical journey that is Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding.

There’s a total of thirteen tracks on Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding, and it’s Peter Brown’s Without Love that opens the compilation. It’s a Peter Brown composition that was produced by Cord Wade and released on TK Records in 1977. It floats and shimmers it dreamy, empyreal sound setting the bar high for the rest of the compilation.

Les Hooper’s jazzy Lady Of The Night picks up where Peter Brown left off, floating along with rasping horns and glistening keyboards joining forces with the rhythm section. It’s a track that will make the listener want to hear more from Les Hooper as blissful journey continues.

Ambiance’s Camouflage is another jazzy track with a hint of funk. Playing a leading role in the sound and success of this track from 1979 are the tight wordless harmonies that bob along soothing the even the weariest of souls.

Mellaa’s Making Love In The Fast Lane was released in 1983 and features a beautiful heartfelt and sensual vocal and lyrics penned by Andre Williams. This is a hidden gem that is one of the highlights of Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding.

In 1982, Nature Boy was released by Ray and James on LaJam Records. The track was written by Eden Anbez and was produced by Jesse Thompson Jr, and is best described as funky and soulful. Adding the soulfulness to this rarity is the twin vocals of James Back and Willie Ray Norwood.

There are a number of tracks on the compilation that are regarded as staying true to the original 2-Step sound. This includes the smooth, soulful sound of Bridge’s Next To Me from 1985. Soulful and funky describes Demo Cates’ wistful sounding Memories Of Moments. Diva Donna McGhee contributes the poignant sounding It Ain’t No Big Thing which was produced by Greg Carmichael. He uses lush strings which compliment a heart-wrenching vocal on this sweet slice of soul.

Fifth Of Heaven released the dreamy and spacious sounding Just  A Little More in 1989. It’s a quite beautiful track which combines elements of soul, funk and boogie. So does Patrice Rushen’s To Each His Own which features a tender, breathy and soulful vocal.

One of the best vocals on the compilation can be found  on Cast’s 1981 track Sweetness. The vocal is beautiful, heartfelt and sensuous. It’s accompanied by a arrangement that gradually unfolds, all the time complimenting and never overpowering this breathtaking vocal.

Crystal Winds’ contribute Lover’s Holiday, a slice of boogie from their album First Flight. It was reissued by BBE Music a few years ago and is well worth looking out for.

Closing Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding is Dust To Dust by Cloud One. It was written by Peter Brown and Patrick Adams and floats along squelchy sci-fi synths making occasional appearances during this dreamy and otherworldly sounding track that fuses proto-boogie with soulful harmonies. It’s a case of saving one of the best until last.

In an overcrowded compilation market, Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding is one of the best compilations of recent months. It features a mixture of familiar faces, hidden gems, obscurities and rarities that are sure to capture the imagination of the listener. 

Much of the music on Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding has a cinematic quality and paints pictures in the mind’s eye as it takes the listener on a journey lasting thirteen carefully chosen tracks. They glisten and shimmer, floating and gliding along inspiring and posing questions resulting in the listener ruminating and letting their imagination run wild. That’s no surprises as the music on Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding is variously beautiful, dreamy, empyreal, ethereal, sensual, soulful, spacious, funky, jazzy and otherworldly.  This makes Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding a must-have compilation, especially for anyone who likes their music laid-back and languid.  

Rainer Trueby Presents Soulgliding.

CULT CLASSIC: ADELBERT VON DEYEN-ATMOSPHERE.

Cult Classic: Adelbert Von Deyen-Atmosphere.

After Adelbert Von Deyen released his debut album Sternzeit on Günter Körber’s Sky Records in 1978, the label became his home for the next nine years. This was the most productive period of Adelbert Von Deyen’s career. His creativity blossomed and he released eight studio albums and one live album. This included his third album Atmosphere. It marked the next chapter in the story of Adelbert Von Deyen, who originally, began making music as a hobby.  

By 1977, Adelbert Von Deyen was working as a retoucher for a Berlin newspaper. While this kept him busy during the day, Adelbert had plenty of free time in the evenings. Wanting to put his free time to good use, Adelbert decided to take up a hobby. The hobby Adelbert Von Deyen chose was music.

This was no surprise, as at that time, Berlin had a thriving music scene. Many of the Krautrock bands, were formed in Berlin. Meanwhile, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Manuel Göttsching were pioneering the Berlin School of electronic music. However, Adelbert Von Deyen didn’t just want to listen to the music being made in Berlin, he wanted to make music. 

The type of music Adelbert Von Deyen  wanted to make was electronic music. So he began to working out what type of equipment he would need to buy. Having made a “shopping list” of equipment, Adelbert headed out and bought a second hand synth, a  Revox A77 tape recorder and keyboards.  Little did he realise that this was just the first of numerous shopping trips he would make.        

Having started making music in the evenings as a hobby, gradually Adelbert Von Deyen was bitten by the music making bug. Soon, he was adding new pieces of equipment to his home studio. This meant making sacrifices. Sometimes, when Adelbert hadn’t enough money to buy new pieces of equipment, he borrowed from the funds from the bank. Adelbert was dedicated to making music.   

When he returned from work each night, Adelbert Von Deyen began making music. He often worked late into the night, and sometimes, into the early hours of the morning as he perfected his elegiac soundscapes. This took time, patience and determination.  

After eight months, Adelbert Von Deyen had finished his first compositions. He decided to tape the compositions, and send a copy to various German record companies. Maybe he hoped, one of the record companies would interested in his album?  This was a long shot. Adelbert Von Deyen was a new artist, who had only been making music for eight months. However, it was  a case of fortune favouring the brave. 

One of the record companies Adelbert Von Deyen had sent his tape to, was Hamburg based Sky Records. They had been formed just three years earlier, in 1975 by Günter Körber. Since then, Sky Records’ had only released eighteen albums. However, Sky Records had released albums by Bullfrog, Streetmark, Wolfgang Riechmann, Michael Rother, Cluster, and Hans-Joachim Roedelius. This was already an impressive roster, and one that many musicians were keen to sign to.

Sky Records had already established a reputation for releasing groundbreaking music. Just like most record companies, Sky Recordswere being sent many tapes during 1978. Usually, the tapes would range from good and bad to indifferent. One of the tapes that Günter Körber had been sent was Adelbert Von Deyen’s. Having listened to the tape, Günter Körber made the decision  to add a new name to the Sky Records’ roster,.. Adelbert Von Deyen.

Sternzeit, 

Günter Körber contacted Adelbert Von Deyen to offer him a recording contract.  Sky Records were willing to record Adelbert Von Deyen’s debut album worldwide. The as yet unnamed album became Sternzeit, which featured a distinctive cover painted by Adelbert Von Deyen.

Sky Records’ release of Sternzeit rewarded all the time and effort Adelbert Von Deyen’s had spent recording his debut album. From March to August 1978,  Adelbert worked on the two lengthy tracks that became Sternzeit. They were Per Aspera Ad Astra ,which was a three-part suite, featuring Mental Voyage, Stellardance and Astral Projection. Then on the second side of Sternzeit was the title-track a twenty-five minute epic. These tracks were recorded in Adelbert new home studio.

Although Sternzeit was recorded in his home studio, Adelbert Von Deyen had access to an enviable array of equipment. This included a myriad of strings including an ARP Odyssey. They were joined by synth strings, an organ,  electric piano and electric guitar. Adelbert Von Deyen played each instrument, and  produced Sternzeit. Once the album was recorded, it was mixed at Star-Studio, in Hamburg. Now Sternzeit was ready for release.

When Sternzeit was released later in 1978, it was well received by critics. Sternzeit sold reasonably, well and certainly was more successful than many Krautrock and Berlin School albums. It was only later that Adelbert Von Deyen’s music would receive the credit and critical acclaim it deserved. By then, Adelbert Von Deyen had an enviable back-catalogue.

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Norborg.

After the commercial success of Sternzeit, Adelbert Von Deyen was able to give up his job as a a retoucher for a Berlin newspaper and devote his energies to making music. This was a dream come true. Adelbert Von Deyen had also become something of a celebrity in his home town of Lübeck. He began to receive fan mail from record buyers, and was being booked to sign autographs. However, Adelbert Von Deyen wasn’t going to let his newfound celebrity status go to his head. Not when he had music to make.

When Adelbert Von Deyen had signed with Günter Körber’s Sky Records, the contract specified that he must deliver one album each year. So Adelbert Von Deyen’s thought’s turned to his sophomore album.  Part of the inspiration for one of the tracks came something that happened during a short holiday after the release of Sternzeit.

To celebrate the success of Sternzeit, Adelbert Von Deyen decided to book a short holiday in Nordborg, on the Danish island of Alsen. This would allow Adelbert to recharge his batteries. He had spent the best part of a year juggling his full-time job and recording his debut album. Sometimes, Adelbert had worked into the wee small hours of the morning. So he was due a  break. Little did Adelbert realise as he journeyed to Norborg, that his short break would later, provide the inspiration for his much-anticipated sophomore album.

On his return to Lübeck, Adelbert Von Deyen began work on his sophomore album, which he decided to call Norborg. His holiday provided plenty of inspiration for an album. On Side One, which Adelbert decided to call Moonrise, he decided to replicate sounds of life on Norborg from the moment the moon begins to rise. To do this,  Adelbert decided to recreate the sound of nature and the elements taking their toll on Norborg. He remembered the wind blowing, eddying and swirling. Meanwhile, Seagulls cry and protest as they battled the buffeting wind. Other times, Adelbert remembered a calmness that descended. This brought with it a sense of serenity that he planned to replicate in a ruminative, ethereal and elegiac soundscape. It would invite introspection and reflection. Then on the B-Side, Adelbert planned to recreate a ferocious blizzard that he had witnessed during his break. This he decided to call Iceland. Having plotted the ideas for his sophomore album, Adelbert Von Deyen headed into his Turm-Studio, in  Lübeck.

That was where Adelbert Von Deyen kept his enviable array of instruments. He was gradually adding new equipment to the studio. He would play on Norborg, a variety of instruments. This would include his ARP Odyssey, It was joined by a Farfisa String Orchestra, Hohner Electronic Piano, Farfisa Organ and Rhythm-Computer. These instruments were recorded into a Revox A 77 Taperecorder and mixed using a  Roland Mixer. Gradually, the album began to shape. 

Eventually, Norborg was completed. By then, Adelbert Von Deyen had written, recorded, played each instrument,  produced and mixed Norborg. This was quite incredible, considering Adelbert was still a relative newcomer to music. He was making up for lost time.

With Norborg complete, Adelbert Von Deyen turned his attention to the album cover. Just like Sternzeit,  Adelbert painted a picture that became the album cover to Norborg. This distinctive painting depicts perfectly the music on Norborg.

Now that the album was completed, Adelbert Von Deyen delivered the album to Günter Körber at Sky Records. Just like Sternzeit, he was won over by the music on Norborg. Its release was scheduled for later in 1979.

Before that, copies of Norborg were sent to critics. They too, were won over by the music on Norborg and the album received critical acclaim. That was no surprise.

Norborg is evocative, ethereal, elegiac and has a cinematic quality. So much so, that it’s possible to imagine the moon rising over Norborg as nature and the elements take centre-stage on Moonrise. Synths swirl, replicating the gusts of eddying winds, before the sound of seagulls battle the buffeting winds. Meanwhile, Adelbert Von Deyen continues to improvise, sculpting and carefully creating the ruminative, introspective, meditative and sometimes dramatic soundscape that is Moonrise. 

Iceland where Adelbert Von Deyen recreates the ferocious blizzard he witnessed during his holiday in Norborg. What follows is the perfect musical storm. To create this, he deploys his arsenal of instruments effectively and creates an authentic sounding soundscape. It builds, ebbing and flowing, veering between dramatic to wistful and melancholy. Always, there’s a cinematic quality to this second ambient soundscape. It finds Adelbert successfully combining ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School and electronica on much-anticipated sophomore album Norburg. Its ethereal beauty was sure to find an audience.

That proved to be the case. When Norborg was released by Sky Records later in 1979, it was to widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. Norborg sold reasonably well, outselling many similar albums. It also surpassed the success of Adelbert Von Deyen’s debut album Sternzeit. The Adelbert Von Deyen success story would continue into the eighties.

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Atmosphere.

Having released Norborg, there was no chance that Adelbert Von Deyen would rest on his laurels. He was already contemplating his third album. This would be an album where Adelbert sonically explored the subject of Atmosphere, which lent its name to the album. To help Adelbert on what was essentially a concept album, he enlisted the help of a few musical friends.

This included drummer Wolfgang Zabba Lindner. In the early seventies, he had previously been a member of the progressive rock band Tomorrow’s Gift. They released their eponymous debut album in 1970, with their sophomore album Goodbye Future following in 1973. That marked the end of Tomorrow’s Gift’s recording career. However, in 1974 Wolfgang collaborated with Carsten Bohn on an experimental percussive album Vollbedienung Of Percussion. It was released in 1974 and hailed an innovative album. Six years later, he joined forces with Adelbert Von Deyen.

When work began on Atmosphere, Adelbert Von Deyen headed to Studio Norgaard in August 1979. This would become a second home for him. Apart from the drums on Time Machine and Silverrain, Adelbert deployed his trusty synths on Atmosphere Part I and Atmosphere Part II. Both were four part suites, where swathes of glacial and ethereal synths were layered and glide elegiacally as sustained drones are added. Sometimes, they seem omnipresent as they last for minutes on end. Just like drums beats and a myriad of effects, they play an important part in the sound and success of Atmosphere.  Adelbert worked tirelessly honing and sculpting the atmospheric soundscapes. Eventually, after eleven months work, Adelbert completed his work on Atmosphere in June 1980. He dispatched the tapes to Lars Hidde in Hamburg

At the Star Studio, Hamburg, Lars Hidde added  a few finishing touches to Atmosphere. After that, he mixed and mastered Atmosphere. Now that Adelbert Von Deyen’s third album Atmosphere was completed, it was sent to Günter Körber at Sky Records.

Having listened to Atmosphere, he scheduled the release for later in 1980. Günter Körber liked what he heard, and decided to that Time-Machine should be released as the lead single. This would test the water, and give some indication of whether Atmosphere would be a commercial success.

Upon the release of  Time-Machine, the instrumental gave Adelbert Von Deyen his first hit single. Eventually, 50,000 copies of Time-Machine were sold. Adelbert Von Deyen’s had never been higher. This bode well for the release of Atmosphere. Before that, the critics had their say on Adelbert Von Deyen’s third album.

The critics spoke as one, calling Atmosphere, Adelbert Von Deyen’s finest album. Many critics referred to the album as an epic, others went further, calling  Atmosphere a Magnus Opus. No wonder.

Atmosphere begins with the pulsating, hypnotic Electro-Krautrock of Time-Machine. Synths buzz, adding an almost futuristic sound, while swathes glacial synths add the melody. Silverrain with its ethereal, ambient sound, meanders melodically along. Beauty is omnipresent on this atmospheric soundscape. Atmosphere  Part 1 is a three part cinematic soundscape, where Sunrise gives way to Altitude Flight and Astralis. Swathes of glacial synths and drones combine with sound effects to create a soundscapes that are variously elegiac, crystalline, dramatic, moody and futuristic. Always, they captivate with their timeless and cinematic sound. It’s a similar case with Atmosphere, Pt. II, which is a five part sci-fi suite. What follows is a voyage of discover as Skywards gives way to Spaces of Infinity then Crystal Clouds, Voices of Infinity and Dawn. Without doubt, this twenty-two minute epic is one of the finest moments not just of Atmosphere, but Adelbert Von Deyen’s three album career. Record buyers agreed.

Upon Atmosphere’s release later in 1980, record buyers across Germany sought out Adelbert Von Deyen’s third album. It had received ringing endorsements from each and every critic. They confidently told record buyers that Atmosphere was Adelbert Von Deyen’s finest hour.  When record buyers heard Atmosphere, they too agreed that Atmosphere was indeed, Adelbert Von Deyen’s Magnus Opus. In Germany, Atmosphere became Adelbert Von Deyen’s biggest selling album.

Elsewhere, Adelbert Von Deyen’s music was growing in popularity. Especially in Britain and France, where both Krautrock and Berlin School were popular.  The Adelbert Von Deyen success story continued. He had come a long way in just two years.

By 1980, Adelbert Von Deyen was well on his way to becoming one of Germany’s most successful musicians.  He was helping popularise the music of the Berlin School. This he did with his hit single Time-Machine. It sold 50,000 copies and was a staple of German radio for part of 1980. Suddenly, many German record buyers were hearing the music of the Berlin School for the first time. It wasn’t new. The Berlin School had been around since the early seventies. However, very few of its practitioners had enjoyed widespread commercial success. 

Time-Machine and the album it was taken from, Atmosphere were the exception rather, than the rule. Suddenly, it looked liked Adelbert Von Deyen was about to become one of the biggest names in German music. He certainly had the talent.

Proof of this is the music Atmosphere, which was the result of many months of hard work and dedication. In his home studio, gradually, Adelbert Von Deyen. honed and sculpted  his finest album Atmosphere. It’s variously atmospheric, cinematic, elegiac and ethereal. Occasionally an element of drama and darkness is introduced. So too are  futuristic, sci-fi sounds. Sometimes the soundscapes reveal a  melancholy, wistful sound. They’re sometimes ruminative and invite introspection and reflection. There’s also beauty, sense of melancholia and wistfulness on Atmosphere as the album reveals nuances secrets and subtleties aplenty, on Berlin School pioneer Adelbert Von Deyen finest hour.

He’s one of the few artists whose first three albums are now regarded as genre classics. Sternzeit in 1978 started the ball rolling, with  Norborg following in 1979. It became Adelbert Von Deyen’s second classic album. However, when Atmosphere was released in 1980it was heralded as Adelbert Von Deyen’s finest hour. It was his Magnus Opus, and the album all of his future albums would be compared too. 

Despite this, Atmosphere didn’t find the wider audience audience it deserved    outside of Germany. Even at home, success was relative, and it was a case of Atmosphere selling well compared to similar releases and Adelbert Von Deyen became something of a celebrity thanks to his music.

Forty years later, and sadly, Atmosphere is an oft-overlooked album. Except by by connoisseurs of the Berlin School of Electronic Music who hold Adelbert Von Deyen and his music in the highest regard. It finds him fusing elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental and Krautrock on Atmosphere, his critically acclaimed this album. Little did Adelbert Von Deyen realise upon Atmosphere’s release that it was his finest hour.

Atmosphere is a genre-melting Magnus Opus that nowadays, is regarded as the career defining album from Berlin School pioneer Adelbert Von Deyen, which is why this cult classic belongs in the collection of anyone with an interest in electronic music. 

Cult Classic: Adelbert Von Deyen-Atmosphere.

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THE CLARK SISTERS-YOU BROUGHT THE SUNSHINE-THE SOUND OF GOSPEL RECORDINGS 1976-1981.

The Clark Sisters-You Brought The Sunshine-The Sound Of Gospel Recordings 1976-1981.

Label: Ace Records.

By the late-sixties, both jazz and blues were no longer as popular as they once had been.  That was when it dawned on some mucicians that unless the music they loved evolved,  is risked becoming irrelevant. Both jazz and blues evolved and over fifty years later, both genres are thriving  and the music is still influencing a new generation of musicians. 

A decade later, gospel music was in a similar situation and needed to change. It hadn’t changed and had been left behind. That was until 1976, when The Clark Sisters  from Detroit, became part of a new generation of gospel groups who were determined to reinvent the music they loved. 

Playing their part in the story was Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark, a naturally talented and gifted composer who wrote gospel music that not opt addressed  what were important spiritual matters but modernised the music. Despite doing so, they felt they were staying true their ministry while reaching a much wider audience than  many of their predecessors.  However, this didn’t go down well with everyone.

Especially when DJs started playing You Brought The Sunshine (Into My Life) in discos and the track crossed over.  Traditionalists within the gospel community were horrified at what was happening. 

By then, Jacky, Denise, Dorinda, Karen and Elbernita Clark who collectively  were known as The Clark Sisters, were already one of the biggest names in gospel music. They had signed to The Sound Of Gospel label which  was their home between 1976 and 1981, and doing that five year period they released seven albums. 

The highlights of these six of these albums feature on You Brought The Sunshine-The Sound Of Gospel Recordings 1976-1981, which was recent released by Ace Records. However, The Clark Sisters recording career began in the early seventies.

In 1973, The Clark Sisters released their debut album Jesus Has A Lot To Give. It was produced by Bill Moss and released on his own Detroit-based Biless label. Most of the album was traditional gospel music apart from the title-track where Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark had rewritten a Pepsi Cola jingle. This was just the start. 

A year later,  in 1974, Mattie Moss Clark Presents The Clark Sisters was released and was once again produced by  Bill Moss . It was released on the  Biless label and was another album of traditional gospel music. However, their music changed when they signed to the Sound Of Gospel Records, a subsidiary of Westbound Records.

Two years later, The Clark Sisters retuned in 1976, with their third album and debut for the Sound Of Gospel Records. This was Unworthy which showcased the talents of Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark as she began to incorporate elements of blues, jazz ad R&B on an album whose highlights include Keep On Looking Up, I’m Going To Have Just What I Want and My Mind Is Made Up which features Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark on lead vocal. They all feature on You Brought The Sunshine-The Sound Of Gospel Recordings 1976-1981 and show the part that The Clark Sisters were already mailing in  the modernisation of gospel music.

By 1978, it was the height of the disco era, and Count It All Joy became The Clark Sisters fourth album. It saw Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark given a co-producer’s credit on an album which features elements of jazz and R&B. Patience almost heads in the direction of disco, while No Other Name is jazz-tinged thanks to the Hammond organ and the swaying gospel of I Found What I’m Looking For benefits from the addition of a jazz guitar. These three tracks are among the highlights of the album and are a welcome addition to You Brought The Sunshine-The Sound Of Gospel Recordings 1976-1981.


So do Jesus I’ll Never Forget and the uplifting and catchy God You Got The Glory, which were both penned by Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark and featured  on the 1979 album Praise Belongs To God. This wasn’t the only album The Clark Sisters released during 1979.

They also released  He Gave Me Nothing To Lose in 1979, which was the biggest crossover album of their career. Three of the highlights were Everything’s Gonna Be Alright where disco meets gospel  in a Chic-tinged track, while My Cup Runneth Over showcases The Clark Sisters’ at the peak of their powers and Nothing To Lose, All To Gain was perfect for quiet storm stations and like the other two tracks feature on You Brought The Sunshine-The Sound Of Gospel Recordings 1976-1981.

So does He Keeps Me Money, the joyous Overdose Of The Holy Ghost and You Brought The Sunshine which another of The Clark Sisters’ tracks to crossover and become a dancefloor filler. You Brought The Sunshine was the title-track to their 1981 album and  was played in many clubs, including Studio 54. However, gospel traditionalists weren’t happy and as The Clark Sisters played their part in reinventing the genre.

The last album The Clark Sisters released during the five year period documented on You Brought The Sunshine-The Sound Of Gospel Recordings 1976-1981 was Ye Shall Receive Power. Sadly, the album failed commercially and it’s now an oft-overlooked hidden gem. Two of the albums highlights are Awake O Zion and Power which are welcome additions to the compilation.

For anyone with even  a passing interest in gospel music, You Brought The Sunshine-The Sound Of Gospel Recordings 1976-1981, which was recently released by Ace Records and features some of the best music that The Clark Sisters recorded and released. They played their part in reinventing gospel music and ensuring the music stayed relevant. 

Playing an important part in the reinvention of gospel music was Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark, who was a truly talented and gifted composer. She drew inspiration from disparate genres including blues, disco, funk, jazz and R&B which were incorporated into the albums The Clark Sisters released by 1976 and 1981. A tantalising taste of their music can be found on You Brought The Sunshine-The Sound Of Gospel Recordings 1976-1981, which features The Clark Sisters as they play their part in reinventing gospel music and ensuring it stayed relevant 

The Clark Sisters-You Brought The Sunshine-The Sound Of Gospel Recordings 1976-1981.

CULT CLASSIC: DR JOHN-DESITIVELY BONAROO.

Cult Classic: Dr John-Desitively Bonnaroo.

When a copy of Dr John’s debut album Gris Gris was sent to Atlantic Records’ founder Ahmet Ertegun he disliked the album so much, that he was reluctant to even release the album and said: “how can we market this boogaloo crap?” This wasn’t the response that Dr John had been hoping when he recorded Gris Gris which was a combination of psychedelia, blues, free jazz, R&B, soul, funk, jazz. Add to this psychedelic stew the authentic music of the melting pot that is New Orleans and the voodoo image that Dr John had carefully cultivated  and Gris Gris was like no other album that Atlantic Records had released. That presented the label with a huge problem. 

Atlantic Records’ PR department had idea to promote an album like Gris Gris, as they had no cultural reference points, nothing to compare the album to. Despite the best efforts of Atlantic Records PR department, when Gris Gris was released on January the ’22nd’ 1968 and introduced the world to Dr John The Night Tripper, it failed to trouble the charts and neither critics nor record buyers understood Dr John’s groundbreaking debut album. However, like so many albums that fail to find an album on their release, Gris Gris was later reappraised and belatedly, was recognised as a seminal album that was the start of a rich vein of form from Dr John.

This was the start of a six-year period when Dr John could no wrong, and released seven innovative albums that are among the his finest work. These albums are the perfect introduction to Dr John and include another classic album, Babylon.

Babylon.

This was Babylon which was recorded in late 1969, which was a turbulent time for Dr John, who was experiencing  problems in his personal life. “I was being pursued by various kinds of heat across LA” and this influenced the album he was about to make. So would the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr and the Vietnam War which is referenced in The Patriotic Flag-Waiver. The title-track Babylon was recorded in 3/4 and 10/4 time, and featured Dr John thoughts on the state of world in late 1968. It was a part of a powerful album that was released in early 1969.

Babylon was released on January the ’17th’ 1969 was a powerful, cerebral and innovative genre-melting album which socially had much in common with Dr John’s debut album Gris Gris. However, critics didn’t ‘get’ Babylon and the album which failed commercially. However, just like Gris Gris, Babylon was later reappraised by critics and nowadays is regarded as one of his finest albums and a minor classic.

Remedies.

Following the commercial failure of Babylon, things went from bad to worse for Dr John, before he could begin work on his third album Remedies. This started when a deal went south, and he was arrested by the police and ended up in jail. It was a worrying time for Dr John who was parole, and if he ended up with a parole violation, he knew he might end up in the infamous Angola jail. That didn’t bare thinking about, and already Dr John was desperate to get out of the local jail. However, he needed someone to post bail, so contacted his managers who he remembers: “were very bad people.” This proved to be an understatement. 

Not long after this, Dr John’s managers had him committed to  a psychiatric ward, where he spent some time. By then, it was obvious to Dr John that his managers were no longer playing by the rules. All he wanted to do was make music, and everything that had happened recently were nothing to do with music. Instead, it was all connected to Dr John’s increasingly chaotic lifestyle, which made it all the more frustrating for those that realised just how talented the Gris Gris Man was.

Eventually, having managed to put his problems behind him, Dr John wrote the six tracks that became Remedies using his real name Mac Rebennack. Among the tracks Dr John had written was What Goes Around Comes Around which later became a favourite during his live shows and Mardi Gras Day which paints pictures of New Orleans when it comes out to play. Very different was Angola Anthem which was inspired by a friend of Dr John’s who had just been released from Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary after forty years. Dr John paid tribute to his friend with an eighteen minute epic that took up all of side two of Remedies. It was produced by one of the most successful producers of the day.

Although Harold Battiste had produced Gris Gris and Babylon, he was replaced by Tom Dowd and Charles Greene who were tasked with transforming Dr John’s career. However, although Tom Dowd was enjoying the most successful period of his career, he had never worked with anyone like Dr John. 

When the recording of Remedies began, Dr John was joined by a small band that featured Cold Grits who played drums, bass and guitar and backing vocalists Shirley Goodman, Tami Lynn and Jessie Hill who also played percussion. Dr John played piano, added his unmistakable vocals and despite losing part of a finger during a shooting a few years previously, he played guitar on Remedies which was released in the spring of 1970.

Just like his two previous albums, critics didn’t seem to understand Remedies, which was credited to Dr John The Night Tripper. Remedies was another ambitious album of genre-melting, voodoo-influenced album where Dr John The Night Tripper through everything from psychedelia, blues, R&B, soul, funk and jazz into the musical melting pot and gave it a stir to create an album where the music was mysterious, otherworldly and haunting. 

That was the case from the album opener Loop Garoo while there’s a darkness and defiance to the lyrics to the hook-laden What Comes Around (Goes Around) which showed another side to Dr John. His recent problems and  experiences had influenced Wash, Mama, Wash where soaring backing vocals and horns accompany Dr John on a track that is tinged with humour. The horns return and play their part in the success of Chippy Chippy, before the darkness describes and music becomes moody and broody as chants, moans and cries emerge from this lysergic voodoo stew of Mardi Gras Day which gives way to the otherworldly eighteen minute epic Angola. It brought Remedies to a close, which was a potent and heady brew from Dr John The Night Tripper.

By the time Remedies was released on April ‘9th’ 1970, some FM radio stations had picked up on the album, and were playing it on their late shows. Despite the radio play Remedies had received, the album never troubled the charts, and it was only much later that record buyers realised that they had missed out on another important and innovative album from Dr John. 

The Sun, Moon and Herbs.

Despite Dr John’s first three albums failing to find an audience, many of his fellow musicians were fans of his music, and were only too happy to feature on his fourth album The Sun, Moon and Herbs. This included Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Bobby Whitlock, Graham Bond, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon and Doris Troy. They were joined by The Memphis Horns as Dr John and Charles Greene took charge of production. 

They were responsible for a dark and swampy sounding album that is rich in imagery and paints of New Orleans on a hot, sticky night as thunder crackles and rumbles in the distance like the drums on The Sun, Moon and Herbs. When it was released on August the ’31st’ 1971, still critics struggled to understand Dr John’s music, but this time, The Sun, Moon and Herbs which featured an all-star cast, spent five weeks in US Billboard 200 and peaked at 184. At last, Dr John’s music was starting to find a wider audience.

Dr. John’s Gumbo.

Buoyed by the success of The Sun, Moon and Herbs, Dr John decided to record an album of cover versions of New Orleans’ classics for his fifth album Dr. John’s Gumbo. It was produced by Harold Battiste and Jerry Wexler and ironically given Dr. John’s Gumbo featured tracks by legends some of the New Orleans’ musical legends including Professor Longhair,  Huey “Piano” Smith, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford and Dr John the album was recorded in LA. However, Dr. John’s Gumbo was  The Night Tripper’s most successful album.

Unlike previous albums, Dr. John’s Gumbo was a much more straightforward album of R&B, and it found favour with critics. After Dr. John’s Gumbo was released to critical acclaim, it reached entered the US Billboard 200 where it spent eleven weeks, peaking at 112. Dr John was on his way. 

In The Right Place.

Following the success of Dr. John’s Gumbo, Dr John headed to Criteria Studios, in Miami, where he recorded In The Right Place with songwriter, musician, arranger and producer Allen Toussaint. He was one of the most influential figures in the New Orleans’ music scene, and was able to bring out the best in Dr John as he laid down songs of the quality of Right Place, Wrong Time, Same Old Same Old, Peace Brother Peace and Such A Night. Once In The Right Place was completed, the two men returned to the Big Easy and watched as Dr John’s popularity soared.

Critics on hearing In The Right Place which was a fusion of funk, blues and New Orleans R&B hailed the album was one of his finest. Record buyers agreed when In The Right Place was released on February the ’25th’ 1973 thirty-three weeks in the US Billboard 200 and peaked at twenty-four. What Ahmet Ertegun had foolishly described as: “boogaloo crap” just a few years earlier, was now proving profitable for his company. Dr John was having the last laugh.

Desitively Bonnaroo.

The success of In The Right Place was a game-changer for Dr John, whose popularity soared. After six albums, he was enjoying the commercial success and critical acclaim his music deserved. However, Dr John knew that he would have to think about his seventh album, and began writing what became Desitively Bonnaroo.

Of the eleven tracks on Desitively Bonnaroo, Dr John wrote nine and penned Desitively Bonnaroo with Jessie Jill.  These tracks were joined by covers of Earl King’s Let’s Make a Better World and Allen Toussaint’s Go Tell the People. These tracks were recorded at Sea-Saint Recording in New Orleans and Criteria Studios in Miami.

Just like In The Right Place,  Allen Toussaint produced Desitively Bonnaroo, played piano, keyboards and added percussion and backing vocals. Accompanying Dr John was The Meters, one of New Orleans’ hottest funk band plus a horn section and backing vocalists. They played their part in an album that followed in the footsteps of In The Right Place.

When critics heard Desitively Bonnaroo they were once again won over by another carefully crafted album of funk and New Orleans R&B from Dr John. It oozed quality from the opening bars of Quitters Never Win and included another version of What Come Around (Goes Around) plus the irresistible Mos’ Scocious and songs full of social comment like Everybody Wanna Get Rich) Rite Away and Let’s Make a Better World. They were joined by the soulful and funky Sing Along Song and Can’t Git Enuff which is one of the funkiest cuts on the album. However, one of the most beautiful and poignant was the ballad Go Tell The People, which gives way to the uber funky album closer Desitively Bonnaroo. It closed Dr John’s seventh album on a high.

On the release of Desitively Bonnaroo on April the ‘8th’ 1974, it charted in the US Billboard 200 where it spent eight weeks and reached number 105. Despite the quality of Desitively Bonnaroo it had failed to replicate the commercial success of In The Right Place, which must have been a huge disappointment for Dr John.

Sadly, Desitively Bonnaroo was the last album that Dr John released on the Atlantic Records imprint Atco, and was the end of a golden period for Dr John. From Gris Gris which was released on January the ’22nd’ 1968, right through to Desitively Bonnaroo which hit the shops on April the ‘8th’ 1974, musical chameleon and pioneer Dr John had been on the hottest streak of his career, releasing a string of groundbreaking albums, including several classic albums.

These albums showed different sides to Dr John’s music, as his music continued to evolve over a six-year period. By the time he released the funky New Orleans R&B of Desitively Bonnaroo in 1974, this was a long way from his classic debut album Gris Gris. Sadly, it was an album the majority of critics and record buyers failed to understand and it reached a disappointing 105 in the US Billboard 200. Nowadays, Desitively Bonnaroo is oft-overlooked album that is vastly underrated and is regarded as a cult classic. It’s also  an album that brought to an end what was a golden era for the late, great Dr John who for six years and seven albums could do no wrong. During this period, this much missed musical charismatic  chameleon released some of the best and most inventive and innovative music of his long and illustrious career.

Cult Classic: Dr John-Desitively Bonnaroo.

 

CULT CLASSIC: T-BONE WALKER, JOE TURNER, OTIS SPANN-SUPER BLACK BLUES.

Cult Classic: . T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Otis Spann-Super Black Blues.

By the late sixties, blues music was no longer as popular. Psychedelia and rock music were the most popular genres. Groups like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Band, Canned Heat and Fleetwood Mac were some of the biggest selling acts. Along with Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, they were music’s future. Blues music many people thought, represented its past. For many musicians, that wasn’t the case.

Many of the biggest names in music acknowledged the influence blues music had on them. Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Canned Heat and Fleetwood Mac all were inspired by blues music. They made no bones about that. Each of these artists realised this. Without the blues, they wouldn’t be enjoying the commercial success and critical acclaim that they were enjoying.  The blues was where modern music began. It couldn’t and shouldn’t be allowed to die. So, groups like the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac revisited old blues tracks. This gave the blues a much needed boost. 

With a new generation of musicians breathing new life and meaning into blues classics, there was a sudden upsurge of interest in the blues. So, record companies started signing new blues acts. Some record companies even signed ageing blues musicians. This included Bob Thiele’s new label.

After leaving Impulse, following the musical equivalent of a coup d’etat Bob Thiele, formed Flying Dutchman Productions. He also believed the blues had a future. So, he started signing some of the biggest names in blues music to his nascent label. Before long, Flying Dutchman’s roster read like a who’s who of the blues. T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Otis Spann were all signed to Flying Dutchman Productions and would release comeback albums. 

In 1969, Joe Turner released The Real Boss Of The Blues on Flying Dutchman Productions. Otis Spann released Sweet Giant Of The Blues during 1969. A year later, T-Bone Walker released Every Day I Have The Blues, in 1970. However, a year earlier, in 1969, T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Otis Spann collaborated on on Super Black Blues, which was released by Flying Dutchman Productions in 1969. Super Black Blues features what was, essentially, a blues supergroup.

Joining T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Otis Spann were George “Harmonica” Smith, Ron Brown, Arthur Wright, Ernie Watts and Paul Humphrey. For blues aficionados, it’s a tantalising taste of what the three musicians  were capable of.

Of the four tracks on Super Black Blues, T-Bone Walker penned Paris Blues, Jot’s Blues and Blues Jam under his real name, Aaron Walker. The fourth track was a cover of Lew Brown, B.G. DeSylva and Ray Henderson’s Here I Am Broken Hearted. These four tracks were recorded by T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Otis Spann’s all-star blues’ band.

When the recording of Super Black Blues began, the recording studio was full with blues greats. The rhythm section included drummer Paul Humphrey, bassist Ron Brown and guitarists T-Bone Walker and Arthur Wright. Otis Spann played piano, Ernie Watts tenor saxophone and George “Harmonica” Smith blew his unmistakable blues harmonica. Adding the finishing touch was Joe Turner’s vocals. As sessions go, it must have been one of Bob Thiele’s easiest.

No wonder with all the experience and talent that gathered together in the one recording studio. For Bob Thiele, a huge blues aficionado, this was a dream come true. Although he was the producer, musicians this good, almost didn’t need a producer. They’d been here many times before and new how a session worked. So, for Bob, it was a case of enjoy the show.

Once the microphones were setup and instruments tuned, it was a case of pressing the record button and enjoying the recording sessions for Super Black Blues. T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Otis Spann’s all-star blues’ band didn’t disappoint.

On the release of Super Black Blues in 1969, it seemed to pass people by. That was a shame, given it’s three blues masters at the peak of their powers. It seemed that the sudden resurgence in interest in the blues had been overstated? Since then Super Black Blues, has remained a hidden gem, a cult classic that’s talked about in hushed tones among blues fans. 

Super Black Blues opens with Paris Blues. It’s slow, moody and bluesy. A probing bass, jangling piano and crystalline guitar combine with bursts of bluesy harmonica. They set the scene for Joe Turner’s lived-in, heartbroken vocal. He’s hurting as he sings: “I love my woman, but she doesn’t love me.” Behind him, the rest of the band lock into a groove. They feed off each other. It becomes a game of daring do. Whatever Otis Spann can do on the piano, T-Bone Walker can do better on the guitar. All the time, bassist Ron Brown provides the heartbeat. Chiming guitar, flourishes of piano and bursts of bluesy harp provide the backdrop for Joe’s soul-baring vocal. Everyone gets the opportunity to shine. Not just  T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Otis Spann. There’s plenty of time for that. After all, this is a fourteen minute Magnus Opus, where three blues’ greats and their friends get the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents.

T-Bone Walker’s crystalline guitar opens Here I Am Broken Hearted. It sets the scene for another heartbroken vocal from Joe. He leaves gaps, which are filled by Ernie Watts’ blistering, riffing tenor saxophone. Ernie’s playing raises the bar. Suddenly, everyone is pulls out the stops.  They lift their game. Especially, T-Bone’s guitar and Otis’ piano. They’re played with flamboyant flourishes. They’re the perfect foil for Joe’s despairing, hurt-filled vocal.

Just T-Bone Walker’s opens Jot’s Blues, as the arrangement gradually unfolds. Deliberatelym he picks at the strings, before a dramatic flourish signals the band to enter. Otis Spann plays flamboyantly, while the rhythm section lock into a bluesy groove. T-Bone unleashes some brief, bluesy licks. Then Joe’s grizzled, weary vocal enters. It’s accompanied by Ernie Watts’ scorching tenor saxophone and Otis’ piano. They seem to drive each other to greater heights. It’s a case of anything you can do, I can do better. Soon, T-Bone gets in on the act. Effortlessly, his fingers fly up and down the fretboard, his guitar chiming all the time. Meanwhile, Joe unleashes a vocal that’s full of sadness and emotion. His timing is perfect. He’s also quite happy to allow others to shine, during this eight minute epic. Playing starring roles are Otis, Joe, T-Bone and Ernie Watts, who are responsible for a blues masterclass.

Closing Super Black Blues is Blues Jam. Straight away, the rhythm section and Otis’ piano get to work. They drive the arrangement along. T-Bone unleashes bursts of bluesy guitar. When Joe’s vocal enters, he’s got the blues. The band try to lift his spirits, as they unleash a jaunty arrangement. Everyone does their best. Especially, George “Harmonica” Smith, who blows his best solo. He never misses a beat. Neither does Otis as he pounds his piano. Accompanying him is Ernie Watts, who seems to bring out the best in Otis. After that, Joe returns, and takes on the roll of MC. By then, the band are on a roll. They’re at their tightest, as the music just flows through them. A scorching saxophone, pounding piano and rhythm section accompany a lovestruck Joe as the band drive the track towards its crescendo. They’re determined to close Super Black Blues on a high. This they do and then some. Without doubt, they’ve kept the best until last.

Often, when a group of top musicians get together, egos get in the way of the music. Not on Super Black Blues. T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Otis Spann were too long in the tooth for that. They’d spent a lifetime playing the blues. As the sixties drew to a close, blues music had been in the doldrums. Not any more.

 A new generations of music had  acknowledged the influence blues music had on them. Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Canned Heat and Fleetwood Mac all were inspired by blues music. They revisited old blues tracks and brought new life and meaning into them. This lead to a resurgence in interest in blues music. 

Record companies were now signing new blues acts. Meanwhile, Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions took a different approach. They went looking for blues greats. This described T-Bone Walker and Joe Turner, who were approaching the veteran status. Otis Spann was different. He was one of a new breed of bluesmen. He was only thirty-nine when he recorded Super Black Blues. However, Otis loved life. Too much it turned out.

Otis faithfully lived the life of a bluesman. This meant a regular diet of wine, women and song. Sadly, this caught up with him in 1930. He died age forty. That’s much too young. A hugely talented pianist never got the opportunity to fully fulfil his potential. Listening to Super Black Blues, which was one of Otis, last recordings, one wonders what heights he would have reached?

Sadly, Super Black Blues was the only time T-Bone Walker and Joe Turner ever recorded with Otis Spann. Although this cult classic features just four songs and lasts thirty-three minutes, Super Black Blues is an essential purchase for anyone interested in the blues.

Cult Classic: . T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Otis Spann-Super Black Blues.

CDCHM-1409

 

CULT CLASSIC: DIETER MOEBIUS-DING.

Cult Classic: Dieter Moebius-Ding.

Ten years after Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius formed Cluster in 1971, the first chapter in the Cluster story drew to a close 1981, after the release of their seventh studio album, Curiosum. Hans-Joachim Roedelius said: “Cluster had run its course. We decided to concentrate on other projects. There was no fall-out, Cluster just came to a natural end.” 

In the post-Cluster years, Dieter Moebius divided his time with a variety of projects, including a variety of collaborations and, his solo career. Dieter Moebius’ solo career solo career had to fit round his many other musical commitments. As a result, solo albums were sporadic. In total, Dieter Moebius released just five solo albums during his lifetime, including Kram in 2009 and Ding in 2011. By the time, Dieter Moebius Ding, his career had taken a few twists and turns.  

Moebius and Plank.

Rastakraut Pasta.

In 1980, Dieter and Conny Plank entered Conny’s Studio to record seven tracks. They were joined by another giant of German music, Can bassist Holger Czukay. He played on Feedback 66, Missi Cacadou and Two Oldtimers. When the seven tracks were completed, Rastakraut Pasta was would be released later in 1980.

Critics hailed Moebius and Plank’s debut Rastakraut Pasta a truly groundbreaking album.  It was a fusion of avant-garde Kominische, industrial, electronica, experimental and dub reggae. This disparate and unlikely fusion of genres proved a potent musical pot-pourri, that proved popular with critics and record buyers. So much so, that Conny Plank and Dieter Moebius released a second album together.

Material.

The Moebius and Plank partnership returned in 1981 with their sophomore album, Material. It featured five songs recorded at Conny’s Studio. This time, there was no sign of Holger Czukay. Instead, the two old friends and musical pioneers worked together on another album of truly groundbreaking music that became Material.

Just like Rastakraut Pasta, Material was hailed as another album of groundbreaking, genre-melting music. Elements of avant-garde Kominische, industrial, electronica, experimental and dub reggae. This resulted in music that wasn’t just innovative, but way ahead of its time. Material was also a timeless album, and one that  resulted in what seemed like a queue of musicians wanting to collaborate with Dieter Moebius.

First in the queue was Gerd Beerbohm. They released their first collaboration, Strange Music in 1982. This was the first of two albums that the pair would record tougher. The followup Double Cut was released in 1983. That same year, Dieter Moebius released his debut album Tonspuren.

Tonspuren.

To record his debut solo album, Dieter Moebius headed for the familiar surroundings of Conny’s Studio, in Cologne.  He had made this journey countless times before, and in the second half of 1982, Dieter began recording ten soundscapes. With Conny looking on approvingly, and making a few suggestions, Tonspuren began to take shape. Once the album was recorded, Conny mixed Tonspuren. It was then released in 1983.

Just like his previous collaborations with Conny Plank, Tonspuren was released on Günter Körber’s Sky Records. It was the perfect label for an album of minimalist, experimental and ambient music.

Günter Körbe had setup Sky Records in 1975, and had never been afraid to release music that many labels would’ve shied away from. Many other German labels were only interested in commercial music. However,  Sky Records, just like Brain and Ohr before them, were determined to released groundbreaking music. This was how some critics described Tonspuren. 

Critics had awaited the release of Tonspuren with interest. They wondered what direction Dieter Moebius’ music would head? When they heard Tonspuren, with its minimalist, ambient and sometimes experimental sound, they knew. It was a captivating debut album, and critics awaited  Dieter’s sophomore album with interest. Sadly, they would have a long wait.

Sixteen years to be exact. Dieter Moebius would released several collaborations, and Cluster would’ve reunited before Dieter Moebius released his sophomore album.  By then, Dieter Moebius had reinvented himself, while music, and the way it was made had changed.

Following the release of Tonspuren, Dieter Moebius continued to collaborate with other artists, This included two collaborations with Karl Renziehausen. Dieter Moebius also wrote the soundtrack to Blue Moon in 1986. However, it was Conny Plank that Dieter Moebius collaborated with most often. They recorded three further albums with Conny Plank, This included 1983s Zero Set which featured Guru Guru drummer Mani Neumeier; 1995s En Route; and Ludwig’s Law which featured Mayo Thompson.  However, still, Dieter Moebius found time to reunite with Hans-Joachim Roedelius for the comeback of Cluster.

Apropos Cluster.

Recording of Cluster’s tenth album took place during 1989 and 1990. Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius recorded five tracks, including the twenty-two minute epic title-track. It was part of an album that was similar to Grosses Wasser.

That is the comparisons critics drew, when Apropos Cluster was released in 1991. The only difference was, that Apropos Cluster wasn’t as rhythmic as Grosses Wasser. Instead, it was understated, ethereal and thoughtful ambient music. The followup to Apropos Cluster was the first of three live albums that Cluster would release.

One Hour

The first of the trio of live albums Cluster released during the nineties, was One Hour. It came about after Cluster improvised in the studio for four hours. This they edited this down to One Hour, and the result is a truly captivating album that was released in 1995.

One Hour features Cluster at their most imaginative as they take their music in the most unexpected directions. Curveballs are constantly bowled, as what sounds like the soundtrack to a surrealist film unfolds. Elements of ambient, avant-garde and modern classical music combine, resulting in one of the most intriguing albums in Cluster’s discography.

Two years later, in 1997, Cluster released the first of two live albums. The first was Japan 1996 Live. It was followed by First Encounter Tour 1996, which was their thirteen album, was the first double album Cluster had released. It would also be the last album they released for eleven years. During that period, Dieter Moebius released four further solo albums. The first of this quartet of solo albums was Blotch.

Blotch.

After a sixteen year period where he was constantly collaborating with other artists, the release of Blotch in 1999, marked the start of a period where mostly, Dieter Moebius would concentrate on his solo career. While there was the occasional excursion with Cluster, and a collaboration with Asmus Tietchens in 2012,  mostly, the period between 1999 and 2014 are best described as the solo years.

One thing that never changed during the solo the solo years, was Dieter Moebius’ determination to innovate. Helping Dieter Moebius to innovate, was the technology that hadn’t been available when he recorded his debut solo album, Tonspuren in 1983. Dieter Moebius embraced this new technology when he recorded Blotch, which featured  Tim Story. The result was his long-awaited comeback album, Blotch.

Blotch featured a series of playful mesmeric loop based tracks. They’re atmospheric and experimental, with Dieter Moebius adding bursts of speech and samples to the musical canvas. They were ‘painted’ by Dieter Moebius, who makes full use of musical palette, which included the new technology. Dieter Moebius’  willingness to innovate and embrace this new technology resulted in an album that was well worth the sixteen year wait.

When Blotch was released, Dieter Moebius was hailed as the comeback King. He had reinvented himself musically, and recorded a much more experimental, genre-melting album. Dieter Moebius had made good use of new technology, and added snatches of speech to the seven soundscapes. This proved a potent combination on album that fused everything from ambient and avant-garde, through to electronica and experimental to industrial, Krautrock and Musique Concrète. The result was an album of atmospheric, dramatic, futuristic and sometimes, ethereal, understated and beautiful music. These soundscapes were always cinematic and mostly, have a hypnotic quality on Blotch, the album that marked the return of Dieter Moebius.

Nurton.

Seven years after Dieter Moebius’ comeback, he returned in 2006 with the third album of his solo career, Nurton. The album was recorded a year earlier in 2005, with Dieter Moebius making good use of some of the technology that he had used on Blotch. One of Dieter Moebius’ secret weapons was the Korg Prophecy which replicated a variety of analog synths. This Dieter Moebius put to good use on Nurton. 

Dieter Moebius had pushed musical boundaries to their limit on Nurton. Just like he had throughout his career, he had turned his back on musical convention and structure. Instead, he let his imagination run riot, and  studio became a laboratory, where Dieter Moebius experimented.

The result was Nurton, which veers between moody and broody, to dark and dramatic, to ethereal and elegiac to understated and beautiful. Always, though, the best words to describe Nurton were futuristic, cinematic and hypnotic. Dieter Moebius had pulled out the stops on Nurton, which was a captivating album that painted pictures in the mind’s eye. Much of the music on Nurton was akin to a sci-fi soundtrack. Nurton also has a timeless quality, and featured some of the most ambitious, innovative and experimental music of Dieter Moebius’ career. He had set the bar high for the followup album, which was Kram, which was released in 2009.

Kram.

By the time Dieter Moebius came to record Kram, life was good for one of the leading lights of the German music scene. Somewhat belatedly, the music Dieter Moebius recorded with Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia was receiving the recognition it deserved at home and abroad. German music fans realised that  Dieter Moebius was one of their national treasures and had grown to appreciate his music. 

Dieter Moebius was still one of the leading lights of the Berlin music scene in 2008, when his thoughts turned to recording a new studio album. By then, Dieter Moebius and his wife Irene were dividing their time between Berlin and Majorca, where they could enjoy a much more agreeable climate. However, Dieter Moebius spent some of his time in Majorca working on new music.  He had a small mobile recording setup, which replicated the one he kept at him home in Berlin. 

This meant that whenever he felt inspired to make music, Dieter Moebius could enter his studio, and work on music for his latest project. In 2008, the project that Dieter Moebius was working on was his fourth studio album, which would eventually become Kram, which translates as “stuff”. The time he sent in his studios in Berlin and Majorca resulted in ten soundscapes which lasted nearly fifty-two minutes. These soundscapes became Kram, which when it was released, became Dieter Moebius’ first album in three years.

With the release of Kram fast approaching in 2009, it was changed days for Dieter Moebius. In the early days of his career, when albums by Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia failed to attract the attention of critics. Sometimes, they passed almost unnoticed, or received just a few reviews. By 2009, Dieter  Moebius was fifty-five and one of the elder statesmen of German music. He had been one of the pioneers in the late sixties, and forty years later, was still going strong and releasing ambitious and innovative music on Kram.

Critics upon hearing Kram, hailed the album one of Dieter Moebius’ finest hours as a solo artist. The album received praise and plaudits, with one of the founding fathers of modern German music creating a captivating album that was a musical roller coaster.

Kram is  best described as veering between understated, ruminative and elegiac to playful, joyous and tinged with humour, to charming and moderne. Other times, the music is mesmeric and hypnotic, before becoming dark and dramatic. Sometimes, the music becomes experimental and ambitious, while other times, Dieter Moebius unleashes a myriad of futuristic and sci-fi sounds. They join found and throwaway sounds, samples and Dieter Moebius’ trusty synths which he uses to create another genre-melting album which is sometimes cinematic, but captivates from the opening bars of Start to the closing notes of Markt.

During Kram, Dieter Moebius combines elements of ambient, avant-garde, the Berlin School, electronica, experimental music, Krautrock and even briefly rock. The result is an album that features Dieter Moebius at most ambitious and innovative. Proof of this are some of the highlights of Kram.

This includes Kommit, where the mesmeric music pulsates and before becoming rocky ands futuristic. On Wommit which has a Krautrock influence, Dieter Moebius toys with the controls of his synths as avant-garde meets electronica. Then Dauert is an ethereal  soundscape where Dieter Moebius adds sci-fi sounds. Steigert is dark, dramatic and cinematic. So too is Rennt, which features an urgency and a myriad of futuristic sounds. The hypnotic Schwitzt also has darkness, and is moody, broody and cinematic. Closing Kram is Markt, a dramatic and cinematic soundscape where Dieter Moebius fuses elements of avant-garde, electronica, experimental and Musique Concrète and ensures the album ends on a high. He had kept one of the best until last.

After three years away, Dieter Moebius returned with one of the finest solo albums of his career. Sadly, it would prove to the penultimate album of his long and illustrious career.

Ding.

Two years after the release of Kram returned with his fifth solo album Ding in 2011. He had recorded Ding a year earlier, in Berlin studio. Now he was ready to release the much-anticipated followup to Kram. By then, the music Dieter Moebius had created with Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia had never been as popular. This resulted in an upsurge of interest in his solo career.

Just like previous solo albums, Dieter Moebius had embraced the latest technology. This included a random loop generator, which he had put to good use during the making of Ding. The loops it generated, were combined with bifurcate rhythms, impalpable and ghostly voices and a myriad of assorted audio matter which became part of the eleven soundscapes on Ding.

When critics heard Ding, they realised that it was quite different from its predecessor. It was another ambitious album, where Dieter Moebius set about reinventing his music once again.  To do this, he combined elements of avant-garde with the Berlin School, electronica, experimental, industrial, Krautrock and Musique Concrète. There was also an array of hypnotic, industrial mechanical and robotic sounds on Ding, which was one of the most ambitious and experimental albums of Dieter Moebius’ solo career.

That is apparent straight away, on the album opener Walksol, where a myriad of repetitive and hypnotic sounds join various mechanical and industrial sounds as Dieter Moebius unleashes a fleet-fingered keyboard solo. Then Defekt has a much more understated, but moody and cinematic sound. Flink and Neue Newsw are among the most ambitious tracks as Dieter Moebius knits together a myriad disparate of sounds and samples. Somehow, they make perfect sense musically. So does Alaise a dramatic, futuristic and cinematic soundscape. Alfred also showcases a cinematic sound, albeit one that has an understated and lo-fi sound. Still though, it captivates and finds Dieter Moebius innovating. Ding marks a return to the more robotic and mechanical sounds, while Zufall sounds like it’s part of the soundtrack to a sci-fi film. Dramatic describes Bone, which has moody, mechanical sound, before Fou Dieter Moebius unleashes a menagerie of samples to create a menacing backdrop. Closing Ding is Ruston and Monotron, which picks up where Fou left off. Drones, samples and found sounds combine on this fusion of avant-garde, industrial and Musique Concrète. As befitting of a true musical pioneer, Dieter Moebius closes the album with one of his most ambitious soundscapes.

Just as he had been doing throughout his long and illustrious career, Dieter Moebius had created groundbreaking music and ambitious music on Ding. He embraced new technology, and used an array of samples, found sounds and leftfield sounds to create new and ambitious music. The music on Ding pushed musical boundaries to their limit, which amongst the most ambitious music released during 2011. That was what critics and record buyers had come to expect from sonic pioneer Dieter Moebius.  Sadly, his cult classic Ding, which was the last album that Dieter Moebius released.

Musik für Metropolis

The following year, 2012, Dieter Moebius was invited to perform music to accompany a screening of Fritz Lang’s legendary silent film Metropolis. For the screening, Dieter Moebius began work on producing new tracks and samples. These he would play on the night and treated with a myriad of effects during Dieter Moebius’ improvised performance. His performance was planned so that it would  provide the soundtrack to what was happening on the sliver screen. The Metropolis project took a lot of planning, but it was well worthwhile.

When the day of the screening of Metropolis arrived, Dieter Moebius made his way to the venue. With him, he took the equipment which he planned to put to good use that night. That was the case. It was a masterful and triumphant performance from Dieter Moebius, as he provided the perfect soundtrack for Metropolis. It had highlighted the drama and tension of Fritz Lang’s classic film. Buoyed by the success of his performance, Dieter Moebius began contemplating the next part in the Metropolis project.

All along, Dieter Moebius planned to record a full-length album featuring the music from the Metropolis project. Dieter Moebius began work on the Metropolis’ project, and continued to work on other projects. The sixty-eight year old still had an insatiable appetite for music, and immersed himself in the Metropolis’ project, which gradually started to take shape. Then tragedy stuck, when Dieter Moebius was diagnosed with cancer. 

Suddenly, music didn’t matter any more, as Dieter Moebius was fighting for his life. He battled bravely against cancer, fighting for his future and very life. Sadly, Dieter Moebius died on the ‘20th’ of July 2015’ after what had been a brave and lengthy battle against cancer. He left behind a richest musical legacy.

This included the albums he released with Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia, plus his many collaborations and five solo albums. Two of his finest solo albums are Kram and his groundbreaking cult classic Ding. It features one of the founding fathers of modern German music doing what he did best, creating ambitious and innovative music. It’s a reminder of sonic pioneer and musical maverick Dieter Moebius, at the peal of his powers, during his constant and continual quest to reinvent his music during his solo years.

Cult Classic: Dieter Moebius-Ding.

 

 

 

CULT CLASSIC: ARTHUR-DREAMS AND IMAGES.

Cult Classic: Arthur-Dreams and Images.

The story of Arthur Lee Harper is a familiar one. He was a talented singer-songwriter who looked as if he was destined for great things. Sadly, that proved not to be the case. Arthur only ever released one album, Dreams and Images which was released on Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records 1968. 

Dreams and Images could’ve and should’ve been the first of many successful albums from Arthur. That wasn’t case. Arthur’s recording career was over before it could start. Things could’ve been very different though.

When Arthur was about to sign to LHI Records, Arthur got the opportunity to sign to the  same company as The Beach Boys. This was a very tempting offer. However, that deal was only for a single. LHI Records were offering an album deal. That seemed a better offer to Arthur. Sadly, Arthur had backed the wrong horse. His recording career was over. For the rest of Arthur’s life, it was a case of what might have been? 

Arthur Lee Harper was born in Melbourne, Florida. That’s where he spent his early years. Then just before his teenage years, Arthur’s parent’s marriage broke down. It was a tough time for Arthur. So, Arthur went to live with his grandmother. She decided to move to California. 

The move to California was a fresh start for Arthur. He and his grandmother’s two sons settled into life in California. One of the main attractions for Arthur was Hollywood’s music scene. It was like a beacon, constantly trying to catch Arthur’s attention. Eventually, it succeeded. 

When he was old enough, Arthur made the move to Los Angeles. Once there, Arthur witnessed the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, which quickly, he decided wasn’t for him. He shied away from the drugs that fuelled Tinseltown. However, what interested and inspired Arthur was the music.

Arthur decided to make a living in L.A. as a singer-songwriter. That, he soon realised, wasn’t going to be easy. He was living in the Y.M.C.A. That’s where he met poets Mark Lindsey Buckingham and Stephen John Kalininch. They all had one thing in common, they dreamed of making it big in Tinseltown.

Before long, things were looking good for the three friends. Mark and Stephen were offered a deal with The Beach Boys’ Brother Records as songwriters. Not long after this, Arthur signed to Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records.

Back then, it didn’t take much to get an audition at LHI Records. It was a case of ring the bell, and then audition. For the lucky few, including Arthur, it was a case of signing on the dotted line. Now, he was on his way to releasing his debut album.

During his time in L.A., Arthur had been writing songs. This included the ten tracks that would become Dreams and Images. Arthur laid down his vocal and played acoustic guitar at the sessions on the 21st and 22nd November 1967. After that, Arthur described how he envisaged, and “heard,” the arrangements. Only then, did producer Lee Hazelwood bring onboard his tried and trusted musical lieutenants. 

This included arranger Don Randi and some of Lee’s favourite session musicians. He used them on many of his recordings, and knew what to expect from them. They added colour to Dreams and Images. Only then, was Dreams and Images ready to be released.

Dreams and Images was released on Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records in 1968. Dreams and Images epitomised the the psychedelic folk sound that  by 1967, was proving popular. Arthur seemed to be in the right place, with the right album. Surely, things couldn’t go wrong?

Especially with Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records just having received several hundred thousand dollars from ABC Records. This was part of a distribution deal between the two labels. It gave ABC Records the right to distribute LHI Records’ releases. With LHI Records apparently cash rich, they’d go all out to promote Dreams and Images?

For some reason, that proved not to be the case. As is often the case when working with small, independent labels Dreams and Images wasn’t heavily promoted. Instead, it was a low key release. In one fell swoop, Arthur’s hope of a successful album were crushed.

Dreams and Images didn’t sell well. It had nothing to do with the music. Instead, it was down to the lack of promotion. Sadly, it’s an all too familiar story. Especially where independent labels are concerned. Sadly, forty-seven years after the release of Dreams and Images, that’s the case to this day. 

Apart from selling a few thousand copies in Denver, Colorado, Dreams and Images passed most people by. It was a case of what might have been? How successful would’ve Dreams and Images been in it had been released on Elektra Records? Sadly, Arthur and ABC Records had backed the wrong horse.

Later in 1968, ABC Records dissolved their partnership with LHI Records. It had been an expensive lesson, one that cost ABC Records several hundred thousand dollars. The upside was it yielded three albums, including Arthur’s Dreams and Images,

Dreams and Images, which was released in 1968, by Lee Hazelwood’s LKI Records, is yet another hidden gem that, could’ve and should’ve transformed Arthur’s career. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Arthur backed the wrong horse.

Two record companies wanted to sign Arthur. The first was LHI Records and releasing an album. They offered Arthur the chance to release Dreams and Images. At the same time, Arthur had the opportunity to sign to the same label as The Beach Boys. However, they were offering a one-off single deal. Once they saw how the single went, the label would take it from there. To Arthur, who was still a young man, the prospect of an album seemed too good an offer to refuse. Especially, when LHI Records was cash rich.

Lee Hazelwood’s LHI Records had just received several hundred thousand dollars from ABC Records. This was part of a distribution deal between the two labels. It gave ABC Records the right to distribute LHI Records’ releases. Arthur must have though that the cash rich LHI Records would go all out to promote Dreams and Images. That wasn’t the case.

LHI Records were reticent to spent large sums of money on any of the three albums they released during 1967 and 1968. As is often the case when working with small, independent labels Dreams and Images wasn’t heavily promoted. Instead, it was a low key release. In one fell swoop, Arthur’s hope of a successful album were crushed.

Dreams and Images didn’t sell well. It had nothing to do with the music. Instead, it was down to the lack of promotion. Sadly, it’s an all too familiar story. Especially where independent labels are concerned. All too often they’re desperate to sign an artist, but unwilling to promote them properly. That appears to be the case with Arthur’s debut album Dreams and Images. Without the necessary promotion, Dreams and Images passed most record buyers by.

That’s apart from  in Denver, Colorado, where Dreams and Images sold a few thousand copies. They were the lucky ones, and heard what’s without doubt a lost psychedelic folk album. Sadly, most people never heard Dreams and Images. The failure of Dreams and Images impacted upon Arthur’s recording career.

Sadly, Dreams and Images was the only album Arthur recorded. Not long after leaving LHI Records Arthur turned his back on the music industry.

Arthur became a Christian, and took to writing religious songs. He worked as an engineer, and then as a special education teacher. However, Arthur still played and wrote music as a hobby. His shot at fame and fortune was long gone. Sadly, tragedy struck for Arthur in 2002.

On the 10th of January 2002, Arthur’s wife Lori tragically, died in a car crash. That night, Arthur died of a heart attack. Arthur Harper Lee, the man who could’ve and should’ve been a star was forever lost to music. However, Arthur left behind a quite beautiful, captivating, haunting and mesmeric musical legacy, Dreams and Images, a lost psychedelic folk cult classic.

Dreams and Images

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DISCO DEMANDS PART SIX-BY AL KENT.

Disco Demands Part Six-By Al Kent.

Label: BBE Music.

Release Date: ‘7th’ February 2020.

After a ten year wait, Scotland’s disco King Al Kent makes a welcome return on the ‘7th’ of February 2020 with Disco Demands Part Six, which will be released by BBE Music as a 2CD or 3LP set. For fans of the now legendary Disco Demands series this new instalment will be a welcome addition to this long-running compilation series. 

Disco Demands Part Six finds DJ, producer and remixer Al Kent digging deep into his enviable collection for a new selection of hidden gems, obscurities and dancefloor fillers that will appeal to dancers, DJ and connoisseurs of disco.These tracks have been edited and raid tested by Al Kent.

The tracks  Disco Demands Part Six have been part of Al Kent’s sets for a number of years. This has allowed him to see how dancers reacted when he played one of his edits. After all,  this is a compilation that is aimed primarily at dancers and DJs. That is why having edited the tracks, Al Kent donned his tin helmet and played them to a roomful of dancing drunks. They enjoyed every one of the tracks, and that is no wonder as Disco Demands Part Six features a stellar selection of dancefloor 

fillers.

Disc one of Disco Demands Part Six features eight tracks mixed by Scotland’s disco King. His track selection is peerless and mixing seamless as he moves between tracks. This is what one has come to expect from Al Kent, who nowadays, is a globetrotting DJ. However, he’s also a remixer and producer and used these skills when he edited the tracks on Disco Demands Part Six.

There’s no better way to open the album with a twelve minute edit of Ava Cherry’s You Never Love Me. This is a track from her debut album Ripe, which was released on Curtom/RSO in 1980. It was one of the highlights of Ripe, and Al Kent’s edit  doesn’t just extend but transforms the original and takes the listener to 127 disco heaven.

Fire Keep On Burning by King Sporty and The Root Rockers was released on TK Disco in  1980. Dancing disco strings and stabs of horns play a starring while mesmeric drums never miss a beat and accompany the soulful vocals. When all this is combined, the result is a this hidden gem that is akin to a call to dance.

Givin’ Back The Feeling is quite unlike George McRae’s best known track Rock Your Baby. Here, Al has removed the vocal and lets the uber funky bass line and disco strings take centrestage. The finishing touch are the horns. They play their part in a tough and funky slice of cinematic sounding disco that sounds as if it belongs in a Blaxploitation movie.

Al Kent’s edit of Tangerue’s Doin’ Your Own Thing is another welcome addition to Disco Demands Part Six. He’s removed what he considers the “cheese” from this slice of Euro Disco and left what’s a killer groove and one of the best orchestrations on the compilation. Take a bow the Ultimate Players who are responsible for the horns and strings.

Jo Bisso wrote and produced I Wanna Love, where funk meets disco. It which was released in 1979 on the label and is a funky floorfiller. There’s a funky bass, wah-wah guitar, sweeping, swirling strings and punchy horns on this driving track that discerning DJs and dancers will love.

JD Hall’s Wonder Woman was released in 1981, after disco’s demise. Despite that, there’s a strong disco influence in a track that’s a veritable potpourri of musical genres. Everything from boogie and disco to funk, soul and even a hint of dub are combined by JD Hall. So are the best piano part on the compilation, a percussive break and Chic-style vocals that become dubby. This is one of Al’s finest edits and is a welcome addition Disco Demands Part Six and the series.

Grupo Macho released San Salvador for the first time in 1981. The single was eventually released three times. Dancing strings and a chiming guitar play leading roles in the sound and success of this soulful and funky slice of disco.

Phillip and Lloyd’s Keep On Moving was released in 1978, at the peak of disco’s popularity. This is joyous and hook-laden hidden gem that is a dancefloor filler.

Southroad Connection gave their 1977 single for Mahogany Records the perfect title, You Like It, We Love It. With dancing strings and a killer bass line this is a track that is impossible not to like and is the perfect way to close disc two of Disco Demands Part Six.

For fans of the long-running and critically acclaimed Disco Demands series, a new instalment will be like Christmas coming early. Disco Demands Part Six is a welcome addition to the new series, and is all-killer, no filler. Al Kent has dug deep into his enviable collection and chosen the nine tracks with great care. This new selection of hidden gems, obscurities and dancefloor fillers are sure to appeal to dancers, DJ and connoisseurs of all things disco. These tracks have been edited and road tested by Al Kent. 

When he edited the tracks he trimmed any fat or “cheese,” and left the best bits. The result is a selection of tracks that are guaranteed to fill any dancefloor. What’s more, Disco Demands Part Six doesn’t feature the usual tired tracks that can be found on lesser compilations. That isn’t the Al Kent way. 

With each compilation he releases, Scotland’s disco King’s reputation is on the line, so Al Kent has dug deeper than other DJs, and edited each track so that they’ll appeal to dancers and DJs. That’s sure to be the case as Disco Demands Part Six is one of Al Kent’s finest compilations on what can only be described as a stellar selection of dancefloor fillers as Scotland’s disc King takes you to to 127 disco heaven.

Disco Demands Part Six-By Al Kent.

ROY AYERS-VIRGIN UBIQUITY: UNRELEASED RECORDINGS 1976-1981 AND VIRGIN UBIQUITY II: UNRELEASED RECORDINGS 1976-1981.

Roy Ayers-Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 and Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981

Label: BBE Music.

For Roy Ayers, the late-seventies through to the early eighties was one of the most productive periods of his long and illustrious careers. He was signed to Polydor Records, and between 1976 and 1981, the legendary vibes man was on a roll, and released  seven solo albums. This included some of the best, and most powerful  music of his career. However, not all of the music Roy Ayers recorded during this period was released. 

Roy Ayers was a prolific artist and always managed to record more music than he needed for a new album. When he had completed a new album, he always kept copies of his master tapes. This included the unreleased tracks. It was as if he knew that one day, Roy Ayers knew that he would do something with these unreleased tracks.

By 1981, the master tapes documented the various lineups of Roy Ayers’ band. During this period,  different vocalists joined the band and the rhythm section changed. However, the band’s philosophy remained the same, and so did the quality of the music. It was vintage Roy Ayers and these unreleased tracks deserved to be heard. However, this didn’t happen overnight.

It was over twenty years later, when Peter Adarkwah of BBE Records, in London, heard about Roy Ayers’ unreleased tracks. He realised the importance of the music, and when he heard the quality of the unreleased tracks, decided to release a compilation. This was Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981, which was released to critical acclaim in 2004. So was the followup Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 when it was released by BBE Records in 2005. It wasn’t long before these albums had sold out, and since then, have been much prized amongst fans of Roy Ayers and discerning music lovers. 

Now fifteen years later, and Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 and Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 have just been reissued by BBE Music. These two albums are a reminder of Roy Ayers at the peak of his creative powers between 1976 and 1981. By then, he had enjoyed a successful solo career and worked with some of the biggest names in music.

The Roy Ayers story began in Los Angeles, on the ‘10th’ of September 1940, when he was born into a musical family. His mother Ruby was a schoolteacher who also taught the piano, while Roy Sr, spent part of his life working as a parking attendant and playing the trombone.

Growing up, Roy Ayers showed an aptitude from an early age.  Like many children, the first instrument he learnt to play was the piano. However, not many children can play boogie woogie piano by the time they’re five.  To further his musical education the Ayers took their son to see Lionel Hampton’s Big Band.

At the end of the concert, the great man used to walk up the aisle thanking people for attending his concert. That night, Lionel Hampton saw the young Roy Ayers and gifted the excited five year old a set of vibe mallets. His parents decided to keep them safe until he was older. By then, Roy Ayers was a musical all-rounder. 

By the time he was nine, he was able to play steel guitar and later sang in the school choir. This was just the start, and during his teenage years, Roy Ayers learnt to play the flute, trumpet, drums  before eventually settling on the vibes.

This came about when his parents presented their seventeen year old son with Lionel Hampton’s vibe mallets. Roy Ayers decided to teach himself how to play the vibes. Not long after this, he discovered Bobby Hutcherson an up-and-coming vibes player who lived locally, and who took Roy Ayers under his wing.

The two young musicians started to practice together and collaborated, and before long were good friends. By then,  Roy Ayers formed had formed his first group while he was a student of harmony at Jefferson High School. Fittingly,  he called group the Jefferson Combo, which he later renamed Latin Lyrics. After graduating from high school Roy Ayers attended Los Angeles City College and studied advanced music theory. 

This was the perfect course for an aspiring musician. In  1961, twenty-one year old Roy Ayers embarked upon a career as a professional musician. Over the next few years he worked with and played alongside everyone from Chico Hamilton, Gerald Wilson,  Jack Wilson,  Phineas Newborn and  Teddy Edwards. By then,  had also made his recording debut.

Roy Ayers  recorded Way Down and Tippin’ On Through, and in 1962, got the chance to appear at the Las Vegas Jazz Festival. That night, the up-and-coming musician, composer and arranger played in front of the biggest audience of his nascent career. In the audience that night, was one of the most eminent jazz producers and writers, Leonard Feather. This resulted in Roy Ayers signing to  United Artists and releasing his debut album.

West Coast Vibes was produced by Leonard Feather and featured an all-star cast. They played their part in the Roy Ayers sound which made its debut on West Coast Vibes when it was released in 1963. The album was found favour amongst jazz critics who hailed Roy Ayers as a rising star. 

After the release of his critically acclaimed debut album West Coast Vibes, Roy Ayers’ popularity grew and he was playing concerts across America. Other musicians looking for a vibraphonist sought out Roy Ayers. This including none other than jazz flutist Herbie Mann. 

The legendary flautist needed someone to play vibes in his band at a gig at the Lighthouse Club, in Los Angeles. A call went out to Roy Ayers, and he joined the band. Little did anyone realise how successful the Herbie Mann and Roy Ayers’ partnership would become as they took to the stage. Later, that evening as they left the to a standing  ovation with applause ringing in their ears. This was the start of a successful  four-year collaboration, and during that period, Roy Ayers was an integral part of Herbie Mann’s band.

By 1967, Roy Ayers had signed to Atlantic Records and recorded his first album with Herbie Mann producing. Virgo Vibes was released to plaudits and praise later in 1967. The followup was 1968s critically acclaimed album Stoned Soul Picnic and then Daddy Bug in 1969. These are three of the finest and most successful albums that Roy Ayers has released during his long and successful career. 

As the seventies dawned, changed was afoot for Roy Ayers as he signed for Polydor Records which was home until 1982. During that period, he continued to push musical boundaries,  and continued to experiment and explore sonically. This included using wah wah  and fuzz tones on his vibes which was a first, and not for the first time Roy Ayers was called a pioneer. 

Now signed to Polydor Records, Roy Ayers began work on his debut album. Ubiquity was released in 1970 and this was the start of a new era for Roy Ayers.

By then, the Roy Ayers had formed a new group who released ten albums between 1972 and 1977. This was Roy Ayers Ubiquity, who released He’s Coming and Live At The Montreux Jazz Festival in 1972. The following year, 1973, the new group released two critically acclaimed albums Virgo Red and Red, Black and Green. This was just the start of new chapter for Roy Ayers Ubiquity.

Meanwhile, Roy Ayers was asked to record and produce the soundtrack to the Blaxploitation movie, Coffy which starred Pam Grier. Both the film and its soundtrack which featured vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and pianist Harry Whitaker was released to critical acclaim and was a commercial success. Nowadays, the soundtrack to Coffy is regarded as a genre classic. This is no surprise as during this period Roy Ayers was enjoying one of the most productive periods of his career.

Change Up The Groove followed in 1974, with Mystic Voyage and A Tear To A Smile being released to plaudits and praise in 1975. The prolific Roy Ayers Ubiquity returned with Vibrations and one of their finest outings Everybody Loves The Sunshine in 1976. A year later, they released their swansong Lifeline in 1977. The anthemic jazz-funk title-track gave Roy Ayers a hit single that was guaranteed to fill dancefloors. This was the perfect way to end five prolific and successful years for the Roy Ayers Ubiquity.

A new era began in 1978 when Roy Ayers returned with two new solo albums including Let’s Do It which reached thirty-three in the US Billboard 200 and fifteen US R&B charts, while You Send Me reached forty-eight and sixteen respectively. Both albums featured a glittering array of talent, including drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and vocalist Merry Clayton. This was the start of a period between 1978 and 1982 when Roy Ayers released seven albums and they all charted in the US Billboard 200 and US R&B charts. 

This was no surprise giving Roy Ayers was at the peak of his creative powers and enjoying one of the most productive periods of his long career.  In 1979, Roy Ayers released another two albums, Fever which reached sixty-seven in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-five US R&B chart. However, No Stranger To Love stalled at eighty-two in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-five in the US R&B charts despite the quality of music on the album. While neither album were as successful as previous offerings, they were still part of what was a golden era for Roy Ayers.

Love Fantasy released in 1980, was the first album Roy Ayers released during the eighties. It was another ambitious album, where he was joined by a some of the top session players and various vocalists including Sylvia Striplin. This time around, Roy Ayers  deployed various synths, a Fender Rhodes and a clavinet as he continued his mission to innovate and release groundbreaking music. Sadly, the album stalled at a disappointing 157 in the US Billboard 200 and forty-seven in the US R&B chart.

When Roy Ayers returned in 1981, it was with powerful, landmark album Africa, Center Of The World. Sadly, what was one of his finest albums of recent years failed to find the audience it deserved and  reached 197 in the US Billboard 200 and forty-three in the US R&B charts. For Roy Ayers this must have been hugely disappointing and he  would only release one more album on Polydor Records.

This was Feeling Good, which was released in 1982 and reached 160 in the US Billboard 200 and forty-five in the US R&B charts. Reviews of this underrated album were mixed, and Roy Ayers left the label that had been home to him since 1970.  During that period, he had enjoyed the most successful and productive period of his career.

During the period between 1976 and 1981, Roy Ayers recorded everything from jazz and funk to fusion, jazz-funk, Latin,  R&B and soul-jazz.  He was a truly versatile musician who seamlessly switched between and combined disparate genres seamlessly, often, creating music that was truly unique. However, Roy Ayers often recorded far more music than he could release and it ended up in his vaults. 

Roy Ayers kept copies of all of his master tapes, as if knowing that one day in the figure he would get the chance to release some of these unreleased tracks. This chance came in 2003, twenty-one years after he released his final album for Polydor Records.

By then, Peter Adarkwah of BBE Records, in London, who was a heard about Roy Ayers’ unreleased tracks. He was a longterm fan of the legendary vibraphonist who on hearing about the unreleased  tracks  realised their importance. When he heard the quality of Roy Ayers’ unreleased tracks, Peter Adarkwah decided to release a compilation of them. 

This was Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 , which was released to critical acclaim in 2004. So was the followup Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981  when it was released by BBE Records in 2005. It wasn’t long before the two albums had sold out, and since then, have been much prized amongst fans of Roy Ayers and discerning music lovers. 

Now fifteen years after the release of the second instalment in the series, BBE Music have decided that it’s time to reissue Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981  and Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981. These are welcome reissues and are a reminder of what was a golden era for Roy Ayers.

Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981.

That is the case from Boogie Down which opens Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 and features drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and vocalist Carla Vaughan who Roy Ayers called” “one of the most exciting and unique singers that I ever had in my band.” Carla Vaughan returns on the slow, meandering and beautiful sounding Mystic Voyage and Together Forever where she delivers a tender and heartfelt vocal.

Another of the finest vocalists to star in Roy Ayers’ was Merry Clayton, who makes her debut on What’s The T? This is followed by what can only be described as a vocal masterclass on I Really Love You. It’s without doubt one of the album’s highlights. The same can be said of Oh What A Lonely Feeling thanks to Merry Clayton’s heart-wrenching vocal. She then delivers a powerful and emotive vocal Mystery Of Love. Then there’s Merry Clayton’s  soul-baring vocal powerhouse on Brand New Feeling. These tracks are a reminder of a truly talented vocalist who should’ve enjoyed a much more successful career as a solo artist.

Other highlights include Green and Gold which features a stunning vibes solo from Roy Ayers on what’s a truly timeless sounding track that one will never tire of hearing.  The funky sounding I Am Your Mind, which features a soliloquy from Roy Ayers closes this album on a high. However, in soccer parlance it’s only half-time as there’s still  Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 to come.

Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981.

Holiday opens the album and features Terry Wells on lead vocals. She wrote the lyrics at the time of the controversy surrounding whether Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday should be a public holiday? Terry’s impassioned vocal soars above the pulsating arrangement and is accompany by sweeping backing vocals, piano and vibes.  

Funk In Hole is a funky jam where strings and horns are added. Roy Ayers deploys effects adding a dubby sound to this genre-melting track.

It’s followed by the smooth, soulful and laid back sound of Liquid Love which features Roy Ayers on clavinet. Third Time is another smooth and soulful sounding track where sweeping strings dance above Carla Vaughan’s vocal. It’s augmented by backing vocalists which add the cherry on the cake. 

That is also the case on the funky and soulful Tarzan. Here,  the tempo rises and ethereal harmonies play a starring role on a track that sounds as if it’s been influenced by James Brown. There’s no letup on I Like The Way You Do It To Me which features  a sassy and impassioned vocal, while Come To Me features  a needy vocal from the star of show Roy Ayers. Funk and boogie combines on Release Yourself which features a vocal powerhouse from Terry Wells and gospel-tinged backing vocals.

Roy Ayers’ vibes play a starring role on Wide Open as the rhythm section including a walking bass and and a sci-fi synth. However, it’s a case of saving the best until last and a demo of one of  Roy Ayers finest songs Sunshine. Despite this being a demo, it’s still got the same feel good sound and is a slice of musical Sunshine and the perfect way to close Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981.

BBE Music’s decision to reissue Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 and Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 is to be welcomed, and is a tantalising taste of Roy Ayers at his creative zenith. This began in 1967, when  he signed to Atlantic Records and continued during the Polydor years.

During the Polydor years Roy Ayers was determined to push musical boundaries to their limits and released music that was ambitious and groundbreaking. Sometimes, he seamlessly  flitted between musical genres on an album that could feature anything from boogie,  jazz and funk to fusion, jazz-funk, Latin,  R&B and soul-jazz.. Other times, he fused disparate musical genres to create music that was unique and innovative. However, all of the music Roy Ayers released during this golden era would influence a new generation of musicians and the hip hop producers who sampled Roy Ayers’ music. He eventually became one of the most sampled musicians in musical history. 

Looking back, the Polydor years was one of the most fruitful periods of  Roy Ayers’ career,  which has now spanned six decades. He became a professional musician aged twenty-one and later in 2020, Roy Ayers turns eighty. There’s no sign of the legendary vibes man slowing down, and in the spring of 2020 he embarks upon another British tour where he will be given a hero’s welcome. Until then, Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 and Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 are a tantalising reminder of a musical pioneer Roy Ayers at the peak of his powers during the second part of his Polydor years when commercial success and critical acclaim were constant companions.

Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 and Virgin Ubiquity II: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981.

 

CULT CLASSIC: NON BAND-NON BAND.

Cult Classic: Non Band-Non Band .

In the summer of 1978, a musical revolution took place in Japan, which changed music forevermore,..punk. The Japanese punk rockers were christened Tokyo Rockers, and initially were disregarded by the mainstream music industry. Record company executives made the mistake of thinking that the Japanese punk movement was just a passing fad, and that before long, it would be replaced by another musical movement. How wrong they were.

Left to their own devices, a vibrant and thriving underground music scene was born. Over the next few years, the Tokyo Rockers headed to underground clubs, which were similar to the ones frequented by British punks just a couple of years earlier. The Tokyo Rockers saw an eclectic selection of bands ranging from the new punk groups through to avant-garde bands and even on occasions, indie rockers. It was a fascinating scene populated by of independent and individualistic musicians who were keen to make an impression on the audiences. Some bands however, stood out from the crowd, including Maria 023, a male-female duo.

Maria 023 were just one of many bands who had caught the imagination of the Tokyo Rockers. Their lineup featured Genet and the bassist Non. She and Genet released the EP, Maria 023, which was released on  Gozira Records in 1978, featured Theme and Human Being with Machine Sex and Face To Face on the B-Side. This was their one and only release, because Maria 023 proved to be a short-lived band.

During the short time that Maria 023 were together, they made a lasting impression on the Tokyo Rockers. Especially Maria 023’s  bassist Non, who had come close to becoming a cult figure. However, when Maria 023 split-up, nothing was heard of Non until August 1979.

Non made her comeback at a legendary concert, Drive To 80s. Nobody was aware that Non was about to make her comeback that night, until she took to the stage. Accompanied by just her bass, she stood centre-stage, and sung several new songs during an intense, emotive and highly charged performance. When Non left the stage that night, little did she know that this was the start of a new chapter in her career.

Over the next few months, Non played a series of solo gigs. Non would pitch up at the venue with just her bass, and sing her new songs. By then, she was a talisman figure and role model amongst the female Tokyo Rockers. They admired and were inspired by Non, who they saw as a strong, independent young woman. For many female Tokyo Rockers, Non was everything they wanted to be, if they had been able to cast off their inhibitions. As a solo artist, she was already one of the leading lights of the Japanese punk movement. Soon, though, Non would form a band that would write their way into Japanese musical history…Non Band.

It was almost inevitable that Non would make the move from solo artist to founding her own, new band. Just like many new bands, it took several changes in lineup before they arrived at a settled lineup. By then, the Non Band’s lineup featured drummer Mitsuru Tamagak, bassist Non and Kinosuke Yamagishi who switched between clarinet and violin. This was the classic lineup of the Non Band, and the one that found the group at the peak of their musical powers. However, music was changing within Japan.

By then, the Japanese punk and new wave rock scene was evolving, and moving in a new direction. Many new bands were also being formed, including the second generation of bands. This was similar to what had happened in Britain. Just like in Britain, many new independent labels were also being formed and offered bands, old and new, an outlet for their music. This included Telegraph Records, which had been formed by Jibiky Yuichi in 1981. He then started putting together a distribution network for the records he planed to release. 

Ever since forming Telegraph Records, Jibiky Yuichi had been watching the progress of Non Band. He was a fan of their music, and deep down, had always hoped that one day, he would be able to release a Non Band album. However, with so many new independent labels being founded, the best bands could have their pick of labels. The Non Band were one of the best bands, and convincing the Non Band to sign to a relatively new label wasn’t going to be easy.

Jibiky Yuichi proved persuasive and the Non Band eventually signed to Telegraph Records. Having signed a recording contract, the next step was for the Non Band to record their debut album.

Recording began at the Mod Studio, in Tokyo, in October 1981. The Non Band’s lineup featured drummer and percussionist Mitsuru Tamagak, Non who played bass, guitar and added vocals, plus  Kinosuke Yamagishi who played clarinet, violin and mandolin. They were augmented by Chiko Hige who played mini keyboards plus Kummy and Mitsuwa who added the chorus. Producing the album was the Non Band, who completed their eponymous debut album in November 1981.

Three months later, and the Non Band and Telegraph Records were preparing to released their eponymous debut album in February 1982. This was step into the unknown for Non Band, while Telegraph Records the album was the label’s fifth release. Unlike most albums being released in 1982, a decision had been made to release Non Band as a ten inch album. It featured six songs from the Non Band, which it was hoped would introduce their music to a wider audience.

Jibiky Yuichi who owned Telegraph Records, knew that at best, a release like Non Band would sell around 1,000 copies. If Non Band sold anything like 1,000 copies the album would be deemed a success. When Non Band was released, the album surpassed even Jibiky Yuichi’s expectations. After repressing Non Band several times, the numbers were added up, and Jibiky Yuichi announced that the album had sold 2,000 copies. Non Band had a hit album on their hands. Soon, their popularity soared and Non Band was receiving critically acclaimed reviews. Thirty-five years later, and Non Band is a genre classic.

Although Non Band were primarily a punk group, their eponymous debut album was much more than a punk album. There were elements of the post punk and new wave sounds, and occasional diversions into funk, free jazz, traditional Japanese music and even some poppy hooks. Very occasionally, Non Band took on a jazz and experimental sound and headed in the direction of avant-garde. Mostly, Non Band evokes the spirit of ’78, when the punk arrived in Japan. However, music had changed by late 1981 when Non Band was recorded, and this explains why it’s such a genre-melting album. Non Band was much more than a punk album, that launched the career of punk pioneers Non Group.

Following the success of Non Band, it was a case of hail the conquering heroes when the group took to the stage. By then, Non Band’s lineup had been expanded when two female rockers joined the group. Guitarist Kummy and keyboardist Mitsuwa joined Non Band at what proved to be the peak of their powers.

Everyone within the Tokyo Rockers’ scene expected the Non Band to go on to even greater success. Non Band was surely, the first of many critically acclaimed albums. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Six months after the release of the Non Band, the Non Band was no more.

When members of the band departed, Non struggled to find suitable replacements. Eventually, she realised that it was an uphill struggle, and the Non Band disbanded. It was the end of the line for a truly innovative band. They went out at the peak of their powers, unlike some of their British counterparts who in similar circumstances, struggled on and became a parody of their former selves.  Not the Non Band. They weren’t going to fade away,  and went out at the top.

Non drifted away from the Tokyo Rockers’ scene, and returned home to Hirosaki in the south-west Aomori Prefecture, of Japan.  This was the start of another new chapter in Non’s life. She settled down and raised two children, and eventually, took over the running of the family business. The former Tokyo Rocker now found herself running an arts supplies business. While she was happy in her new life, it was almost inevitable that Non would one day, contemplate a comeback.

It wasn’t until 1999 that Non started to think about her former life as a musician. She realised that she missed music, and began putting plans in place for the second coming of Non. 

Twenty years after her triumphant comeback at Drive To 80s in August 1979, Non went in search of like-minded musicians. She found Keiji Haino and Tatsuya Yoshida, who Non invited to her home in Hirosaki. They began playing live together, and sometimes, Non played solo gigs. The second coming of Non was well underway.

For Non it was a new chapter in a story that started over twenty years earlier. However, it was a story that would run and run. 

Non returned to Tokyo, where she had made her name in the late-seventies, but this time as a solo artist. Fans of the Non Band awaited her first appearance in Tokyo in two decades. As Non took to the stage, she was welcomed by fans old and new. It was a triumphant return, and Non’s comeback was almost complete. 

The only thing that Non still had to do was release her debut solo album. That came in 2002, when Non released her much-anticipated debut album Ie. It received praise and plaudits, thanks to songs like Vagabond, Love Song and OK Song. Non’s comeback was complete. However, now that Non was back, she was here to stay, she was about to hatch a new plan.

Despite establishing herself as a successful solo artist, Non had unfinished business from twenty years ago. She decided it was time to make two phone calls. However, she didn’t know what response she would receive when she called Mitsuru Tamagak and Kinosuke Yamagishi. They were pleased to hear from Non, and agreed to reform the Non Band.

Just like their final performances in 1982, the original trio was expanded, with accordionist Emi Sasaki joining the Non Band. The newly expanded lineup of the Non Band booked a few comeback gigs, after twenty years away.

When the Non Band played their comeback gigs after twenty years away, it was to a wider fan-base. Since the Non Band had been away, a new generation had discovered their eponymous debut album. It was now a genre classic, that had won over two generations of music fans. These fans flocked to see the Non Band when they hit the comeback trail. They noticed that the Non Band had matured as musicians and as a group. The Non Band played with the same power, passion and intensity, and dazzled fans old and new during their comeback gigs. For the Non Band, their comeback had been a huge success. 

After the comeback gigs, the Non Band decided that they were back for good. There was a caveat though. They weren’t going to embark on gruelling tours each year, and instead, would play just a few gigs each years. This was what the Non Band have been doing ever since, and in 2012, a live album Non Band Liven’ 2009-2012 was issued on Jibiky Yuichi’s Telegraph Records which had also made a comeback. The release of Non Band Liven’ 2009-2012 was a reminder of just how good a live band the Non Band were.

While the Non Band continued to play a few gigs each year, Non continued to work as a solo artist, and in 2014, self-released her long-awaited sophomore album Non Solo Song Book. It featured seventeen new songs, including Earth Song, ほいかん and 善でも悪でもない精霊 which featured the All Aomori Survivors, who had all survived the 2011 tsunami. They played their part in the sound and success of the Non’s sophomore album. When  Non Solo Song Book was released in 204, it was welcomed by Non’s fans. So would another album three years later.

Nowadays, interest in the Non Band is greater than ever. Especially, their eponymous debut album Non Band which is a groundbreaking timeless cult classic which is the first chapter in the Non Band story which began forty-two years ago in 1978.

Cult Classic: Non Band-Non Band .

 

CULT CLASSIC: HARMONIA-MUSIK VON HARMONIA.

Cult Classic: Harmonia-Musik Von Harmonia.

Having spent five months between June and November  1973 recording their debut album, a new German supergroup Harmonia, released Musik Von Harmonia in January 1974. This groundbreaking album should have been the dawn of a new and successful era for the Harmonia, but sadly it failed to find the audience it deserved and and failed commercially. 

So did the followup Deluxe, which was released in June 1975. Forty years later Harmonia cofounder Michael Rother remembered this period, when I interviewed him in 2015:  “The seventies weren’t a good time for Harmonia. Our music was ignored, it was tough to survive during this period.” Harmonia weren’t alone.

Other Kominische bands were releasing albums that passed almost unnoticed. Can and Amon Düül II were in a similar boat. Even Kraftwerk’s first three albums weren’t a commercial success. It was a similar story for Neu! back in 1973.

Back in 1973, Neu! had just released their sophomore album Neu! 2. It failed to match commercial success and critical acclaim of their eponymous debut album. Neu! had sold 30,000 copies in Germany alone. This was good for an underground album. However, Neu! 2 was a different matter.

The problems started when Neu! went into the studio to record Neu! 2. They had booked ten days to record their second album. This should’ve been plenty of time. Neu! had recorded their debut album in four days. However, Micahel and Klaus spent too long recording side one of the album. With only three days left, the pair panicked. Desperation set in. Then they remembered a single Neu! had released, Neuschnee which featured Super on the flip-side. This was the solution to their problems.

So for side two of Neu! 2, Michael and Klaus recorded versions of Neuschnee and Super. Michael remembers “We did all sorts of things. I played the single on a turntable, and Klaus kicked it as it played. We than played the songs in a cassette player, slowing and speeding up the sound, and mangling the sound in the process.” Just like their debut album, Neu! 2 was completed just in time. It was another: “close shave.”

With Neu! 2 complete, it was scheduled for release later in 1973. When the album was released, critics were won over by side one. Neu! were refining the sound of their debut album.  Für immer was Neu! 2’s masterpiece. However, critics weren’t impressed by side two.

Many critics saw the music as gimmicky, and accused Neu! trying to fool and rip off record buyers. Indignant critics took the moral high-ground. Some record buyers agreed. “They felt that we were trying to rip them off. That was not the case.” Side two was Neu! at their most experimental, deconstructing ready made music only to reconstruct or manipulate it. However, neither critics nor record buyers realised this, and Neu! 2 failed commercially. This left Michael Rother and Klause Dinger with a problem.

Both men decided to look for a solution to the problem. Klaus headed to London, where he tried to drum up interest in Neu! Meanwhile, Michael found the solution to his problem in a song. 

After hearing “Im Süden, a track from Cluster’s sophomore album Cluster II,” Micahel Rother decided to turn Neu! into the first German supergroup. So Michael embarked upon a journey to the Forst Commune, where his he had a proposal for two of his friends, Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster.

As Michael made his way to the Forst Commune, he wondered if Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius would be interested in joining an extended lineup of Neu!? Then Michael began to consider another possibility, a  German supergroup consisting of Neu! and Cluster? This would be a first. Nobody had ever tried this before. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.

Soon, it became apparent that Michael’s idea of a supergroup was about to take shape, just not in the way Michael had originally envisaged. That initial jam later became Ohrwurm, a track from Harmonia’s 1974 debut album Musik Von Harmonia. Following their initial jam session, Michael stayed at the Forst Commune to prepare for the recording of Harmonia’s debut album. Germany’s first supergroup had just been born. It wasn’t an extended version of Neu! Instead, it was a new band Harmonia.

Musik Von Harmonia.

Soon, Michael Rother, Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius started recording what became Musik von Harmonia in June 1973. It was meeting of musical minds. Over the next five months, Harmonia recorded eight songs. The two members of Cluster were receptive to Michael Rother’s way of working. Hans-Joachim Roedelius explained recently: “there were no problems, we wanted to learn. Previously, we improvised, which made playing live problematic. A song was merely the starting point, it could go anywhere. Michael however, taught us about structure. We influenced him. It was a two-way thing.” 

That’s definitely the case. Michael Rother believes: “that working with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius made him a more complete musician.” Over his time working with the two members of Cluster; “I learnt so much.” 

This became apparent when Musik von Harmonia was completed in  November 1973. Harmonia’s 1974 debut album, Musik von Harmonia, was  a move towards ambient rock.  Both Michael Rother and the two members of Cluster’s influences can be heard on the nascent supergroup’s debut album. It was released in January 1974.

When Musik von Harmonia was released, many critics realised the importance of what’s a groundbreaking classic. It saw this nascent supergroup seamlessly embrace and incorporate disparate musical genres. In the process, Harmonia set the bar high for future ambient rock albums. Despite the critical acclaim that accompanied Musik von Harmonia, the album wasn’t a commercial success.

Opening Musik Von Harmonia is Watussi. Rhythmic and hypnotic describes this track. Drumbeats courtesy of a drum machine crack, joining banks of synths. Constant panning is used, so the sound assails and surrounds the listener. Hypnotic but joyous, this is classic Kominische, albeit with a twist. The twist is the ambient influence. In the background, ambient and experimental music are fused. Washes of synths, percussion and searing, blistering guitar combine with effects. This results in a mesmeric and innovative fusion of classic Kominische with elements of ambient, avant-garde and experimental music.

Sehr Kosmisch has a much more understated, subtle sound. It’s best described as an ambient soundscape. The music unfolds in waves, growing ever closes. The drama grows, as drums steadily pulsate. There’s a cinematic quality, as purposely, Harmonia march to the beat of the drum. Meanwhile, washes of synths are variously ethereal and jagged, meandering as their eerie, broody sound grows. As the arrangement progresses, the drama builds. Gone is the understated sound. There’s a still a hypnotic, pulsating sound to the dramatic arrangement. It still unfolds in waves as it builds to its crescendo, as Harmonia reinvent Kominische muzik with a groundbreaking, moody, cinematic Magnus Opus.

Sonnenschein bursts into life, the arrangement panning from right to left. Guitars reverberate and are joined by synths, drums and futuristic, otherworldly sound effects. Together, they create a bold, dramatic and almost grandiose arrangement. Soon, it’s as if Harmonia are taking the listener on a journey. Harmonia become a benevolent, modern day Pied Piper, and the listener marches along as if en route to some idyllic, rural Kominische utopia, where carefree communal living offers an alternative to the drudgery of 9 to 5 and der mann. As they march along, Harmonia continue to rewrite Kominische music’s rulebook. To do this, they fuse ambient, avant-garde, classical, experimental, rock and world music. This results in music that’s  hypnotic, grandiose,  dramatic, futuristic and impressive, as musical visionaries Harmonia, continue their pioneering musical journey.

Dino is driven along by the drums, while guitars wah-wah and synths buzz and beep. Straight away, there’s a similarity to Neu!’s first two albums. That’s thanks to the hypnotic Apache beat. It’s present despite only one half of Neu! playing on Musik Von Harmonia. However, Klaus Dinger’s influence can be heard by proxy. The Apache beat is replicated by a drum machine. Soon, elements of Neu!, Cluster and Krafterk shine through. The mesmeric Apache beat, and Michael’s shimmering, sometimes choppy guitar play leading roles. By then, Harmonia are in top gear. Aided and abetted by Dieter and Hans-Joachim, they create what’s the perfect soundtrack to any journey down the Autobahn. 

Swathes of eerie, haunting synths open Ohrwurm. Add to this pizzicato strings and experimental guitar. Feedback hangs in the air, as the track takes on an avant-garde sound. It’s as if Harmonia are just jamming, seeing where this leads. This was what Can did, and called spontaneous composition. By now, fuzzy guitars are sprayed across the arrangement. Menacingly, they hang in the air. So do the the jagged synths. It all becomes very avant-garde and experimental, but strangely melodic and compelling. Harmonia it seems, are determined to constantly reinvent their music, and do so, almost seamlessly.

Ahoi has an spacious, ambient sound. Just a melancholy keyboard and chiming guitar combine. They meander along, seemingly in no hurry. Space is left, as the keyboards and guitar keep each other company. The guitar reverberates into the distance, while a wistful piano poses questions that are never answered. Later, it’s all change. Waves of dramatic music threaten to assail you. Urgent strings, hypnotic keyboards and a myriad of percussion swagger along. By then, the arrangement veers towards discordant and disturbing, but remains the rights side of dramatic. A song of two parts, it shows two equally enthralling sides to Harmonia’s music.

Veterano is a dramatic, driving fusion of Kominische, psychedelia and rock. Synths, crunchy, punchy drums and mesmeric keyboards unite. They drive the arrangement along. Meanwhile guitars drift in and out. They’re panned hard right, and sometimes, sound hesitant. Other times they’re responsible for some peerless solos. A myriad of percussion adds to the hypnotic nature of this driving, urgent arrangement that forty years later, is truly timeless. 

Hausmusik closes Musik Von Harmonia. A vintage sounding keyboard plays in the distant. It sounds like a reminder of another age. Gradually, it draws closer. Washes of synths, percussion and wailing guitars are panned right to left assailing and surrounding you. It’s as if Harmonia are determined to close their debut album on a high. This they do, mixing vintage and space-age sounds to create a soundscape that’s innovative, ethereal, multilayered and full of nuances and subtleties.

Forty-six years after the release of Musik Von Harmonia, Harmonia are somewhat belatedly getting, the recognition their music so richly deserve. Harmonia are now regarded as one of the finest purveyors of Kosmische musik.

Each and every one of these groups were innovators, whose music was way ahead of its time. The musicians in these groups, including Harmonia were visionaries, who were determined to make a new type of music. This music was neither going to be influenced by American nor British music.

Instead, Kosmische musik’s roots can be traced to the late-sixties, and in a way, were a reaction against the rigidity and rules of traditional music. No longer were musicians willing to be constrained by the rules of modern music. They wanted to free themselves from the shackles of rules and rigidity, and in the process, create new and groundbreaking music.

To do this, they fused a disparate and eclectic selection of musical genres. Everything from avant-garde, electronica, experimental rock, free jazz and progressive rock influenced and inspired Kosmische musik. Michael Rother explained: “we weren’t influenced by the blues music that had influenced other musicians. That wasn’t our music. Nor was the Schlager music which our parents listened to. We were looking for something new. Musically this was our year zero.” So in the late-sixties, this new breed of you German musicians embarked upon a musical revolution.

By 1974, when Harmonia released their debut album Musik Von Harmonia, Germany was in the midst of a musical revolution. At the forefront of this vanguard for change, were Can, Kraftwerk, Amon Düül II, Neu! and Popol Vuh. Only Kraftwerk had made a breakthrough. Even then, that came when Kraftwerk changed direction musically upon the release of Autobahn in 1974. They were like a new band, almost unrecognisable from their first three albums. Like the starving artist, other Kosmische bands, stayed true to their principles. Others gave up altogether, and it’s only fairly recently, that they’ve started to receive the plaudits they so richly deserve.

That’s the case with Harmonia. It’s a far cry from the seventies, which an almost rueful Michael Rother remembers; “wasn’t a good time for Harmonia. Our music was ignored, it was tough to survive during this period.” Survive they did. Not only did Harmonia survive, but recently, their music has been rediscovered by a new generation of music lovers. This has lead to Harmonia’s music being reappraised by music critics and cultural commentators. Somewhat belatedly, they’ve realised that Harmonia were musical pioneers, whose music was groundbreaking, innovative and way ahead of its time. Brian Eno went even further.

On hearing Musik Von Harmonia. Brian Eno called Harmonia: “the most important band in the world.” Harmonia went on to inspire and influence several generations of musicians during the seventies, including David Bowie, Brian Eno and Iggy Pop. Since then, several generations of musicians have been inspired by Harmonia, and their critically acclaimed debut album Musik Von Harmonia. 

Innovative and timeless, Musik Von Harmonia is a Koninische classic. It’s also an album that belongs in every self-respecting record collection. Sadly, most record buyers have yet to discover the delights of Musik Von Harmonia is still a cult classic that most record buyers have still to add to their collections.

Despite that, Musik Von Harmonia is a reminder of one of the most important, influential and innovative bands in Kominische music history, and Harmonia, deserve to dine at the genre’s top table alongside Can, Kraftwerk and Neu! 

Cult Classic: Harmonia-Musik Von Harmonia.

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CULT CLASSIC: BOBBY WHITLOCK-BOBBY WHITLOCK.

Cult Classic: Bobby Whitlock-Bobby Whitlock

Before embarking upon a solo career in 1971, Memphis born Bobby Whitlock, had worked with some of the biggest names in music. His career started when he was just seventeen and signed to Stax Records. He went on to work with Albert King, Booker T. and The MGs, Sam and Dave and the Staple Singlers. Then in 1968, Bobby Whitlock joined one of rock’s supergroups, Delaney and Bonnie.

A year earlier, in 1967, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett formed what would become one of rock’s first supergroups. Over the next five years, everyone from Dave Mason, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, King Curtis, Leon Russell,Rita Coolidge and the Allman Brothers were members of Delaney and Bonnie. In 1968, Bobby Whitlock joined Delaney and Bonnie and featured on two albums.

Home.

Bobby Whitlock made his Delaney and Bonnie debut, on their debut album Home. It was recorded during 1968 and 1969, at Stax Studios, Memphis. Accompanying Delaney and Bonnie, were the Stax house band plus a few friends. This included Bobby and Leon Russell. Once Home was completed, it was released later in 1969.

On the release of Home, it failed to chart. Delaney and Bonnie’s debut seemed to pass record buyers by. However, the reviews of Home were mostly positive, and the album would later be reissued. By then, critical acclaim and commercial success would’ve come Delaney and Bonnie’s way. This started with Delaney and Bonnie sophomore album, The Original Delaney and Bonnie and Friends (Accept No Substitute). 

The Original Delaney and Bonnie and Friends (Accept No Substitute).

Released to widespread critical acclaim in July 1969, The Original Delaney and Bonnie and Friends (Accept No Substitute) saw everything from blue eyed soul, country, gospel and soul melt into one. Hailed as one of the best albums of 1969, it’s a surprise that The Original Delaney and Bonnie and Friends (Accept No Substitute) only reached number 175 on the US Billboard 200 charts. After the release of The Original Delaney and Bonnie and Friends (Accept No Substitute)., Delaney and Bonnie and Friends headed out on tour with Eric Clapton. 

On Tour with Eric Clapton.

On their return from touring with Eric Clapton, Delaney and Bonnie released their live album, On Tour with Eric Clapton. It was released in March 1970, and peaked at number twenty-nine in the US Billboard 200 in April 1970. Over the Atlantic, On Tour with Eric Clapton reached number thirty-nine in Britain and was certified gold. Meanwhile, Delaney and Bonnie were working on their third album, To Bonnie from Delaney. However, by then, Bobby had joined Eric Clapton’s latest supergroup, Derek and The Dominoes.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

When Bobby Whitlock joined Derek and The Dominoes, he never realised, that he was about to become part of musical history. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs would become a classic album.

For Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Eric Clapton wrote or cowrote nine tracks. This included Keep On Growing, Anyday, Tell The Truth and Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad with Bobby. Bobby also contributed Thorn Tree in the Garden, which closes Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Eric Clapton. These nine tracks, plus five cover versions, would become Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Eric Clapton, which was recorded in Miami.

At Criteria Studios, Miami, what can only be described as a supergroup began recording the fourteen tracks on 28th August 1970. Joining Eric and Bobby were guitarist Duane Allman, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon. This band recorded the fourteen tracks, including Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs’s centrepiece Layla, which tells of Eric Clapton’s infatuation for Patti Boyd, who was then married to George Harrison. It would become a track that will forever be synonymous with Eric Clapton. By the of 2nd October 1970, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was completed. It would released in November 1970.

When Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was released in November 1970, reviews were mixed. That seems strange, given Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is now regarded as a classic album. However, in 1970, some critics viewed Eric Clapton and Duane Allman’s guitar playing as macho posturing, and the love songs as lightweight. As is often the case, music critics are prone to rewrite history. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is a case in point. Still, the album sold well.

Despite the mixed reviews, and a limited promotional budget, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs managed to reach number sixteen in the US Billboard 200 charts. This resulted in Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs being certified gold. Still, Polydor viewed Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs as a commercial failure. Part of the problem was some record buyers weren’t aware of Eric Clapton’s involvement.As a result, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was rereleased in 1972. However, there was no followup to Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Derek and The Dominoes was a one-off project. Following the demise of Derek and The Dominoes, Bobby Whitlock embarked upon his solo career.

Bobby Whitlock.

Having been a member of two supergroups, Bobby Whitlock decided to embark upon a solo career. He was determined to make the move from sideman to frontman. So Bobby got to work on what would become his eponymous debut album, Bobby Whitlock.

For what became Bobby Whitlock, Bobby wrote eight tracks and cowrote two more. Bobby cowrote Where There’s A Will with Bonnie Bramlett, and A Day Without Jesus with Don Nix. These ten tracks would become Bobby Whitlock, which was recorded at Olympic Studio’s Studio B. 

Recording of Bobby Whitlock took place at Olympic Studio’s Studio B, between January and March 1971. Bobby was joined by what joined by what can only be described as an all-star band. This included  Delaney and Bonnie and three members of Derek and The Dominoes. Bassist Carl Radle, drummer Jim Gordon and guitarist Eric Clapton provided an enviable rhythm section. They were joined by George Harrison on guitar. Bobby had played on George’s Magnus Opus All Things Must Pass, and was repaying the favour. Other guest artists included bassist Klaus Voormann, drummer Jim Keltner, saxophonist and trombonist Bobby Keys, trumpeter Jim Price and guitarist Jerry McGhee. As for Bobby, he played piano, organ, twelve-string guitar and acoustic guitar. Once the ten tracks were recorded, Bobby went looking for a record company for his debut album, Bobby Whitlock.

Before that, George Greif, Jimmy Miller’s manager got in touch. He wanted to become Bobby’s manager. So Bobby flew to Los Angeles to meet George and his business partner Sid Garris, at their offices on Beverley Boulevard. After a lengthy discussion, the three men headed to ABC-Dunhill Records’ headquarters. That’s where George and Sid introduced Bobby to Jay Lasker, President of ABC-Dunhill Records. Bobby played Jay his eponymous debut album. Having listened intently, Jay Lasker signed Bobby to a two album deal. 

The first of these two albums, Bobby Whitlock, was released in March 1972. Bobby Whitlock’s release would’ve been earlier. However, ABC-Dunhill Records objected to some of the material. Eventually, Bobby Whitlock was released in March 1972. Reviews of Bobby Whitlock were mixed, ranging from critically acclaimed to favourable. One of the problems was, that critics kept comparing Bobby Whitlock to Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. That wasn’t fair, as Bobby Whitlock was a solo album. It just so happened that many of the same personnel featured on both albums. Despite the mixed reviews, Bobby Whitlock reached number 140 in the US Billboard 200 charts. While Bobby Whitlock didn’t reach the heights of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Bobby’s solo career was underway.

Where There’s a Will opens Bobby Whitlock. Literally, the arrangement explodes into life, with the all-star rhythm section driving the arrangement along. It includes drummer Jim Gordon and George Harrison on rhythm guitar. They’re joined by Eric Clapton on slide guitar. Bobby delivers a gravelly, rocky vocal and adds flamboyant flourishes of keyboards. Later, Bobby Key’s adds the finishing touch, when he unleashes a blistering saxophone solo. This seems to spur Bobby and his all-star band on, as the track reaches a rocky, dramatic crescendo where elements of blues, rock and Southern Rock unite.

Song For Paula shows a very different side of Bobby Whitlock. Just an acoustic guitar, bass and piano provide the backdrop for Bobby’s vocal. It’s tender, heartfelt and has a vulnerability. As it grows in power, so does the arrangement. Jim Gordon’s drums, guitars and Bobby’s Hammond organ are joined by a piano. By then, Bobby’s vocal veers between hopeful and needy. Accompanied by backing vocals he unleashes a soul-baring vocal. Then when the backing vocals drop out, Bobby’s all-star band kick loose. They add an element of drama, and add to the emotion in this hopeful paean. 

As Bobby plays Eric Clapton’s twelve-string guitar, Traffic’s Chris Wood adds a wistful flute on A Game Called Life. Meanwhile, Delaney adds bass and a confused Bobby delivers a vocal full of bewilderment. His relationship’s at an end, he’s got his “suitcase in his hand,” and he wonders why? Backing vocals flit in, strings swirl and a flute wanders across the arrangement. All the time, hurt and confusion is omnipresent in Bobby’s vocal.

As Bobby plays acoustic guitar and delivers a worldweary vocal on Country Life, Jerry McGee’s crystalline guitar and Carl Radle’s bass marches the arrangement along. Meanwhile, Delaney and Bonnie add backing vocals. All the time, Jim Keltner’s drums add the heartbeat to this laid-back slice of country music.

The gospel tinged A Day Without Jesus was penned by Bobby and Don Nix. Bobby’s vocal is akin to an outpouring of emotion and sincerity. The rhythm section create a slow, sometimes dramatic backdrop. Meanwhile, washes of Hammond organ and gospel influenced backing vocals are the perfect foil to Bobby’s heartfelt vocal. 

Back in My Life Again is quite different from the two previous tracks. A driving, scrabbling rhythm section and funky, chiming guitar drive the explosive arrangement along. They’re aided and abetted by stabs of blazing horns and a Hammond organ. Atop the arrangement sits Bobby’s gravelly, joyous vocal. He turns the track into a celebration, when he sings “now that you’re Back in My Life Again.” His all-star band raise the stakes, storming their way through the track. That’s until the tempo drops and a trombone soars above the arrangement. This allows Bobby and his band to regroup, before grandstanding their way through this celebration of love.

The Scenery Has Slowly Changed sees Bobby drop the tempo again. A crystalline guitar floats above the understated arrangement. It’s joined by Bobby’s croaky vocal and Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon on guitar. This allows Bobby’s vocal to take centre-stage. It’s rueful, and full of emotion and regret, at the love he’s lost and is missing. Later, Bobby’s vocal becomes a hurt fuelled vamp, where he delivers the vocal as if he’s lived and survived them.

I’d Rather Live the Straight Life is another country-tinged track. Seamlessly, Bobby, accompanied by his all-star band, create a track that sounds as if it was recorded in Nashville, not London. Unlike the other tracks, which were produced by Bobby and Andy Johns, Bobby and Joe Zagarino produce this track. It features bassist Carl Radle and Bobby and Jerry McGee on guitar. Their guitars are at the heart of the track’s success. Bobby’s vocal  is throaty and charismatic. Later, Delaney and Bonnie add backing vocals, that give the track a raucous, singalong sound. They’re the perfect foil to Bobby, on this  country-tinged track.

Just acoustic guitars and percussion accompany Bobby on The Dreams of a Hobo. His vocal is thoughtful, tender and wistful. This shows another side of Bobby. It’s captivating, beautiful and dreamy.

Closing Bobby Whitlock is Back Home in England. It’s another wistful, dreamy track. Just guitars, lush strings and drums accompany Bobby’s vocal. It’s a cathartic outpouring of emotion. Especially with the swathes of strings and meandering guitars for company. They ensure that Bobby Whitlock ends on a beautiful, emotive high.

Having been a member of two supergroups, Delaney and Bonnie and Derek and The Dominoes, Bobby Whitlock decided now was the time to move from sideman, to frontman. So, he signed to ABC-Dunhill Records and released his eponymous debut album, Bobby Whitlock, in March 1972 and reached just number 140 in the US Billboard 200 charts. However, Bobby Whitlock was released to mixed reviews.

Bobby Whitlock was an album that divided the opinion of critics. Partly, this was because they compared Bobby Whitlock to Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Given it was a classic album, released by Eric Clapton, an experienced artist, this was hardly comparing like with like. The critics also compared Bobby’s voice to Eric Clapton and Delaney Bramlett. Eric and Delaney, the critics announced were better singers. That may have been the case, but Bobby’s voice brought the ten songs on Bobby Whitlock to life.

Whether it was emotion, heartache, hope, hurt, joy, melancholy, neediness or sadness, Bobby was able to bring this to a  song. Sometimes, his vocal sounded lived-in, worldweary and gravelly. Seamlessly, Bobby a versatile vocalist, could switch between country, gospel, rock and Southern Rock. So could his band. They also took diversions via blues and funk on Bobby Whitlock. The result was a captivating album, Bobby Whitlock.

Although Bobby Whitlock wasn’t a huge commercial success, and divided the opinion of critics upon its release, it’s an album that falls into the category of hidden gem. Just like so many albums, Bobby Whitlock passed many record buyers by. They never heard Bobby Whitlock, or any of Bobby’s other solo albums. That’s a great shame, as Bobby Whitlock is a hugely talented artist. Sadly, most people remember Bobby Whitlock as a sideman, rather than frontman.

No wonder. As a sideman, Bobby Whitlock played with everyone from Bonnie and Delaney, Derek and The Dominoes, George Harrison, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, John Lennon and The Rolling Stones. However, between 1972 and 1976, Bobby Whitlock released a quartet of solo albums. The first of these was Bobby Whitlock, his cult classic that’s variously beautiful, celebratory, emotive, ethereal, joyous, laid-back and rocky. 

Cult Classic: Bobby Whitlock-Bobby Whitlock

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CULT CLASSIC: CIRCLES-MORE CIRCLES.

Cult Classic: Circles-More Circles.

Between 1969 and 1977, German music was thriving. In towns and cities, new groups were being formed. Many of these bands eschewed the Anglo-American, jazz-blues tradition, and decided to plough their own musical furrow. What followed, was a musical revolution…Krautrock. 

The Krautrock era lasted for eight years, and nowadays, is regarded as a golden age for German music. No wonder.  From 1969 to 1977, German bands were releasing some of the most innovative, influential and important music in Europe.

In the early days of Krautrock, groups like Amon Düül, Kluster, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and Can lead the way. They were pioneers who paved the way for groups like Amon Düül II, Ashra Tempel, Cluster, Neu!, Harmonia and Popol Vuh. These groups were just the tip of what was a musical iceberg.

A whole host of other groups were releasing groundbreaking music. From Sunbirds, Ikarus and Kollektiv, to Embryo, Guru Guru, Jane and Lava. Each and every one of these groups were musical pioneers. Sadly, like all good things, the Krautrock era came to an end.

Incredibly, many Krautrock groups didn’t enjoy the commercial success that their music deserved. Even groups like Harmonia struggled financially during the mid-seventies. The problem was, many German music lovers still preferred British and American music. Ironically, they were missing out on a musical revolution that by the early eighties, many critics and cultural commentators felt, would never be repeated. 

By then, Krautrock had influenced a new generation of European musicians. Across Europe, a new generation of musicians were about to form bands. Many of them had grownup listening to Krautrock. It was now regarded as some of the most innovative, influential and important music of the late-sixties and early-seventies. This music was revolutionary and would go on to influence several generations of musicians. This included two musicians in Frankfurt, Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann.

The pair were part of the post Krautrock underground scene. Its roots could be traced back to the end of the Krautrock era in the late seventies. By 1983, the post Krautrock underground scene was vibrant underground movement throughout Germany. This included Frankfurt, where Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann were making music as Circles, and in 1983, were about to release their eponymous debut album which  takes the listener back to an exciting time in German music.

In many ways, the “post Krautrock underground” scene brought back memories of the Krautrock era just a decade earlier. It was an exciting time, with a sense that anything was possible. Once again, a new generation of new bands were making new and innovative music. Many of these bands were releasing their music independently.

This had happened during the Krautrock era. Many bands had recorded albums, and then released them on small, independent labels. Other bands, even founded their own record label. Meanwhile, groups like Neu!, hired a recording studio to record an album. Only once they had recorded an album, they took it to a record company. This meant they were making music on their own terms. However, things had changed since then.

Imbued by the D.I.Y. spirit of punk, now bands had the confidence and nous to record, release and distribute their own albums. No longer did groups view record companies as a vital cog in the musical machine. Instead, they were determined to do things their way. This included Circles.

Circles.

By 1983, music and the way music was made had changed drastically. It was very different to how Can, Cluster and Neu! made music just a decade earlier. No longer were synths, sequencers and drum machines prohibitively expensive. Now they were within the budget of musicians like Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann. For aspiring musicians about to record their debut album, suddenly, there was a level playing field.

So when Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann began recording Circles’ eponymous debut album, they had access to technology that a decade earlier, would’ve been way beyond their budget. With a mixture of technology and traditional instruments Circles wanted to record an album that picked up where Cluster and Harmonia left off.

For their eponymous debut album, the two members of Circles Dierk Leitert and Mike Bormann cowrote six tracks. Dierk Leitert wrote Chant, Tropflut and Intermezzo. These nine tracks would become Circles, which was recorded in Eppstein,  Frankfurt.

To do this, the two multi-instrumentalists deployed an impressive musical arsenal in a studio in the Frankfurt suburbs. Both musicians were versatile, and seamlessly, could switch between instruments. Dierk Leitert was a one man rhythm section, playing drums, bass and guitar. He also played saxophone, flute and vocals. However, Dierk Leitert was equally comfortable with technology had access to a wide selection of synths and sequencer. Mike Bohrmann was equally versatile, playing guitars, bass and synths. Along with a few musical friends, an arsenal of effects and an eight track Tascam recorder, the nine tracks that became Circles.’ eponymous debut album took shape. 

Once Circles was recorded, the album’s distinctive and memorable album cover was designed. This was the finishing touch to Circles, which was released on Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann’s own label, Einhorn Music.

Rather than trying to interest a record label in Circles, Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann decided to form their own label, Einhorn Music. This was what a lot of groups within the post Krautrock underground scene were doing. It meant that Circles were recording and releasing music on their own terms. 

When Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann were preparing to release Circles’ eponymous debut album, many of their contemporaries were aware of the post Krautrock underground scene. Just like Krautrock and the Berlin School, the post Krautrock underground scene was another of Germany’s best kept musical secrets. As Circles was released in 1983, still, many German record buyers seemed to prefer British and American music. History was about to repeat itself all over again. 

When Circles was released, it was well received by critics. They recognised that this was a groundbreaking band from one of the most talented groups in the post Krautrock underground scene. Despite the reviews, Circles didn’t sell well. Circles sold well within the post Krautrock underground scene. However, the album remained an underground album. It didn’t crossover into the mainstream. This meant that Circles were now rubbing shoulders with everyone from Amon Düül and Kluster, to Can, Cluster, Neu! and Harmonia. Each of these groups had watched as their debut album passed German record buyers by. They missed what was groundbreaking album of genre-melting music.

Those that discovered a copy of Circles in the record store, and took a chance on the album wrapped in the mysterious album cover, were in for a veritable musical feast. Over nine  genre-melting tracks lasting forty minutes, Circles set out to pick up where Cluster and Harmonia left off. What followed was a musical journey where musical genres and influences melt into one.

Straight away, Circles roots be traced back to the Krautrock era. That’s apparent on the opening track Einblicke. It seems to reference Kluster and Amon Düül II. From there, Circles draw inspiration from numerous members of Kraftwerk royalty. Everyone from Can, Cluster, Harmonia and Neu! seem to have influenced Circles. The Neu! influence is apparent on Rockcola and 10º Unter Null, which feature Rother-esque guitar solos. 

Throughout Circles, there’s also brief nods to a whole host of Krautrock pioneers.  Anima, Embryo, Cosmic Jokers, Dueter and Irmin Schmidt have influenced and inspired Circles. Sometimes, the influence is brief, other times it’s more it’s noticeable as a captivating and innovative album unfolds. What becomes apparent, is it’s not just Krautrock that’s influenced Circles

On what’s a magical mystery tour, Circles take the listener on a journey through musical genres. Listeners will discover elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, free jazz, psychedelia and rock. There’s also hints of Eastern music as a series of captivating soundscapes share their secrets.

Listen carefully, and Circles pay homage Fripp and Eno on Reibend. Circles’ contemporaries Throbbing Gristle have been another influence for the Frankfurt based pioneers. They’re determined to push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond.

This is apparent on Viele Wege. It’s starting point is a Faustian collage, before elements of rock, psychedelia, avant-garde and Krautrock are added. Soon, these musical ingredients are competing for your attention on  Viele Wege. Hot on its heels comes Chant,  a lysergic and mesmeric mixture of musical genres. From there, the journey continues with Circles as your musical tour guide.

Before long, Circles is almost over. The brief, but futuristic, sci-fi sound of Intermezzo sounds like the Cosmic Jokers at their lysergic best. However, Circles have kept the best until last. Woistich-Umgedreht is a twelve minute epic. Hypnotic and  dreamy, it’s a Magnus Opus, and the highlight of Circles.

Once Circles is over, one can’t help but wonder why the album wasn’t a bigger success? It was a truly groundbreaking album, that picked up where the Krautrock pioneers left off. Their influence could be heard throughout Circles. It’s as if Circles are paying homage to Krautrock royalty, by taking their music as a starting point and adding elements of other musical genres. The result is an album that featured groundbreaking, innovative and influential music. Circles stood head and shoulders above the musical competition. 

Apart from a few discerning musical connoisseurs, it was mainly those within the post Krautrock underground scene that were aware of Circles. They realised that here was an album that deserved to be heard by a much wider audience. That wouldn’t happen until much later. By then Circles would’ve released their sophomore album More Circles.

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More Circles.

Just a year after the release of their eponymous debut album, Circles returned in 1984 with their sophomore album, More Circles. It featured ten new songs from Circles. They were penned by Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann, and recorded in their studio in Eppstein, in the Frankfurt suburbs. Again, Circles had put their impressive of array of technology and traditional instruments to good use. 

Synths again played an important part when Circles were recording More Circles. Circles had an access to impressive selection of synths, and they helped sculpt the nine soundscapes on More Circles. Aided and abetted by melodic, Rother-esque guitars and drums bathed in echo and an arsenal of effects, More Circles began to take shape. Eventually, with a little help from their friends, Circles sophomore album More Circles was completed.

For Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann, they had been before. It was a case of deja vu, right down to mysterious, album cover. However, Circles were hoping that there would be a happier ending to the story when More Circles was released later in 1984.

When critics heard More Circles, they were won over by what was another ambitious, adventurous and innovative album. Circles hadn’t stood still. Their music had evolved, and metamorphosed. They knew that any group who stood still, risked their music becoming irrelevant. That wasn’t going to happen to Circles.

Despite continuing to create music that was ambitious and innovative, it failed to find an audience outwith the “post Krautrock underground” scene. For the members of Circles, this was a devastating blow. The only small crumb of comfort was that they had made music on their own terms, and music that they believed in. This music would stand the test of time, and eventually, found the audience it deserved.

Back in 1984, those that bought a copy of More Circles had struck musical gold. Minimal Instant found a free jazz saxophone accompanying synths and a motorik beat. They may sound like unlikely bedfellows, but proved a potent combination. Sadly, all too briefly and Minimal Instant is over, and Several Steps Leading Through Different Rooms-Escapades begins to unfold. It’s a dark, moody, meandering epic lasting twelve minutes. Circles seem to enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs, while referencing Cluster’s Zuckerzeit and washes of guitar that’s reminiscent of Robert Fripp. This leads to the cinematic Escapades, complete with fuzz guitars, as it heads in the direction of avant-garde. Then it’s all change.

Tripletwin, which features drummer Gerde Poppe. His drums add a Faustian sound to the myriad of synths. Paris Cut is best described as a futuristic symphony, where nothing is as it seems. Circles’ array of effects are responsible for this. That’s is the case on Mental Dart, where a vocoded vocal has been added. It’s akin to Dadaist poetry that’s the perfect addition to an array of haunting, sci-fi sounds. By then, Circles it seems, at their most inventive and innovative. 

This continues on Trio Atonale, where everything from avant-garde, free jazz, electronica and experimental music.  Briefly, there’s a hint of Pharaoh Sanders and his sheets of sound. Words like eerie, haunting and cinematic described parts of Tranquilo Gonzales. It finds Circles drawing inspiration from Cluster and Harmonia. That’s their starting point, on this pulsating, spine-tingling, cinematic track.   

The eerie cinematic sound continues on Sequences, which picks up where Paris Cut left off. Again, Cluster’s  Zuckerzeit has obviously influenced Circles, who on More Circles seem to enjoy creating cinematic soundscapes. They provide the soundtrack, while the listener is left to come up with the script. Whether the listener dares to come up with a script to Consequences is another thing? Is that the sound of digging? What about the futuristic sounds? Do they come courtesy of bubbling synths; or is it something more sinister? By the end of track this space age soundscape, one can’t help but think of murderous aliens beating a hasty retreat to the planet Zogg. Having conjured up that image, Circles close More Circles with Spiral Dance. With its motorik beat, it’s a reminder of Krautrock, the music that inspired and influenced Circles to embark on a career as music. For that we should be grateful.

After releasing More Circles, Circles only released one further album, The 3rd Cycle. However, that wasn’t  the end of the partnership between Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann. They had to much too offer musically; and continued to release albums as D.O.C. and Leitert and Bohrmann. Even today, Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann are still collaborating, and releasing music together as Circles. It’s a partnership that’s lasted over thirty years. 

The albums that started the Circles’ story off were Circles and More Circles which are cult classics of the post Krautrock underground era. 

Both Circles and More Circles feature groundbreaking, genre-melting music. Circles combine everything from ambient and avant-garde to electronica, experimental and free jazz to Krautrock, psychedelia and rock. There’s even hints of Eastern music as Circles take the listener on a musical adventure. During that adventure, Circles draw inspiration from, and pay homage to Krautrock royalty. This includes everyone from Amon Düül II, Can, Cluster, Kluster, Neu! and Harmonia. Other influences include Michael Rother, Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay. They all seem to inspire Circles. So do do Fripp and Eno and Throbbing Gristle. The result are two genre classics that sadly, when they released, failed to find the audience they deserved.

For Circles, it was a case of everything comes to he who waits. Belatedly, a new generation of record buyers discovered Circles and More Circles. Suddenly, the two albums recorded in the Frankfurt suburbs now had a cult following. Copies of the albums became collector’s items, and were prized amongst collectors. So it’s no surprise that Mental Experience have reissued Circles and More Circles.

Both Circles and More Circles feature music groundbreaking music from two musical pioneers, Circles. This was the start of a lifetime making music together. Circles started as they meant to go on, creating music that was ambitious, innovative, inventive and went on to influence further generation of musicians. Circles and More Circles are cult classics that show that there was life after Krautrock.

While the Kruatrock era was a golden age for German music, music  continued to evolve over the next four decades. Circles played a part in the reinvention of German music in the post Krautrock era. Their first two albums Circles and More Circles were timeless genre classics, where Circles show that there was definitely life after Krautrock.

Cult Classic: Circles-More Circles.

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SCOTT WALKER MEETS JACQUES BREL.

Scott Walker Meets Jacques Brel.

Label: Ace Records.

Release Date: “31st” January 2020. 

It’s no exaggeration to say that Scott Walker and Jacques Brel were two of the most influential singer-songwriters of their generation. However, if it wasn’t for Scott Walker covering nine of Jacques Brel’s songs on his first three solo albums, the Belgian singer-songwriter’s music wouldn’t have reached such a wide audience. And even today, a new generation of record buyer are discovering Jacques Brel’s music through Scott Walker. That is why it’s fitting that both men feature on the next instalment of Ace Records’ Songwriter Series, Scott Walker Meets Jacques Brel. 

This nineteen track CD features Scott Walker’s nine cover version of  Jacques Brel’s. They’re joined by his original versions and a cover of the Scott Walker song Seul. It was performed live by Scott Walker on his show,  but he never recorded the song. It’s a track that will be of interest to fans of both singers. Their story begins in 1967, when The Walker Brothers and Scott Walker embarked upon a solo career.

By then, Scott Walker had been introduced to Jacques Brel’s songs by his German girlfriend, who loves the chansons and translated them into English for the singer. Straight away,  he captivated, spellbound by Jacques Brel’s songs.

Not long after this, a demo disc of American lyricist Mort Shuman’s translations of Jacques Brel’s chansons was given to the Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who passed the record to Scott Walker.

When Mort Shuman first saw Jacques Brel’s perform it had huge effect on him and he said: “The only time I’d heard such virility in a voice was in black singers…I just had to find out what he was singing about. Then I had to translate it. He wrote about things you didn’t hear people singing, of things you normally only found in philosophy or in novels. By that time, Dylan and the Beatles were doing interesting things, but I was much more impressed by Brel. Here was a man who combined raw force with the most meaningful lyrics I had heard in songs, a deep understanding of the human condition.”

Mort Shuman translated  Jacques Brel’s chansons from French  into cover versions that English speaking audiences could relate. Importantly, the translations stayed true to the original songs and Scott Walker would eventually record nine of Jacques Brel’s chansons that had been translated by Mort Shuman. This included three on his debut album.

 When he came to record his debut album Scott, the former Walker Brother decided to record a trio of tracks written and recorded by Jacques Brel and accompanied by orchestral arrangements by Peter Knight, Reg Guest and Wally Stott.  The album open was Mathilde which Jacques Brel wrote with  Gérard Jouannest. It was joined by My Death and Amsterdam which were penned by Jacques Brel and focused on two things that he admitted to being “obsessed” about. 

This included death, loneliness, prostitution and romance, which were themes he would revisit throughout his songwriting career.

In a 1966 interview with the British music magazine Melody Maker, Jacques Brel explained that I’m obsessed by those things that are ugly and sordid, that people don’t want to talk about, as if they were afraid of touching a wound that might soil them.” 

Having released his debut album Scott in Britain on the ’16th’ of September 1967, and the album reached number three. The following year, 1968, Scott was released  in America but failed to chart. That was despite Scott Walker’s covers of Jacques Brel’s three songs. They were part of an album where the vocals were dramatic, ruminative, impassioned  and meditative. Scott was a classic album, and the twenty-four year old singer was hugely influenced by Jacques Brel’s impassioned, heartfelt and soul-baring vocals. He was impressed with Scott Walker’s vocals and must have felt here was a kindred spirit.

So much so, that Jacques Brel told Mort Shuman to give Scott Walker his song folio over to him. This would allow Scott Walker to cover more of Jacques Brel’s songs on his sophomore solo album Scott 2.

When it came to choosing the songs for Scott 2, two songs  Jacques Brel wrote with  Gérard Jouannest were chosen. They were Jackie and The Girls and The Dog. The other Jacques Brel composition was Next. These songs were much more risqué than the Jacques Brel compositions on Scott and dealt with sexual themes and decadence. However, some things stayed the same and that was the orchestral arrangements came courtesy of Peter Knight, Reg Guest and Wally Stott. 

Before the release of Scott 2, Jackie was released as a single towards the end of 1967, and proved controversial because of its lyrics. This resulted in the single being banned by mainstream radio. Despite this, the single still reached twenty-two in Britain. This augured well for the release of Scott 2.

The album which was another mixture of covers and some origin material was released in March 1968 to critical acclaim, and reached number one in the UK. Sadly, the album failed to replicate that success in America when it was released in July 1968.

By then, a wider audience were discovering Scott Walker and Jacques Brel’s music. In the case of Brel, his popularity was growing in English-speaking countries. This continued with the release of Scott 3.

For his third solo album Scott Walker decided to cover Tons Of and Funeral Tango which were written by Gérard Jouannest and Jacques Brel. He penned If You Go Away with American singer, songwriter, poet and actor Rod McKuen. The trio of Brel tracks closed the album which was produced by John Franz and featured lush string drenched arrangements by Wally Scott. 

When Scott 3 was released in March 1969, some critics thought that Wally Scott’s string arrangements made Scott Walker seem like a crooner who belonged on the Las Vegas strip. However, crooners didn’t usually release albums which featured dronings and jarrings sounds as well as hints of dissonance. Scott 3 was an ambitious album that showcased a vocal that matured with each album, and was perfectly suited to Jacques Brel’s songs. Despite that, Scott 3 didn’t sell as well as its two predecessors, and “only” reached number three in the UK. It was  also the end of an era.

Never again did Scott Walker record another of Jacques Brel’s songs. The nine songs that he recorded on Scott, Scott 2 and Scott 3 feature on Scott Walker Meets Jacques Brel. So do Brel’s originals which he recorded in French. These tracks re the perfect introduction to two hugely talented singers who were contrarians and enigmatic. They were also innovators whose music was way ahead of their time, and as a result were sometimes misunderstood. 

Scott Walker and  Jacques Brel did things their way and weren’t afraid to offend sensibilities by recording songs which featured lyrics that could offend some people. They created cerebral, cinematic, dark and thought-provoking music and sang about everything from death and loneliness to prostitution and romance. It seemed nothing was off-limits for Jacques Brel and his kindred spirit Scott Walker. 

Ace Records new compilation Scott Walker Meets Jacques Brel  celebrates the two men’s music. The first nine tracks are Scott Walker’s covers which are followed by Jacques Brel’s original French language versions. Closing the album is Brel’s cover of the Scott Walker song Seul. He sang it on his television show, but never recorded the song. It was later recorded by Jacques Brel and his rendition is a fitting way to close this lovingly curated compilation. It’s that is a homage two great and hugely influential singer-songwriters who wrote their way into musical history. For anyone yet to discover either their music, there’s no better place to start than Scott Walker Meets Jacques Brel.

Scott Walker Meets Jacques Brel.