RANDY MEISNER-ONE MORE SONG AND RANDY MEISNER.

Randy Meisner-One More Song and Randy Meisner.

Label: BGO Records.

Musical history was made in September 1971, when Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and twenty-five year old Randy Meisner formed The Eagles and signed with David Geffen’s new label Asylum Records. Little did David Geffen realise that he had signed one of the biggest bands of the seventies, and The Eagles would transform the fortunes of new label.

Over the next six years, Randy Meisner was the bassist and adding backing vocals on The Eagles’ first five albums which sold twenty-five million copies in America alone. The most successful album The Eagles released was Hotel California in December 1976 which sold sixteen million copies, was certified diamond and won two Grammy Awards. The success of the album was beyond The Eagles’ wildest dreams, but despite that, all wasn’t well behind the scenes.

In September 1977, Randy Meisner announced he was leaving The Eagles, citing exhaustion, which was no surprise given the band’s gruelling recording and touring schedule over the past six years. However, part of the reason behind Randy Meisner’s departure was the constant arguments among the group. While the departure of Randy Meisner marked the end of an era for The Eagles, but the start of a new chapter for thirty-one year old singer, songwriter and bassist.

Randy Meisner.

Randy Meisner had decided to embark upon a career as a solo artist, and signed to Asylum Records in 1978. Later that year, the thirty-two year old released his debut album Randy Meisner in June 1978. While this album of country rock, AOR and rock was well received by the majority of critics, it wasn’t the success that Randy Meisner had hoped and the album failed to trouble the charts. For Randy Meisner who wasn’t used to failure, this was a huge disappointment, and to make maters worse, he was dropped by the label. This made him doubly determined that his sophomore album would be a success. 

Two years later, and Randy Meisner returned in 1982 with One More Song which was released on Epic and was the start of a new chapter for the singer-songwriter. One More Song which has been paired with his third album Randy Meisner, and released by BGO Records, is a reminder of his Epic years.

One More Song.

Following the commercial failure of Randy Meisner, the former Eagle eventually began work on his sophomore album which later, became One More Song. It was a quite different album from Randy Meisner, which was essentially an album of cover versions. The only Randy Meisner composition on the album had been a reworking of Take It To The Limit which he cowrote with Don Henley and Glen Frey. This was proof, if any was needed, that Randy Meisner was a talented songwriter. All he needed was the right songwriting partner.

Fortunately, Randy Meisner discovered singer-songwriter Eric Kaz, and the pair cowrote Hearts On Fire and Deep Inside My Heart. They the joined forces with Wendy Waldman and penned Gotta Get Away, Come on Back to Me, I Need You Bad and Trouble Ahead. Jack Tempchin who wrote The Eagles classic Peaceful Easy Feeling contributed One More Song and White Shoes. To close One More Song, Randy Meisner decided to cover Richie Furay’s Anyway Bye Bye.

The recording of One More Song began on May the ’26th’ 1980 and continued to August the ’20th’ 1980. Joining Randy Meisner who took charge of lead vocals and played guitar was a rhythm section of drummer Craig Krampf, bassist Bryan Garofalo and guitarist Craig Hull who also played steel guitar and pedal steel. The other members of the band included keyboardist Sterling Smith and percussionist and backing vocalist Don Francisco. Other musicians were brought onboard to record one or two songs.

This included Kim Carnes who added background vocals on Deep Inside My Heart. When it came time to record One More Song, Eagles Glen Frey added backing vocals and Bill Cuomo played synths and returned when it came to record I Need You Bad, which featured saxophonist Michael Jacobs. Wendy Waldman joined the band during the recording of Come On Back To Me, and  played acoustic guitar, backing vocals and guitar. Meanwhile, Val Garay took charge of production on One More Song which was hoped would kickstart Randy Meisner’s solo career.

With One More Song completed in late August 1980, the album was scheduled for release by Epic in October 1980. This was a quick turnaround and only left two months to promote what was now the most important album of Randy Meisner’s solo career.

When critics heard One More Song, they were won over by a carefully crafted album of country rock, AOR and rock that was a much better album than his 1978 eponymous debut album. Partly, that was because of the songs that featured One More Song, and especially the songs he wrote with his new songwriting partners.  

There was also an honesty and innocence to a number of the songs while others had a rootsy sound that were perfectly suited to Randy Meisner. However, among the highlights of the album was the heartfelt paean I Need You, and beautiful ballads about love and love lost like Gotta Get Away, One More Song and Trouble Ahead. They’re a showcased Randy Meisner’s skills as a singer and songwriter. Meanwhile, the songs that had been earmarked as singles Hearts On Fire and Deep Inside My Heart were languid AOR tracks were radio friendly. Very different was the lively and exuberant Anyway Bye Bye, which closed the album on a memorable high.

When Deep Inside My Heart was released the lead single from One More Song, it reached twenty-two in the US Billboard 100. This augured well for the release of One More Song in October 1980, which released fifty in the US Billboard 200 and forty-four in Canada. Hearts On Fire was released as a single in 1981, and reached nineteen in the US Billboard 100 and fourteen in the Mainstream Rock charts. One More Song which had charted and featured two hit singles and had transformed Randy Meisner’s fortunes and he was keen to build on this success.

Randy Meisner.

Buoyed by the success of One More Song, Randy Meisner began work on his third album later in 1981. He had received plaudits and praise for the songs he cowrote for One More Song, including the love songs. Many critics thought that Randy Meisner would renew his songwriting partnership with Eric Kaz and Wendy Waldman. However, that wasn’t the case.

Instead, Randy Meisner only wrote four new songs for his third album, with new songwriting partners. Randy Meisner wrote Layin’ In The Deep End and Nothing Is Said (‘Til the Artist Is Dead with Dixon House, then joined forces with Howard Leese to write Still Runnin’. Then Randy Meisner, Dixon House and Howard Leese wrote Jealousy together. These four songs were augmented by five cover versions.

This included Craig Bickhardt’s Never Been In Love, David Palmer’s Darkness Of The Heart, Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance’s Tonight. They were joined by Elton John and Gary Osborne’s Strangers and John Corey’s Doin’ It For Delila which would close Randy Meisner.

Recording of Randy Meisner began on December the ’18th’ 1981 and continued right though to February the ’22nd’ 1982. This time around, Mike Flicker and Randy Meisner who played bass, guitar and added vocals, co-produced the album. They were joined by an expanded band that featured a rhythm section of drummer Denny Carmassi, bassist and guitarists Brian Smith and

John Corey who played piano and added backing vocals. They were augmented by backing vocalists Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson and Marcy Levy, saxophonist Phil Kenzie, synth player Mitchell Froom,  Tower Of Power who added horns and Sterling Smith who played organ, synths and piano. This all-star band was joined by Randy Meisner’s two songwriting partners, with Dixon House playing organ, piano, background vocals and Howard Leese played acoustic and electric guitar, synths and added backing vocals. After three months, Randy Meisner was completed and ready for release.

This time around, Epic decided to release Randy Meisner in August 1982, which allowed more to promote the album. They were hoping to build on the success of One More Song, which featured two hit singles.

Critics on hearing Randy Meisner, realised that it was a beautiful, melodic album of country rock, AOR and rock that sometimes packed a punch. During this latest carefully crafted album, Randy Meisner incorporated hooks aplenty, soaring melodies, Tower Of Power’s horns, backing vocals from Nancy Wilson, clever lyrics and sometimes, raw power. Randy Meisner was another carefully crafted album from a talented singer, songwriter, musician and now producer. 

It opened with the hook-laden rocker Never Been In Love, and continued to rock on Darkness Of The Heart that sounds not unlike Meat Loaf. Jealousy was a melodic and memorable track that featured raw power, while Tonight features soaring harmony and Playin’ In The Deep End was an anthem-in-waiting. Strangers was a beautiful, elegiac duet with Heart’s Ann Wilson duets while Still Runnin’ was a hook-laden, anthem that featured one of Randy Meisner’s best vocals. Nothing Is Said (‘Til the Artist Is Dead) was a slice of good time country rock before Randy Meisner closed the album on a high with the radio friendly Doin’ It for Delilah.

Buoyed by reviews which hailed Randy Meisner as a fitting followup to One More Song, executives at Epic and Randy Meisner must have been feeling positive about the album’s release in August 1982. Sadly, Randy Meisner stalled at a lowly ninety-four in the US Billboard 200. The only small crumb of comfort was that Never Been In Love reached twenty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and thirty in Canada. However, Randy Meisner was an album that deserved to fare much better than it did.

After the release of Randy Meisner, its author left Epic and never again released a solo album that featured new original songs. That was a great shame as Randy Meisner was a talented songwriter who could breathe life, meaning and emotion into the songs that he wrote. That was the case on One More Song and Randy Meisner which have been remastered and recently reissued by BGO Records. These two albums feature Randy Meisner at the peak of his powers during the early years of what should’ve been a long and successful solo career.

Sadly, Randy Meisner never reached the heights that he should’ve during his solo career, and nowadays is remembered as a member of Poco, but mostly as The Eagles bassist and backing vocalist. That was where he enjoyed the most successful period of his career. However, like many musicians who become part of a hugely successful band, Randy Meisner struggled with his newfound fame.

Throughout his career, Randy Meisner has bravely battled his demons and has struggled with alcohol dependency. That was the case during the six years he was a member of The Eagles, and during his solo career. Maybe his battle with alcohol dependency stopped Randy Meisner fulfilling his potential as a solo artist? 

Despite a turbulent life marred by addiction, health problems and tragedy, Randy Meisner has been a member of two successful bands Poco and The Eagles who sold twenty-five million albums while he was a member of the band. After that, Randy Meisner embarked upon a solo career, and in 1980 and 1982 recorded his two finest solo albums One More Song and Randy Meisner.

Randy Meisner-One More Song and Randy Meisner.

TOM WAITS-HEARTATTACK AND VINE.

Tom Waits-Heartattack and Vine.

Label: Anti.

In June 1980, thirty year old Tom Waits began work on his sixth studio album, Heartattack and Vine, which was the last album he released on David Geffen’s Asylum Records. The Asylum Records’ years had been frustrating for Tom Waits, who had released his debut album Closing Time in September 1973 and followed this up with The Heart of Saturday Night in October 1974. Although both albums were future classics, they never came close to troubling the American charts. However, across the Atlantic, where Tom Waits had a cult following, both album were eventually certified gold.

Nighthawks At The Diner.

After releasing two studio albums, Tom Waits returned in October 1975 with  Nighthawks At The Diner, which had been recorded in front of an invited audience. This genre-melting live album was released to critical acclaim and reached 164 in the US Billboard 200. Nighthawks At The Diner was Tom Waits first album to chart in America, and in Britain, was certified sliver. By then, Tom Waits’ popularity was growing in Britain.

Small Change.

Just under years later, Tom Waits returned with his much-anticipated third studio album, Small Change, in September 1976, which was produced by Bones Howe. By then, Tom Waits had been worn down by his gruelling touring schedule, which was taking its toll on his health and to make matters worse, he was now drinking heavily. It was a tough time for Tom Waits, but he managed to write and record another powerful album, albeit one that was quite different to its predecessors.

His new album Small Change featured a much more cynical Tom Waits  and a pessimistic mood pervaded the album. That was no surprise, because before writing the album, he had headed to Skid Row, in LA, where he hung around whilst looking for inspiration. This worked and he wrote The Piano Has Been Drinking and Bad Liver and A Broken Heart which were accurate portrayals of alcoholism. These two songs were part of an album that was released to critical acclaim, but failed commercially in America. Meanwhile, Small Change sold well in Britain and was certified silver, while the album was certified gold in Australia. Buoyed by the success of Small Change Tom Waits began working on the followup.

Foreign Affairs.

Just a year later, Tom Waits released Foreign Affairs in September 1977, which featured his duet with Bette Middler I Never Talk to Strangers. It was part of an album that Tom Waits wanted to sound like a film-noir soundtrack, and even the photo George Hurrell shot album cover had to fit the filmic image. Critics on hearing the cinematic sounding Foreign Affairs were won over by Tom Waits’ fourth studio album. However, just like  his previous albums, Foreign Affairs passed American record buyers by. It was a similar case in Britain and Australia where Tom Waits was a popular draw. This was a huge disappointment for the thirty-two year old singer-songwriter.

Blue Valentine.

Despite the failure of Small Change, Tam Waits soon began writing his fifth album Blue Valentine, which was recorded over six sessions that took place between July and August 1978. 

Just a month later in September 1978, Blue Valentine was released and was well received by the majority of critics. Blue Valentine featured Tom Waits’ trademark lived-in, worldweary vocal and saw him combine blues and jazz. Straight away, he bowled a curveball by opening the album with a cover of Somewhere from West Side Story. After that, Tom Waits documented the dark underbelly of life on the wrong side of town on Christmas Card from A Hooker In Minneapolis, Romeo Is Bleeding, Wrong Side Of The Road, Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard and A Sweet Little Bullet From A Pretty Blue Gun. Blue Valentine was a compelling album and although it made no impression on the American charts, was certified gold in Britain.  This was a relief for Tam Waits, who only had one album left on his contract with Asylum Records.

Heartattack and Vine.

With his contract with Asylum Records about to expire, Tom Waits realised that his next album Heartattack and Vine, which was recently released by Anti, was one of the most important of his career. If Heartattack and Vine was a success, David Geffen might renew his contract, or another record label would offer him a recording a contract. With that in mind, Tam Waits began work on Heartattack and Vine.

Over the next few weeks and months, thirty-four year old Tom Waits wrote eight new songs and the instrumental In Shades. These nine tracks he planned to record with engineer and producer Bones Howe who had produced most of his previous albums.

The recording sessions began on June the ’16th’ and continued until July the ’15th 1980 at Filmways/Heider Studio B, Hollywood, California, with Bones Howe taking charge of engineering and production, while Jerry Yester returned to look after some of the orchestral arrangements. Bob Alcivar was responsible for the rest of the orchestral arrangements as well as the string arrangements on Heartattack and Vine. 

Meanwhile, Tom Waits played piano, electric guitar and added vocals on what was his sixth album  Heartattack and Vine. During the sessions, different musicians were used for different tracks which meant drummer Big John Thomassie was joined by bassists Greg Cohen, Jim Hughart and Larry Taylor and Roland Bautista who played guitar and 12-string guitar. They were augmented by pianists Michael Lang and Ronnie Barron who also played Hammond organ. Completing the band was percussionist Victor Feldman and Plas Johnson who played baritone and tenor saxophonist. After a nearly a month, Tom Waits and his band had recorded his all important sixth studio album Heartattack and Vine.

Asylum Records scheduled the release of Heartattack and Vine for September 1980.  It found Tom Waits turning his back on the jazzier style that was a feature of previous albums for bluesy vampish vocals. Meanwhile, some of the lush, orchestrated arrangements hinted at fifties soundtracks and are very much a reminder of another era. The same can be said of Tom Waits, who is part poet, part lyricist and social commentator as he continues to dig deep into the dark underbelly of American society. In doing so, he documents the life of dreamers, schemers, chancers and romancers who live their life on the wrong side of the railroad tracks.

Just like previous albums, Heartattack and Vine is rich in imagery as Tom Waits paints pictures of America that many of citizens or tourist don’t or won’t want to see. Meanwhile, hipster hobo deploys rhythms during the album that are best described as off kilter, while sometimes, the guitars often have a nastier, gnarled sound. Similarly, Tom Waits vocals are quite different from his first couple of albums maybe his carousing and nocturnal, hard-living lifestyle was affecting his delivery? Sometimes it sounds as gargles with kerosene in the morning before existing on a daily diet Marlboro and Jack Daniels. Gravelly, lived-in and worldweary describes Tom Waits’ vocal by the time Heartattack and Vine was recorded. It was an album that looked like it marked the end of an era, because maybe, Tom Waits was about to leave Asylum Records. However, would he leave on a high?

The title-track opens Heartattack and Vine with bursts of gnarled, searing guitars, rhythm section, percussion and saxophone accompany Tom Waits as he delivers a menacing vocal. Very different is the instrumental In Shades, which is a slow blues. There’s then a sense of melancholy as Tom Waits lays bare his soul and delivers a worldweary vocal during the tear jerker Saving All My Love For You. Washes of Hammond organ open Downtown, which is a rich in imagery as Tom Waits delivers a vocal powerhouse whilst painting pictures as his band fuse blues and jazz. Jersey Girl is a wistful sounding, orchestrated ballad that has a confessional quality and finds Tom Waits paying tribute to The Drifters. However, Jersey Girl sounds as if it’s been inspired by Bruce Springsteen, who played the song in his sets during the early eighties.

Tom Waits drivers a gnarled vocal on ‘Til The Money Runs Out which finds hipster hobo at his poetic best. He then delivers a boastful vocal full of machismo and bravado on Mr. Siegal against a jangling tack piano. It’s all change on Ruby’s Arms which closes Heartattack and Vine, with horns then strings providing a backdrop for a pessimistic Tom Waits, who delivers  a lived-in vocal that is full sadness and despair. It seems that he’s saved the best until last on Heartattack and Vine.

Before the release of Heartattack and Vine, critics had their say on Tom Waits sixth album, and the majority were won over by an album that quite rightly received plaudits and praise. This augured well for the release of Heartattack and Vine in early September 1980.

Upon the release of Heartattack and Vine on the ‘6th’ of September 1980, the album spent three months on the US Billboard 200 and peaked at ninety-six. Meanwhile, Heartattack and Vine broke into the top forty in Australia, and reached thirty in the album charts. In Britain where Tom Waits was popular, Heartattack and Vine failed to trouble the charts and was the one that got away.

After the release of Heartattack and Vine, Tom Waits decided to leave Asylum Records and signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. This was a new chapter in his career and began with the release of Swordfishtrombones in 1983. This was followed by 1985s Rain Dogs, 1987s Frank’s Wild Years, the live album Big Time and 1992s Bone Machine which won Tom Waits a Grammy Award for the Best Alternative Album. The following year, Tom Waits released The Black Rider in 1993, which was his swan-song for Island Records.

Next stop was Anti, where Tom Waits released the million selling album Mule Variations in 1999. After a gap of three years, Tom Waits returned with two albums in May 2002 Blood Money and Alice. Two years later, Tom Waits returned in 2004 with Real Gone, and after a five-year wait released Glitter and Doom Live in 2009. However, it wasn’t until 2011 that Tom Waits returned with his sixteenth studio album Bad As Me. Sadly, that was the last that was heard of Tom Waits.

That was until he started remastering and reissuing the six albums he released for Asylum Records, including Heartattack and Vine, which marked the end of an era. Just Closing Time and The Heart Of Saturday Night, Heartattack and Vine is one of the best albums that Tom Waits released for David Geffen’s Asylum Records. During the seven-year period between 1973 and 1980, Tom Waits released six studio albums and the live album Nighthawks At The Diner. These albums include some of the best music that Tom Waits has released during a five decade career.

On Heartattack and Vine which closes the Asylum Records’ years, Tom Waits continues to document the dark underbelly of American life, and the dreamers, schemers, chancers and romancers who live on wrong side of the railroad tracks, as only he can do.

Tom Waits-Heartattack and Vine.

CZECH UP! VOLUME 2: WE’D BE HAPPY.

Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy.

Label: Vampi Soul.

Nowadays, competition within the compilation market is fierce, and each week hundreds of compilations are released by record companies across the world and are competing for the compilation pound, dollar or Euro. However, not all compilations are equal, and some of these compilations are more equal than others. There’s a perfectly good reason for this and that is some record companies take great care when compiling a new compilation and when they release a lovingly curated compilation it sells well and receives critical acclaim. Sadly, not all record companies act in this way.

Other record companies only have dollar signs in front of their eyes,  and are only interested in making some quick money. As a result, very little time is take compiling the compilation, and instead they recycle the same tired and predictable the same tracks. A favourite for this type of label  is disco and Northern Soul, and usually, they release compilations like Disco Floorfillers Volume 22 and Twenty Norther Soul Stompers That Were Heard At The Wheel. They’re the type of compilation to avoid at all costs, and instead take some time looking for a lovingly curated compilation.

The Spanish label Vampi Soul have just released the lovingly curated compilation Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy., which is the eagerly awaited followup to Czech Up! Volume 1: Chain of Fools.  It features twenty-two tracks, including contributions from Olympic, Mahagon, Famous Five, Apollobeat, Beatings, The Blue Effect, SHQ, Metronom, Jazz Q, Vulkan, Flamengo, The Soulmen, Hana Zagorova  and Karel Cernoch that were released between in communist Czechoslovakia between 1968 and 1979. Czech Up Happy Volume 2: We’d Be Happy is an eclectic compilation that features everything form baroque pop to progressive funk to party soul and psych-jazz. Eclectic doesn’t even come close to describing Czech Up Happy Volume 2: We’d Be Happy.

Opening Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy. is Olympic’s Blaznivej Kiki. This is fitting as Olympic, who were formed in 1963, and in 1968 made history in 1968 when they released their debut album Želva. This meant Olympic was the first Czech rock band to release an album. Three years later they released Jedeme Jedeme 3 which featured the melodic driving rocker Blaznivej Kiki which tells the story of a guitar playing tramp.

Mahagon were formed in Prague in 1973, and during their career, their music veered between fusion and jazz funk. By the time they released their third album Slunečnice Pro Vincenta Van Gogha on Supraphon in 1980, Mahagon’s music uber funky. Proof of that is Prameny Poznani which is a stunning jazz-funk instrumental that showcases a truly talented group.

Hold On, I’m Coming is an oft-covered song, and in 1968 the Framus Five featuring Michal Prokop released a barnstorming and soulful  version on Supraphon that features a vocal powerhouse. A year later in 1968, Hold On, I’m Coming featured on the Framus Five’s eponymous debut album of R&B and soul was released complete with overdubbed audience applause. Given the quality of the cover of Hold On, I’m Coming, that applause was richly deserved.

When Apollobeat released Nikdo Netuší (Lovers Concerto) as a single on Supraphon in 1968, tucked away on the B-Side was Nocni Modlitba. It features a vocal from Yvonne Prenosilov who plays a huge part in the sound and success of this haunting psychedelic paean. It’s a hidden gem and a very welcome addition to Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy.

Czech pop-rock group Beatings were formed in 1968 and during their career, were sometimes regarded as a  hard rocking band. Proof of this is the urgent psychedelic rock of We’d Be Happy which featured on their 1970 EP Silence Is Golden, which was released on the Panton label. Sadly, Beatings never got round to releasing an album and only recorded singles and EPs between 1968 and 1976, when the band called time on their career.

In 1975, singer and actress Valerie Cizmarov released her eponymous debut album on the Supraphon label. One of the highlights of the album was Byls Ma Boj which features an impressive orchestrated arrangement that incorporates elements of pop and funk. However, it’s Valerie Cizmarov’s vocal which veers between tender to powerful and always is full of emotion that steals the show.

Czech jazz group SHQ was founded in 1961 and by the time they released the classic jazz album The Jazz Nebyeki (Jazz Non-Fables) in 1973 on Panton. By then, SHQ’s music was evolving and V Obore finds the combo fusing elements of jazz-funk, modal jazz and soul-jazz on this funky cinematic instrumental. It’s one of the highlights of Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy.. 

Synkopy 61 was a rock group from Brno, that was formed in December 1960 by songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Petr Směja. Twelve years after Synkopy 61 was founded, the group released its debut album Festival on the Panton label in 1972. It featured one of the highlights of Festival, Bytost Podivna, which features elements of garage rock and psychedelia, whilst hinting at progressive rock. That was the direction that Synkopy 61 took on their next two albums.

Between 1969 and 1971, George and Beatovens recorded and released three albums with popular vocalist Petr Novak. The third and final album was Modlitba Za Lásku which was released on the Panton label. One of the singles released from the album was Jarní Den. However, hidden away on the B-Side was Zahrada Za Domem which is a hidden gem with heavy guitar riffs, harmonies and Petr Novak’s soulful vocal proving a potent combination on this genre-melting story about love.

When vocalist and actress  Eva Pilarová released Vlny as a single on Supraphon in 1970, she decided to cover a song that was instantly recognisable for the B-Side. After just a couple of bars of Eva Pilarová’s cover of Padni Na Kolena, Piece Of My Heart is instantly recognisable. The song start off slowly and the orchestrated arrangement builds as Eva Pilarová vocal veers between tender and heartfelt to powerful and full of emotion. This results in a truly memorable cover of Padni Na Kolena.

Flamingo was formed in Ostrava in 1968, and led by Richard Kovalčík until his death in 1975. During that seven-year period, Flamingo’s continued to evolve and by the time they recorded 75 with vocalist Marie Rottrova their music was a mixture of funk, fusion, jazz-funk and rock. Proof of that is Tvuj Pritel Vitr where all these genres combine and Marie Rottrova delivers a vocal powerhouse on what’s one of highlights of ’75.

Barnodaj was founded in Brno and in 1978, released their debut album Mauglí on the Supraphon label. It featured Dzungle which is a carefully crafted fusion of art rock, Eastern and sci-fi sounds, symphonic rock and progressive rock. Quite simply, Dzungle  is one of the highlights of Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy.

Hana Zagorova’s musical career began in 1968 and in 1969 she released Bludička Julie as a single on the Supraphon label. On the B-Side was Rokle a baroque psych pop track that was one of Hana Zagorova’s finest songs.

Closing Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy.is Karel Cernoch’s Trznice Sveta which featured on his 1975 album Letiště which was released on Panton. It’s a genre-melting track which starts off as a ballad before the arrangement builds and the vocal becomes urgent and impassioned as a Latin groove accompanies Karel Cernoch and closes the compilation on a high.

Buoyed by the success of followup to Czech Up! Volume 1: Chain of Fools which was released in February 2016, Vampi Soul began work on the followup, and just over two years later return with the lovingly curated compilation Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy. It’s even better than its predecessor and brings a new meaning to the word eclectic with a compilation that features everything baroque pop, funk, fusion, garage rock, jazz-funk, party soul, progressive funk, progressive rock, psych-jazz and rock. Eclectic doesn’t even come close to describing Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy which is an extraordinary compilation.

There’s songs about dreams, eccentric characters, faunal fables, love and love lost, otherworldly beings and preternatural gardens on Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy. Meanwhile, other songs are variously anthemic, beautiful, eerie, joyous, melancholy and uplifting. They were recorded by truly talent artists and bands who sadly, very few people outside of Czechoslovakia were aware of. That is a great shame, as many of these artists and bands could’ve enjoyed successful careers in Western Europe and North America. However, that wasn’t possible between 1968 and 1979 when the music on Czech Up! Happy Volume 2: We’d Be Happy was released.

It’s only recently and somewhat belatedly that compilations like Czech Up! Happy Volume 2: We’d Be Happy are introducing Western music lovers to the music that Olympic, Mahagon, Apollobeat, Beatings, The Blue Effect, SHQ, Metronom, Jazz Q, Vulkan, Flamengo, Hana Zagorova and Karel Cernoch recorded between 1968 and 1979. That was a golden period for Czech music, which was truly eclectic during this period which is documented on the lovingly curated compilationCzech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy.

Czech Up! Volume 2: We’d Be Happy.

 

FRODE HALTLI-AVANT FOLK.

Frode Haltli-Avant Folk.

Label: Hubro Music.

Release Date: ‘15th’ June 2018.

Album Of The Week.

Frode Haltli was born in Levanger, in the municipality of Trøndelag, on the ’15th’ of May 1975, and by the time he was seven, had already started to play the accordion. The young  Frode Haltli proved to be a prodigious talent, and within a few years, was entering and winning talent competitions. This included Norwegian television’s Talentiaden 1991 which brought sixteen year old Frode Haltli to the attention of a wider audience. By then, the young accordionist seemed destined to make a career out of music, and twenty-seven years later, Frode Haltli has just released his new album Avant Folk on Hubro Music which is the latest chapter in Frode Haltli’s career.

Back in 1994, nineteen year old  Frode Haltli travelled to Copenhagen, where he enrolled at the prestigious Royal Danish Academy of Music. This was where he completed his musical education and in 2000, returned to his alma mater to play a concert. By then, great things were being forecast of Frode Haltli.

In 2001, Frode Haltli was awarded the Young Soloist of the Year prize by the Norwegian Concert Institute and was runner-up in the  Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition in the Netherlands. Buoyed by this success, it wasn’t long before Frode Haltli signed  his first recording contract with ECM.

The following year, 2002, Frode Haltli released his debut album Looking On Darkness with the Vertavo String Quartet. It was released to critical acclaim and won a Spellemannprisen, which is  the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award for the best contemporary music album. In France in 2004, Looking On Darkness won the prestigious Prix Gus Viseur award. By then, Frode Haltli had recorded two more albums with two different bands.

This included Rusk, who were a traditional Norwegian folk trio that featured Frode Haltli, singer Unni Løvlid and fiddler Vegar Vårdal. Rusk released their eponymous debut album in 2002, which was well received by critics. However, it was four more years before Rusk returned with the followup. By then, Frode Haltli’s other was busy with his other band, Poing.

Frode Haltli had cofounded Poing in 1999 with double bassist Håkon Thelin and saxophonist Rolf Erik Nystrøm, and initially, played music by young Norwegian composers in clubs and at festivals. Four years later, in 2003,  Poing released its debut album Giants Of Jazz to plaudits and praise. Two years later, in 2005, Poing returned with their much-anticipated sophomore album Giants Of Poing which was lauded by critics. Poing and Frode Haltli’s career was going for strength-to-strength.

In 2006, Frode Haltli’s folk trio Rusk returned with their sophomore album Rusk II. Although the album was well received by critics, Rusk II was the last album that Rusk released.

After the release of Rusk II, Frode Haltli turned his attention to his much-anticipated sophomore album, Passing Images which would be the followup to the critically acclaimed and award-winning debut album Looking On Darkness. Passing Images which featured Frode Haltli’s interpretations of Norwegian folk music had a lot to live up to, but when it was released in 2007, it was to widespread critical acclaim.

The following year 2008, was a busy year for Frode Haltli, with Poing contributed a track to Maja S. K. Ratkje’s album River Mouth Echoes. Frode Haltli also played on Norwegian jazz saxophonist’s Trygve Seim’s  album Yeraz which was released on ECM in 2008. By then, Frode Haltli’s star was in the ascendancy, although it was only six years since he had released his debut album Looking On Darkness. He had come a long way short time.

During the next couple of years, Frode Haltli worked with a variety of artists , but also found time to record Poing’s new album, Wach Auf! This time, it was a collaboration between Poing and Maja S. K. Ratkje. The genre-melting Wach Auf!, which was released in 2011, was an ambitious album, and was Poing’s first release in six years.

After a five-year wait, Frode Haltli returned with a new solo album Arne Nordheim Complete Accordion Works in 2012, and two years later in 2014 released the critically acclaimed Vagabonde Blu on Hubro Music. Vagabonde Blu was one of the finest albums of the Frode Haltli’s career. 

Over the next two years, Frode Haltli found himself working on several albums, and was asked to play on Trygve Seim’s 2016 album Rumi Songs. He also recorded two albums with Poing, including Sur Poing and Kapital and Moral were released in 2016. So was StaiStua which was a critically acclaimed collaboration between Andreas Ulvo, Sigurd Hole and Frode Haltli. However, Frode Haltli released one more album during 2016.

This was Frode Haltli’s eagerly awaited solo album Air, which featured The Trondheim Soloists and The Arditti Quartet. When Air was released in 2016, it was hailed as a fitting followup to Vagabonde Blu and a welcome addition to Frode Haltli’s discography. The big question was what was next for Frode Haltli?

Avant Folk.

Buoyed by the commercial success and critically acclaimed Air, Frode Haltli was keen to begin work on the followup album Avant Folk, which would eventually feature five compositions. Frode Haltli composed two new compositions Hug and Neid. Of the other three compositions, Trio was based upon two traditional Norwegian songs; King was based upon a traditional Faroese Kingo hymn; and Gråtar’n was a traditional waltz from Finnskogen. The five compositions that later became Avant Folk were recorded in Oslo, Norway, in February 2017 by an all-star band.

Frode Haltli had decided to record Avant Folk at the Riksscenen studio, in Oslo, where he would co-produce the album with his friend Maja S.K.Ratkje. Joining accordionist Frode Haltli was a rhythm section that featured Trondheim Jazz Orchestra’s drummer and vocalist Siv Øyunn Kjenstad, Moskus and Skadedyr double bassist  Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson and Moksha’s  guitarist and vocalist Oddrun Lilja Jonsdottir. They were joined by The Island Band’s guitarist and electronic guru Juhani Silvola; Supersilent and Motorpsycho keyboardist Stale Storlokken who plays harmonium and synths; Hardanger fiddle players Erlend Apneseth; violinist Hans P. Kjorstad; saxophonist Rolf-Erik Nystrøm and Hildegunn Øiseth who played trumpet, bukkehorn (goat horn) and adds vocal. This talented and versatile band spent part of February 2017 recording Avant Folk with recordist Fridtjof A. Lindeman, and over the days and weeks, the album started to shape.

Once the recording was complete, Maja S.K.Ratkje edited and mixed Avant Folk, before the album was mastered at Audiovirus Lab by Helge Sten a.k.a. Deathprod. With the album mastered, Avant Folk was ready for release and on ‘15th’ June 2018 Frode Haltli’s much-anticipated album was released.

Hug which opens Avant Folk, is best described as a dreamlike fusion of contemporary experimental folk, jazz and chamber-music. The galloping, off-kilter rhythm adds a cinematic quality as the unmistakable sound of Frode Haltli’s wheezing accordion is augmented by a violin, Hardanger fiddle and samples, as an array of sounds assail the listener. Later, this includes a guitar, horns and standup bass as the arrangement floats and meanders dreamily along, sometimes growing in power and drama, before latterly becoming understated. Briefly, the galumphing cartoon rhythm returns before the arrangement dissipates after seven magical minutes.

Pizzicato strings open Trio and create an understated backdrop, and eventually grows in power  before the  arrangement becomes wistful as the Hardanger fiddle and violin combine and tug at the listener’s heartstrings. Meanwhile, beauty is omnipresent throughout this melodic example of Nordic folk music.

Initially, Kingo features mesmeric drums that sounds as if they’ve been inspired by traditional African music that combine with an accordion and later, a melancholy fiddle. By then, it sounds as if the accordion is playing fragments of sea shanty as the drums never miss a beat and add an element of drama. Soon, the tempo increases and ethereal harmonies and handclaps and searing guitar are added  and transform the arrangement. Later, the accordion takes centre-stage as drums pound and instruments flit in and out of the carefully crafted arrangement. This includes the harmonium before Hildegunn Øiseth adds an improvised trumpet solo and scratchy strings played with freedom add a degree of urgency to this genre-melting track. It features elements of African music, avant-garde, folk, free jazz and rock. However, it’s a gypsy violin, accordion, drums,  harmonies and handclaps that join forces latterly with a free jazz horn during this eleven minute epic.

A myriad of disparate sound combine before Gråtar’n reveals its secrets. This includes pizzicato strings, an eerie rasping horn and haunting strings that sound as if they belong in a horror film. Even the wheezing accordion has an eerie, otherworldly sound that is matched by the violin. Later, the Hardanger fiddle plays what sounds like a lament as the arrangement becomes dark, dramatic and haunting. Always, though, it’s rich in imagery and guaranteed to paint pictures.

Neid closes Avant Folk, and initially, Frode Haltli’s wheezing accordion plays its part in a haunting, otherworldly arrangement. Soon, this changes, although there’s still a sense of melancholy as the accordion takes centre-stage. It’s joined by the Hardanger fiddle as the arrangement starts to waltz along against a shuffling beat. Meanwhile, the standup bass accompanies the accordion and gradually, other instruments are introduced including a chiming guitar which combines with the double bass and later accordion as Frode Haltli and his band paint pictures. At 7.42 the tempo increases and music becomes dramatic as the violin and horns are introduced and improvise playing with an urgency and sometimes with a freedom. Later, Frode Haltli and his band drop the tempo and return to earlier sound as the arrangement takes on a beautiful, cinematic sound and this fourteen minute opus closes Avant Folk on a high.

Avant Folk is a truly groundbreaking album that doesn’t fall neatly within any of the existing musical genres, and instead, is a genre-melting album that features elements of avant-garde, classical music, experimental, folk, free jazz, improv, jazz, rock and traditional African music. This is a potent and heady brew that results in a truly ambitious and captivating album that is best described as Avant Folk, and it looks like forty-three year old Frode Haltli is going to be one a small number of musicians who has invented a new musical genre.  

Doubtless many other musicians will be keen to follow in the footsteps of Frode Haltli whose the founding father of Avant Folk and record a similar type of album. However, very few of these musicians will be able to record an album as good as Avant Folk which surpasses the quality of Frode Haltli’s previous album Air.

That is no surprise as Avant Folk features music that veers between beautiful, dreamy and ethereal, to cinematic and rich in imagery, to dramatic, eerie, haunting  and otherworldly, to melancholy and wistful. Sometimes the music is hypnotic and mesmeric, while much of the music on Avant Folk has a timeless quality. Other times, Frode Haltli throws a curveball and the multilayered, genre-melting music on Avant Folk heads in a totally unexpected direction as a myriad of disparate sounds assail the listener. They come courtesy of Frode Haltli’s all-star band and an array instruments, electronics and samples. They play their in the musical tapestry that is Avant Folk, which is without doubt, one of the finest albums of Frode Haltli’s sixteen year recording career, and is the album that looks like launching, and lending its name to a new musical genre.

Frode Haltli-Avant Folk.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE VOLUME 6: A COLLECTION OF RARE SOUL AND DISCO COMPILED BY FAZE ACTION.

Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action.

Label: Z Records.

Every time an independent record label releases a new compilation there’s always the hope that this will be the first instalment in a long running and successful series. Sadly, that hardly ever happens, and the majority compilations that are release prove to be one-offs. That is no surprise as the compilation market is hugely competitive, with many record companies vying for a slice of the lucrative compilation pie. This isn’t easy though.

It takes a compiler with impeccable musical taste whose able to choose a mixture of familiar tracks and hidden gems that will appeal to the widest possible audience. Other record labels will pay a DJ or tastemaker to compile the compilation hoping this will give it some much-needed kudos. Both of these approaches have worked in the past, but only if the record label ponies up for a marketing budget. 

This is something that even some of the larger independent labels are reluctant to do, and they seem unaware of the maxim speculate to accumulate. Some labels think that spending £500 to £1,500 promoting a compilation is guaranteed to bring success their way. Alas, they’re mistaken, as competition within the compilation market is fierce, and a  failure to promote a compilation can have disastrous consequences, that affect the label’s bottom line.

Some record labels release a critically acclaimed compilation that proves to be bang on trend, and it’s a commercial success. This brings much-needed revenue to the label, who are keen to begin work on a second instalment in the series.

If the second instalment in a compilation series proves successful, this can be a game-changer for an independent record label who now  have an additional revenue stream. That is as long as they continue to release compilations of the same quality as the first two instalments.

Many record labels have managed to do this, and soon, are releasing their third, fourth and in some cases, the fifth instalment in their new compilation series. The extra revenue a commercially successful compilation series can bring can transform the fortunes of a previously struggling independent record label. It’s akin to a lottery win that allows them to payoff debt and subsidise worthy, but loss making releases. Not every release is profitable and a successful  compilation series is a godsend for many a record label. 

That has been the case for many record labels who have released long-running, critically acclaimed and commercially successful compilation series. This includes Z Records who released the first instalment in the Under The Influence compilation series in October 2011, and have just released Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action. Nearly seven years later, and Under The Influence is one of the most successful compilation series, despite bringing a new curator onboard for each instalment.

This time around, it’s British brothers Simon and Robin Lee a.k.a. Faze Action, who have dug deep into their record collections for the twenty tracks that feature on Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action. These tracks are a mixture boogie, disco, funk and soul from Carol Dionne, Stylus, Midway, Delight and Disco Circus. That isn’t forgetting Galaxy, Mikki,  Oscar Perry, Space, Spats and Banzai who are responsible for a veritable feast of floorfillers. Choosing the highlights isn’t going to be easy.

Disc One.

Opening disc one of Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action is Carol Dionne’s I’m In Love With You which was released on St Louis based Gateway Records  in 1981. It’s a funky, soulful and sensual dancefloor filler that sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation.

After leaving Ultimate who were signed to Casablanca, Barbara Hernandez embarked upon a solo career. The onetime Eurodisco diva released All Nite Tonight on the Barbados based Bah Bah Records. It was produced by Leston Paul and Meekaaeel Muhammad who deploy percussion, blazing horns and harmonies as elements of disco, funk and soul are combined as Barbara Hernandez delivers a vocal powerhouse.

Cameroon born Bébé Manga became one of the most popular makossa singers of the eighties. Her debut album Ami-Oyomiya was released on the French label SIIS and featured Lokognolo. It’s a glorious fusion of Afrobeat, disco and funk which marked the debut of future makossa Queen Bébé Manga.

Australian funk and soul group Stylus were formed in Melbourne in 1975, and a year later, released their sophomore album For The Love Of Music on Atlantic Records. It featured the smooth and soulful dancefloor filler We All Need One Another which was one of the highlights of For The Love Of Music. Later, Stylus became the first Australian group to be released by Motown Records, and went on to tour with George Benson, the Average White Band and Little River Band. 

After disco there was boogie, and in 1984 Midway released Set It Out as their debut single. It epitomises the boogie sound circa 1984 as a drum machine and synths accompany the vocal. This is the antithesis to disco where lush strings and horns were often part of orchestrated arrangements. However, that was all in the past by 1984 as dance music continued to reinvent itself. Thirty-four years later,  and Faze Action reinvent Set It Out by editing this reminder of the boogie sound.

In 1978, German disco group Disco Circus released their eponymous debut album on Lollipop Records. The album was produced by Jürgen S. Korduletsch and features Dig It which is a catchy combination of disco, Eurodisco, funk,  pop and soul.

Disc Two.

Opening disc two is Galaxy’s Let Love Begin which is a track from their eponymous debut album. It was recorded in England, but later released on the Nigerian label Tabansi label in the early eighties. One of the highlights of this disco boogie album was Let Love Begin which was written and multi-instrumentalist Jake Sollo who produced Galaxy. He plays an important part in the sound and success of Galaxy, which was this short-lived group’s only release.

PFO Pilgrim Fathers Orchestra was an Italian studio band who released Touch Me Don’t Stop on their own label  Pilgrim Fathers Records in 1981. This was two years after the supposed demise of disco. However, there’s still a strong disco influence which is combined with boogie on funk on this slick, soulful and dancefloor filler that later, hints at piano house.

Blues and soul singer Oscar Perry was born in Texas in 1943, but by 1979 was signed to Gamma Records and had just released Body Movements. It was written, arranged and produced by Oscar Perry who had reinvented himself as a disco singer. The highlight of the album was the title-track Body Movements which was a soulful slice of disco that has stood the test of time.

In Italy, in 1979, the Ariston label released Ruba Ruba which marked the comeback of Italian-American-born dancer, choreographer, TV present and singer Don Lurio. Ruba Ruba was Don Lurio’s first single in over a decade and was a lavishly orchestrated disco single. Strings, horns, harmonies and a funky rhythm section accompanied Don Lurio’s vocal, which ironically although full of enthusiasm, was the weakest part of the single.

Spats released their eponymous debut album on the American label Good Sounds in 1978. One of the highlights of the album was Hot Summer Madness where Spats combine elements of disco and funk, with a soulful vocal the final piece of the jigsaw. Sadly, Spats never released another album, but Hot Summer Madness forty years later, Hot Summer Madness returns for a well deserved encore.

Closing Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action is Banzai’s Runaway, which featured on  their eponymous album, when it was released by EMI in Spain, in 1980. Runaway features elements of boogie, electronic music, jazz and Latin, and is a reminder of where music was at in 1980. Music had changed since the demise of disco and this was a new chapter in the history of dance music.

The music on Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action was released during the seventies and eighties, when disco and boogie provided the soundtrack to clubs on both sides of the Atlantic. Many DJs spun tracks from Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action which enticed and encouraged even the most reluctant dancers onto the dancefloor and they enjoyed music that was released not just in America but also in Africa, Barbados and Europe. 

Over thirty years later, that music features on Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action is a cosmopolitan and eclectic selection of music where mostly, the emphasis is on quality music. Having said that, there’s the very occasional track that doesn’t quite work. Mostly, though the music on Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action is quality we’ve come to expect from this long-running and successful compilation series.

Z Records who released the Under The Influence series, have always taken great care choosing a curator for the annual compilation. This year, it’s Simon and Robin Lee a.k.a. Faze Action, who have dug deep into their collections, and chose a mixture of a familiar dancefloor fillers and oft-overlooked hidden gems that feature on Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action which is the latest instalment in this long-running and successful compilation series that seems to go from strength-to-strength.

Under The Influence Volume 6: A Collection Of Rare Soul and Disco Compiled By Faze Action.

 

CHUCK JACKSON-THE BEST OF THE WAND YEARS (VINYL).

Chuck Jackson-The Best Of The Wand Years (Vinyl).

Label: Kent Soul.

By the time Pittsburg-born Chuck Jackson signed to Wand Records in 1961, he was just twenty-four,  and was already an experienced singer, who many within the music industry thought had a great future ahead of him. Chuck Jackson’s career began four years earlier in 1957, when he joined the second lineup of The Del-Vikings.

Later in 1957, Chuck Jackson sung the lead vocal on The Del-Vikings’ 1957 single Willette, which when it was released, failed to trouble the charts. Sadly, commercial success continued to elude the singles 

The Del-Vikings released between 1957 and 1959. By then, Chuck Jackson had come to the conclusion that although The Del-Vikings were a popular draw locally, they were never going to enjoy chart success and decided to embark upon a solo career.

Before long, Chuck Jackson had signed to the Petite label, and released Willette as single in 1959. However, when the single failed to find an audience, Chuck Jackson was on the move.

Next stop was the Clock label, where Chuck Jackson would release a trio of singles. His clock debut was Come On and Love Me, which was released later in 1959,  but failed to find an audience. However, by then time, Chuck Jackson had been ‘discovered.’

This came about when Chuck Jackson was opening for Jackie Wilson at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, and i the audience that night, was Luther Dixon. He immediately spotted the potential in Chuck Jackson, which was the break the twenty-two year old soul man had been waiting for.

After being discovered by Luther Dixon, Chuck Jackson released two more singles for Clock, including I’m Yours in April 1960, which stalled at ninety-one on the US Billboard 100. This was the first of Chuck Jackson’s singles that had charted, and although it was only a minor hit, he hoped that his luck was changing. Sadly, when This Is It was released later in 1960, it failed to trouble the charts and  Chuck Jackson was back to square one.

Once his contract with Clock expired, Chuck Jackson released a Peeping Tom for Belltone using the moniker Chuck Flamingo. Just like previous solo singles, it sunk without trace. History repeated itself when Chuck Jackson released Mr. Pride as a single for Belltone in March 1961. Two years after embarking upon a solo career, and Chuck Jackson was struggling to make a breakthrough. Fortunately, his luck was about to change.

Later in 1961 Chuck Jackson signed to Wand Records, which was an imprint of the New York label Scepter Records. Little did Chuck Jackson know that this would be his home for the next six years. Between 1961 and 1966 Chuck Jackson enjoyed a successful solo career and formed a partnership with Maxine Brown at Wand. This was the most prolific and successful period of Chuck Jackson’s long career.

Chuck Jackson released a total of ten albums and thirty singles between 1961 and 1966, and enjoyed seventeen hit singles in the US R&B charts and nineteen in the US Billboard 100. This was the most successful period of Chuck Jackson’s long career, and it’s been documented and celebrated by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records over the past three decades, including on the newly released The Best Of The Wand Years  which was released on vinyl by Kent Soul.

There’s a total of fourteen tracks on The Best Of The Wand Years, including eleven that were released between 1961 and 1966. The other three tracks were released by Kent between 1987 and 1990  and return for an encore on The Best Of The Wand Years.

The earliest track from Chuck Jackson’s tracks on The Best Of The Wand Years is the hurt filled I Don’t Want To Cry which was released as a single in 1961. It reached thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 and five in the US R&B charts, but failed to trouble the UK charts. I Don’t Want To Cry which later lent its name to Chuck Jackson’s debut album was a tantalising taste of what was to come from the Pittsburg-born soul man

In April 1962, Chuck Jackson released a cover of Any Day Now which reached twenty-three in the US Billboard 100 and five in the US R&B charts. Any Day Now finds Chuck Jackson’s voice is full  of dread at the thought of losing the woman he loved. This was one of the finest recordings of Chuck Jackson’s career and became the title of Chuck Jackson’s sophomore album.

Two months later in June 1962, Chuck Jackson released I Keep Forgetting as a single which also features on the album Any Day Now. It featured an unusual percussive arrangement that was very different to much of the music being released, while Chuck Jackson released a vocal powerhouse. Sadly, I Keep Forgetting stalled at just fifty-five in the US Billboard 100, but became a favourite of British mods .

January 1963 saw Chuck Jackson release Tell Him I’m Not Home which featured on the album 1963 Encore! Chuck Jackson lives the lyrics as he delivers  a soul-baring vocal, that is full of hurt and betrayal. Despite oozing quality, the single only reached forty-two in the US Billboard 100 and twelve in the US R&B charts.

Two Stupid Feet  was another track from Chuck Jackson’s 1963 album Encore! It was penned by Cara Browne and Luther Dixon and had been originally released as a single by The Tabs. The same backing track was used for Chuck Jackson’s version, as he breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics and makes the song his own.

In May 1964, Chuck Jackson covered Rudy Clark’s Beg Me, where he testifies,  while singing call and responses with the backing vocalists. They play their part in a truly irresistible dancefloor filler that reached forty-five in the US Billboard 100 and five in the US R&B charts. 

Although Chuck Jackson was a successful artist, executives at Wand had already decided to update his sound in  later 1964. However, they decided to use the B-Side to experiment with the new sound. As a single it was decided that Chuck Jackson should release a cover Jeffrey David Hooven and Hal Winn’s Since I Don’t Have You October 1964. Chuck Jackson’s  beautiful heartfelt cover reached forty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and five in the US R&B charts. On the B-Side was, a cover of Robert Mosley’s Hand It Over  where Chuck Jackson’s experimented with the “discotheque sound“ and shows a new side to his music.

Five months later, Chuck Jackson released the ballad I Need You in March 1965, which features a rueful vocal full sadness and regret. I Need You stalled at seventy-five in the US Billboard 100 , but reached a respectable twenty-two in the US R&B charts.

In October 1965, Chuck Jackson released Good Things Come to Those Who Wait as a single, but it failed to trouble the charts. However, this dancer became a favourite on the British Northern Soul scene, especially at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester.

When Chuck Jackson released These Chains of Love (Are Breaking Me Down) as a single in July 1966, it became his latest single that failed to trouble the charts. However, later, Chuck Jackson’s soul stomper These Chains of Love (Are Breaking Me Down) was discovered by DJs on the British Northern Soul scene and was heard by a new audience. Sadly, that was too late for Chuck Jackson who had left Wand by then.

In 1987, Kent Records released A Powerful Soul which was a new compilation of Chuck Jackson songs that included (I’d Be A) Millionaire and Van McCoy’s I Can’t Stand to See You Cry. Both songs seemed to tailor-made for Chuck Jackson who brought the lyrics to life on these two hidden gems.

Three years later in 1990, Kent Records released another new Chuck Jackson compilation Good Things. It featured What’s With This Loneliness which was penned by Chuck Jackson and made its welcome debut on Good Things. Twenty-eight years later it returns for an encore on The Best Of The Wand Years which was recently released on vinyl by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records.

For newcomers to career Chuck Jackson’s  at Wand Records who want to experience his music on vinyl, then The Best Of The Wand Years  is the perfect place to start.  It features fourteen tracks from Chuck Jackson’s Wand Years which was the most prolific and successful part of what was a long career. However, The Best Of The Wand is just an amuse bouche and there’s much more to enjoy.

After discovering the delights of The Best Of The Wand Years,  there’s the eight albums that Chuck Jackson released for Wand Records. They’ve been released on four albums by Kent Soul, and document the most successful period of Chuck Jackson’s career. During this period, Chuck Jackson enjoyed seventeen hit singles in the US R&B charts and nineteen in the US Billboard 100. He was one of the most successful soul singers signed to Wand Records, and had a huge following on both sides of the Atlantic.

That is still the case today, and Chuck Jackson’s legion of loyal fans will enjoy the hits, B-Side, rarities and unreleased tracks on The Best Of The Wand Years, which celebrates the career of a veteran soul man.

Chuck Jackson-The Best Of The Wand Years (Vinyl).

ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM-TIDE AND STONE FLOWER. 

Antonio Carlos Jobim-Tide and Stone Flower.

Label: BGO Records.

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. 

Creed Taylor and Antonio Carlos Jobim were planning to work together in the spring and summer of 1970, and that would result in two albums Tide and Stone Flower which have just been reissued by BGO Records as a two CD set. 

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.

For anyone yet to discover Antonio Carlos Jobim’s solo career,  Tide and Stone Flower which have just been remastered and reissued by BGO Records as a two CD set is the perfect opportunity to don so. Tide is a hugely underrated album which failed to find the audience it deserved when it was released on the main A&M Records label. It’s also a reminder of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s trademark jazz-tinged Bossa Nova sound, which started to evolve on the followup album Stone Flower.

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 Stone Flower one of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s finest albums.

Tide and Stone Flower are a reminder of Antonio Carlos Jobim as he continued to introduce his unique brand of jazz-tinged Bossa Nova to an international audience. This he had been doing since the fifties. Antonio Carlos Jobim was one of the founding fathers of the Bossa Nova in fifties, and in the sixties internationalised the genre when he introduced the music to a worldwide audience. By the time he released Tide and Stone Flower in 1970 and 1971 Antonio Carlos Jobim was at the peak of his powers and one of finest exponents of Brazilian music. 

Antonio Carlos Jobim-Tide and Stone Flower.

BOB STANLEY AND PETE WIGGS PRESENT PARIS IN THE SPRING.

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring.

Label: Ace Records.

People across Europe were shocked when they saw the pictures in newspapers and reports on television of the civil unrest in May 1968, and couldn’t believe that Paris was burning and at one point, it looked as if the French government was about to fall. The police had lost control of the situation and were powerless as anarchy reigned in the French capital. Political commentators shook their head in disbelief that this had started with students occupation protests.

The students were protesting about everything from capitalism and consumerism right though to American imperialism. They all rallied against traditional institutions as well as values and order. French students were angry frustrated and had decided to make their presence felt as they raged against the machine.

Before long, an unlikely alliance was formed when the student’s strike spread to French factories and suddenly, eleven million people had withdrawn their labour for two weeks. This amounted to 22% of the population and had a disastrous and crippling effect on the French economy.

With the students, factory workers and high school students were now brothers in arms, and wildcat strikes taking place across France, the government knew they had to take actions. Especially as the students and factory workers took to the streets to protest and make their demands.

The students had a list of three things that they wanted to the government to agree to. They wanted all criminal charges against arrested students to be dropped; the police leave the university and the Nanterre and Sorbonne to be reopened. Prime Minister Georges Pompidou and his government considered these demands.

Meanwhile, President De Gaulle decided to mobilise the French police, who were told to quell the strikes. This had the opposite effect, and soon, there was a confrontation between the two sides on the ‘10th’ of May 1968. Pitched battles took place on the streets of Paris’ Latin Quarter, and before long, it was obvious that the police who were heavily outnumbered, were fighting a losing battle. Try as they may, the police couldn’t control the situation, and watched on, as Paris burnt and looting took place in parts of the capital.

After the riots, and what was perceived as a heavy-handed approach by the government, there was a huge wave of sympathy for the strikers. This lead to many French poets and singers joining forces with the strikers in a show of solidarity. and layer, a number of American musicians voiced their support for the protesters.

Three days later, on  May the ‘13th’ 1968 a million people marched through Paris, while the police kept a low profile. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Georges Pompidou announced the release of the prisoners and the reopening of the Sorbonne. This it was hoped would stabilise a situation that was rapidly getting out of control.

When the Sorbonne reopened, it was occupied by students who referred to the famous institution as an  autonomous “people’s university.” By then, public were supportive of the students, but this soon changed as the students started to speak of their plans to destroy the consumer society. This lead to public opinion turning against the utopianist students.

By the ‘17th’ of May 1968, there had been an increase in militancy and 200,000 people were on strike and this grew to two million on the ‘18th’ and ten million on the ‘19th’ of May. With the country at a standstill, the trade unions demanded a 35% increase in the minimum wage and 7% increase for other workers. However, within the protest movement the trade unionists weren’t popular, and were jeered.

Over the next twelve days, negotiations took place between the various sides, and eventually, on the ‘28th’ of May 1968, François Mitterrand of the Federation of the Democratic and Socialist Left announced that he was ready to form a new government. Just a day later, on the ‘29th’ of May 1968 Pierre Mendès France also announced that he was willing to form a government, and was wiling to include the communist party that had in excess of 20% of the vote. However, by then, there was a complicating factor.

On the ‘29th’ of May 1968 President De Gaulle had postponed his meeting of the Council Of Ministers, and fled France. This shocked the French nation, who watched as their country ground to a halt. 

It turned out that President De Gaulle had travelled to Baden Baden in Germany to visit General Jacques Massu. He managed to persuade President De Gaulle to returned  to France on the ‘30th’ of May 1968, as  500,000 people marched through Paris chanting “adieu, De Gaulle.”

Upon President De Gaulle’s return to France, the meeting of the Council Of Ministers took place, and he met Prime Minister Georges Pompidou. He persuaded President De Gaulle to dissolve the National Assembly, and call a new election by threatening to resign. This worked, and although President De Gaulle refused to resign during a broadcast on the ‘30th’ of May 1968, he announced an election for the ‘23rd’ of June 1968. When the communists agreed to the election, this was enough to stop a revolution in France.

May 1968 was one of the most turbulent in France’s modern history, and although there wasn’t a political revolution, a cultural revolution took place. Music in France was transformed after May 1968, and some of the music from this cultural revolution features on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring, which has just been released by Ace Records.

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring features twenty-three tracks, that range from chanson and jazz, to pop and tracks from film soundtracks. There’s contributions from Karl Heinz Schäfer, Bernard Lavilliers, Ilous and Decuyper, Brigitte Fontaine, Nino Ferrer, Françoise Hardy, William Sheller, Triangle, Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg and Léonie on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring which was the start of a new chapter in French music. This new music was dark, broody, moody and ruminative and seemed to match the mood of the French people. In a way, the new music was the polar opposite to yé-yé music that provided to soundtrack to France earlier in the sixties.

Opening Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring  is Karl Heinz Schäfer’s composition La Victime which is taken from his soundtrack to the film Les Gants Blancs Du Diable, which was released by Eden Roc in 1973. It’s a moody cinematic track with a Gallic seventies sound. Having said that it’s a timeless track that has stood the test of time and sounds just as good forty-five years later.

Four years after Janko Nilovic released his debut album Psych Impressions in 1969, the Montenegrin-French arranger, composer, conductor, musician, producer and vocalist returned  in 1973 with his fifth album Supra Pop Impression on the Editions Montparnasse 2000 label. It featured Roses And Revolvers which was a genre-melting track where Janko Nilovic and his band combined funk, jazz, psychedelia and rock during a quintessentially French sounding track that could only have been recorded in the seventies.

In 1972, Ilous and Decuyper released their debut single L’Elu on the nascent Flamophone label. Later in 1972, Ilous and Decuyper returned with their much-anticipated eponymous debut album  and one of the highlights was the pastoral sounding L’Elu. It featured a carefully crafted keyboard led arrangement and featured harmonies that suggested a Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Despite the English and American  inferences L’Elu was an  undeniably French sounding release. Sadly, Ilous and Decuyper never released another album and their eponymous debut album and single L’Elu are to be cherished.

After releasing two highly regarded albums, Brigitte Fontaine returned with Brigitte Fontaine Est…Folle in 1968. It was released on the Saravah label, and was Brigitte Fontaine’s first album after turning her back on ye-ye. Brigitte Fontaine Est…Folle which featured Dommage Que Tu Sois Mort was a very different album, that included ambitious and innovative music which saw Brigitte Fontaine  successfully embrace avant-garde. 

Having worked on two soundtracks with Serge Gainsbourg, Jean-Claude Vannier decided the time had come for him to embark upon a solo career. Just a year later in 1972, Jean-Claude Vannier released his debit solo album L’Enfant Assassin Des Mouches on the Suzelle label. Critical acclaim accompanied this groundbreaking album which featured Les Gardes Volent Au Secours Du Roi. However, it’s an alternate version of this moody disconcerting track that is included, and is a reminder of Jean-Claude Vannier’s seminal genre-melting album which belongs in any self-respecting record collection.

When Nino Ferrer released Nino And Radiah on CBS in 1974, it featured many of his own compositions including Looking For You. It also featured ‘actress’ and vocalist Radiah Frye who would later forge a career as a disco singer. However, in 1974, one of the finest songs on Nino And Radiah was Looking For You where effects were deployed effectively to create a sensuous and soulful song.

By 1971, Françoise Hardy’s recording career was nearly a decade old, when she released her eponymous debut album on the Sonopresse label. Her career began in 1962, and nine years later the twenty-seven year old multilingual singer was a vastly experienced singer. Françoise Hardy was her eleventh album and featured the beautifully orchestrated song Viens where the chanteuse delivers a breathy sensual vocal.

William Sheller was born in Paris, but grew up in Ohio which was home to his father. Later, William Sheller returned to France where he studied music at the Paris Conservatoire. This training he put to good use when he wrote and released several baroque psych singles including Leslie Simone in 1969 which was one of William Sheller’s finest hours.

In 1973, English actress and singer Jane Birkin released her debut album Di Doo Dah on Fontana, which was produced by Alain Hortu. Much of the album was written by Serge Gainsbourg who collaborated with Jean-Claude Vannier to write Encore Lui. It features a breathy, sensual vocal from English rose turned femme fatale Jane Birkin.

During a lengthy career, Serge Gainsbourg was no stranger to the world of soundtracks, and in 1969 he was asked to write the soundtrack to the comedy Slogan. In June 1969, Serge Gainsbourg et Jane Birkin released the single La Chanson De Slogan which was billed as Bande Originale Du Film “Slogan.” On the B-Side was the instrumental ruminative instrumental Evelyne which has Serge Gainsbourg’s name written all over it.

Two years after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965 with Poupée de cire, poupée de son, former ye-ye singer France Gall released the Teenie-Weenie-Boppie EP in late 1967. It featured Pour Que Tu M’aimes Un Peu which the following year, featured on Frances Gall’s new album 1968. By 1968, the twenty-one year old had turned her back on ye-ye and was in the process of reinventing herself musically. Frances Gall was hoping that her music would attract a more mature audience and this would help prolong her career. Sadly, after the May uprising, France Gall’s record sales and popularity fell and the former ye-ye singer was no longer as popular as she once was. That was despite releasing songs of the quality of Pour Que Tu M’aimes Un Peu which are a reminder of truly talented singer, France Gall. 

Romy Schneider and Michel Piccoli released La Canzone D’Helene as a single on Phillips in 1970. It’s taken from the soundtrack to La Choses De La Vie which was also released in 1970. It finds Romy Schneider singing the beautiful, heart-rending love song La Canzone D’Helene to Michel Piccoli, and this is the perfect way to close Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring.

The events of May 1968 transformed France politically, and also resulted in a cultural revolution. After that, French music was never the same again, and seemed to have been shaken to its very foundations. It seemed that the uprising in May 1968 acted as a catalyst, and was also a force for good that brought about much-needed change.

Over the next few years, French music became much more eclectic, as artists and groups released albums of ambitious and innovative music. Proof of that can be found on Ace Records new compilation Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring which features everything from avant-garde, baroque psych, chanson, funk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, rock, soul and even a couple of tracks from soundtracks. Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring features a tantalising taste of what was a brave new world for French music. 

Suddenly, French artists, arrangers, composers and producers realised that they had been left behind and their British and American counterparts had stolen a march on them. Not any more, as albums of groundbreaking music were released by artists and groups who seemed to be reinvigorated after the events of May 1968 shook up the old order and nearly resulted in a political revolution. 

While French protesters stopped short of a revolution, there was a cultural revolution which meant that music was never the same again. It was the start of a brave new world when anything seemed possible for French musicians who are celebrated on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring, which is another lovingly curated compilation from Ace Records, where the emphasis is on quality.

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring.

ON THE SOUL SIDE.

On The Soul Side.

Label: Kent Soul.

Thirty-five years ago in 1983, Kent Records, which had been founded a year earlier in 1982, released their sixth release, On The Soul Side on vinyl. It was the fourth compilation that Ady Croasdell had compiled for Kent Records. The previous compilations had all been well received and commercially successful, so  Ady Croasdell and the staff at the nascent Kent Records had high hopes for their latest release.

On The Soul Side surpassed everyone’s expectations and went on to become of one of Kent Records iconic releases. That was no surprise, as On The Soul Side struck a nerve with soul fans across Britain, and especially in the capital London. 

Some soul fans in the capital noticed smiled knowingly when they noticed that the 6T’S logo featured on the newly released On The Soul Side. These soul fans knew that 6T’S club was one of the most fashionable soul clubs in London. However, the 6T’S club was much more than a place for the soul fan about town to be seen, and was also a club where DJs with impeccable musical taste played the best in soul music. That was the attraction of 6T’S to soul fans, who were passionate about the music that they loved.

So much so, that many soul fans spent much of their time and money looking for and buying soul music, and were willing go to great lengths to find new music. Some collectors and DJs had even used cheap flights to travel to America on crate-digging trips. However, for many soul fans that wasn’t an option and they had to make do with the latest releases in 1983.

The only problem was that there wasn’t the same amount of reissues and compilations being released by record companies thirty-five years ago. That came much later, when record companies realised just how lucrative the reissue and compilation market was. 

One of the first companies to realise the potential of the compilation market was Kent Records, which was founded and was being run by soul fans who knew that their was a market for lovingly curated compilations like On The Soul Side. This was just the start for the label, and now several hundred compilations and thirty-five years later Kent Soul as the label is still going strong.

Kent Soul’s latest release is reissue of On The Soul Side, which has been released on CD and features twenty-six tracks. That is twelve more than the vinyl version released back in 1983. The newly released CD version of On The Soul Side features Patrice Holloway, Bobby Sheen, Homer Banks, The O’Jays, Garnet Mimms, The Showmen, Ginger Thompson, Ellie Greenwich, Timi Yuro, Bobby Womack, Lou Rawls and Merry Clayton. These are just a few of the names that feature on the CD version of On The Soul Side.

Opening  On The Soul Side is the first of two tracks from Patrice Holloway, Love And Desire. It was written by Billy Page who produced the track with his brother Gene Page. Love And Desire was released by Capitol Records in November 1966, and is guaranteed to entice even the most reluctant dancers onto the dancefloor. Once there, they can enjoy Patrice Holloway’s impassioned and emotive vocal. Later, Patrice Holloway returns with the previously unreleased The Thrill Of Romance which is stomping dance track that is a reminder of a truly talented vocalist.

When Bobby Sheen released Sweet Sweet Love as a single on Capitol Records, in June 1966, hidden away on the B-Side was a cover of Nicholas Caldwell’s Dr Love. It was arranged by Gene Page and produced by Al De Lory, while Bobby Sheen delivers joyous and almost sassy vocal on this hidden gem of a dancer.

In May 1968, Homer Banks released 60 Minutes Of Your Love as a single on the Minit label. On the B-Side was A Lot Of Love which was written by David Porter and Isaac Hayes who unleashes a powerhouse of a vocal against Gene “Bowlegs” Miller’s arrangement which features harmonies and horns.

Way before The O’Jays signed to Philadelphia International Records they released Naomi Neville’s Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette) as a single on the Liberty label in June 1965. It was arranged by Harold Battiste and produced by Tom Lipuma and Joe Saraceno, who are responsible for a very different sounding single to the slick Philly Soul that made them famous. However, Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette) reached number twenty-eight in the US R&B charts and showcases a truly talented band who later, would write their names into the history of soul music.

Garnet Mimms released the ballad It Was Easier To Hurt Her as a single on United Artists in June 1965. It was arranged by Garry Sherman and produced by Jerry Ragovoy and features a rueful vocal that is full of regret.

When Benny Spellman released Lipstick Traces on the London label in June 1962, it featured the uptempo track Fortune Teller on the B-Side. It was written by Naomi Neville, which was a moniker Aaron Neville often used. Fortune Teller became a favourite nit just soul fans, but also mods who embraced a song that is a reminder of another era.

Ginger Thompson released Boy Watcher as a single on the 123 label in September 1968, and this was her reply to The O’Kaysions’ Girl Watcher. It’s a catchy, uptempo dance track where horns playing a leading role as Ginger Thompson delivers lyrics that were regarded as quite racy at the time.

Ellie Greenwich wrote I Want You To Be My Baby with Jeff Barry and released the song as a single on United Artists in April 1967. It was arranged by Hutch Davie and produced by Bob Crewe and is a quite irresistible slice of carefully crafted uptempo soulful pop.

In October 1968, Jimmy Holiday released his composition Baby I Love You as a single in Britain on the Liberty label. Cal Carter and  Hal Picken took charge of production on this soul-baring ballad where heartache and regret gives way to hope on what’s one of the highlights of On The Soul Side.

Jerry Riopelle wrote and produced If You Were A Man What You Gonna Do (When Your Love Is Gone) for Clydie King. He released If You Were A Man What You Gonna Do (When Your Love Is Gone) as a single on Imperial in May 1965. Sadly, this hidden gem of a ballad with a vocal full of emotion and sadness failed to trouble the charts.

Bobby Womack was signed to Minit in February 1968 when he released What Is This. Tucked away on the B-Side was What You Gonna Do (When Your Love Is Gone) which was also produced by and features some of Memphis’ top session musicians. They provide the perfect backdrop Bobby Womack, one of the legends of soul as he delivers a vocal tinged with emotion and regret.

As September 1966 dawned, Lou Rawls released Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing as a single in the UK on Capitol Records. It was penned by Ben Raleigh and Dave Linden, while David Axlerod took charge of production as a rueful Lou Rawls lays bare his soul for all to hear.

Closing On The Soul Side is Merry Clayton’s Nothing Left To Do But Cry which was released as a single on Capitol Records in the UK in 1964. It’s a beautiful ballad featuring a tender vocal full sadness and emotion as realises that her relationship is over and that she’s been betrayed. Just five years later, Merry Clayton would add backing vocals to the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter which is the song that brought her to the attention of a wider audience. However, Nothing Left To Do But Cry is a reminder that Merry Clayton’s career began long before Gimme Shelter.

Thirty-five years after Kent Records as the label was then known, released On The Soul Side on vinyl, the compilation has been issued by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. This time round, ten new songs have been added to On The Soul Side, taking the total to twenty-six. 

Expanding what was one of the best of Kent Records’ early releases could’ve been risky. However, original compiler Ady Croasdell returned and chose the new tracks and to quote The Beatles “takes a good thing and makes it better.” That is something of an understatement as the version of On The Soul Side is one of the best soul compilations of recent months. 

On The Soul Side finds familiar songs and hits singles rubbing shoulders with hits and hidden gems that come courtesy of well known names, superstars of soul and artists and groups that didn’t enjoy the success their talent deserved. However, these artists play their part in the success of On The Soul Side which is a lovingly curated compilation that was compiled by the hardest working man in soul music Ady Croasdell, and released by Kent Soul which continues to release top quality compilations thirty-six years after releasing their first release in 1982.

On The Soul Side. 

CHANCHA-VIA CIRCUITO-BIENAVENTURANZA. 

Chancha Via Circuito-Bienaventuranza.

Label: Wonderwheel Records.

Four years after Chancha Via Circuito released his critically acclaimed third album Amansara which introduced his genre-melting music to a new and wider international audience, one of music’s mavericks returns with the eagerly awaited followup Bienaventuranza which has just been released by Brooklyn based Wonderwheel Records. Bienaventuranza marks the welcome return of Chancha Via Circuito whose recording career began thirteen years ago in 2005.

That was when Pedro Canale, who was then living in Southern Buenos Aires, began his production career. Initially, he recorded instrumental tracks where he combined electronics with acoustic instruments. Soon, he began adding vocals to these tracks as he continued to hone his production skills and in by 2007, was ready to release a mini album.

By then, producer Pedro Canale came to prominence as part of Buenos Aries’ famous digital cumbia scene and dawned the moniker Chancha Via Circuito, who was already gaining a reputation for pushing musical boundaries. 

Soon, Chancha Via Circuito was gaining a reputation as a musical alchemist who fused the unlikeliest of musical genres. Brazilian rhythms were combined the music of the Andean mysticism, Argentinean folklore and the Paraguayan harp. To this mix Chancha Via Circuito added elements of avant-garde, electronica and post dub-step. The result was music that’s futuristic and innovative music for ‘21st’ Century dancefloors. It was also music that caught the imagination of other artists and music lovers.

In 2007, Chancha Via Circuito released the mini album Kumbia$ Gauchito which showcased the skills of one of the rising stars of the Buenos Aires’ digital cumbia scene. Buoyed by the response to Kumbia$ Gauchito, Chancha Via Circuito began work on his debut album Rodante, which was released a year later in 2008. 

Rodante.

When Chancha Via Circuito released his debut album Rodante in 2008, it featured a cast of guest artists. This included Khumba Keta, Jahdan and Rancho MC and with their help, Chancha Via Circuito who created an ambitious and innovative album where they reinvented cumbia on Rodante.

Rodante was a genre-melting album, and saw Chancha Via Circuito and his friends take cumbia in new directions on what was akin to a magical mystery tour. It was a case of expect the unexpected during what was a truly refreshing and innovative album, which caught the imagination of other artists.

Cumbia, other artists realised, was only the starting point for Chancha Via Circuito, and was just one of many musical building blocks on the album. What he added to cumbia made all the difference. This inspired other artists to follow in Chancha Via Circuito’s footsteps of the young musical alchemist, whose futuristic sounding music would fill dancefloors. It was a similar case with Chancha Via Circuito’s sophomore album Rio Arriba.

Rio Arriba.

Tree years later, in 2011, Chancha Via Circuito returned with his much-anticipated sophomore album, Rio Arriba. By then, other artists and music fans were keen to hear what direction Chancha Via Circuito’s would head on Rio Arriba. 

Pedro Canale had also been releasing music as Universildo, and in 2009, had released the album Luces del Aire. After that, Pedro Canale concentrated on Chancha Via Circuito’s sophomore album Rio Arriba which saw his music continue to evolve. Standing still wasn’t an option for Chancha Via Circuito

He created what was a remarkable album by taking obscure Latin rhythms, chopping them up, and combining them with native drum beats and South American folklore. All these ingredients were given a contemporary twist by Chancha Via Circuito on Rio Arriba, which was an ambitious album. 

Rio Arriba was released to critical acclaim and hailed as a groundbreaking album from Chancha Via Circuito. His star was in the ascendancy, and critics believe Chancha Via Circuito had a big future in front of him. That proved to be the case. 

Following the commercial success and critical acclaim of Rio Arriba, Chancha Via Circuito was asked to remix several high profile tracks. This included tracks from The Ruby Suns, The Gotan Project and a track for Giles Peterson’s Havana Remixed project. Still Chancha Via Circuito found time to release new music, and in 2012, the Semillas EP was released. The following year, 2013, Chancha Via Circuito contributed the track Lacandona to the Sub Pop 1000 compilation. It seemed that the success of Rio Arriba had transformed Chancha Via Circuito’s career. He returned in 2014 with his third album 

Amansara.

Amansara was worth the three-year wait and saw Chancha Via Circuito return with an album that fuses a myriad of disparate musical influences. As a starting point, Chancha Via Circuito uses cumbia, and adds to that avant-garde, electronica, experimental, hip hop, industrial, Latin and soul. The soul comes courtesy of Lido Pimienta and Miriam García who add deeply soulful. They provide a contrast to Chancha Via Circuito’s arrangements which are all different.

That was also the case with Rio Arriba and on which was released to plaudits and praise, musical maverick continued to reinvent his music. He succeeds in doing so on Amansara which is a genre-melting, musical journey that features ambitious and innovative music that is captivating and found Chancha Via Circuito reaching new heights. However, the big question was what was next from Chancha Via Circuito?

Bienaventuranza.

During the four years since Chancha Via Circuito released Amansara, critics and music fans were wondering what direction the digital cumbia pioneer’s music would head on his fourth album. Meanwhile, Chancha Via Circuito was writing the twelve tracks that would eventually feature on his new album Bienaventuranza. It was recorded with the help of a Chancha Via Circuito’s friends. 

This includes Mateo Kingman, Miriam Garcia, Gianluz, Lido Pimienta and Kaleema. Just like Chancha Via Circuito, they’re among the leading lights of the digital cumbia scene. Other musicians who joined Chancha Via Circuito in the studio are percussionist Federico Estevez and Manu Ranks whose one of the finest purveyors of Colombian dancehall. He just happened to be in Buenos Aries and had some free time, and headed into the studio to record La Victoria which also features Lido Pimienta’s radiant voice. Just like all the collaborations on Bienaventuranza, they were recorded quickly and before long all the pieces of the jigsaw started to fall into place.

The vocals were part of Chancha Via Circuito’s carefully crafted musical tapestry which includes a myriad of samples, dancefloor friendly drum beats and the Andean instruments which have become part of his trademark sound. Chancha Via Circuito adds an Andean flute and charango as he continues to combine Latin folk music,  cumbia, dancehall, electronica and house. Gradually, Bienaventuranza started to take shape, but it was a couple of years before it was complete. If Bienaventuranza was a meal, it would’ve been cooked in a slow cooker. However, Bienaventuranza was a delicious dish that is guaranteed to tantalise the music lover.

That was the case from the enchanting multilayered instrumental  Los Pastores which opens Bienaventuranza and showcases Chancha Via Circuito’s trademark sound. Mateo Kingman, a kingpin of the digital cumbia scene steals the show on Ilaló as his vocal veers between heartfelt, impassioned, tender and emotive. It’s delivered against an arrangement that features a myriad of acoustic instruments, percussion, samples and crispy drumbeats. 

It’s all change on Barú where Chancha Via Circuito deploys samples, Andean instruments and beats as digital cumbia, folk, hip hop and cinematic sounds are combined. Just like previous tracks, Chancha Via Circuito throws the occasional curveball during one of the highlights of Bienaventuranza. Nadie Lo Riega features Miriam Garcia’s vocal which provides the perfect contrast to the lo-fi and percussive arrangement as digital cumbia, electronica and folk are combined. Just like on Barú, eerie, haunting samples and Andean instruments are combined before marching to the beat of pied piper Chancha Via Circuito’s drum on this joyous track.

Very different is Niño Hermoso where a buzzing bass synth sets the scene for Gianluz’s vocal as another of the leading lights of the digital cumbia scene takes a bow. Here, Chancha Via Circuito takes a less is more approach to the arrangement allowing Gianluz’s vocal to play a starring role. This is followed by the short keyboard led interlude El Señor Del Flautín, which breaks the album up nicely, and sets the scene for La Victoria which features one of the biggest names on the Colombian dancehall scene, Manu Ranks. He’s joined by Lido Pimienta a star of the digital cumbia scene who delivers a radiant, soulful that is the perfect foil for Manu Ranks. This she does against a carefully crafted and distinctive multilayered arrangement that makes La Victoria one of the highlights Bienaventuranza. 

Kawa Kawa roots can be traced to an improvised jam that took place during a rehearsal when Chancha Via Circuito was joined by vocalist Kaleema and percussionist Federico Estevez. Little did they realise that this would end up in beautiful, haunting, percussive track with a contemporary sound  where Kaleema’s ethereal spiritual vocal takes centre-stage.

Alegría is a mixture of the ancient and modern, where Chancha Vía Circuito deploys hypnotic beats, eerie cinematic samples, synths and traditional percussion. They play their part in the sound and success of this irresistible genre-melting track. Indios Tilcara has much in common with the previous track as traditional folkloric instruments and percussion joins forces with Andean instruments and cinematic samples on this dubby, filmic track that is full of surprises. Closing  Bienaventuranza is Gira Gira which veers between dramatic to spiritual as a drum accompanies the vocals during this ruminative and meditative track that closes the album on high.

Four years is a long time to wait for any album, but Chancha Vía Circuito’s fourth album Bienaventuranza has been well worth the wait. Just like his last couple of albums, Bienaventuranza is another carefully crafted, genre-melting album from musical alchemist Chancha Vía Circuito as he continues to create ambitious, innovative and interesting music. This is what critics and music fans have come to expect of Chancha Vía Circuito since he released his sophomore album Rio Arriba in 2008. 

Since then, Chancha Vía Circuito’s career has been on an upward trajectory as one of the leading lights of the digital cumbia scene continues to reinvent himself with each album he releases. That is the case with Bienaventuranza which has just been released by Wonderwheel Records and finds the Buenos Aries producer returning with what may well be his finest hour.

Chancha Via Circuito-Bienaventuranza.

WESTBOUND DISCO.

Westbound Disco. 

Label: Westbound Records.

By 1969, Armen Boladian was a familiar face within the Detroit music scene, and the musical impresario was about to launch a new label Westbound Records. This came as no surprise to those that knew Armen Boladian who previously, had founded and run the Fascination label and the Record Distribution Corporation. However, when Armen Boladian’s latest venture Westbound Records opened its doors in 1969, he had no idea that it would become a musical institution.

In a way, that was no surprise, as Armen Boladian brought onboard talented arrangers, musicians, producers and songwriters to work with the artists he would sign to Westbound Records over the next few years. This included CJ and Company, Denis LaSalle, Dennis Coffey, Funkadelic, The Detroit Emerald and The Ohio Players. These artists would bring commercial success and critical acclaim the way of Westbound Records.

When Denise LaSalle released Trapped By A Thing Called Love in 1971, it reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100, topped the US R&B charts and was certified gold. Denise LaSalle then enjoyed hits with Now Run and Tell That which reached number three in the US R&B charts, while Man Sized Job reached number four in the US R&B charts. Having just enjoyed three consecutive top ten hits in the US R&B charts, Denise LaSalle was one Westbound Records most successful signings.

Not to be outdone, The Detroit Emeralds also enjoyed three consecutive top ten hits in the US R&B charts between 1971 and 1972. This began with Do Me Right which reached forty-three in the  US Billboard 100 and seven in the US R&B charts. Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms) reached thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 and five in the US R&B charts, before You Want It, You Got It reached twenty-four in the US Billboard 100 and four in the US R&B charts.   Armen Boladian’s Westbound Records was going from strength to strength.

Another of Westbound Records’ signings The Ohio Players, had released their sophomore album Pain in 1972, which was certified gold. Then in 1973 Funky Worm reached fifteen in the US Billboard 100 and topped the US R&B charts. Despite this success, The Ohio Players weren’t Westbound Records most successful signing.

That honour fell to Funkadelic, who released eight albums on Westbound Records. This began with Funkadelic in May 1970 and six years later, Tales of Kidd Funkadelic was released in September 1976 just before the P-Funk pioneers signed to Warner Bros. By then, music and Westbound Records was changing.

Armen Boladian had already launched Eastbound Records, which started life as a jazz label and signed artists of the calibre of Bill Mason, Caesar Frazier, Houston Person and Melvin Sparks. Later, Catfish Hodge, Fantastic, Pleasure Web, Robert Lowe and The Houston Outlaws would all sign to Eastbound Records. However, by 1975 Eastbound Records was no more and all the artists on the label’s roster became part of Westbound Records. 

As 1975 gave way to 1976, disco was growing in popularity, and like many record labels, Westbound Records were keen to embrace disco. This was a perfect opportunity for artists and groups to reinvent themselves, especially any artists whose career was at a crossroads and needed kick-started. Disco had the potential to kick-start ailing and failing careers, while new stars were born and embarked upon musical careers. 

This includes the artists and groups that feature on Westbound Disco, which was recently released by Westbound Records, an imprint of Ace Records. Westbound Records features ten tracks including contributions from C&J and Co, Fantastic Four, Dennis Coffey, The Detroit Emeralds, The Clark Sisters, The Crowd Pleasers, Eramus Hall and Caesar Frazier. These artists and groups are a reminder of the Westbound Disco era.

Opening Westbound Disco is C&J and Co’s Devil’s Gun which was released as a single in 1977, and reached thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 and two in the US R&B charts. Later, in 1977, C&J and Co released their debut album which reached sixty in the US Billboard 200 and twelve in the US R&B charts. Devil’s Gun was produced by Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore, and mixed by Tom Moulton. This was the latest trend in music, with the remixer seen as the man who could sprinkle magic dust on the music. A single of the quality of Devil’s Gun that was soulful, funky, tough and dancefloor friendly didn’t need magic dust or snake oil as it oozed quality and forty-one years later has stood the test of time.

By 1978, the Fantastic Four had jumped on the disco bandwagon and released B.Y.O.F. (Bring Your Own Funk). This was also the title  of The Fantastic Four’s fourth album which was released in 1978. It was produced by Dennis Coffey and one of the highlights of the album B.Y.O.F. (Bring Your Own Funk). Although it has a tougher sound that many disco songs released in 1978, it’s funky, soulful and guaranteed to tempt even the most reluctant dancer onto the dancefloor.

Although Dennis Coffey was busy producing other artists and groups signed to Westbound Records, he still found time to record the single Wings Of Fire which was released in 1977, and later that year, featured on his fourth album Back Home which was mixed by Tom Moulton. The standout track on Back Home was Wings Of Fire, a carefully crafted combination of disco, funk, jazz and proto-boogie where Dennis Coffey’s guitar plays a leading role in the sound and success of the track which reached number ten in the US Disco charts.

During the disco era, many disco orchestras were founded in cities across America, and followed in the footsteps of Vince Montana Jr’s Salsoul Orchestra. This included The Mike Theodore Orchestra who released their sophomore album High On Mad Mountain in 1979. It featured the eight minute epic High On Mad Mountain, which epitomises everything that is good about the disco orchestra including rasping horns, harmonies and sweeping strings who march to the beat of Jerry Jones and Lee Marcus’ drums.

In 1977, Westbound Records released King Errisson’s single Manhattan Love Song, which later that year, featured on his LA Bound album. It was produced by Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore, and mixed by Tom Moulton. Manhattan Love Song is a reminder of the soulful side of disco, although stabs of horns interject as strings sweep and swirl. Together, they play their part in one of the highlights of Westbound Disco.

The Detroit Emeralds had originally released Feel The Need In Me as a single in 1972, which released twenty-two in the US R&B charts and number four in the UK. By 1977, the hits had dried up for The Detroit Emeralds, and they needed to kickstart their ailing career. To do this, it was suggested that they record Feel The Need In Me which became Feel The Need and was released in 1977, reaching ninety in the US Billboard 100 and seventy-three in the US R&B charts. Across the Atlantic, Feel The Need reached number twelve. When The Detroit Emeralds released their new album Feel The Need, which was produced by Abrim Tilmon and mixed by Tom Moulton, it failed to even trouble the charts. However, Feel The Need which is a mixture of soul and disco is without doubt the highlight of the album.

The Clark Sisters were an American gospel group whose recording career began in 1973, when they released their debut album Jesus Has A Lot To Give. Eight years later, The Clark Sisters recorded You Brought The Sunshine which was the title-track to their 1981 album on Sound Of Gospel Records. By then, disco had been consigned to musical history and boogie was flavour of the month amongst DJ and dancers. Despite that, when Westbound Records licensed You Brought The Sunshine (Into My Life) in 1983 and had the track remixed for the post disco dancefloor, the result was fusion of disco, gospel and soul where The Clark Sisters who are unlikely disco divas testify and then some.

By 1979, disco was on its last legs, but still record labels continued to release singles and albums hoping that the bubble wouldn’t burst. Disco had been a cash cow for many record labels, and Westbound Records had enjoyed its fair share of hits. In 1979, The Crowd Pleasers released Freaky People on Westbound Records, which was a track from their eponymous debut album. One of the highlights of Crowd Pleasers, which was produced by Leroy Emmanuel and Bernie Mendelson was Freaky People which was fusion of disco and P-Funk that sounds as if it has been inspired by Funkadelic and Parliament.

Chicago-based Eramus Hall were founded in the late-seventies, but only released two albums during their career, including their 1981 debut Your Love Is My Desire. It featured Beat My Feet which was produced by Joel Martin and Rudy Robinson, and is a fusion of smooth soul, jazz-funk and a post P-Funk sound that hints at boogie. This is a potent combination and one reason to investigate Eramus Hall’s debut album Your Love Is My Desire.

Closing Westbound Disco is the instrumental Song Of The Wild from an unlikely and most possibly reluctant disco star Caesar Frazier. He released a trio of albums for Eastbound Records and Westbound Records, including his 1978 swan-song Another Life. However, Song Of The Wild didn’t feature on Caesar Frazier’s triumvirate of albums and was released as a single in 1978 and finds the funky soul-jazz organist from Indianapolis reinventing himself as a disco star. In doing so, the hugely talented Caesar Frazier shows another side to his music  which is well worth investigating.

Westbound Disco which was recently released by Westbound Records, which is an imprint of Ace Records, features ten tracks that are a reminder of the disco and post disco era. During this period, the artists and groups on Westbound Records’ roster embraced disco fully. 

For some it was a case of necessity as they attempted to kickstart their career, while other artists were just beginning their career, and keen to secure that all important hit single. Some of the artists signed to Westbound Records, and brought further success to Armen Boladian’s Detroit-based label. That was no surprise.

Some of the artists signed to Westbound Records stuck with a winning formula, with strings, horns and harmonies playing their part in the sound and success of the single. However, other artists knew that this sound would eventually sound dated, and were keen to reinvent the disco sound. They knew that if disco didn’t evolve, it risked becoming irrelevant, and artists and groups started  incorporating elements of gospel, P-Funk, proto-boogie and post-P-Funk into the music they were releasing. While the music wasn’t always commercially successful, just like the rest of the music on Westbound Disco it’s stood the test of time, and even today would tempt the most reluctant dancer on to the dancefloor.

Westbound Disco.

KRONIKI FILMOWE: POLISH LIBRARY MUSIC 1963-1978.

Kroniki Filmowe: Polish Library Music 1963-78 

Label: GAD Records.

Over the last few years, there’s been a resurgence of interest in library music, with British and European independent record labels releasing lovingly curated compilations that are welcomed by a coterie of musical connoisseurs who have a passion for library music. This includes DJs, producers and record collectors who are willing to pay large sums of money to add rare releases to their collections of library music.

Many of the British collectors of library music started off collecting releases by labels like KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy and Sonoton from the sixties, seventies early eighties, which is regarded by many collectors as a golden age for library music. This is ironic as albums of library music were never meant to fall into the hands of collectors.

Originally, library music was meant to be used by film studios or television and radio stations, and was never meant to be commercially available. The music was recorded on spec by music libraries who  often hired  young unknown composers, musicians and producers. This ranged from musicians who were known within publishing circles, to up-and-coming musicians who later, went onto greater things, and look back fondly at their time writing, recording and producing library music. This they now regard as part of their musical apprenticeship.

For the musicians hired to record library music, their remit was to music libraries with a steady stream of new music, which was originality referred to as production music. During some sessions, the musicians’ remit was write and record music to match themes or moods. This wasn’t easy, but after a while they were  able to this seamlessly. Soon, the musicians were able to enter the studio and write and record a piece of music that matched a theme or mood for a film or television show.

Once the library music was recorded, record libraries sent out demonstration copies of their music to advertising agencies, film studios, production companies, radio stations and television channels. If they liked what they heard, they would license a track or several tracks from the music libraries. That was how it was meant to work.

Sometimes, copies of these albums fell into the hands of record collectors, who realising the quality of music recorded by these unknown musicians, started collecting library music. However, it always wasn’t easy to find copies of the latest albums of library music. That was until the arrival of the CD.

Suddenly, record collectors and companies across Britain were disposing of LPs, and replacing them with CDs. It didn’t matter that the prices of LPs were at all-time low, some record collectors just wanted rid of their collection they were replacing with CDs. With people literally dumping LPs, all sorts of musical treasure was available to record collectors who didn’t believe the hype about CD. This included everything from rare psych and progressive rock right through to albums of library music. These albums were often found in car boot sales, second-hand shops and charity for less than a skinny latte macchiato.

This was the case throughout the period that vinyl fell from grace, and suddenly, it was possible for collectors of British library music to add to their burgeoning collections. Gradually, longtime collectors of library music had huge and enviable collections and were almost running out of new music to collect. Some of them decided that the time had come to see what European library music had to offer.

Now these collectors had a whole continent’s worth of library music to discover. Some collectors were like magpies buying albums from all over Europe, while others decided to concentrate on just one country or company. Although it was more expensive to collect European library music, gradually, enviable new collections started to take shape. However, despite a continent’s worth of library music to collect, some collectors bemoaned the availability of what they regarded as the holy grail of European library music.

This was Eastern European library music that had been recorded during the sixties and seventies, which for collectors is the golden age of library music. For many collectors, the  Eastern European library music of the sixties and seventies is their holy grail and what they dreamt of discovering. That dream has just come true with the record release of Kroniki Filmowe: Polish Library Music 1963-78 by GAD Record on vinyl.

Originally, Kroniki Filmowe: Polish Library Music 1963-78 was released as a CD in 2017, and a year later, has just been released on vinyl as a limited edition release. There’s only 500 copies available, including 300 on black vinyl and 200 on multicoloured vinyl. Kroniki Filmowe: Polish Library Music 1963-78 which was compiled by the Soul Service DJ Team, features a total of twelve tracks. There’s contributions from Grupa Organowa Krzysztofa Sadowskiego, Klan, Czterech, Polish Jazz Quartet, Augustyn Bloch, High Water Mark, Zespół Instrumentalny Mateusza Święcickiego and SBB. These artists offer a fascinating insight into the world of Polish library music between 1963 and 1978.

Side A.

Opening side one of Kroniki Filmowe: Polish Library Music 1963-78 is Grupa Organowa Krzysztofa Sadowskiego’s Niebo Z Blachy Fałdowanej which was written by composer, pianist and organist Krzysztof Sadowski. It’s a joyous soul jazz jam with a hint of lounge that was recorded in April 1971 and released later that year.

Polish rock band Klan were fronted by singer and songwriter Marek Alaszewski, who wrote Nie Stało Się Nic. This slow burner was recorded in March 1971, and was licensed later that year. It’s slow and moody cinematic track where elements of funk, soul-jazz progressive rock are combined. Sadly, Nie Stało Się Nic doesn’t feature on Klan’s 1971 debut album Mrowisko, which was the only album they recorded before splitting up. Since then, Klan has reformed on a couple of occasions and released a number of albums.

Having released their debut single in 1967, Czterech recorded Trzecia Katarakta, which was penned by Polish composer and guitarist Marek Bliziński during January and February of 1968. Later that year, this guitar lead hidden gem was licensed and heard by a wider audience for the first time. It makes a welcome return on Kroniki Filmowe: Polish Library Music 1963-78 and allows a new audience to hear some incredible guitar licks.

The first of Kwintet Bogusława Rudzińskiego’s two contributions is a cover of Rahat Łukum, which was written by composer, pianist and organist Krzysztof Sadowski. Kwintet Bogusława Rudzińskiego recorded Rahat Łukum in February 1962, and a year later this urgent,  and evocative slice of cinematic jazz made its debut.

After releasing their eponymous debut album in 1965, the Polish Jazz Quartet entered the world of library music in 1966. They recorded Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski’s Złośnica, which made its debut later that year. It bursts into life as the Polish Jazz Quartet play with speed, fluidity and invention as they showcase their considerable skills.

Very little is known about Zespół Instrumentalny Waldemara Parzyńskiego who recorded Waldemar Parzyński’s in 1974. It was released later in 1974, and is a roller coaster of a track. Initially, the tracks takes on a liturgical and gothic sound before heading in the direction of jazz which is a totally unexpected a welcome surprise. 

Side B.

Composer and organist Augustyn Bloch wrote and recorded Kosmos in March 1964, but it wasn’t released until 1966. Now fifty-two years later, the futuristic, otherworldly and cinematic sounding Kosmos is a reminder of musical pioneer Augustyn Bloch, who sadly passed away in 2006 aged seventy-six.

Zespół Instrumentalny Waldemara Parzyńskiego recorded Halo Wenus which was written by MateuszŚwięcicki, Ryszard Szumlicz in March 1974 and released later that year. It sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to a little known seventies sci-fi film.

High Water Mark entered the studio in May 1975 and recorded the Janusz Bogacki composition Wysoki Poziom Wody. It’s a slower track where a violin, keyboards, guitar and saxophone all plays a starring role in this captivating jazz-tinged jam that was released later in 1975.

Ryszard Siwy wrote Złota Czerń which was recorded by Zespół Instrumentalny Mateusza Święcickiego in February 1976. It’s a genre-melting, percussive track where elements of rock and jazz are combined to create a memorable and melodic offering to the musical gods.

Despite being behind the Iron Curtain in 1977, Poznańska Orkiestra Rozrywkowa Polskiego Radia I Telewizji’s cover of Aleksander Maliszewski’s Chcę Być Taki, Jaki Jestem sounds as if it was recorded in Philly or New York. It’s a carefully crafted fusion of disco, funk, jazz and soul that sounds as if it’s been inspired by Salsoul Records and Philadelphia International Records.

Closing is SBB’s genre-melting cover of Fortepian Na Jednej Nodze which was written by composer and multi-instrumentalist. The track which was recorded and licensed in 1978 bursts into life, and SBB play at breakneck speed as they switch between and combine elements of funk, jazz and rock during this innovative track that closes the album on a high. 

For anyone with even a passing interest in library music, Kroniki Filmowe: Polish Library Music 1963-78 which has just been released on vinyl by GAD Records as a limited edition of 500, will be welcome addition to their collection. This is one of the first compilations of Polish library music that has been released, and offers a tantalising taste of the type of music largely unknown composers, musicians and producers were writing, recording and producing between 1963 and 1978. 

Just like their British counterparts, these composers, musicians and producers were talented and capable of writing, recording and producing an eclectic selection of music. Proof of this is Kroniki Filmowe: Polish Library Music 1963-78, which showcases the skills of those writing, recording and producing library music during this fifteen year period. Many of these composers, musicians and producers were capable of going on to bigger and better things, but that wasn’t possible between 1963 and 1978.

During that period, Poland was a communist country, and there was very little money to be made writing and recording music behind the Iron Curtain. Indeed, musicians just like writers, poets and artists were viewed with a degree of suspicion by the secret police who saw them as potential subversives. Like as a musician in Poland and in other parts of Eastern Europe was very to different to the life of musician in Britain.

In Britain, many British composers and musicians made a comfortable living recording library music, and enjoyed working as session musicians. Some of these composers and musicians who began their career writing and recording library music went on to enjoy long and successful careers, while their Polish counterparts were struggling to make ends meet. These musicians neither enjoyed the recognition nor financial reward they deserved between 1963 and 1978. Sadly, that was the case right up until the fall of communism, when belatedly composers, musicians and producers were properly rewarded and received the recognition that they deserved.

Despite not being properly rewarded for the music they wrote, recorded and produced, the Polish musicians still took the utmost pride in the library music that the recorded behind the Iron Curtain. The library music that they recorded was of the highest quality, and was eclectic, genre-melting, innovative and often is timeless. A tantalising reminder of Polish library music recorded during the sixties and seventies, can be found on Kroniki Filmowe: Polish Library Music 1963-78 which for many collectors of is akin to the holy grail of library music.

Kroniki Filmowe: Polish Library Music 1963-78.

 

OLA KVENBERG-STEAMDOME.

Ola Kvernberg-Steamdome. 

Label: Grappa.

Release Date: June ‘8th’ 2018.

Three years after award-winning Norwegian fiddler Ola Kvernberg released his critically acclaimed album The Mechanical Fair, he will return with the much-anticipated followup Steamdome, which will be released by Grappa on June the ‘8th’ 2018. Steamdome is another album of innovative and imaginative music from Ola Kvernberg, which he recorded with a handpicked band that features the great and good of Norwegian music. They play their part in what’s one of the most ambitious albums of Ola Kvernberg’s musical career, which began when he was a teenager. 

Ola Kvernberg was born in Fræna, in the region of Romsdal, on the ’16th’ of June 1981, and was introduced to music at an early age. Before long, Ola Kvernberg was playing folk music, although he was classically trained when he attended the local municipal music school. This stood him in good stead when he embarked upon a musical career as a teenager.

By the time he was fourteen, Ola Kvernberg was a member of the group Fear Of Flying, who released their debut album in 1995. Just two years later, in 1997, Ola Kvernberg changed direction musically and started playing jazz. 

The Early Years.

Just three years later, in 2000, Ola Kvernberg came to prominence after he met and jammed with the Belgian-American jazz musician Toots Thielemans at the annual Django festival in Oslo. That was also where Ola Kvernberg met the Norwegian string jazz quartet Hot Club de Norvège which resulted in him collaborating on the album Hot Club De Norvege Featuring Ola Kvernberg and Jimmy Rosenberg which was released later in 2000.By then, nineteen year old Ola Kvernberg had come a long way in a short space of time.

The following year, 2001, Ola Kvernberg enrolled on the prestigious two-year jazz program at the Trondheim musikkonservatorium, which has produced many top Norwegian musicians. However, Ola Kvernberg wasn’t willing to put his musical career on hold during his studies.

Just like many previous graduates of the jazz program, Ola Kvernberg was able to juggle his studies with his musical career, and later in 2001, released his debut album Violin to plaudits and praise. Little did anyone realise that it would be another thirteen years before he returned with the followup to Violin.

Ola Kvernberg Trio.

Having just released his debut album, Ola Kvernberg decided to form his own trio and brought onboard was bassist Steinar Raknes and American guitarist Doug Raney. They were soon recording their debut album, and in 2002 the Ola Kvernberg Trio released Cats and Doug. Sadly, this was the only album that this lineup of the Ola Kvernberg Trio released.

In 2003, twenty-two year old Ola Kvernberg graduated from the Trondheim musikkonservatorium and continued his musical career. The composer, bandleader and sometime solo artist was often asked to play with other artists and had already worked with Hot Club de Norvège and Angelo Debarre. This was all good experience for Ola Kvernberg and helped him to mature as a musician.

By 2005, Doug Raney had left the Ola Kvernberg Trio and was replaced by drummer Erik Nylander, who made his debut during a production of Eboue Seck’s Wolof Experience at Moldejazz 2005. In 2006, the new lineup of the Ola Kvernberg Trio played with guitarist Vidar Busk and accompanied drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen during the Vossajazz festival. The Ola Kvernberg Trio also released their much-anticipated sophomore album Night Driver in 2006. This was the first recording to feature the new lineup of the Ola Kvernberg Trio.

Three years later, and the Ola Kvernberg Trio returned with their third album Folk, which found favour with critics. Just like Night Driver it was written and produced by Ola Kvernberg, who was about to embark upon a new chapter in his career.

A New Chapter.

This was writing film music, and in 2010 Ola Kvernberg was nominated for an Amanda Award for the soundtrack to movie Nord. While Ola Kvernberg didn’t win the Amanda Award, his career writing soundtracks was about to blossom.

Before that, Ola Kvernberg released his new jazz album Liarbird in September 2011. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Liarbird, which later in 2011, won a Spellemannprisen Award, the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award for the best jazz album. This was first of several awards that Ola Kvernberg received over the next couple of years.

In 2012, Ola Kvernberg won the prestigious Kongsberg Jazz Award, and in 2013, won the Kanon Award and Amanda Award for his soundtrack the movie Jag etter vind. Ola Kvernberg’s career as a film composer was blossoming, but be still he found time to record and release a new album with his trio.

Four years after the release of Folk, the Ola Kvernberg Trio returned with their eagerly awaited fourth album Northern Tapes. It was released to critical acclaim in 2013, and is regarded as one the Ola Kvernberg Trio’s finest albums. Buoyed by the success of Northern Tapes, Ola Kvernberg decided that the time was right to record a new solo album.

The Mechanical Fair,

This was The Mechanical Fair which was credited to Ola Kvernberg and The Trondheim Soloists. It was a groundbreaking album that had been recorded during April and August 2014. When it was released, The Mechanical Fair was described as a masterful album from Ola Kvernberg that was innovative and imaginative. It wasn’t going to be easy to surpass The Mechanical Fair, but if anyone was capable of doing so it was Ola Kvernberg.

Steamdome.

Buoyed by the commercial success and critical acclaim that The Mechanical Fair received, Ola Kvernberg began work on a new solo album. This would eventually become Steamdome which was written by Ola Kvernberg, who then began putting together an all-star band who would record the followup to The Mechanical Fair.

Ola Kvernberg took great care choosing the musicians that would accompany him on Steamdome, and eventually, had put together a band that featured some of Norway’s top musicians. However, playing a leading role in the sound and success of Steamdome was a triumvirate of innovative drummers.

The drummers that Ola Kvernberg chose were Hans Hulbækmo, Børge Fjordheim and Erik Nylander, who were brought in to add the rhythmical patterns, beat and groove that are the dominant elements on Steamdome. To do this, the three drummers  also used deployed bongos, pandeiro, percussion and tambourine which  ensured that the arrangements barrelled, charged and galloped along before changing tack and heading in a different direction.  

Joining the three drummers in the rhythm section were bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen and guitarist Øyvind Blomstrøm who also plays pedal steel and baritone guitar. They were joined by Daniel Buner Formo who plays Hammond organ. This was a much smaller band than featured on The Mechanical Fair. That was no surprise as bandleader, composer and producer Ola Kvernberg was about to become a one man band as he switched  between violin and viola to drums, guitar, Hammond organ, harmonium, percussion, synth and theremin as Steamdome sessions began at Ocean Sound Studio, Giske, on January the ’29th’ 2017. 

By the ‘31st’ of January 2017 Ola Kvernberg and his small but talented band had completed Steamdome. This left Ola Kvernberg to take care of some post production which was completed in March and May 2017. After that, Mattias Glavå mixed Steamdome, which was mastered by Morten Stendahl. 

Once the mastering was complete, Ola Kvernberg could begin working towards the release of Steamdome in Norway, and then internationally. Now just over a year after Steamdome was completed, Ola Kvernberg’s much anticipated followup to The Mechanical Fair is about to be released. Steamdome has been worth every minute of the three-year wait.

Opening Steamdome is Prologue, a slow, moody and cinematic soundscape that sounds as if it’s been inspired to one of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. Ola Kvernberg’s experience writing movie soundtracks is apparent as this ruminative filmic track unfolds and reveals its secrets.

A lone organ is panned on And Now before the drums enter and scamper along, before the track heads in the direction of fusion. By then, the arrangement is being powered along by the three drummers, who play with urgency as a searing guitar soars above washes of swirling organ. Meanwhile, Ola Kvernberg’s haunting violin drifts in and out and sometimes, is accompanies by a shimmering guitar. Still there’s urgency as drums drive the arrangement along, while the guitar and organ frame the hauntingly beautiful violin solo as folk meets fusion. When it drops out, sci-fi sounds and the guitar are added as the track heads in the direction of hard rock and progressive rock. Soon, Ola Kvernberg returns as the track heads towards a crescendo after seven magical minutes of genre-melting music. 

Rocky guitar licks open Caterpillar as the rhythm section  complete with three drummers, join forces with the organ which adds a lo-fi sound. By then, the rhythm section have locked into the tightest of grooves, and when the organ drops out, a guitar and percussion join the frae. The effects laden guitar solo is inventive, and seems to inspire the band as they reach new heights. Cymbals crash and the bass enjoys a brief moment in the sun before keyboards and percussion are added. However, it’s Ola Kvernberg’s emotive, soul-baring violin solo that plays a starring role. Meanwhile, the band play as if their very life depended upon it, combining power, urgency and a degree of drama, whilst fusing folk, fusion and progressive rock on what’s one of the highlights of Steamdome.

The tempo drops on Black Lemon, which initially, features an arrangement that is dubby, mesmeric and lysergic.This is very different from the previous track, as effects are used effectively while a guitar weaves its way across the arrangement adding a hypnotic backdrop. Meanwhile,a Hammond organ synths, drums and later, Ola Kvernberg’s haunting violin are added and play its part as the arrangement eventually, builds and evolves. Soon, band is enjoying the opportunity to stretch their legs as washes of Hammond organ combine with the mesmeric guitar as the trio of drummers power the rocky arrangement to this carefully crafted and captivating metamorphic track along.

There’s a Baroque influence to Go Up which also features a cinematic sound as Ola Kvernberg and his band combine elements of folk, funk, fusion, jazz and progressive rock over six minutes. To do this, a guitar, Hammond organ and the triumvirate of drummers join forces, before Ola Kvernberg pays homage to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. Later, the arrangement is stripped bare, and the rhythm section take centre-stage before fragments of guitars, washes of Hammond organ and synths are added and charge along. After being stripped bare one more time, the arrangement rebuilds, and before long, the band is in full flight. Sci-fi sounds and percussion are added to the genre-melting arrangement as it gallops along, as Ola Kvernberg continues to paint pictures music that is rich in imagery.

Although there’s ten tracks on the Steamdome, Interlude and Above The Dance Part I feature on the sixth track. Bubbling futuristic synths and an organ combine while Ola Kvernberg’s saws and plucks his violin during what sounds like the soundtrack to a merry-go-round. The result is a dreamy, dramatic, lysergic and otherworldly soundscape.

 Above The Dance Part I gallops along, and its filmic sound sounds as if it’s been inspired by Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. As the trio of drummers provide a galloping backdrop, a Hammond organ joins forces with a weeping pedal steel and Ola Kvernberg’s violin. The pedal steel and violin proves to be a potent and hauntingly beautiful combination, and tugs at the heartstrings. That is the case when the tempo drops, and the bass provides the heartbeat to this beautiful and  haunting cinematic soundscape where Ola Kvernberg and his band ride into the sunset.

Just an organ Ola Kvernberg’s wistful violin opens Through The Mantle which initially has an understated sound, but gradually, builds as an effects laden guitar threatens to cut through the arrangement as the drama builds. Eventually, having toyed with the listener, a swirling Hammond organ joined forces with percussion and a fleet fingered guitar solo during a track that seems to have been influenced by classic rock from the seventies. Having reached a crescendo, just the organ remains as the tempo drops and the music becomes ruminative and liturgical.

Closing Steamdome is Credits, where the triumvirate of drummers take centre-stage and soon, are joined by a  Hammond organ as the arrangement gallops along. Soon, a freewheeling guitar is added to the mix, and by then, the band is in full flight. Later, sci-fi synths join the blistering guitar as thunderous drums power the arrangement along as Ola Kvernberg and his band take their final bow.

After Ola Kvernberg released The Mechanical Fair three years ago, many critics hailed the album a masterpiece as his finest solo album. It wasn’t going to be easy to followup an album of the quality of The Mechanical Fair. However, Ola Kvernberg is no ordinary musician, and has been releasing albums for twenty-three years. He put all of his experience to good use when he recorded Steamdome which will be released by Grappa on June the ‘8th’ 2018. This is a new chapter in the Ola Kvernberg story.

Steamdome is a very different album to Ola Kvernberg’s previous album The Mechanical Fair where strings featured heavily. Not this time around though. However,  just like on The Mechanical Fair, Ola Kvernberg was backed by a talented band that features a triumvirate of drummers who helped him record a truly ambitious, imaginative and innovative genre-melting album.

To record Steamdome Ola Kvernberg and his band fused elements of ambient, avant-garde, dub, electronic, folk, funk, fusion, jazz, progressive rock, psychedelia and rock. Ola Kvernberg also draws inspiration from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns during an album that veers between cinematic to hard rocking. Other times, the music on Steamdome is beautiful, lysergic, melancholy, ruminative and rich in imagery as Norwegian bandleader, composer and multi-instrumentalist Ola Kvernberg paints pictures with music that is rich in imagery on his much-anticipated followup to The Mechanical Fair. 

Ola Kvernberg’s fans have been waiting a long time for Steamdome, and it’s an album that has been well worth the three-year wait. Steamdome is a career defining opus from Ola Kvernberg, who reaches new heights on what’s without doubt the finest album of a solo career that has already spanned two decades.

Ola Kvernberg-Steamdome.

GRANT GREEN-FUNK IN FRANCE FROM PARIS TO ANTIBES 1969-1970.

Grant Green-Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970.

Label: Resonance Records.

In 1967, thirty-five year old guitarist Grant Green was in the throes of heroin addiction, and it looked as if he was fighting a battle he had no chance of winning. Grant Green was a shadow of the man who had arrived in New York in 1960, to meet Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records.

By then, Grant Green who was born on the ‘6th’ of July 1931, was twenty-nine, had been a professional musician since he was a teenager and for the early part of his career had played in his home town of St Louis and around East St Louis. Initially, he had no inclination to move to New York until Lionel Hampton persuaded him to make the move in 1959.

A year later, in 1960, Grant Green was introduced to Alfred Lion the cofounder of Blue Note Records, who signed the twenty-nine tear old guitarist to one of jazz’s premier labels. 

Between 1960 and 1965, Grant Green recorded a total of twenty-two albums for Blue Note Records as bandleader leading trios, quartets, quintets and sextets. Fourteen of these albums were released between 1960 and 1965, with the remainder released by Blue Note Records during the seventies and eighties. However, by 1965 Grant Green was already one of jazz music’s rising stars and had come a long way in five years.

Although Grant Green was a prolific recording artist between 1960 and 1965, he also found time to work with many of the other artists signed to Blue Note Records. This was akin to the great and good of jazz, and before long, Grant Green was the go-to-guitarist for many artists signed to Blue Note Records. However, within the space of two years Grant Green’s life had been transformed.

As 1967 dawned, Grant Green was in throes of heroin addiction which was threatening to derail his burgeoning career. Just like so many jazz musicians before him, Grant Green had succumbed to heroin, not knowing how addictive the drug was. By 1967, heroin had sunk its claws into Grant Green who was desperate to free himself from its grasp. That was why in 1967, Grant Green made the decision to move to Detroit where he would turn his back on  the local music scene while he tackled his heroin addiction.

Grant Green moved his family to Detroit which became his home for the next two years as he set about beating his addiction to heroin. During 1967 and 1968, Grant Green deliberately avoided the local music scene, where he knew drugs would be freely available. He wasn’t willing to put temptation in his way having come so far, and beaten his addiction to heroin. By 1969, he was ready to return to the Big Apple, and rebuild his career.

After two years away, Alfred Lion resigned a newly reinvigorated Grant Green to Blue Note Records in 1969. By then, Grant Green was a changed man, and although he looked older, and his hair was starting to thin, he looked much healthier than he had two years previously.

Grant Green had also put together a new band and was moving in a new direction musically. Rather than jazz, Grant Green’s new band were playing a much funkier type of music. This new music would be showcased by Grant Green and his band over the new year or so, and features on Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970 which was recently released as a two-CD set by Resonance Records.

Having resigned to Blue Note Records, Grant Green joined Larry Ridley and Don Lamond on a European tour, where each of the three guitarists took to the stage with the band that travelled with them, and played a short set. After the three sets, the three guitarists joined forces, and played together showcasing their considerable skills. Grant Green enjoyed the tour and when he left Europe, had no idea that he would return to France in October 1969. However, before that, Grant Green had his comeback album to record.

On the ‘3rd’ of October 1969, Grant Green and his band headed to Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, to record his comeback album Carryin’ On. It found Grant Green leading a sextet on an album which marked a stylistic change for the thirty-eight year old guitarist. Carryin’ On was the first album of jazz-funk that Grant Green recorded, and this was the sound he embraced for the remainder of his career.

Having recorded Carryin’ On, which was released in the spring of 1970, Grant Green started preparing to return to Paris, France, later that month. This latest journey came as something of a surprise for Grant Green.

In the October 1969 edition of Jazz Magazine, an announcement that ORTF’s Guitar Night was due to take place at the headquarters of French National Radio with a ‘dream lineup’ of Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell and Tal Farlow all featuring on the ‘26th’ of October. As soon as the event was announced, French jazz fans were looking forward to three of their favourite guitarists. That was until one was forced to withdraw from the event.

This was Tal Farlow, who had been suffering from asthma attacks and was unable to make the journey to France. For the organisers this was a disaster, but by the time next edition of Jazz Magazine was published, a replacement had been found…Grant Green.

While Grant Green was one of the biggest names in American jazz, French jazz fans didn’t appreciate the talented St Louis born guitarist. When Jazz Hot ran its reader’s poll, Grant Green ended up in eighth place in the list of guitarists. As a result, the announcement of Grant Green as Tal Farlow’s replacement was greeted with a lack of enthusiasm. It was going to take a lot for Grant Green to win over the French jazz fans.

When Grant Green arrived in Paris to play at the ORTF’s Guitar Night on the ‘26th’ of October 1969, he was joined by a slightly different, and slimmed down lineup of his band. Grant Green was about to lead a trio, which didn’t feature his usual drummer Idris Muhammad, who was unable to make the trip. Instead, drummer Don Lanond, bassist Larry Ridley and Grant Green would take to the stage at Studio 104, La Maison De Le Radio.

Disc One-Live At La Maison De Le Radio.

Only 852 patrons could be seated in Studio 104, La Maison De Le Radio, which was situated on the banks of the Seine. On the night of the ‘26th’ October 1969, it was decided that Grant Green who was perceived as the least popular of the three guitarists by the French promoters should take to the stage first. Grant Green was relegated to the warmup act, but was determined to win over the audience.

Thirty-eight year old Grant Green opened his set with a cover of James Brown’s I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I’ll Get It Myself), which he had recorded for his new album Carryin’ On. Straight away, the emphasis is on funk as the rhythm section lock into a groove, before Grant Green showcases his majestic rhythmic skills, before covering Oleo which was written by Sonny Rollins. He was one of Grant Green’s favourite composers, and Oleo allowed the guitarist to experiment and improvise, unleashing his trademark spitfire single sound during this journey into jazz funk. 

Very different is Antonio Carlos Jobim’s How Insensitive (Insensatez), which seems an unlikely track for Grant Green to cover. Unlike many other jazz guitarists, Grant Green hadn’t embraced samba, but with the help of his band delivers a sympathetic cover of a familiar track which allows the guitarist and bandleader to showcase his talent and versatility.

Grant Green is back on familiar territory on the improvised Untitled Blues, before covering another Sonny Rollins’ composition Sonnymoon For Two. It’s reinvented with the help of the rhythm section, who showcase their skills during the solos and when they join forces with Grant Green, help him reach new heights. After that, Grant closes the set with the oft-covered I Wish You Love, where guitarist Barney Kessel joins the trio. This sparking cover was the perfect way for Grant Green to close his set and by the time he left the stage, he had won over the audience.

This was ironic, because the Paris audience weren’t exactly enthusiastic when they heard that Grant Green was Tal Farlow’s replacement. However, what the audience didn’t realise was that Grant Green’s music was changing, and he had embraced funk and jazz-funk, which would become his new trademark sound. The audience in Studio 104, La Maison De Le Radio, were privileged to hear Grant Green’s new sound, albeit he was accompanied by what slimmed down lineup of his band. However, this was enough to give French jazz fan’s a tantalising taste of Grant Green’s new sound. 

Buoyed by the reception at Studio 104, La Maison De Le Radio, on the ‘26th’ October 1969, Grant Green headed home, and this new chapter in his career continued apace. This included recording a new album. 

Green Is Beautiful was recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on January the ’30th’ 1970, and featured a very different lineup of Grant Green’s band. This time around, Grant Green led an octet that featured drummer Idris Muhammad, bassist Jimmy Lewis and conga player Cándido. The expanded lineup of Grant Green’s band worked their way five cover versions as the bandleader continued his journey into jazz-funk.

In the spring of 1970, Carryin’ On was released and showcased Grant Green’s new jazz-funk sound. Carryin’ On was well received, although some of Grant Green’s older fans weren’t won over by the album. They preferred his earlier albums, although a new audience embraced Grant Green’s newly updated sound. Later, Carryin’ On proved popular amongst collectors of acid jazz and rare groove.

By July 1970, Green Is Beautiful was released and found Grant Green growing into his new sound on an album that featured a tougher, funkier, brand of R&B. This new sound Grant Green was about to showcase at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, in 1970.

Disc Two-Haute Funk.

Grant Green had been invited to the prestigious Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, which took place between the ‘18th’ and ‘20th’ of July 1970. By then, Grant Green had fully embraced jazz-funk which was growing in popularity. However, he hadn’t turned his back on his jazz roots as the four lengthy workouts on Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970 show.

When Grant Green arrived at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, the bandleader and guitarist was forty, and was due to appear on the ‘18th’ and ‘20th’ of July 1970. Joining him was a band that featured drummer Billy Wilson, organist Clarence Palmer and tenor saxophonist Claude Bartee. They joined musical chameleon, bandleader and guitarist Grant Green who by July 1970 was at the peak of his powers.

Grant Green’s performances of at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes on the ‘18th’ and ‘20th’ July 1970 opened with sizzling versions of one of his own compositions Upshot. The first version closes disc one and lasts eighteen majestic minutes, while the second version that features on disc two is extended to nearly twenty minutes. Just like the first version, Grant Green and his band ensure that Upshot sizzles and swings during this latest journey into jazz-funk. Hurt So Bad which had given Little Anthony and The Imperials a hit in 1965 was a favourite of Grant Green’s and was often included in his live sets. He stays true to the original, and unleashes a breathtaking solo during this melodic cover of a familiar song. Closing disc two is a twenty-seven minute epic version of Hi-Heel Sneakers, that veers between joyous, uplifting  and celebratory to explosive when Grant Green unleashes his solo during a track that fuses elements of funk, gospel, jazz and jazz funk. In doing so, Grant Green and his band reinvent a familiar and oft-covered track.

For fans of Grant Green, Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970 which was originally released by Resonance Records as a three LP set for Record Store Day 2018 and recently released as a two CD set is a welcome reminder of one of the great jazz guitarists of his generation. By July 1970, when four of the tracks on Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970 were recorded, Grant Green was enjoying a new chapter in his career after reinventing himself as a jazz-funk guitarist in 1969. This became his trademark sound for the rest of his career.

Sadly, following Grant Green’s performance at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes he only recorded another eight albums between August 1971 and April 1978. After that, his health deteriorated in 1978, and Grant Green was forced to spend much of that year in hospital. During this period, Grant Green wasn’t earning money, and before long the guitarist’s finances were in a perilous state.

Against doctor’s advice, Grant Green headed back out on the road to try to make some much-needed money. His final gig was at his fiend George Benson’s Breezin’ Lounge in New York, but sadly, Grant Green collapsed in his car of a heart attack and died on January the ’31st’ 1979 aged just forty-three. That day, jazz music lost one of its great guitarists.

His recording career belatedly began in 1960 when twenty-nine year old Grant Green signed to Blue Note Records for the first time. This was the label that Grant Green called home for the majority of his career, and where he recorded the best music of his career. Grant Green was signed to Blue Note Records when he recorded the music on Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970, which is a reminder of the early part of his jazz-funk years, which was a new chapter in the career of this talented and versatile guitarist, bandleader and composer. 

Grant Green-Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970.

 

MILLIE JACKSON-STILL CAUGHT UP.

Millie Jackson-Still Caught Up.

Label: Southbound Records.

There’s nothing worse than not hearing how a story ends, and that was how many record buyers felt after hearing Millie Jackson’s critically acclaimed fourth album Caught Up, which was released in 1974. Caught Up was essentially a concept album, but in truth was like a musical soap opera about a love triangle, where Millie Jackson played the leading roles. 

On side one, Millie Jackson plays the role of “the other woman,” before assuming the role of the woman whose husband has cheated on her on the second side. Although Millie Jackson breathes life, meaning and emotion into both roles, when Caught Up drew to a close, there was seemed no conclusion, no real ending. It was one of these cliffhangers where the listener wondered what happened next? Did the husband leave his wife, or did they stay together, and if so, what became of them? In modern parlance, there was no there was no ‘closure,’ and over half-a-million record buyers were left hanging, wondering what became of Mille Jackson’s two characters?

Little did anyone realise that the story that began on Caught Up was about to conclude on Millie Jackson’s fifth album Still Caught Up, which has just been reissued on vinyl by Southbound Records, an imprint of Ace Records. Still Caught Up was a much-anticipated album, that was released in 1975. That was all in the future.

Buoyed by the success of Caught Up, which had just been certified gold after selling in excess of 500,000 copies, Millie Jackson began work on her much-anticipated fifth album Still Caught Up. Millie Jackson and her songwriting partner King Sterling penned The Memory Of A Wife, Tell Her It’s Over and Do What Makes You Satisfied which were joined by five cover versions that concluded the story that began on Caught Up.

This included You Can’t Stand The Thought Of Another Me and Leftovers which were written by singer, songwriter and producer Phillip Mitchell. They were joined by Tom Jans’ Loving Arms, Richard Kerr and Gary Osborne’s Making The Best Of A Bad Situation and Mac Davis and Mark Davis’ I Still Love You (You Still Love Me). These songs would complete the story of Still Caught Up, which was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and Criteria Studios, Miami, Florida.

Fortunately, for Millie Jackson and Brad Shapiro who had produced Caught Up, they were once again able to secure the services of the original Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section for the recording of Still Caught Up. This included drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist Barry Hood and guitarist Jimmy Johnson. They were augmented by keyboardist Barry Beckett, guitarist Pete Carr and percussionist Tom Roady. Adding backing vocals were Charles and Sandra Chalmers, Sandy and Donna Rhodes and Janie Fricke. This was the band that accompanied Millie Jackson as she played the wronged wife and the other woman on Still Caught Up.

Once Still Caught Up was completed, Spring scheduled the release for 1975, hoping that it would replicate the success of Caught Up. That wasn’t going to be easy as Caught Up has reached twenty-one in the US Billboard 200 and four in the US R&B charts, which resulted in Millie Jackson’s first gold disc. However, with over 500,000 record buyers waiting to hear how the story that began on Caught Up ended on Still Caught Up, Spring had high hopes for Millie Jackson’s fifth album.

Especially, when critics hailed Still Caught Up as a fitting followup to Caught Up. Even the self-styled dean of rock critics gave Still Caught Up a B+, which was high praise indeed. However, it was the record buyers who would have the final say when Still Caught Up was released later in 1975. 

Despite having won over critics, when Still Caught Up was released in 1975, it stalled at a lowly 112 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-seven in the US R&B charts. This was a far cry from the success of  Caught Up a year earlier. For Millie Jackson the commercial failure of Still Caught Up came as a huge blow, as Caught Up had transformed her fortunes, and had launched her career.

Things didn’t improve when Loving Arms was released as a single, and it failed to trouble the charts. Loving Arms was the one that got away for Millie Jackson. When Leftovers was released as a single, it struggled to eighty-seven in the US Billboard 100, which was another disappointment for Millie Jackson who had hoped to build on the success of Caught Up. In a way, Still Caught Up was the one that got away for Millie Jackson.

Still Caught Up opens with Making the Best of A Bad Situation, where Millie Jackson’s ex-husband knocks on the door and delivers a short monologue reminding her it’s their anniversary. Millie Jackson then delivers a worldweary vocal against a slow backdrop of lush strings, piano, rhythm section and guitars. By then, there’s a degree of drama and sense of sadness, as the arrangement sweeps along and Millie Jackson reflects upon how she feels, admitting that she misses her husband, and although free, she is at a loss without him to share her life. Later, strings, chiming guitars, piano and soaring backing vocalists combine as Millie Jackson’s vocal is full of emotion and sadness as she continue to lay bare her soul.

A short monologue opens The Memory of A Wife, before the arrangement grows in power and drama as the rhythm section, rasping horns, swirling strings, guitars and a piano combine to produce a punchy, dramatic arrangement as Millie’ Jackson delivers an angry, vocal. Midway through the track, calmness descends, and just twinkling keyboards, rhythm section and slow strings accompanying Millie Jackson’s monologue. It’s almost a warning shot fired across the bows of her husbands new lady, warning her about the pitfalls of their relationship. She even dispenses marital advice, on how to spot a straying husband, and the pitfalls of being the “other woman” against a meanders arrangement. After a second monologue, the song heads towards a dramatic conclusion, with blazing horns, piano, rhythm section and guitars accompanying Millie Jackson as she unleashes a vocal that is a mixture of power, anger and frustration as this emotional roller coaster draws to a close.

The rhythm section and acoustic guitar accompany Millie’ Jackson’s monologue on Tell Her It’s Over, and quickly, she tells her ex-husband to tell his new girlfriend that their relationship is over. Meanwhile, her vocal grows both in power and emotion, while rapid-fire bursts of backing vocalists combine with guitars, keyboards as the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Later, rasping horns and a Hammond organ accompany Millie Jackson’s confident and assured vocals as she lets her husband know just who is in charge. By now it seems, Millie has gained the upper hand in the relationship, during this emotionally charged track, but how long will this last?

Just chiming guitars and slow, sweeping strings combine with the rhythm section and piano as What Makes You Satisfied meanders melodically along. Soon, it’s all change as Millie Jackson unleashes a swaggering vocal as soulful backing vocalists accompany her, as a piano, slow, moody bass and melancholy strings are key to the arrangement’s success. Meanwhile, rasping horns and crystalline guitars provide backdrop as Millie Jackson tells her husband to do what makes him satisfied, and if that means leaving her, so be it. She knows that it won’t last, because his new lover isn’t the faithful kind, and that will hurt his ego. As Millie sings this, it’s with a mixture of bravado and resignation, as deep down, she’s worried, that she might be wrong, and he won’t come back. It’s a powerful portrayal and one of the highlights of Still Caught Up.

After the bravado of the previous track, it’s a much more confident Millie Jackson that opens You Can’t Stand The Thought Of Another Me as it bursts into life. The tempo is quicker with the rhythm section, piano, wah-wah guitars and cooing backing vocalists accompany a defiant Millie Jackson. She sings that her husband can’t stand the thought of another man now loving her. Later, a punchy rhythm section, sweeping string and braying horns add to the emotion, drama and defiance as Mille Jackson proves takes revenge on her husband who betrayed her.

Just when it seems Millie Jackson seems to have the upper hand in the situation, things take a turn for the worse on Leftovers, when her new man announces he’s leaving, and going back to his wife. He’s not for changing his mind, and Millie Jackson reveals that she knows that he’s been cheating on her with his wife. This monologue between Millie and her lover is set against a backdrop of keyboards, chiming guitars and blazing horns as the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Later, the doorbell rings, and when Millie opens the door is greeted by her lover’s wife. Millie’s response is to throw everyone out, before she asks her love rival how she could stand being second best to her? By now Millie’s vocal is powerful, full of emotion and anger as the arrangement grows in power, during this mixture of music and theatre, where tension and drama are omnipresent.

I Still Love You (You Still Love Me) closes the love triangle that is Still Caught Up. By then, Millie Jackson’s husband has left her, and it seems she’s slowly unravelling. After a monologue, there’s a sense of sadness and even melancholy as the arrangement meanders along, the rhythm section, guitars, keyboards and backing vocalists accompanying Millie who is sad, lonely and lost as flute flutters above her. By then, her voice is full of sadness and regret, with almost a sense of grief in her voice caused by the loss of her husband. Towards the end of the track, Millie unravels, and sadly, becomes unstable and mentally ill. Millie Jackson portrayal of mental illness is far from sympathetic and is in poor taste. So much so, that this spoils the ending of what was a compelling and intriguing love triangle.

Unfortunately, Millie Jackson didn’t live happily ever after on Still Caught Up, which completes the story that began on her previous album Caught Up. This was the album that launched Millie Jackson’s career in 1974, and forty-four years later, is still one of the finest albums of her career. 

A year later, Millie Jackson’s much-anticipated fifth album Still Caught Up was released by Spring Records, and it was hoped would replicate the success of Caught Up. Although that wasn’t the case, Still Caught Up is a powerful and moving album where Millie Jackson’s plays every part in this love triangle. 

The drama that is played out in front of the listener on Still Caught Up is so realistic, that the listener is bound to end up feeling sorry for the characters and taking sides in the various scenarios. Millie Jackson breathes life, meaning and emotion into each and every part on Still Caught Up, regardless of what part she’s playing during an album that is a mixture of music and theatre.

Still Caught Up which was released in 1975, features a mixture of monologues and music, which works well and proves a powerful and captivating combination as Millie Jackson plays every role in the second part of this love triangle. It’s an emotional roller coaster, where Millie Jackson veers between heartbroken and hopeful to defiant and confident, to angry and frustrated. Millie Jackson plays each character perfectly, whether it be the wronged woman, to the defiant and newly in love, to the other woman and latterly, the woman who is unravelling emotionally. 

Sadly, there was to be no happy ending on Still Caught Up, which is a captivating and emotionally charged concept album which is a mixture of music and drama which brought to an end Millie Jackson’s two part love triangle that began with the classic soul concept album Caught Up in 1974 

Millie Jackson-Still Caught Up.

 

 

KETIL BJORNSTAD AND ANNELI DRECKER-A SUITE OF POEMS.

Ketil Bjørnstad and Anneli Drecker-A Suite Of Poems.

Label: ECM Records.

Nowadays, part of the modern music industry is populated by third-rate wannabes, who in truth, have no right whatsoever to call themselves musicians. Many of this new breed of musicians, are DJs who also laughingly refer to themselves as a ‘producer’ despite having absolutely no musical training, and being unable play an instrument. Instead, these musical illiterates make music on a digital audio workstation and use samples to make music on their laptop. This gets round the producer’s lack of musical knowledge and inability to play a musical instrument. However, eventually, their lack of talent and musical knowledge is bound to catchup with them.

Sometimes, the ‘producer’ has to bring onboard someone in to lay down a vocal on their latest Magnus Opus, but given their lack of talent and knowledge, no vocalist with an ounce of talent will be willing to work with them. As a result, the producer is left to bring onboard a third-rate vocalist who lays down a vocal that is hopelessly out of tune. Not that the ‘producer’ notices this, until someone points this out. The now desperate ‘producer’ then tries to rescue the situation with Melodyne, and failing that, a myriad of effects that disguise the vocal. With the track now complete, the ‘producer’ then mixes and masters their masterpiece which is a hook free zone.

Once the mastering is complete, the ‘producer’ has destroyed what little dynamic range the track had, and it’s fallen victim to the loudness wars. Not that there’s any chance of the track being played in a club, never mind radio. However, the ‘producer’ is the ultimate optimist.

They even pay a little known hipster PR company to write a puff piece, which is circulated before the track is released online as a digital download. This proves to be its final resting place, as the online shop is the musical equivalent of the elephant’s graveyard, where bad music goes to die. 

Meanwhile, week after week, talented musicians and vocalists release much-anticipated and critically acclaimed albums of ambitious and innovative music. This includes Ketil Bjørnstad and Anneli Drecker’s album A Suite Of Poems which was recently released on ECM Records. It’s a collaboration two of the leading lights of the Nordic music scene Ketil Bjørnstad and Anneli Drecker.

Ketil Bjørnstad.

Sixty-six year old pianist, composer and author Ketil Bjørnstad, was born in Oslo, Norway, on the ’25th’ of April 1952, and growing up, was a prodigiously talented musician. He initially trained as a classical pianist in London and Paris, in and in 1966 and 1968 won the prestigious title Youth Piano Master. Later in 1968, Ketil Bjørnstad made his debut as a concert pianist, and this looked like the start of a long and successful career.

That was until Ketil Bjørnstad discovered and embraced European jazz and which by then, was growing in popularity and then jazz. Soon, Ketil Bjørnstad was working with the Norwegian rhythm section of drummer Jon Christensen, bassist Arild Andersen, guitarist Terje Rypdal, bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen who were joined by the American cellist David Darli. This was the start of  Ketil Bjørnstad’s musical career.

Ketil Bjørnstad wasn’t just a talented composer and pianist, he was also a poet writer, and in 1972, published his first volume of poetry  Alene Out, which was followed by a second volume, Closer in 1973. The following year, Ketil Bjørnstad’s first novel Nattsvermere was published in 1974. By then, his recording career was well underway.

In 1973, Ketil Bjørnstad released his debut album Åpning on Phillips, with Berget Det Blå following in 1974 and Tredje Dag in 1975. This was the start of a prolific recording career, with Ketil Bjørnstad often releasing two albums a year. 

When Ketil Bjørnstad released Finnes du noensteds i kveld in 1976, it reached number nine in the Norwegian charts and was his album that charted. This was the start a of successful period for the Oslo based pianist and author.

By the time that Ketil Bjørnstad signed to ECM Records, and released Water Stories in 1993, seven of his albums had charted, and he was regarded as a musical pioneer who released ambitious and innovative albums. Some of these albums that were released on ECM Records would feature his old friends Jon Christensen, Arild Andersen, Terje Rypdal and David Darli. They formed a formidable partnership during the nineties and into the noughties.

In 2003, Ketil Bjørnstad released The Nest, which was his first collaboration with thirty-four year old Anneli Drecker, who had started her career as the lead vocalist for the dream pop band Bel Canto in 1985. The Nest was released to critical acclaim and was just the latest successful album to bare Ketil Bjørnstad’s name.

Fifteen years later, and sixty-six year old Ketil Bjørnstad is a prolific author and recording artist, who has released in excess of fifty albums, and countless collaborations with the great and good of music. This includes A Suite Of Poems which is his second collaboration with Anneli Drecker.

Anneli Drecker.

Anneli Drecker was born 12 February 1969, and in 1985, the sixteen year old became the lead vocalist of Bel Canto in 1985. By the time Anneli Drecker was seventeen, she had left her Arctic hometown of Tromsø and was to embark upon a successful musical career.

In 1987, Bel Canto released their debut album White-Out Conditions, with their sophomore album Birds Of Passage following in 1989. It was released to critical acclaim and won Bel Canto the prestigious Spellemannprisen award, which is the equivalent of a Grammy Award. 

History repeated itself when Bel Canto released their third album Shimmering, Warm and Bright to critical acclaim in 1992 and again, it won a Spellemannprisen award. By then, critics were comparing Anneli Drecker’s ethereal vocal to Liz Fraser’s which was high praise indeed.

Having released three albums on indie label Crammed Discs, Bel Canto were signed to Atlantic Records, and in 1995 released their fourth album Magic Box on the Lava imprint Lava which won another Spellemannprisen award. The rise and rise of Bel Canto continued, and in 1998 they released their firth album Rush to plaudits and praise. After that, Anneli Drecker decided to take a sabbatical from Bel Canto and embark upon a solo career. 

In March 2001, Anneli Drecker released her critically acclaimed and genre-melting debut album Tundra. Critics were forecasting a bright future for Anneli Drecker as a solo artist, but she decided to put her solo career on hold.

Anneli Drecker was asked to join Röyksopp, and wrote and performed Sparks which featured on their debut album Melody A.M. which was released in September 2001. Melody A.M. was certified platinum in Norway, Britain and Holland, and  later in 2001, was nominated for, and won, the Spellemannprisen for the best electronic album. 

Following the success of Melody A.M, Anneli Drecker toured with Röyksopp, before recording Bel Canto’s sixth album Dorothy’s Victory which was released in 2002. This proved to be Bel Canto’s swan-song as far as studio albums were concerned.

Three years later, and Anneli Drecker released her sophomore album Frolic in April 2005,which marked a change in direction. Frolic was a much more downtempo album and this appealed to many critics, who lauded Anneli Drecker’s decision to reinvent herself

Another ten years passed before Anneli Drecker’s thoughts turned to her third album, and during that period she had embarked on two world tours with A-Ha and worked with toured and recorded with Röyksopp. However, in 2015 Anneli Drecker returned with her long-awaited third album, Rocks and Straws, which was a career defining album. It was followed by her critically acclaimed fourth album Revelation For Personal Use in May 2017. By then, Ketil Bjørnstad and Anneli Drecker had collaborated on a new project.

A Suite Of Poems. 

This was A Suite Of Poems written by Norwegian-Danish author Lars Saabye Christensen, who is one of Scandinavia’s top contemporary writers. He’s also been a friend of Ketil Bjørnstad since the pair were teenagers, and nowadays, when Lars Saabye Christensen travels the world, he always sends his old friend what he calls “hotel poems” which explore a range of moods. Lars Saabye Christensen invites Ketil Bjørnstad to make music out of these “hotel poems.”

Ketil Bjørnstad remembers that: “I started writing music to his poems more than 20 years ago” and say that Lars Saabye Christensen’s: “ability to expose the inner conflicts we all bring with us in our suitcases is striking.” 

That is apparent on the thirteen songs on A Suite Of Poems, which was recorded by pianist Ketil Bjørnstad and vocalist Anneli Drecker in Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in June 2016. It’s a powerful, poignant and thought-provoking song cycle that deserves to be compared to Ketil Bjørnstad’s critically acclaimed projects like 2013s Sunlight and 2014s A Passion For John in Donne.

The thirteen songs that feature on A Suite Of Poems document Lars Saabye Christensen’s travels including a stay at the Mayflower, New York, then the Duxton, Melbourne, Kempinski, Berlin, L’Hotel, Paris and Palace, Copenhagen. By then, it’s apparent that there’s a connection between composer and pianist Ketil Bjørnstad who admits: “I feel very connected to the lonely, existential perspective of these poems, made in different hotel rooms.” 

They’re brought to life by Anneli Drecker’s ethereal vocal which breathes life, meaning, emotion and existential angst into the songs which explore a range of moods. Ketil Bjørnstad’s choice of Anneli Drecker to interpret songs on A Suite Of Poems was inspired, and proof of that is the rueful Astor Crowne, New Orleans which threatens to swing. 

Soon, Anneli Drecker is delivering a ruminative, heartfelt vocal on The Grand, Krakow, which is tinged with sadness and loneliness.There’s a similar sense of sadness on the cinematic Palazzo Londra, Venice and Vier Jahreszeiten, Hamburg which is rich in imagery. One of the most poignant songs is Savoy, Lisbon which features one of Anneli Drecker finest vocals. She then lays bare her soul and secrets on Mayday Inn, Hong Kong as she admits: “big rooms make me nervous” in a song that tells the story the lonely globetrotting traveller. They arrive in Lutetia, Paris where Anneli Drecker delivers a vocal that is a mixture of sadness and hope, before Schloss Elmau which is a poignant and wistful showcase for Ketil Bjørnstad’s piano completes the song cycle A Suite Of Poems. 

Although A Suite Of Poems features just Ketil Bjørnstad’s piano and the ethereal vocal of Anneli Drecker, this proves hugely effective and is further proof that sometimes, less is more. It would’ve been easy to add strings which would add to the emotional impact of the song cycle, but this may have distracted the listener. The focus of their attention is Anneli Drecker’s vocal, as she tells the story of the lonely globetrotting traveller who spends their life living in a suitcase far from home. She’s accompanied by Ketil Bjørnstad’s piano and the pair are like yin and yang, on A Suite Of Poems which is one of the finest albums released on ECM Records during 2018.

A Suite Of Poems features thirteen tracks that between beautiful and confessionals to poignant and powerful to rueful and ruminative to thought-provoking and sometimes are full loneliness and existential angst. Together, the music on A Suite Of Poems is spartan and understated, but also breathtakingly beautiful as Anneli Drecker plays a starring role and breathes life, meaning and emotion into Lars Saabye Christensen’s “hotel poems” which were turned into songs by composer and pianist Ketil Bjørnstad on this captivating and enchanting album.

Ketil Bjørnstad and Anneli Drecker-A Suite Of Poems.

RYO FUKUI-SCENERY AND MELLOW DREAM.

Ryo Fukui-Scenery and Mellow Dream.

Label: We Release Jazz Switzerland.

Ryo Fukui, who was born in Biratori, Hokkaido, in Japan, on the ‘1st’ of June 1948, was a late starter when it came to the piano and unlike most of the musicians he encountered during a career that spanned five decades, had never learnt to play the instrument as a child. Instead, Ryo Fukui had just turned twenty-two in 1970, when he announced that he wanted to learn to play the piano, and was going to teach himself.

If Ryo Fukui’s friends thought that his decision to teach himself to play the piano was bound to end in tears, they were soon proved wrong as he turned out to be a talented pianist. So much so, that the self-taught pianist was good enough to embark upon a career as a professional musician, playing the music that he loved…jazz.

As September 1976 dawned, twenty-eight year old Ryo Fukui was living in Sapporo, where he led his own trio who were a familiar sight in local jazz clubs. Ryo Fukui had also just signed to Trio Records, and was preparing to record his debut album Scenery, which like the followup Mellow Dream, have just been reissued by We Release Jazz Switzerland. These albums are a welcome reminder of a remarkable musician.

Scenery.

For his debut album Ryo Fukui had written the title-track Scenery, and the rest of the album comprised cover versions. This included Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke’s It Could Happen To You, Billy Eckstine’s I Want To Talk About You, Hideo Ichikawa’s Early Summer, Ann Ronell’s Willow Weep For Me and Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prévert’s Autumn Leaves. These tracks became Scenery, which Ryo Fukui planned to record at Yamaha Hall, Sapporo.

The recording of Scenery took place at Yamaha Hall, Sapporo, on the ‘7th’ of September 1976, pianist Ryo Fukui leading a trio that featured drummer Yoshinori Fukui and bassist Satoshi Denpo. Taking charge of production were Masataka Ito and Ryo Fukui who worked well together, and Scenery like many jazz albums was recorded quickly, with just a day spent laying down the tracks. This was how countless classic albums had been recorded during the fifties and sixties.

Scenery was released in late 1976, and was regarded as an important album by Japanese jazz critics, who called the album a game-changing release that was one of the finest of the seventies. Despite receiving widespread critical acclaim in Japan, Scenery passed American jazz fans by, and they missed out on hearing what was a remarkable debut album.

Ryo Fukui opens his 1976 debut album Scenery with It Could Happen To You, which was the first of four oft-covered classics that he set about reinventing. It was a similar case on I Want To Talk About You, Willow Weep For Me and Autumn Leaves where with the help of drummer Yoshinori Fukui and bassist Satoshi Denpo, pianist Ryo Fukui ensures that these classics take on new life and meaning. This isn’t easy given who often these tracks had been recorded by 1976. However, the twenty-eight year old pianist who had only been playing for six years by the time he recorded Scenery, plays with maturity that belies his relative inexperience. 

For much of the time, his playing is smooth, subtle and effortless as his fingers glide and flit across the piano keyboard as he plays with fluidity ensuring the songs swing. Other times, he plays with speed and energy, and isn’t afraid to improvise and innovate. Stylistically, Ryo Fukui sometimes sounds like Bill Evans, and especially during the energetic modal rework of Early Summer. By then, Ryo Fukui and his trio play with a newfound urgency, before closing the album with the title-track Scenery. It was Ryo Fukui’s only original composition on Scenery and is a reminder of a talented bandleader, composer and pianist as he began his career with game-changing album which is a glorious fusion of bop, cool jazz and modal jazz.

Buoyed by the critical reaction and success of Scenery, Ryo Fukui continued to hone his skills as a pianist, and before long, he was already beginning work on his sophomore album Mellow Dream.

Mellow Dream.

While Scenery only featured one Ryo Fukui composition, he wrote half of the tracks on his much-anticipated sophomore album Mellow Dream. This included the title-track Mellow Dream, Baron Potato Blues and Horizon, which were joined by covers of Victor Young’s My Foolish Heart, Johnny Burke’s What’s New and Richard Rodgers’ My Funny Valentine. Mellow Dream was a mixture of the new music and much-loved classics and just like Scenery, was recorded at Yamaha Hall, in Sapporo.

This time, Masataka Ito took charge of production when Mellow Dream was recorded on August the ’17th’ and ’18th’ 1977. Joining pianist Ryo Fukui was drummer Yoshinori Fukui and bassist Satoshi Denpo, which was the same lineup of the trio that featured on Scenery. They took just two days to record Mellow Dream, which was mixed during two days in September 1977 and was ready for release.

Mellow Dream was released in late 1977, to plaudits and praise, with critics calling the album a fitting followup to Scenery. By then, Ryo Fukui had a matured not just as a pianist and bandleader, but as a composer. 

The twenty-seven year old’s pianist sophomore album Mellow Dream, found Ryo Fukui continuing to combine and explore bop, cool jazz, modal jazz, post bop and even a hint of blues on what was a much mellower, soulful and ruminative album that allowed time to reflect, especially on Mellow Dream and the reinvention of My Foolish Heart. Other times, the music on Mellow Dream packs a punch and swings as Ryo Fukui grabs Baron Potato Blues and Horizon by the scruff of the neck. His fingers fly across the piano keyboard as he plays with speed and fluidity as the rest of the trio match him every step of the way. Meanwhile, the music on Mellow Dream is an emotional roller coaster as it veers between vibrant to joyous and melancholy and rueful. Ryo Fukui it seems is a man for all seasons on his sophomore album Mellow Dream.

Following the success of his sophomore album Mellow Dream, Ryo Fukui continued to hone his skills and mature and improve as a musician, but made the decision to concentrate playing live. This included in the Slowboat jazz club in Sapporo, which Ryo Fukui owned and ran with his wife Yasuko. With Ryo Fukui concentrating on playing live, it was eighteen years before he returned with a new album.

Ryo Fukui returned with My Favorite Tune in 1995, and followed this up with Ryo Fukui In New York in 1999. It was another sixteen years before Ryo Fukui released A Letter From Slowboat in 2015, which proved to be his swan-song.

Sadly, Ryo Fukui passed away on March the ‘15th’ 2016, aged just sixty-seven. That day Japanese jazz was in mourning at the loss of one of its great pianists, who although self-taught was a masterful performer who played with grace, fluidity and invention during a career that spanned five decades.

Although Ryo Fukui enjoyed a long career, he only released five albums, including Scenery and Mellow Dream which are his finest outings, and have just been released by We Release Jazz Switzerland. Scenery and Mellow Dream are reminder of bandleader, composer and pianist Ryo Fukui who sadly, was and still is one of jazz’s best kept secrets outside of his native Japan. Hopefully, that will change with the release of  Scenery and Mellow Dream and Ryo Fukui’s music will be discovered by a new audience.

Ryo Fukui-Scenery and Mellow Dream.

CUASARES-AFRO-PROGRESIVO. 

Cuasares-Afro-Progresivo.

Label: Pharaway Sounds.

In 1972, a new Argentinian band Cuasares, entered the recording studio and began work on what became their debut album Afro-Progresivo. This was the latest project that was masterminded by arranger, composer and pianist Waldo Belloso who previously, had been a member of Los Abrodo Brothers and recorded a sexploitation soundtrack in 1969. However, Afro-Progresivo was totally different from anything that  Waldo Belloso had previously worked on and was a truly ambitious project.

That was why Waldo Belloso took great care selecting the musicians that would become members of Cuasares. They had to be able to carry out Waldo Belloso’s instructions to the letter, as he guided them through the recording of Afro-Progresivo, teasing nine performances out of the nascent lineup of Cuasares. This took time, it wasn’t until 1973 that Waldo Belloso had managed to coax an album’s worth of music out of Cuasares.

With Cuasares’ debut album complete, Waldo Belloso called this groundbreaking and genre-melting release Afro-Progresivo, which was released on the short-lived Pais label later in 1973. Sadly, when Cuasares released Afro-Progresivo the album failed to find the audience it deserved. It didn’t help that Pais was a small label, and didn’t have the marketing expertise or financial muscle to promote Afro-Progresivo. However, the main problem was that Argentinian record buyers neither understood nor appreciate such an innovative  album. 

Following the commercial failure of Afro-Progresivo in 1973, copies of Cuasares’ debut album became almost possible to find in record shops. Very occasionally a lucky record collector would stumble across a copy of Afro-Progresivo in the racks of a second-hand record shop. However, as the years passed, Afro-Progresivo became one of the rarest Argentinian rock albums which copies changing hands for excess of £600. Sadly, that meant that a copy of Cuasares’ groundbreaking album Afro-Progresivo was beyond the budget of most record collectors. That was until recently. 

Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records recently reissued Cuasares’ debut album Afro-Progresivo, for the first time since its release in 1973. Somewhat belatedly, record buyers across the world  are album to discover this groundbreaking rarity for the first time.

The man who masterminded Cuasares was Waldo Belloso, who was born in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires, on April the ‘4th’ 1933. By the age of six started studying the piano, which was the instrument that Waldo Belloso would later make his name playing. 

Soon, Waldo Belloso was studying the roots of Argentinian folklore music, which before long became his passion. Over the next few years he spent much of his studying the studying and practising Argentinian folklore music, and by the time he was a teenager, was regarded as an expert in the subject. Later, Waldo Belloso would become a professor at Alberto Williams Conservatory, and later, became the chair at the National Dance School. By then, Waldo Belloso’s musical career was starting to take shape.

Waldo Belloso became a member Los Abrodo Brothers, and before long, became an important figure within the band. This was all part of his musical apprenticeship.

By then, Waldo Belloso wasn’t content to work as a musician, and was also an aspiring composer, who would spend years honing his craft. This would eventually payoff in the future, as would Waldo Belloso’s academic studies.

Although Waldo Belloso’s life seemed to revolve around music, he qualified as an ophthalmologist during the second half of the sixties. After that, Waldo Belloso’s twin careers in medicine and music continued apace.

In 1969, Waldo Belloso completed the soundtrack to one of the most controversial projects he worked on, the sexploitation movie Juegos De Verano. When it was rated by Argentinian film board, it received a triple-X rating and it four years passed before the premiere of Juegos De Verano took place in 1973. By then, Waldo Belloso had just completed his latest project.

This was Cuasares’ debut album Afro-Progresivo which Waldo Belloso began working on in 1972. By then, the thirty-nine year old arranger, composer and pianist had already written the album Waldo Belloso had written eight of the ten tracks himself, including Transmigración, Colisión, Mutación, Ancestral, Evanescente, Amalgama, Pentatonik and Simbiosis. The other two tracks Cuasares and Vertical were penned by Waldo Belloso and Hector Quattromana a talented and versatile multi-instrumentalist who dawned the moniker Mingo. These ten tracks were recorded by a carefully selected group of musicians, and later, became Cuasares’ debut album Afro-Progresivo. 

After carefully choosing the musicians that would become Cuasares, just drummer and percussionist Enrique “Zurdo” Roizner and sixteen year old guitarist Tomás Gubitsch joined Waldo Belloso in the studio. They began recording Afro-Progresivo in 1972, and eventually, the album was completed in 1973. By then, Waldo Belloso had coaxed and encouraged performances out of his small band and now, Afro-Progresivo was ready for release.

Having spent so long recording Afro-Progresivo, Waldo Belloso made a decision he would surely live to regret when he decided to release Cuasares’ debut album on the Pais label. It was a new label and unlike the major labels, didn’t have the marketing expertise or financial muscle to promote Afro-Progresivo, and it was no surprise when upon the release of Afro-Progresivo later in 1973, the album sunk without trace. Part of the problem was that Argentinian record buyers neither understood nor appreciated such an innovative album. For Waldo Belloso this was a huge disappointment. 

Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse for Waldo Belloso it did, when the Pais label closed its doors after releasing just two albums in less than three months. This included Cuasares’ debut album Afro-Progresivo.

Now forty-five years after Cuasares released Afro-Progresivo, the reissue by Pharaway Sounds allows record buyers to discover what was a groundbreaking and genre-melting album that was masterminded by Waldo Belloso who combined elements of Afro-Latin, jazz, psychedelic funk and European library music. Especially, French and Italian library music, and sometimes, fusion, which was growing in popularity in America, Britain and Europe. As Cuasares flitted between and fused disparate musical genres, they deployed an eclectic musical arsenal.

This included a lysergic fuzzy guitar, futuristic sci-fi synths, an effects laden Hammond organ, flute, vibraphone and a myriad of disparate effects that added a psychedelic vibe to an album that drew inspiration from Africa, America, Europe and Latin America as musical alchemist Waldo Belloso and his band of brothers recorded an album that was way of its time.

That was the case from Cuasares which opens Afro-Progresivo and elements of psychedelic funk, fusion and instrumentation usually found on a progressive rock album are combined to create an ambitious and otherworldly track. The tempo drops on Transmigración which initially, seems an understated track, but that soon changes as lo-fi synths, a marimba and urgent Carlos Santana inspired guitar solo are unleashed. Effects are added to the guitar which joins forces with the marimba on this urgent, hypnotic and funky track. After percussion opens Cuasares head in the direction of fusion during this mesmeric, percussive rocky and urgent genre-melting track that incorporates elements of Latin and psychedelia. Cuasares slow things down on Mutación, which sounds as if it’s been inspired by Santana, as the guitar organ and percussion play starring roles in this beautiful, melodic and memorable offering. Ancestral is a genre-straggling workout with Cuasares play with speed and fluidity and seamlessly combine elements of Latin, psychedelia, fusion and rock on what’s one of their finest moments.

Vertical features Cuasares at their most innovative as they fuse elements of Latin, progressive rock, psychedelia, fusion and library music. Effects are sometimes deployed adding to the lysergic sound while the track veers between dramatic, hypnotic and repetitive. Vibes set scene for another Santana-inspired guitar solo on Evanescente, while the dusty organ solo hints at late-sixties R&B. Later, the searing guitar solo take on a more contemporary sound as Cuasares play with a fluidity, with guitarist Tomás Gubitsch stealing the show. Amalgama finds Cuasares combining an Afro-Latin groove with rocky guitar licks during this breathtaking jam. It’s a similar case on Pentatonik as Cuasares combine vibes, organ, percussion, a rocky guitar, and sometimes deploy effects on a track that sounds as if it was recorded far from Argentina. Simbiosis which closes Afro-Progresivo is an ambitious, genre-melting track where everything Afro-Latin, fusion, jazz and psychedelic rock on one of the highlights of the album.

Forty-five years after Cuasares released their debut album Afro-Progresivo in 1973, this oft-overlooked hidden receives a welcome reissue by Pharaway Sounds, who are an imprint of Guerssen Records. This is the first ever reissue of Afro-Progresivo which nowadays, is an extremely rare album that is a prized possession amongst record collectors who appreciate this groundbreaking, genre-melting album.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case when Afro-Progresivo was released in 1973, and failed to find an audience, as record buyers didn’t understand an album that was way ahead of its time. Waldo Belloso who founded Cuasares, had his handpicked band of musical brothers combine elements of Afro-Latin, European library music, fusion, jazz, psychedelic funk and rock on this innovative album. Afro-Progresivo found Cuasares pushing musical boundaries to their limits as they fused music genres and influences  and sometimes beyond in an attempt to create a groundbreaking album, that somewhat belatedly, is receiving the recognition and is finding the audience it deserves.

Cuasares-Afro-Progresivo.

GEORGE JONES AND THE JONES BOYS-LIVE IN TEXAS 1965.

George Jones and The Jones Boys-Live In Texas 1965.

Label: Ace Records.

By 1985, singer-songwriter George Jones was approaching his fifty-fourth birthday and was once again, one of the giants of country music, and had thirteen number one country hits to his name. This included the four he had released since he made his comeback in 1980. The first of these was the seminal country single He Stopped Loving Her Today. For George Jones this was a game-changer and relaunched a career that not long ago seemed in terminal decline.

The problem began in 1964, when George Jones began a fifteen year battle with the bottle. By 1967, things had gotten so bad, that George Jones’ binge drinking and use of amphetamines had caught up with him, and he had no option but to enter a neurological hospital for treatment for his addictions. 

Sadly, the treatment wasn’t a success and after he left the hospital, George Jones’ second wife Shirley Corley would go to great lengths to stop him drinking. She even tried hiding his car keys, but George Jones drove his lawnmower eight miles to Beaumont, Texas, where he was able to buy liquor. Shirley Corley was fighting a losing battle in her attempt to save George Jones from himself.

Two years later, in 1969, George Jones was married Tammy Wynette who was eleven years his junior, and had grown up listening to her future husband’s records. It was a case of love at first sight on George Jones’ part, and he even bought himself out of his contract with Musicor Records so he could tour with Tammy Wynette. However, by 1970 George Jones was once again fighting his demons.

In October 1970, Tammy Wynette and George Jones’ daughter had just become parents for the first time, which was something to celebrate. However, George Jones embarked on a drunken bender, which resulted in him being committed to the Watson Clinic in Lakeland, Florida, for ten days. When he was released, George Jones had been prescribed Librium, and although he enjoyed periods of sobriety, as the seventies progressed, his drinking worsened and his behaviour became erratic. By 1976, Tammy Wynette had divorced George Jones and country music first couple were no more.

They still toured for the rest of the seventies, and in 1980 released the album Together Again, but by then, George Jones had given up any hope that he would be reconciled with Tammy Wynette. However, in 1980 George Jones embarked upon a comeback after fifteen turbulent years when he had battled his demons.

Having signed to Epic, George Jones’ comeback began and in 1980 he released the classic He Stopped Loving Her Today, which gave his first number one country hit in three years. There was no stopping George Jones who in 1981 released Still Doin’ Time which topped the US Country charts. At last, George Jones luck was changing.

By 1981, George Jones had met a new partner, Nancy Sepulvado who helped transform his life. She helped him sort out his finances and kept George Jones away from the drug dealers, who took revenge on  Nancy Sepulvado by kidnapping her daughter. Despite this she continued to help her new partner transform his life.

In 1982, George Jones and Merle Haggard joined forces and duetted on Yesterday’s Wine, which topped the US Country charts. George Jones then enjoyed his thirteenth US Country number one with I Always Get Lucky with You in 1983. By then, it looked as if George Jones’ had turned his life around.

Sadly, George Jones was still drinking and was addicted to cocaine, and when he tried to quit the drug in the autumn of 1983, went on a drunken rampage, in Alabama. This resulted in the police being called and George Jones being committed to Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital, where he was diagnosed as delusional and suffering from malnutrition. For a man who was one of the giants of country music, his career was once again at a crossroads.

This must have been a wakeup call to George Jones, who managed to quit drinking and in Alabama in March 1984, the fifty-two year old played his show sober since the early seventies. 

Meanwhile, George Jones and producer Billy Sherrill had formed a formidable and successful partnership at Epic that resulted in number one country singles and successful albums, including 1980s I Am What I Am which was certified platinum and 1981s Still The Same Ole Me which was certified gold. Billy Sherrill had helped transform George Jones’ career, as he released six albums between 1980 and 1984.  However, executives at Epic noticed an omission from George Jones’ musical CV…a live album.

For one of the most prolific artists in the history of country music, the lack of a live album was a glaring omission from George Jones’ CV and Epic were keen that he rectified this. First Time Live which was produced by Billy Sherrill was released in 1985 and reached forty-five in the US Country charts. However, after the release of First Time Live, it turned out that it was actually a case of Second Time Live for George Jones.

Twenty years previously, George Jones’ manager and producer was Houston-based HW Daily, who was a well known within country music circles. He had cofounded the Texas-based record label Starday Records and during the fifties and sixties, worked with some of the top country singers. This included George Jones who Pappy Daily had mentored since he recorded his debut single No Money In This Deal which was released in February 1954. For George Jones and Pappy Daily this was the start of a fruitful partnership.

Eleven years later, in 1965, and George Jones had spent the best part of ten years touring and recording non stop and this had paid off. Now George Jones was a successful recording artist, and had already enjoyed number one country singles with 1959s White Lightning, 1961s Tender Years and 1962s She Thinks I Still Care in 1962. George Jones who was a prolific recording artist had already released over twenty album. However, he still had to release a live album, and Pappy Daily had decided that the time had come for George Jones and The Jones Boys to record a live album the next time they were in town.

Pappy Daily hired the Houston venue Dancetown USA, which was where George Jones and The Jones Boys would record their first ever live album. This wasn’t going to be the usual type of live album where applause was later overdubbed onto a studio recording. Instead, Pappy Daily future generations to hear George Jones and The Jones Boys at the peak of their powers, on what he belied was a musical equivalent of a historical document. It features on George Jones and The Jones Boys’ Live In Texas 1965 which was originally released by Ace Records in 1992, and was recently remastered and reissued in 2018. Live In Texas 1965 is an important reminder of George Jones and The Jones Boys during what was an important period for the legendary bandleader.

As 1965 dawned, George Jones had twenty-five top twenty hits to his name, including nineteen top ten hits and three number ones in the country charts. He signed to Musicor Records in February 1965, and began what was a new chapter in his career. Little did he know that while he would continue to enjoy commercial success, the next fifteen years would be turbulent and troubled. However, that was all in the future, and in 1965, George Jones was preparing to record his first live album.

The exact date of the concert at Dancetown USA is unknown, and it’s speculated that the recording took place in either late February or March of 1965. Joining George Jones was his usual backing band The Jones Boys which is thought included drummer Glen Davis, bassist and backing vocalist Donald Lyle, guitarist Jerry Starr, fiddler Charlie Justice and Sonny Curtis on steel guitar. However, it wasn’t just The Jones Boys that would take to the stage with George Jones. 

To augment The Jones Boys, George Jones and Pappy Daily bought pedal steel player Buddy Emmons and fiddlers’ Rufus Thibodeaux and Red Hayes. This begs the question were Sonny Curtis and Charlie Justice given the night off or were they even part of the band when the live album was recorded at Dancetown USA? Sadly, that isn’t clear, and speculation surrounds the lineup of the band.

When the night came for George Jones and The Jones Boys to record their first live album, Pappy Daily had wisely decided that two sets should be recorded. This meant that they would be able to choose the best songs when they came to release the album. However, despite spending a considerable sum on hiring the venue and bringing guest artists onboard, one of Pappy Daily’s stipulations was to keep things tight and lay off the chatter between songs which would save tape. This was all part of  George Jones’ act, especially by 1965 when many of his performances were alcohol fuelled. However, Pappy Daily was protective of George Jones, and want his friend on his best behaviour.

For most of the performance, that was the case, but during the two sets, there were several false starts and the sometimes, George Jones and his band stumbled through announcements. To make matters worse, there were problems with the PA system picking up the sound of the audience which could be heard on the tape. As Pappy Daily watched on, he  must have wondered how much tape George Jones and The Jones Boys were going to use by the end of the night and what it would cost him? 

By the end of the night, Pappy Daily packed up the pile of tapes that had been used to record George Jones and The Jones Boys and took them back to his office, where they were stored in his vaults. When he took time to listen back to what later became Live In Texas 1965, he eventually came to the conclusion that he wasn’t going to release George Jones and The Jones Boys first live album.

When George Jones and The Jones Boys heard this, it was a huge disappointment, as they knew that within the tapes of the two shows, there was plenty of quality material for a live album that would be a reminder of the group at the peak of their powers. George Jones and The Jones Boys were disappointed in Pappy Daily’s decision, and couldn’t quite work out why he decided not to release the album.

This seemed strange to George Jones and The Jones Boys as Pappy Daily wasn’t in the habit of wasting money, and he had spent a lot of money recording their two sets at Dancetown USA, in Houston. By not releasing what became Live In Texas 1965, he had no chance of recouping any of the money he had spent. 

Pappy Daily never made any attempt to release George Jones and The Jones Boys’ first live album, and in 1985 Epic released First Time Live. By then, Pappy Daily was eighty-three, and his sons and grandson were now working in the music business. However, they had made no attempt to release what was George Jones and The Jones Boys’ 1965 live album.

Sadly, two years later, Pappy Daily passed away on December the ‘5th’ 1987, aged eighty-five, and by then George Jones’ comeback was continuing apace. George Jones was a giant of country music, thanks in part to Pappy Daily who had discovered him and guided him during the early years of his career.

Five years after Pappy Daily’s death, Ace Records released a compilation that featured twenty-five of the tracks George Jones and The Jones Boys had recorded during the two sessions at Dancetown USA, in Houston in 1965. They became as Live In Texas 1965, which was released in 1992, and rather belatedly, the songs that had lain in the vaults for twenty-seven years were available for everyone to hear.

Since then, Live In Texas 1965 has been long out of print, and a new generation of music fans have been unable to discover what should’ve been George Jones and The Jones Boys’ first live album. However, twenty-six years after the original release of Live In Texas 1965, Ace Records decided to remaster and reissue this compilation which is a remarkable musical document that is a reminder of George Jones and The Jones Boys at the peak of their powers.

Despite his hard living lifestyle, George Jones is in remarkably good voice on Live In Texas 1965 as he works his way through twenty-five tracks that he originally recorded at Starday Records between 1954-1958, then Mercury Records between 1959 and 1961, and finally, for United Artists between 1962 and 1965. These tracks featured George Jones and The Jones Boys plus some special guests.

After the introduction to Live In Texas 1965, George Jones and The Jones Boys revisit his first number one singe White Lightning, which was released in 1959, which is followed by Something I Dreamed from 1964 and two singles from 1961 Achin’, Breakin’ Heart and She Thinks I Still Care. By then, George Jones is breathing life and meaning into the lyrics and continues to do so on Accidentally On Purpose from 1960 before changing this around on Who Shot Son? which closes the first set on a resounding high.

Following the intermission and C Jam Blues, an introduction gives way to Please Talk To My Heart and Sing A Sad Song which are played by Don Adams and The Jones Boys. They join forces with Gene Emmons on Pan Handle Rag, before Don Adams and The Jones Boys are reunited on Pan Handle Rag. After that, George Jones makes a welcome returns, and takes centre-stage.

George Jones opens this part of the set with I’m Ragged But I’m Right which was originally recorded in 1958, and follows this with A Poor Man’s Riches, Your Tender Years and Where Does A Little Tear Come From? Then like any good bandleader, George Jones lets his backing band The Jones Boys enjoy another moment in the sun.

The Jones Boys are joined by Buddy Emmons on pedal steel and fiddlers Rufus Thibodeaux and Red Hayes on an immersive rework of the Cajun national anthem Jole Blon. After this, George Jones returns and closes the second set on a high with Big Harlan Taylor from his 1960 album Singing The Blues, She’s Lonely Again and a medley of The Race Is and Hold It. 

Little did George Jones and The Jones Boys realise that it would be twenty-seven years before the two live sets they had recorded at Dancetown USA in 1965 would eventually be released by Ace Records as Live In Texas 1965. This was a popular release, and a reminder of George Jones and The Jones Boys at the peak of their powers in 1965. 

This was quite a feat, as the period between 1964 and 1979, saw George Jones go into what looked like a terminal decline. However, he was still holding things together during early 1965 when Live In Texas was recorded. However, after that, George Jones was still a successful artist, and regarded as one of the giants of country music, but he was a troubled soul who was continually battling his demons. He tried to dousing the flames with alcohol and when this didn’t work resorted to drugs, having originally taken amphetamine to cope with a gruelling touring and recording schedule. This was a huge mistake and one he would regret.

Despite his hard living lifestyle, George Jones continued to enjoy a successful recording career, and became the comeback King in 1980 when he joined forces with producer Billy Sherrill. This was the start of ten-year period where man who is nowadays regarded as the greatest living country singer enjoyed an Indian Summer that lasted until 1990. That wasn’t the end of George Jones by a long shot.

George Jones recording career drew to a close in 2005, when he released his fifty-ninth studio album Hits I Missed…And One I Didn’t. By then, he had amassed nearly 160 hit singles and was one of the most successful country singers, who was known for his distinctive voice and phrasing which can be heard on Live In Texas 1965. 

Sadly, George Jones, a true giant of country music passed away on April the ’26th’ 2013, aged eighty-two. He was a prolific recording artist who left behind a rich musical legacy, including his fifty-nine studio albums, collaborations and live albums like Live In Texas 1965 which features the greatest living country singer at the peak of his powers.

George Jones and The Jones Boys-Live In Texas 1965.

DON ELLIS-SHOCK TREATMENT AND DON ELLIS AND HIS ORCHESTRA AUTUMN.

Don Ellis-Shock Treatment and Don Ellis and His Orchestra-Autumn.

Label: BGO Records.

Bandleader, composer and trumpeter Don Ellis’ life was changed forevermore in 1974, when he was diagnosed with an abnormal heart condition, and a year later, in 1975, suffered his first heart attack which very nearly cost him his life. Fortunately, Don Ellis recovered and by 1977 signed to Atlantic Records.

Later in 1977, Don Ellis released his Atlantic Records’ debut Music From Other Galaxies and Planets, which was his first album in three years. Don Ellis was back, and his comeback was complete after playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Switzerland on July the ‘8th’ 1977. That concert was recorded and was released in 1978 as Don Ellis Live At Montreux and was a poignant release.

By 1978, all the years of touring were taking a toll on Don Ellis. After what was his final concert on April the ’21st’ 1978, Don Ellis’ doctor advised him to stop touring and playing the trumpet, as the strain on his heart was proving too great. 

Sadly, just under eight month later, on December the ’17th’ 1978, Don Ellis returned from a Jon Hendricks concert and suffered what proved to be a fatal heart attack at his North Hollywood home. Don Ellis was just forty-four and that day, jazz lost one of its great trumpeters.

Nearly forty years after his death, Don Ellis’ music is often overlooked by the majority of jazz fans, and sadly only a small but appreciative audience remember a man who was one of the great jazz trumpeters. A reminder of this talented and innovative bandleader, composer and trumpeter can be found on BGO Records’ new two disc set, which features remastered versions of Don Ellis’ 1968 album Shock Treatment and Don Ellis and His Orchestra’s album Autumn, which was released in 1969. That was all in the future.

As 1968 dawned, Don Ellis was already regarded as an innovative bandleader, composer and trumpeter within jazz circles due to his use of willingness to experiment, and particularly due to his use of different time signatures. That had been the case since he released his debut album How Time Passes in 1960. Eight years later, and Don Ellis was preparing to record Shock Treatment which was his ninth album and second for Columbia Records.

Shock Treatment.

Don Ellis had signed to Columbia after leaving Pacific Jazz, and in 1967, released the critically acclaimed album Electric Bath, which was nominated for a Grammy Award and won the Down Beat Reader’s Poll. Electric Bath was produced by John Hammond and saw Don Ellis’ band incorporate the use of electronics and was influenced by rock music. This was a first for Don Ellis, and the perfect way to start his career at Columbia.

Just like many artists before him, the problem that Don Ellis was faced with after releasing such a groundbreaking album as Electric Bath, was following it up. While Don Ellis knew that wasn’t going to be easy, he was keen to build on the success of Electric Bath, and began work on his ninth album Shock Treatment. 

Don Ellis wrote five new tracks Homecoming, Star Children, Beat Me Daddy, Seven To The Bar, Milo’s Theme and The Tihai. He also joined forces with Kelly MacFadden to write Night City.  John Magruder a member of Don Ellis’ band wrote Zim, which was joined by four cover versions. This included Hank Levy’s A New Kind Of Country and Mercy Maybe Mercy and Howlett Smith’s Opus 5 and Seven Up. These eleven tracks would eventually become Shock Treatment, which was produced by John Hammond.

It took just two days to record Shock Treatment, with Don Ellis and his twenty-four piece orchestra recording the eleven tracks on the album on February the ’14th’ and ’15th’ 1968. It was an impressive sight and sound with the rhythm and horn sections combining with keyboards, percussion and Eastern instruments as bandleader Don Ellis played a starring role and  unleashed a series of trumpet solos. Once again, John Hammond took charge of production on Shock Treatment, which was the much-anticipated followup to Electric Bath.

Shock Treatment opens with A New Kind Of Country, which becomes funky, energetic and vibrant in the hands of Don Ellis and his orchestra who play part of a composition in 7/4 time. Briefly, the tempo drops on Night City, but soon builds and reveals its secrets as lysergic soulful harmonies combine with Don Ellis and his orchestra, and play their part in the sound and success of this genre-melting track. Straight away, the soulful blues Homecoming takes on a late-night sound, and is played in 3/4 time, before  bandleader Don Ellis seamlessly changes to 7/4 time on Mercy Maybe Mercy, where drummer Steve Bohannon provides the heartbeat as horns and Hammond organ play leading roles. Very different is Zim, which is a more ruminative piece, while Opus 5 finds Don Ellis and his orchestra showcase their versatility and talent by switching to 5/4 time during this nine minute modal jazz epic.

Star Children could only have been recorded during the late-sixties, with its captivating mixture of cosmic sounds, Eastern influences, drama and the Don Ellis’ Hispanic-tinged trumpet interjections. Don Ellis then switches to 7/4 time on Beat Me Daddy, Seven To The Bar and takes centre-stage for the first thirty-seconds, before he and his orchestra combine jazz and Latin influences during this six-minute propulsive opus which eventually reaches an explosive crescendo. Milo’s Theme offers the opportunity for experimentation as Don Ellis plays electric trumpet and effects are deployed during this ambitious and innovative piece. Seven Up finds Don Ellis returning to 7/4 time during this dazzling, jaunty and lively composition. Closing Shock Treatment is The Tihai which is played in 9/4 time and initially is mellow before becoming exuberant and ultimately a complex rhythmic piece that allows Don Ellis and orchestra to showcase their considerable skills while combining elements of jazz and Latin.

When critics heard Shock Treatment, they realised that it was an ambitious and innovative album, where Don Ellis incorporated elements of blues, experimental, funk, Indian Latin, psychedelia  and rock into his ninth album of jazz. Shock Treatment which was Don Ellis’ much-anticipated followup to Electric Bath, was the album that he hoped would transform his fortunes.

While Don Ellis was a popular live draw by the time Shock Treatment, was released in 1968, his albums never sold in huge quantities. Sadly, that was the case with Shock Treatment which failed to trouble the US Billboard 200. That was despite Shock Treatment being another ambitious and innovative album. After nine albums, Don Ellis had still to make a commercial breakthrough. Maybe Don Ellis’ next album would result in a change in fortune for the thirty-four year old?

Autumn.

In August 1968, Don Ellis and His Orchestra were preparing to enter the studio to record their next album Autumn. This time, there was no sign of producer John Hammond, who had been replaced by Al Kooper, of Blood, Sweat and Tears and it was hoped that he would transform the fortune of Don Ellis and His Orchestra.

Autumn featured five pieces penned by bandleader Don Ellis, including Variations For Trumpet, Scratt and Fluggs, Pussy Wiggle Stomp, Child Of Ecstasy and Indian Lady which like the cover of Charlie Parker’s K.C. Blues, had been recorded live at Stanford University. The rest of Autumn was recorded by Don Ellis and His Orchestra in the studio with producer Al Kooper.

The mind-blowing Magnus Opus Variations For Trumpet opens Autumn, and is a six-piece movement that is essentially a showcase for Don Ellis’ trumpet. He delivers a musical masterclass as his playing veers between to dark and wistful to explosive, powerful, urgent and always inventive as he plays with a freedom. Meanwhile, his orchestra switch seamlessly between 9/4 to 7/4 and incorporate elements of fusion, avant-garde and Latin music as bandleader Don Ellis continually throws curveballs during what’s now regarded as one of his finest hours. Very different is Scratt and Fluggs which bursts into life with Don Ellis and His Orchestra playing with urgency and in 5/4 time while an enthusiastic studio audience whoop and holler and encourage them to create what sounds like a coke-fuelled soundtrack to an old-time barn dance. The swinging and joyous Pussy Wiggle Stomp is played in 7/4 time and incorporates elements of gospel and jazz, and when the solos arrive, Don Ellis allows his members of his band to take centre-stage and showcase their considerable skills. 

It’s a similar case on the live version of Charlie Parker’s KC Blues, which was recorded by a big band and reaches a dramatic ending. Trumpeter Glenn Stuart plays a starring role on Child Of Ecstasy, and unleashes a breathtaking performance and latterly, plays with power and control. This is a performance that bandleader Don Ellis would be proud of. Closing Autumn is the second live track Indian Lady, which originally featured on the 1967 album Electric Lady. Here it’s extended to eighteen minutes during what’s an urgent, frenetic and innovative reworking that closes a future genre classic.

What at the time must have seemed like a gamble replacing John Hammond with Al Kooper as producer turned out to be a masterstroke, when critics haled Autumn as a genre classic. However, the big question was would Don Ellis and His Orchestra’s genre classic Autumn be a commercial success and transform their fortunes?

When Autumn was released in 1969, Don Ellis and His Orchestra’s latest album wasn’t the commercial success that they had hoped. Just like many jazz artists before him, Don Ellis had released a classic that slipped under the musical radar and never came close to troubling the charts.

Just nine years after the release of his genre classic Autumn, Don Ellis passed away on December the ’17th’ 1978 aged just forty-four. That day, jazz lost one of its great bandleader, composer and trumpeter.

Sadly, nearly forty years after Don Ellis’ tragic death, his music is almost forgotten amongst jazz fans. His recording career began in 1960 and continued right up until his death in December 1978. During that period, Don Ellis released eighteen albums and composed nine soundtracks, including his Grammy Award-winning soundtrack to The French Connection in 1971. It’s a reminder of a truly talented bandleader, composer and musician.

So are Don Ellis’ 1968 album Shock Treatment and the Don Ellis and His Orchestra’s 1969 genre classic Autumn which were recently remastered and reissued as a two CD set by BGO Records. These two albums feature Don Ellis at the peak of his powers as a bandleader, composer and trumpeter, and are the perfect introduced to this oft-overlooked jazz musician whose music sadly never reached the wider audience that it so richly deserved, and is still one of jazz music’s best kept secrets.

That is a great shame as Don Ellis was a talented, imaginative, inventive and innovative compeer and musician, but never enjoyed the success his talent deserved. Incredibly, even winning a Grammy Award didn’t transform Don Ellis’ fortunes, and although he was a popular live draw, his albums weren’t huge sellers and sadly slipped under the radar. Maybe that will change, and a new generation of music fans will discover Don Ellis’ music after BGO Records’ latest reissue of Shock Treatment and his genre-classic Autumn?

Don Ellis-Shock Treatment and Don Ellis and His Orchestra-Autumn.