Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974.
Label: Ace Records.
Release Date: ‘31st’ January 2020.
As the sixties gave way to the seventies, music in Britain was changing, with rock becoming and harder and heavier as groups like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath emerged and went on to become three of the most successful bands of the seventies. Meanwhile, some psychedelic groups turned their back on the genre and returning to their bluesy roots, while others became pioneers of progressive rock. However, not everyone was willing to turn their back on psychedelia.
There were still many British musicians and groups who were influenced by psychedelia, especially the homegrown variety of the genre. Its melancholy sound conjured up visions of Victoriana, and the pastoral sound of genteel village life in rural England as well as the simple pleasures of suburban living. Essentially British and specifically English psychedelia harked back to Britain’s past, which was romanticised and perceived as idyllic. It was a much more innocent and simpler time, and very different to Britain during the psychedelic era. So was the music.
A number of factors influenced the inimitable British psychedelic sound. Just like their American counterparts, British musicians questioned the establishment. This led to some musicians retreating to the countryside and their new rural idylls influenced the pastoral sound of their music. Others remained in the city, but tried to imagine the countryside in their music which often, became part of an Arcadian fantasy world. However, the countryside was just one of factors that influenced the British psychedelic sound.
This included travel. By then, a number of musicians had travelled to countries like India, Morocco and traversed Europe. The music they heard often influenced the music they went on to make. So did classical and jazz music. Some musicians embraced and dabbled with LSD which also influenced the music they made. These factors influenced the British psychedelic sound while others didn’t.
Many British musicians distrusted the nascent technology that emerged during the psychedelic era, and also rejected much of American culture. Instead, British musicians looked to their own culture for inspiration.
Meanwhile, musicians deployed an eclectic selection of instruments to create the British psychedelic sound. This included everything from the cello, woodwind and harpsichord to a variety of African instruments and the Mellotron. These instruments provided the backdrop the wistful melodies that were part of the British psychedelic sound. However, by the late-sixties psychedelia was no longer as popular as it had been. Many critics thought it was the end of an era.
That wasn’t the case, and like so many other genres of music, including blues and jazz, British psychedelia had to evolve to stay relevant. There were still many musicians who wanted to continue to create music using the same instruments and wistful melodies and they became pioneers of a new sub-genre of pop, the English Baroque sound.
At the forefront of this new musical movement were some of the psychedelic groups who were joined by the new breed of singer-songwriter. They pioneered the English Baroque which was celebrated on the CD compilation Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974. It was compiled by writer and Saint Etienne member Bob Stanley and released fifteen years ago, and nowadays, is a collector’s item that changes hands for anything between £50 to £100. However, most people are holding on to their copies of Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974 which is why Ace Records have released a new and improved version of the compilation.
Originally, Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974 was only ever released on CD. However, the new and improved version, which will be released by Ace Records on CD and vinyl on the ‘31st’ January 2020. It features Lora Findlay’s artwork which has been given a makeover. That isn’t the only difference between the original and new version of Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974.
The new version includes several tracks that haven’t been released before. The CD version of Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974 features twenty-two tracks and includes everyone from Ray Brooks, The Honeybus, Mike Batt, Colin Blunstone, Nirvana, Les Payne, Clifford T. Ward, The Bliss and Matthew Bones.
Opening the Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-197 compilation is Pictures by Ray Brooks. It was released by Polydor in 1972, and epitomises the English baroque pop sound which by then, had grown in popularity. With sweeping, swirling and cinematic lyrics Ray Brooks paints Pictures on a track that sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation.
For me the highlight of the compilation is The Honeybus’ classic I Can’t Let Maggie Go. It was written and produced by Pete Dello and released by Deram in 1968, reaching number eight in the UK. Since then, this beautiful heart-wrenching English baroque pop classic has been a favourite of many music lovers and even the opening bars are enough to bring memories flooding back.
One of the rarest tracks on the compilation is Alice a gothic tale by Jon Plum. It was released in 1969, on SNB, but failed to find the audience it deserved. Some fifty-one years later makes a welcome return and hopefully, will be appreciated by a new generation of discerning music lovers.
Another English baroque pop classic is Colin Blunstone’s Say You Don’t Mind, which was released by Epic in 1972 and reached the top twenty. This beautiful and truly memorable track belatedly launched Colin Blunstone’s career. It features a soul-baring vocal, while a cello is at the heart of this minimalist chamber pop arrangement.
Mary Jane was released by Erasmus Chorum on Chapter One in 1972, on the B-Side of their EP. It features a string led arrangement which also includes a melancholy organ and piano. They provide the backdrop to what can only be described a heartfelt and emotive vocal on this English baroque pop hidden gem.
Mention Nirvana and many people think of Kurt Cobain et al. However, for many connoisseurs of British music that isn’t the case. The original Nirvana released six carefully crafted albums between 1967 and 1974. On these albums they collaborated with top musicians, arrangers and producers. The result were albums which although released to critical acclaim, weren’t hugely successful. This includes their 1971 album Songs Of Love and Praise, which was released on Phillips. Please Believe Me is one of the album’s highlights, and a tantalising reminder of the original Nirvana, whose music is well worth discovering.
Many people will remember Justin Hayward’s cover of Forever Autumn on Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds in 1979. However, this wasn’t a new track. It was penned by Gary Vigrass and Paul Osborne who were at the time part of Jeff Wayne’s team who wrote advertising jingles. Forever Autumn was originally used for a Lego advert, and was then released as a single. Vigrass and Osborne’s single was produced by Jeff Wayne, and gave the pair a major hit in Japan, and a minor hit in America. Sadly, this beautiful, wistful song failed to chart in Britain, and is another of the hidden gems on the compilation.
By the time Les Payne released I Can’t Help To Feel The Love via RCA, in 1974, he was a staff writer at Chappell Music. Sadly, the single flopped and commercial success continued to elude the talented singer-songwriter. Proof of that is Very Well, a string driven anti-war song which was tucked away on the B-Side.
Clifford T. Ward’s best known and most successful single was Gaye, which reached number eight in the UK and sold over a million copies and features on his classic album Home Thoughts. However, there’s much more to Clifford T. Ward than one song. His sophomore single was Coathanger a reflective and melodic track from his 1972 debut album Singer-Songwriter. It’s another of Clifford T. Ward’s finest albums and is the perfect introduction to a hugely talented singer-songwriter who deserved to be a huge star.
David McIvor covered Peter Green’s Closing My Eyes in 1969. The single was released on Warner Bros and produced by Fleetwood Mac’s manager Clifford Davis. He’s responsible for the dramatic arrangement as David McIvor lays bare his soul.
Closing Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974 is Two Sugars by Matthew Bones. This was the B-Side to his 1971 single I Am The Pixi. Of the two sides, Two Sugars an observational song that sounds as if it’s been inspired by The Kinks is by far the best.
The reissue of Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974 on and vinyl by Ace Records ‘31st’ January 2020 is a welcome. Nowadays, the original compilation is now a sought after rarity which is beyond the budget of most record buyers. Thankfully, soon, that will no longer be the case.
For the forthcoming reissue Lora Findlay’s artwork has been given a makeover and new tracks have been added to the new and improved version of Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974. It features everything from English baroque classics, contributions from familiar faces, hidden gem, hit singles, oft-overlooked songs and little known B-Sides. They’re part of Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974 which is a lovingly curated compilation which makes a welcome return fifteen years after its initial release, and for newcomers to the genre is the perfect primer.
Tea and Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974.
Cult Classic: Can-Future Days.
In the history of modern German music, Can were undoubtably one of the most ambitious and innovative groups of the past fifty years. Their music was constantly evolving and was always groundbreaking. So much so, that it was always way ahead of the musical curve. Ca’s music is also timeless and has influenced several generation of musicians. Especially, Can’s “golden quartet” of albums.
Can’s “golden quartet” of albums started with a stonewall classic, Tago Mago, released in February 1971. The followup to Tago Mago, was another groundbreaking, classic album.
Ege Bamyasi was released in November 1972. Just like Tago Mago, critical acclaim accompanied the release of what was called a pioneering album. However, despite Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi being recognised as two of the most important and innovative albums in musical history, Holger Czukay was almost evangelical about Future Days the third in the “golden quartet” of albums.
In 2016, I interviewed Holger Czukay and asked him what he regarded as Can’s best album? Straight away, Holger responded “Future Days,” which was released in August 1973. When I asked what his favourite Can album was, without hesitation Holger responded that “Future Days is my favourite Can album.” Holger spoke almost evangelically about Future Days, which is a cult classic classic, where musical chameleons Can reinvent themselves and their music. Can had come a long way since their early days in Cologne.
Can’s roots can be traced back to 1963 where Holger Czukay met Conny Plank and Irmin Schmidt. Just like Holger, they were students of Karlheinz Stockhausen. The three studied under Stockhausen until they graduated in 1966.
Having graduated, Holger was enjoying life as a music teacher. Holger was enjoying his newfound career as an educator. He wasn’t a fan of pop or rock music. That was about to change in 1967.
That’s when Holger heard The Beatles’ I Am A Walrus in 1967, he was captivated by this psychedelic rock single. Holger describes this “as a life-changing moment…the music of the past and present came together.” At last, “here was music that made the connection between what I’d studied and I was striving towards” With the innovative use of bursts of radio and the experimental sound and structure, “I went in search of similar music.”
Soon, Holger discovered Velvet Underground, who Holger sad would later, influence Can.“Velvet Underground they were different, they were really influential” “They influenced the music I made…I remember the first time I heard Velvet Underground and where I heard it” This was “sitting in a friend’s flat looking through piles of albums. We’d study the sleeve-notes and then spread the album covers all over the floor. We scrutinised them, then immersed ourselves in the music. It was a shared experience. We listened and discussed the music. I can remember these times well.”
Inspired by what he’d heard, Holger decided to form his own band in 1968. In his new band, Holger was joined by another graudate of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Irmin Schmidt. They had spent three years studying together, so knew each other well. However, after graduating Irmin had headed to New York.
In New York, Irmin spent time with avant-garde musicians like Steve Reich, Terry Riley and La Monte Young. Soon, Irmin was aware of Andy Warhol and Velvet Underground. This inspired him to form his own band when he returned home to Cologne.
Back home, Irmin a pianist and organist formed Can with American avant garde flautist David C. Johnson and bassist Holger Czukay. Up until then, the trio had exclusively played avant-garde classical music. Now their ambitions lay beyond that. Their influences included garage, rock, psychedelia, soul and funk. So they brought onboard three new members of the group, which started life as Inner Space, and then became The Can. Eventually, they settled on Can, an acronym of communism, anarchy, nihilism
The first two new additions were guitarist Michael Karoli and drummer Jaki Liebezeit. Vocalist and New York-based sculptor Malcolm Mooney joined the band midway through 1968. By then, they were recording material for an album Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom. Two tracks, Father Cannot Yell and “Outside My Door were already recorded. Unfortunately, record companies weren’t interested in Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom. As a result, it wasn’t released until 1981, when it was released as Delay 1968. Undeterred, Can continued to record what became their debut album, Monster Movie.
Despite not being able to interest a record company in Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom, Can were confident in their own ability. So Can continued recording what would become their debut album Monster Movies. That’s despite being what Holger referred to as “a poor man’s band.” They didn’t have the equipment that other groups did. What they did have was “an ambition to create innovative music.” However, before long, there was a problem.
David C. Johnson left Can at the end of 1968. He was disappointed at the change in musical direction. Little did he realise that he’d lost the chance to be part of one of the most groundbreaking band’s in musical history, Can.
Monster Movie had been recorded in Schloss Nörvenich, a 14th-century castle in North Rhine-Westphalia. Can recorded Monster Movie between 1968-69. It was the released in August 1969. This marked the debut of Can. Their career started as they meant to go on. A groundbreaking, genre-melting fusion of blues, free jazz, psychedelia, rock and world music, Monster Movies has a Velvet Underground influence. It’s as if Can have been inspired by Velvet Underground and pushed musical boundaries to their limits.
Throughout Monster Movie, Can improvised, innovated and experimented. Multilayering and editing played an important part in Monster Movie’s avant garde sound. So did spontaneous composition, which Can pioneered.
Spontaneous composition was hugely important in Can’s success. Holger remembers “that the members of Can were always ready to record. They didn’t take time to think. It was spontaneous. The music flowed through them and out of them.” Holger remembers that he was always “given the job of pressing the record button. This was a big responsibility as the fear was failing to record something we could never recreate.” In some ways, Can were an outlet for this outpouring of creativity, which gave birth to a new musical genre.
This new musical genre was dubbed Krautrock by the British music press. So not only was Monster Movie the album that launched Can’s career, but saw a new musical genre, Krautrock coined. The founding father’s of Krautrock were Can, lead by Holger Czukay. Can would soon, begin work on their sophomore album Soundtracks.
Released in 1970, Soundtracks, was Can’s sophomore album. Essentially, Soundtracks is a compilation of tracks Can wrote for the soundtracks to various films. It’s the album that marked the departure of vocalist Malcolm Mooney. Replacing him, was Japanese busker, Kenji Damo Suzuki. He features on five of the tracks, contributing percussion and vocals. The addition of Damo wasn’t the only change Can were making.
Soundtracks was a coming of age for Can. It marked a move away from the psychedelic jams of Monster Movie and a move towards their classic sound. That saw the music becoming much more experimental and avant-garde. The music took an ambient, meditative, mesmeric and thoughtful sound. This marked the beginning of what became known as Can’s classic years, when albums like Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Future Days were released.
The first instalment in the golden quartet was Tago Mago. This was the first album where Kenji Damo Suzuki was a permanent member of Can. He and the rest of Can spent a year in the castle in Schloss Nörvenich. It was owned by an art collector named Mr. Vohwinkel. He allowed Can to stay at Schloss Nörvenich rent free. For what Holger described as “a poor man’s band,” this was perfect.
Holger remembers Can during this year as “just jamming and seeing what took shape. Songs started as lengthy jams and improvised pieces.” This Holger remembers is “how Can always worked” After that, Holger worked his magic. He edited them and these mini masterpieces featured on Tago Mago, which was four months in the making.
For four months between November 1970 and February 1971, Can recorded what would become one of their most innovative and influential albums, Tago Mago.
A double album, it featured seven groundbreaking tracks. Tago Mago was released in February 1971. Straight away, critics realised the importance of Tago Mago. Here was a game-changer of an album. It has an intensity that other albums released in 1971 lacked. Jazzier with an experimental sound, the music is mysterious, mesmeric and multilayered. It’s innovative, with genres and influences melting into one. Nuances, subtleties and surprises reveal themselves. No wonder. Can deliver a avant garde masterclass.
This comes courtesy of jazz-tinged drumming, improvised guitar playing and showboating keyboard solos. Then there was Kenji Damo Suzuki’s unique vocal style. All this, resulted in an album that was critically acclaimed, influential and innovative.
Released to widespread critical acclaim in 1971, Tago Mago was the start of a golden period for Can. Their reputation as one of the most innovative groups of the seventies started to take shape. Can had released one of the most innovative albums, Tago Mago. Holger remembers the reaction to Tago Mago. “I knew Tago Mago was an innovative album, but I never realised just how innovative an album it would become?
On Tago Mago’s release, it was hailed as their best album yet. However, not in Holger’s opinion. “Tago Mago is a classic album, but I much prefer Future Days.” Despite Holger’s preference, several generations of musicians have been inspired by Tago Mago, a true Magnus Opus, that belongs in every record collection. So does the followup Ege Bamyasi.
Can were on a roll. It seemed they could do no wrong. They released Spoon as a single in 1972. It reached number six in Germany, selling over 300,000 copies. That was helped no end, by the single being used as the theme to a German thriller Das Messer. It seemed nothing could go wrong for Can. The money the made from Spoon, allowed Can to hire disused cinema to record what became Ege Bamyasi.
Can advertised for a space to record their next album, Ege Bamyasi. Recording began in a disused cinema, which doubled as a recording studio and living space. The sessions at Inner Space Studio, in Weilerswist, near Cologne didn’t go well. Irmin Schmidt and Kenji Damo Suzuki took to playing marathon chess sessions. As a result, Can hadn’t enough material for an album. This resulted in Can having to work frantically to complete Ege Bamyasi. Despite this, Can were still short of material. So Spoon was added and Ege Bamyasi was complete.
Ege Bamyasi was a fusion of musical genres. Everything from jazz, ambient, world music, psychedelia, rock and electronica melted into one. When it was Ege Bamyasi released in November 1972, it was to the same critical acclaim as previous albums. Critics were won over by Can’s fourth album. It was perceived as a more accessible album than its predecessors. Just like Can’s previous albums, the quality of music was consistent.
Critics hailed Can as one of the few bands capable of creating consistent and pioneering albums. They were one of the most exciting bands of the early seventies. Can were continuing to innovate and influence musicians and music lovers alike. Just like its predecessor, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi is an essential part of any self respecting record collection. Having released two consecutive classic albums and their first single, it seemed nothing could go wrong for Can.
Despite Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi being referred to as two of the most influential albums ever released, Holger Czukay prefers Future Days. This is the album he calls “my favourite Can album.”
Future Days, was Can’s fifth album. It was the third in Can’s golden quartet, and marked a change in direction from Can. On Future Days, Can’s music head in the direction of ambient music. The music is atmospheric, dreamy, ethereal, melancholy, expansive and full of captivating, mesmeric rhythms. It’s also pioneering and progressive, with elements of avant garde, experimental, psychedelia and rock melting into one. Rather than songs, soundscapes describes the four tracks written by Can.
Recording of Future Days took place at Inner Space Studios. Can’s rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Jaki Liebezeit, Holger Czukay played bass and double bass and Michael Karoli added guitar and violin. Irmin Schmidt keyboards and synths. Damo Suzuki who bade his farewell on Future Days, added vocals and percussion. Once the four tracks were recorded, Future Days was released in August 1973.
On its release in August 1973, Future Days was hailed a classic by music critics. The move towards ambient music may have surprised some Can fans. However, Can were constantly determined to reinvent their music. Standing still wasn’t an option. Instead, Can wanted to move forwards musically. That’s what they did. Critics described the music on Future Days, as variously atmospheric, dreamy, ethereal, expansive and melancholy. Here was an album full of captivating, mesmeric rhythms. Future Days, you’ll realise, is also a pioneering and progressive album, were Can music moved in the direction of ambient music. This must have pleased Holger’s guru Karlheinz Stockhausen. He must have looked on proudly as Can released the third of a quartet of classic albums, Future Days.
Opening Future Days is the title-track, Future Days. Straight away, ambient and avant-garde combine. Swells of futuristic, sci-fi music unfold, combining with elements of what nowadays, is referred to as “chill out” music. The music shimmers, quivers, glistens and bubbles. Sounds flit in and out of this cinematic soundscape. They’re variously captivating, dreamy, haunting, hypnotic, mesmeric and always, understated. Resistance is impossible. You’re captivated. Hungrily, you wait to see what’s about to unfold. Surprises aplenty make flitting appearances. Some last longer, their beauty almost omnipresent. For nine minutes, instruments, and the vocal, flit in and out, of this genre-melting arrangement. It’s variously beautiful, dramatic, dreamy and ethereal, as ambient, avant-garde, Krautrock and psychedelia melt into one. The result is a track that sounds both cinematic and one that could have given birth to modern “chill out music.”
There’s an element of tension and drama as Spray unfolds. Again, the track has a cinematic sound. A bubbling, gurgling Hammond organ joins a rhythm section that combines funk, Kraurock and free jazz. It’s as of Can are jamming, feeding off each other and seeing what direction their music will head. However, it thanks to Hall makes perfect sense. The disparate genres combine to create a compelling, dramatic, dreamy and lysergic musical journey. As journeys go, it’s akin to climbing onboard the DB Netz and enjoying a journey from Cologne into the surrounding Saxony countryside.
Moonshake is the shortest track on Future Days. It lasts just under four minutes. It’s very different from the previous tracks. Can’s rhythm section is joined by bursts of subtle, chiming guitars. They provide the backdrop for Damo Suzuki’s soft, pensive vocal. When it drops out, futuristic, robotic sounds grab your attention. This results in the track taking on a sci-fi sound. Then when Damo’s vocal returns, gone is the sci-fi sound. Replacing it, is one of the most accessible, poppy songs Can produced.
Bel Air closes Future Days. It’s the centre-point of Future Days. It’s a twenty-minute epic, that’s one of Can’s finest hours. The multi-layered, ambient arrangement meanders into being. This comes courtesy of a chiming guitar, probing bass and washes of synths. Meanwhile, waves break on a beach. Soon, an ad-libbed vocal and searing rocky guitar combine. Both sit back in the mix, ensuring neither overpowers the mix. At the heart of the mix, is the rhythm section, who provide the heartbeat. They take the arrangement in the direction of Krautrock, free jazz, avant-garde, experimental and rock. Joining them, are synths and percussion, in what at one point, is a freeform jam. However, it’s more than that. Later, Bel Air heads in the direction of minimalist, ambient music. There’s even a nod to avant-garde music. From there, the music grows in power, becoming bold, confident, expansive and rocky. Can are on a roll, and become a musical powerhouse during this musical tour de force. It’s the musical equivalent to an impressionistic painting, where layer upon layer of disparate musical genres are spread upon Can’s musical canvas. These genres and influences are the equivalent of colours and hues, and play their part in an innovative and expansive musical epic.
Future Days was the third in Can’s golden quartet. Just like Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi, Future Days was hailed a classic. However, Future Days was very different from Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi. It saw Can, forever the musical chameleons, reinvent themselves and their music. This time, Can’s music moved in the direction of ambient music.
On Future Days, the music is atmospheric, dreamy, ethereal, melancholy, expansive and full of captivating, mesmeric rhythms. It’s also pioneering and progressive, with elements of avant garde, experimental, psychedelia and rock melting into one. Rather than songs, soundscapes describes the four tracks. Future Days and Bel Air showcase Can’s new sound. Bel Air was the Future Day’s epic. It lasted just over nineteen minutes, and takes you on an enthralling musical journey and brings to an end this cult classic which was the penultimate album in their “golden quartet.”
It was followed by Soon Over Babaluma which marked the end of Can’s golden period. This was the end of a period where Can were releasing some of their most innovative and groundbreaking music. There was a change of direction on Soon Over Babaluma. Can were without a vocalist. Kenji Damo Suzuki left Can and married his German girlfriend. He then became a Jehovah’s Witness. Despite the lack of a vocalist, Can continued as a quartet. They released Soon Over Babaluma in November 1974.
When Can released Soon Over Babaluma in November 1974, it received praise from critics. With a myriad of beeps, squeaks and sci-fi sounds, Soon Over Babaluma is like musical journey into another, 21st Century dimension. A musical tapestry where layers of music are intertwined during five tracks on Soon Over Babaluma. It followed in the ambient footsteps of Future Days and brought to a close the most fruitful period of Can’s career. Following the “golden quartet,” Can didn’t go into decline. Instead, Can continued to reinvent themselves and their music. That was the story of Can’s career.
Throughout their career, Can were innovators. Although innovative is an overused word, that’s the perfect description of Can. They were an innovative and pioneering group, who weren’t afraid to push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. That’s what record buyers came to expect from musical mavericks, Can, when they released their fifth album Future Days.
On Future Days, Can’s reputation for releasing ambitious, innovative, and influential music continued. Can it seemed that they could do no wrong, and forty-seven years after they released Future Days, they’re regarded as one of the most innovative and influential bands of the past fifty years. That’s why today, and in the future, Can music will continue to influence and inspire further generations of musicians and Especially, their “golden quartet” of Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, Future Days and Soon Over Babaluma.
Cult Classic: Can-Future Days.
Cult Classic: Peter Walker-Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important.
Back in 1967, Peter Walker released his seminal album Rainy Day Raga, which was released on Vanguard Records. Since then, it’s become a cult classic. Many people though, thought Rainy Day Raga wa his only album. It wasn’t and The following year, 1968, Peter released his sophomore album “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important,
It picks up where Rainy Day Raga left off, and proceeds to take things much further. So much so, that “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important has been described as: “the missing link between Ravi Shankar, Sandy Bull and Timothy Leary, in more ways than one.” This quotation makes “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important an album the everyone must hear once in their life. It showcases the considerable talents of a truly talented musician whose.
Peter Walker was born in 1938 and grew up in Medford, just north of Boston. His father played the guitar, and aged three, Peter first picked up the guitar. He was hooked. Having broken the strings on the guitar, his parents bought him a mandolin. This was an important part of Peter’s musical education.
By the time he was a teenager, his parents had decided that Peter should be a musical all-rounder. So, he Peter played brass, woodwinds, piano and later, harmonica. The guitar came later.
That came after Peter ran away from home. This was the real thing. Peter spent time travelling round America. Incredibly, he was still in the early years of high school. On his return, Peter took up the guitar. Sadly, Peter wasn’t given any encouragement.
Far from it. His stepfather was far from happy about Peter’s decision to take up the guitar. There was no stopping him though. Looking back, Peter thinks it was his way of connecting with his father, who he still missed after his parent’s split-up. While Peter played guitar, he was broadening his musical taste.
Using a radio that he’d hidden under his bed, Peter started listening to the Grand Ole Opry. Soon, his musical tastes broadened. Blues, folk, gospel, R&B and rock ’n’ roll. Peter was hooked.
So much so, that he started learning the songs he heard on his radio. He bought a capo and started learning all the keys. One of the first songs he learnt, was The House Of The Rising Sun. Soon, he realised that playing guitar made him popular.
Out of all of the ten-thousand students at the University of Cincinnati in 1957, only two people played the guitar. So, this more or less guaranteed them invites to any campus parties. After college, Peter became a beatnik. This was around 1958 or 1959.
Back in 1957, Jack Kerouac had released his seminal classic On The Road, a book which inspired dreams and for the lucky ones, road trips and easy living. Peter lived the dream. With his guitar for company, he hung around North Beach, San Francisco. It was during this time, Peter honed his sound. By night, Peter lived above the Bagel Shop in Grant Avenue. During this time, Peter met a cast of colourful characters.
Among them were Jim Gurley, who later, would find fame with Big Brother and The Holding Company. He was taking his first steps musically, as he learnt to play the guitar. Then there Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry, Josh White, Jose Feliciano, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Joan Baez, The Jim Jweskin Jug Band and Karen Dalton. Indeed, it was Peter who lent Karen Dalton the long-necked banjo that she plays on her classic album In My Own Time. All this was part of Peter’s development as a musician.
So were the early sixties. Peter was combining his time working a regular job and honing his musical style. This included hearing Ravi Shankar live. In 1962, Peter had bought a 100 string sarangi in 1962. He saw it in the window of a shop and was intrigued. Two years later, in 1964, Peter saw Ravi live. His music would go on to influence Peter’s debut. However, by then, Peter had been on a road trip.
The death of President Kennedy had affected Peter. He headed off, after believing his life was destroyed. During Kennedy’s presidency Peter had travelled back and forward between Mexico, buying guitars. After Kennedy’s assassination, Peter headed off on the mother of road trips.
First of all he headed to Spain. With the help of the US Consulate, Peter found a Flamenco teacher. This was Senor Pappas, who Peter addressed as Maestro. Throughout the winter, which he spent in Spain and North Africa, Peter studied Flamenco. Then when he headed back to America, he heard Ravi Shankar and began studying Indian music.
Hearing Ravi Shankar live inspired Peter. He headed down to Mexico and using a stereo he’d borrowed from his friend John Barrymore’s car, set about copying Ravi Shankar’s technique on the guitar. It took seven long months of playing along with a tape played at half-speed before Peter achieved what he set out to do. Being able to play both Flamenco and make his guitar sound like Ravi Shankar would result in a captivating debut album.
That would come later. Before that, John Barrymore Jr. took Peter under his wing. They’d become good friends. So, John showed around Hollywood. John introduced Peter as if he was a guitar maestro. Peter enjoyed his spell in Hollywood, but decided to return to New York.
Back in New York, Peter and Monte Dunn started playing together. Peter also played sessions at Columbia and had a residency at Cafe Au Go Go. It was there that a representative of Vanguard Records heard Peter. They liked what they heard, came backstage and offered Peter a contract on the spot.
Delighted, Peter accepted Vanguard Records offer. He set about recording his debut album Rainy Day Raga. Peter penned nine tracks and covered Lennon and McCartney’s Norwegian Wood. On its release in 1967, Rainy Day Raga seemed to pass most people by. It wasn’t a commercial success. Rainy Day Raga was described as: “the perfect L.S.D. soundtrack.” Since then, Rainy Day Raga has become a cult classic. Most people thought that was the end of the Peter Walker story. It wasn’t.
Following Rainy Day Raga, Peter began work on his sophomore album “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important. He wrote nine tracks and cowrote Mixture with Michael Chechik which were recorded and mixed at Vanguard Records’ Vanguard’s 23rd Street Studio.
As recording of “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important began at Vanguard Records’ Vanguard’s 23rd Street Studio, Peter would be accompanied by a talented band. This included flautist Jim Pepper, organist Michael Chechik, violinist John Blair and Jim Hotep on tabla. Midnite added tamboura and ondiolines came courtesy of New York Tactical Force. Peter played sarod, guitar and sitar. Producing “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important was Michael Chechik. Once “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important was completed, it was released in 1968.
When “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important was released in 1968, lightning stuck twice. It wasn’t a commercial success. Neither critics nor music lovers picked up on “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important. Again, it passed them by. Since then, only a small group of music lovers with eclectic tastes have appreciated “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important, which I’ll tell you about.
Opening “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important is Second Song. Wistful, eerie and exotic describes the arrangement. That’s before the drums gallop away and a flute cascades. The guitar is transformed in Peter’s hand. It takes on an Indian sound. That’s down to the tuning. As for his playing, his hands flit up and down the fretboard. It’s mesmeric. He joins forces with the drums and flute. There’s an urgency, fluidity and passion in their playing.
From the distance, an Eastern sound emerges. It’s captivating. So is Peter’s playing on I and Thou. Slow, careful and tenderly he plays his guitar. Behind him, subtly, instruments accompany. They weave in and out. Tamboura and tabla combine. However, it’s Peter’s playing that has your attention. His guitar has become an extension of him and his emotions. It’s as if his emotion, fears and frustrations flow through him to his guitar on this Flamenco influenced track.
Just Peter’s lone guitar opens Southwind. He plucks thoughtfully and gently at his guitar. Miles Davis believed space is left within the arrangement. So does Peter. Here, it adds to the drama. As do the tabla and flute. Together, they ask an unanswerable question. Peter and the flute match each other every step of the way for drama. Peter’s playing is exquisite. Jim Pepper’s flute proves a perfect foil for Peter.
Tenderly, but beautifully and soon, urgently Tear unfolds. Peter has your attention. Unaccompanied, he plays a spellbindingly beautiful solo. His playing veers between tender, strident, stark and melancholy. Heartache and hurt are ever-present and you can imagine a Tear falling.
Barefoot features a myriad of influences. Gradually, they all merge into one. Straight away, there’s the influence of Ravi Shankar. It comes courtesy of Peter’s guitar and tabla. Then a flute later joins gypsy violins. They’re played urgently, creating a joyous sounding track which you could dance Barefoot and carefree to.
Subtly and wistfully, Peter strums his guitar Gypsy Song, Tabla tremble and gypsy violins lay bare their soul. They’re played with tenderness and emotion. Meanwhile, the flute flutters above the arrangement. Even when the tempo rises, melancholy and soul-searching describes this track.
Circus Day has a similar wistful sound. Peter plays his thoughtfully and slowly. His playing takes on a sense of urgency. So much so, that it’s as if the flute is trying to reassure him. Try as it might, it can’t. Gradually, the arrangement grows. So does the Indian influence. Tabla and saron accompany the flute as they play with urgency, speed and fluidity. Somehow, they keep this up throughout the day, as of trying to replicate the happiness and joy Circus Day brings.
Blake Street veers between folk and Flamenco. Confidently, Peter plays the guitar. His playing is strident. Then as you think he’s about to change tack and head of in another direction, the song is over. Your left wondering what it might have become?
Tabla set the scene on Socco Chico. They march ominously towards you. When Peter plays the sarod, it’s thoughtfully and tenderly. He then plays his guitar with confidence. Meanwhile, the flute cascades across above the arrangement. It makes you think of an eagle in full flight. Later, Peter’s guitar playing becomes urgent. So do the tabla and flute during this dramatic opus.
Mixture which closes “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important, has a different sound. That’s because of new instruments, including an organ, ondiolines and sitar. There’s even tapes playing backwards. Slow, surreal and psychedelic describes this track. To that, I’d add moody and eerie. Meandering along, it proceeds to spring a series of sonic surprises, musical genres melt into one. Gypsy violins and tablas, psychedelia, jazz and rock combine to create a lysergic melange that closes “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important on a hypnotic high.
For Peter Walker, the commercial failure of “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important must have been ironic. The title “Second Poem To Karmela” is a reference to the book Sibbartha, which is the story of a man seeking enlightenment. Once he’s become enlightened, he decides to his newly enlightened self in the material. It’s during this part of his life, the man meets Karmela, a beautiful woman. Despite this, and his newly enlightened state, he decides to return to his monastic life. For Peter this must have struck a nerve. Having failed to enlighten music lovers, he turned his back on music.
For thirty-eight years, Peter Walker was lost to music. It was in 2006, that Peter made his comeback, when he recorded Second Raga For Peter Walker. After thirty-eight years in self-imposed exile, one of music’s innovators made his return. However, what might have Peter have achieved during this thirty-eight year period? Who knows? He may have become one of the most influential and innovative artists of his generation? We’ll never know. What I do know is that Peter Walker’s self-imposed exile was music’s loss.
It only takes one listen to Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important to realise this. It’s a truly innovative and influential genre-melting album. Lysergic, experimental and groundbreaking, Peter Walker was ahead of his time. That’s nothing new.
A whole host of artists have suffered the same fate. However, not all of these artists walk away from music for thirty-eight years. Peter Walker did, leaving behind two minor classics. The first of these is Rainy Day Raga in 1967. A year later, Peter Walker released his second cult classic “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important which sadly. has been overlooked since its release in 1968. Thankfully, Peter Walker’s groundbreaking, genre-melting sophomore album “Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important is starting to find the wider audience it so richly deserves.
Cult Classic: Peter Walker-Second Poem To Karmela” Or Gypsies Are Important.
Cult Classic: Bert Jansch-L.A. Turnaround.
On New Year’s Day, 1973, Glasgow-born Bert Jansch announced his intention to leave folk-jazz band Pentangle, and concentrate on his burgeoning solo career. This resulted in the headline: “Pentangle Split” featuring on the first edition of Melody Maker released in 1973. For some of Pentangle’s fans, this came as a surprise, while others thought that the writing had been on the wall for a while. Especially now that Bert Jansch was a successful solo artist who had already released seven albums since 1965.
By then, folk singer Bert Jansch was signed to the Transatlantic label, and had released his eponymous debut album to critical acclaim on the ‘16th’ of April 1965. Eight months later, he released the followup It Don’t Bother Me to plaudits and praise. It looked as if the twenty-two year singer was about to enjoy a successful solo career.
With things looking good for Bert Jansch, he returned to the studio in early summer 1966, and was once again, joined by his friend John Renbourn as he recorded Jack Orion. When this third album of traditional folk was released in September 1966, the reviews were mixed. While some critics were won over by the album, and continued to fly the flag for the folk singer, others felt it was a weaker album than its predecessors. Despite that, Bert Jansch’s star was still in the ascendancy.
As 1967, dawned little did Bert Jansch realise that this would one of the most important year of his career. He entered the studio to record his fourth album Nicola in April 1967, which was Bert Jansch’s first folk rock album. When it was released in July 1967, many reviews were positive, but some weren’t sure about the new direction Bert Jansch’s music was heading. Bert Jansch had realised that his music had to evolve to stay relevant, and increase his fan-base. However, this wasn’t the only change made during 1967.
In 1967, Bert Jansch was one of the cofounders of Pentangle, which joined included his friend John Renbourn, Danny Thompson, Danny Cox and Jacqui McShee. They would combine disparate musical genres including blues, folk, folk rock and jazz over the next few years.
Having joined Pentangle, Bert Jansch’s solo career was put on hold as the new band began honing their sound and playing live. Then in 1968, Pentangle released their critically acclaimed debut album The Pentangle on the ’17th’ May 1968. It was followed by another album of folk rock Sweet Child, which was released on the ‘1st’ of November 1968 to plaudits and praise. After this, Bert Jansch’s thoughts turned to completing his sixth solo album.
Bert Jansch had started recording his sixth album in October 1968, and completed the album in November, just after Pentangle released Sweet Child. Two months later, Birthday Blues, which was produced by Shel Talmy, was released in January 1969 and was hailed as one of Bert Jansch’s finest albums. However, it would two years before Bert Jansch returned with the followup to Birthday Blues.
Buoyed by the response to Birthday Blues, Bert Jansch joined the rest of Pentangle and recorded the album Basket Of Light with producer Shel Talmy. When it was released on the ‘28th’ October 1969, it was to critical acclaim as the album reached number forty-three in Britain. Nowadays, Basket Of Light which finds Pentangle fusing folk jazz and fusion is now regarded as a minor classic, and one the Pentangle’s finest hours.
Meanwhile, Bert Jansch was working on his seventh album Rosemary Lane, between June 1970 and January 1971. Despite working on the album on and off for the best part of seventh months, Rosemary Lane, which was produced by Bill Leader received mixed reviews. This was a blow for Bert Jansch who had invested so much of his time into recording Rosemary Lane.
Two months later, and Bert Jansch was back in the studio, and spent three weeks during March 1971, recording Reflection, which was a genre-melting album. Reflection found Pentangle combining Celtic music, country, folk, folk rock, gospel and even funk on what was an ambitious and eclectic album, but one that didn’t find favour with all the critics. Some were unsure of Reflection, and their reviews were far from positive. It was a case of deja vu for Bert Jansch after the response to Rosemary Lane.
Despite the reviews of Rosemary Lane, Pentangle eventually returned to the studio and began work on their sixth album Solomon’s Seal. By then, Pentangle’s contract with Transatlantic had expired amidst arguments and wrangling over royalties. This resulted in Pentangle signing to Warner-Reprise, who had distributed their albums in America. Pentangle released Rosemary Lane on Reprise in September 1972, but the reviews were poor and so were the sales. Things weren’t looking good for Pentangle.
They got even worse when Bert Jansch announced his intention to leave Pentangle on On New Year’s Day, 1973. Melody Maker ran the story Pentangle to split in the first edition of 1973. It was the end of an era, that had ended with a disappointing swan-song that sold badly.
By then, the members of Pentangle had all spent the advances that they had received from Reprise, and owed the company significant sums of money. It would take the band until the early eighties before the advance was paid off. That was still to come, and in 1973, Bert Jansch was looking for a new record label.
He was no longer signed to Transatlantic, and had signed to Pentangle’s old label Reprise. Bert Jansch’s debut for his new label was Moonshine, which was released on Reprise in February 1973. It was produced by Danny Thompson, and saw Bert Jansch combine baroque folk and folk rock which found favour with the critics. However, after just one album, Bert Jansch left Reprise and signed for Charisma Records.
By then, Bert Jansch had written Chambertin which was one of two songs he recorded with Danny Thompson in early 1973 The other was John Renbourn’s Lady Nothing, which later, became part of Bert Jansch’s nine album L.A. Turnaround.
Having signed to Charisma, Bert Jansch began writing the rest of L.A. Turnaround. Eventually, Bert Jansch had written eight new songs including Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning, One For Jo, Travelling Man, Open Up The Watergate (Let the Sunshine In, Stone Monkey, Of Love and Lullaby, Needle Of Death and There Comes A Time. Bert Jansch also penned the lyrics to The Blacksmith and Doc Smith wrote the music. These songs were joined by John Renbourn’s Lady Nothing and the traditional song Chuck Old Hen which was arranged by Bert Jansch, and became L.A. Turnaround , and was recorded at between April ad June 1974, at Sound City, Sepulveda, California.
Taking charge of production was former Monkee, Michael Nesmith, while some top musicians became Bert Jansch’s band. This included a rhythm section of drummer Danny Lane, bassist Klaus Voormann and guitarists Michael Nesmith; Jay Lacy who played on Of Love and Lullaby and Jesse Ed Davis who featured on Open Up For Watergate. They were joined by Red Rhodes on steel guitar, Michael Cohen who played electric piano on The Blacksmith, while Byron Berline played fiddle and mandolin on Cluck Old Hen. Meanwhile, Bert Jansch played guitar, piano and added vocals on L.A. Turnaround , which took two months to record, and was released in September 1974.
Critics on hearing Bert Jansch’s ninth album, realised that stylistically, L.A. Turnaround was very different to his previous albums. There were elements of country rock, and traditional English folk rock on L.A. Turnaround , which was hailed as a minor masterpiece from Bert Jansch.
As Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning opens L.A. Turnaround , straight away it’s reminiscent of Pentangle at the peak of their considerable powers. The same can be said of Of Love and Lullaby later in the album. However, elsewhere on L.A. Turnaround , Bert Jansch and his inimitable and idiosyncratic guitar style as he moved from acoustic to rhythm guitar. His guitar takes centre-stage on the Danny Thompson produced instrumental Chambertin, and on Lady Nothing a quintessentially English folk song rich in imagery, that brings to mind a late-evening walk in a garden in the home of Wadsworth and Blake.
Travellin’ Man is one of the country rock tracks, before the bluesy Open Up The Watergate (Let The Sunshine In) breezes joyously along. The cinematic sounding Stone Monkey features some of the best lyrics on L.A. Turnaround , as troubadour Bert Jansch returned to the country rock sound that suits him. Bert Jansch then returns to English folk rock on Of Love and Lullaby, and country rock on Needle of Death where a weeping pedal steel accompanies Bert Jansch, on this poignant and ruminative sounding song. It’s one of the highlights of L.A. Turnaround and showcases one of the great British singer-songwriters of his generation at the peak of his powers. The country rock continues on There Comes A Time as a weeping pedal steel accompanies Bert Jansch’s mid-Atlantic accent as he’s accompanied by one the finest and fullest arrangements on L.A. Turnaround .
Bert Jansch combines blues and traditional folk on Cluck Old Hen, which is quite unlike the rest of the album. However, it’s undeniably Bert Jansch and is reminiscent of his previous albums. Closing L.A. Turnaround The Blacksmith, which bursts into life and is a mixture of the old, the new and traditional folk. Again, it’s reminiscent of earlier albums, but still ensures the album ends on a high.
L.A. Turnaround with its mixture of blues, country rock and traditional English folk was Bert Jansch’s ninth album, and first for Charisma. Pentangle’s influence could also be heard on As Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning and Of Love and Lullaby. This made L.A. Turnaround an album that looked to Bert Jansch’s past, present and into the future.
Bert Jansch was hoping that L.A. Turnaround would appeal to his fans that had followed his solo career since 1965, the fans that embraced his folk rock sound and those that had followed Pentangle’s career. However, Bert Jansch’s decisions to head in the direction of country rock, showed that he was thinking about the future and hoping to broaden his commercial appeal on L.A. Turnaround .
That should’ve been the case as L.A. Turnaround was a carefully crafted album that was released to critical acclaim, and immediately hailed as one of Bert Jansch’s finest hours. That was no surprise as L.A. Turnaround was Bert Jansch’s finest hour, and by 1974, was the most accomplished and cohesive album of his career. By then, he had released nine solo albums, and depite L.A. Turnaround’s commercial failure this cult classic is a minor masterpiece and is Bert Jansch’s finest hour and a tantalising taste of a singer-songwriter at the peak of his considerable powers.
Cult Classic: Bert Jansch-L.A. Turnaround.
STEVEN TAYLOR-SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND OF EXPERIENCE: SHEWING THE TWO CONTRARY STATES OF THE HUMAN SOUL.
Steven Taylor-Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul.
Nowadays, many critics consider that the enigmatic William Blake was England’s greatest ever poet and artist. Some critics have gone as far as to say that he was the greatest poet and artist and artist ever. Blake was certainly a revolutionary whose work was innovative and influential.
The work of Blake has influenced everyone from the pre-Raphaelite artists, Romantic poets, writers like Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs as well as filmmakers, cartoonists and the great and good of music.
Everyone from The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin and David Axelrod, who proudly described himself as a self-confessed “Blake freak were all influenced by Blake.” So has singer, songwriter, musician and ethnomusicologist, Steven Taylor.
Recently, Ace Records released definitive versions of William Blake’s Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul. The album features twenty-nine tracks that are described as being “tuned by Allen Ginsberg and Steven Taylor” with the latter receding them posthumously for the album William Blake’s Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul. Its roots can be traced to July 1948.
That was when Ginsberg hallucinated the voice of Blake and began chanting two songs from Songs Of Experience. This was just the start for Ginsberg.
Later, he began to set Blake’s songs to his own arrangements. This was next step in what was a lifelong love of, and homage to the man who was by then regarded by many as England’s greatest poet and artist.
Then in 1976, Ginsberg was booked to play a gig at a college and needed a guitarist. One of the professors approached a student who could accompany him on guitar. That was the easy part. The student had to be able to accompany Ginsberg as he sang Blake’s songs. Fortunately, Steven Taylor was able to do so.
Little did Steven Taylor realise that this was the start of an association and friendship between Steven Taylor and Ginsberg that lasted three decades and twenty years.
Six years later, and the two friends were wandering through Greenwich Village, when Ginsberg said that Ed Sanders was rehearsing at One Fifth Avenue and why didn’t the gatecrash the rehearsal? When the pair made their arrival, Ed Sanders was rehearing with a trio and were hoping to play at the Mudd Club. Not long after this, fate intervened when the band began singing Blake’s Oh How I Roam’d, and Steven Taylor decided to add a harmony. Ed Sanders liked when The Fugs reformed he joined the band. However, his collaboration with Ginsberg continued.
During that time, Steven Taylor accompanied Ginsberg on guitar when he performed Blake’s songs to an appreciative audience of afficianados of the legendary poet and artist’s work. The continued to work together right through until 1996, but sadly, Ginsberg passed away on the ‘5th’ of April 1997 aged seventy. That day, America mourned the passing of one of a great poet, philosopher and writer. Ginsberg’s final words to his friend were “finish the Blake.”
Steven Taylor set out to carry out the final wishes of his friend and longterm musical collaborator. He began recording Blake’s songs his two books Songs Of Innocence and Songs Of Experience. Joining his were a band that included fellow Fug Scott Petito on acoustic bass, electric bass and keyboards, drummer Billy Atwell II, pianist Marilyn Crispell and Ross Goldstein on mellotron. They recorded the twenty-nine tracks on Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul which was recently released by Ace Records. It has been a labour of love for everyone involved in the project
Opening the album is Introduction, which is the first of eighteen songs taken from Songs Of Innocence. It was first printed in 1789, and was a conceptual collection that included nineteen poems. The book was illustrated and hand coloured by Blake. Among the other songs from Songs Of Innocence are The Shepherd, The Lamb, The Chimney Sweeper, The Little Boy Lost, The Little Boy Found, Holy Thursday and A Nurse’s Song. Some of these titles Blake revisited five years later in Songs Of Experience.
Blake published Songs Of Experience in 1794, which featured twenty-six poems. Eleven feature on Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul. A couple of the poems, The Little Girl Lost and The Little Girl Found had featured in Songs Of Innocence and Blake moved them between the two books.
Blake also used the same title on Holy Thursday and Nurse’s Songs, but the meaning of the two songs are very different. Just like all of Blake’s work they’re cerebral and thought-provoking.
Other poems from Songs Of Experience include The Sick Rose, The Fly, The Angel, The Garden Of Love and London. They’r just some of the eleven songs Steven Taylor and his band covered. These songs have understated and subtle arrangements which allow the vocal to take centrestage. That is the case throughout this captivating album, and the less is more approach works allowing the listener to focus on the songs and work out their meaning on Steven Taylor’s homage to his late friend Allen Ginsberg Ginsberg who prior to his passing asked him to: “finish the Blake.”
While he’s not quite finished this ambitious project, twenty-nine of the forty-five songs feature on Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul. It’s been part of Steven Taylor’s life for over twenty-two years, and the story so far features on Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul which was recently released by Ace Records. Steven Taylor has carried out Allen Ginsberg Ginsberg’s wishes with homage to, and reminder of the enigmatic genius that is William Blake who was England’s greatest ever poet and artist who was an innovator who has influenced everyone from poets, artists, writers and musicians, and will continue do so forevermore.
Steven Taylor-Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul.
Cult Classic: Rim Kwaku Obeng-Rim Arrives.
For collectors of Afro-funk and disco, many albums remain tantalisingly out of reach. This includes Ghanian drummer Rim Kwaku Obeng’s legionary lost debut album Rim Arrives. It was released in 1977, four years after a perilous time for Rim Kwaku Obeng.
He found himself stranded in London, without money, documents or friends. Soon, Rim found himself homeless, and spent six long and lonely months sleeping rough. It was only through a chance meeting with Joan Armatrading that Rim got his life back on track. This was the start of Rim Kwaku Obeng’s comeback.
By 1977, he found himself in San Francisco. Disco was at the peak of its popularity, Everyone was jumping on the disco bandwagon. Rim Kwaku Obeng was no different. When he entered the studio, Rim was determined to record an album that would fill dance-floors from Lagos to Los Angeles. He succeeded in doing so, However, it was long after 1977, that songs like Brushing Means Making Love, Gas Line and Believe In Yourself filled dance-floors.
Sadly when Rim Arrives was released, it failed to find the audience it deserved. It was only much later, that DJs spinning rare disco came across copies of Rim Arrives. They were the lucky ones. Very few copies of Rim Arrives still exist and those that do, change hands for up to £200. The story behind Rim Arrives is one of what might been. It was recorded by a truly talented and gifted musician Rim Kwaku Obeng.
He started life as Samuel K. Mfojo, in Begoro, Ghana.However, when his career in music began, he adopted the name Rim Kwaku Obeng. Music however, was in Rim’s blood.
Both his father and uncle were master drummers. It was no surprise when young Rim followed in their footsteps. Rim was a quick learner. By the time he was eighteen, he was a master drummer. There was no higher position. Or so it seemed.
Soon, Rim became the personal drummer to the Ashanti chief in his community. This was a position Rim held for the next eight years. He held this position until he was twenty-six, Then he heard the comedy group the Accra Trio.
They were playing a type of music that was new to Rim. It excited and inspired him. So much so, that Rim asked if he could tour with them. Given Rim’s position in the community, they agreed. It was to everybody’s benefit. He was after all, the Ashanti chief’s personal drummer.
This was the start of Rim’s professional career. It began with Rim touring with the Accra Trio. Then he was approached by Duke Oketa, the leader of one of the top Highlife bands in Ghana, the Uhuru Dance Band.
Over the next five years, Rim toured Britain, America and even Russia with the Uhuru Dance Band. During that period, he honed and perfected his playing style, Rim also became firm friends with Duke Oketa as the Uhuru Dance Band toured, All the time, their music continued to evolve. That was the case for five years, until Rim was called up and had to spend time in the armed forces.
Once Rim’s time in the armed forces was over, he was reunited with his old friend, Duke Oketa. He told Rim he was going to Los Angeles for a recording session. What’s more, he wanted Rim to accompany him. This was no surprise.
Rim and Duke travelled far and wide for five years. By then they had become firm friends. So when Duke Oketa headed to Los Angeles for a session, Rim went too.
By then, the Uhuru Dance Band could do no wrong. Every song they recorded, had the potential to be a hit. So, for their next session, Duke Oketa decided to head to Los Angeles, and one of the city’s top studios.
Once there, Duke booked a studio for a new recording. Duke, however, didn’t do things by halves. He booked one of L.A.’s top studios, A&M Studios. However, Duke wasn’t done yet. For his session, he hired a huge string section. They made their way to the A&M Studios expecting everything to be ready. It wasn’t.
There were no charts awaiting the string section. Duke had no option but to postpone the session for a week. Luckily, Duke knew a man who could have the charts ready within a week. That was his drummer and friend, Rim Kwaku Obeng. He got to work preparing the charts. Within a week they were completed. Duke was so pleased that he paid Rim $700. While all this was playing out, one Quincy Jones was watching on.
He just happened to be spending some time at A&M Studios. When Quincy Jones saw how Rim handled the situation with the charts, he was impressed, Preparing the charts within a week was a big ask. However, Rim managed it. So, Quincy Jones asked Rim to join him. Unfortunately for Rim. Duke got involved, and threatened to sue Quincy Jones if Rim left his employ. Despite ruining the opportunity of a lifetime, Rim stayed loyal to Duke. That was a big mistake.
After the L.A. escapade, Duke invited Rim to accompany him to London. Duke told Rim they were going to record with “a band called Traffic” and Joan Armatrading, who was then, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter. For Rim, this must have seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
When Duke and Rim arrived in London, they booked into a hotel. Everything it seemed, was going well. However, that was until Rim’s second morning in London. Rim discovered that Duke had checked out of the hotel taking with him Rim’s passport, documents, money and luggage. While the hotel staff were sympathetic at his plight, this left Rim with a huge problem, how did he get home? The answer was, he couldn’t.
With no money, passport or documents, Rim was stranded. What’s more, he had nowhere to live. In the space of little over twenty-four hours, Rim found himself homeless. For the next six long and lonely months. Rim spent them sleeping rough. He was down, out and destitute. It was as if his world had ended. Over the next six months, Rim experienced hell on earth. It was only after a chance meeting with Joan Armatrading that Rim turned his life around.
One day, Rim saw that Joan Armatrading was playing in Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. He recognised and remembered the name. Here was the young singer-songwriter that he was meant to work with when he arrived in London. So, he returned to Ronnie Scott’s the night Joan was playing. He couldn’t get in, given his dishevelled state. So, Rim tried plan B.
Rim found a phone box and tried to phone home, call collect. No luck. Eddie Lee who he was phoning wasn’t around. With things going from bad to worse, and Rim exhausted, he fell asleep in the phone box. That was until someone wanted to use the phone. Then Rim was on the move again. He was out of luck. Or was he?
Surrounded by hotels, Rim decided to try and find a hotel where he could either phone home, or spend the night. Then fate intervened, The hotel he decided to try was the one where he spent his first night in London. When the receptionist who had asked him to leave, saw the state of Rim she was worried. Rim told her what had happened, and slowly, she began to realise that he was a well known musician. So she allowed Rim to phone Eddie Lee.
Having got through to Eddie Lee, his old friend paid for a room in the hotel for three weeks. Eddie Lee also got in touch with Joan Armatrading
When she heard what had happened to Rim, and what he’d been through, Joan promised to help him.
No longer was London the lonely, scary place it had been for the past six months. During that period, Rim had survived by the skin of his teeth. It had been a terrifying time, Now life was looking up, and could only get better for Rim. Joan took Rim home, got him fed and cleaned him, and the next day, bought him new clothes. Soon, he was rehearsing with Joan’s band. Thanks to Joan Armatrading the next chapter in Rim’s life was about to begin.
By 1977, Rim Kwaku Obeng had gone from sleeping rough on the streets of London, to Los Angeles. He had struggled to raise the money to cross the Atlantic. Eventually, he had saved enough, that he could say goodbye to London.
When he arrived in L.A., Rim was able to stay with a friend while he found his feet. Soon, he was working with a group of expat African musicians. Some weren’t even professional. However, before long, Rim turned them into a crack band who were able to seamlessly, combine Western and African music. This fusion of musical influences, would feature on Rim’s debut album.
For his debut album, Rim Arrives. Rim had written seven tracks, He took the band he had honed, and augmented them with some top L.A. session players.
When the recording sessions for Rim Arrives began, Rim took his place in the rhythm section, where he played drums. That wasn’t all. He played piano, bells, clavinet, congas, piano, shaker and timbales. Joining Rim in the rhythm section were basists Baba Tunde, Max Bennett and Phillip Scott; and guitarists Arthur Adams, Jimmy Garrett and Kevin Way. Kwesi Topsy played congas, Fifi Essel shakers and Thomas Hensley piano. The horn section featured trombonist Steve Johnson; trumpeters Robert Hicks and Steve Kurash; and saxophonists Frank Mayes, Stanley Hood and Dennis Dreith who also played the flute. Anita Berry and Shirley Washington added backing vocals. Akua Sewaa switched between lead and backing vocals. Producing Rim Arrives were Rim and Kwaku Lynn. Together with a crack band of African and American musicians, they recorded what could’ve, and should’ve been an album of dance-floor fillers.
Especially with 1977, being the year disco’s popularity peaked. Everyone and anyone were releasing disco records. This included the biggest names in music, actors and stars whose career had hit the buffers. However, back in 1977 Rim was one of the rising stars of Afro-funk and disco. Rim Arrives, his debut album, many felt would lunch his career.
That didn’t happen. Instead, Rim Arrives failed to find an audience until much later. when DJs spinning rare disco came across copies of Rim Arrives. They were the lucky ones. Very few copies of Rim Arrives still exist. That’s until the recent release of Rim Arrives by BBE Africa. At last, this hidden gem can be heard by everyone. Here’s what’s in-store for them.
Gas Line opens Rim Arrives. Straight away, drums pound, horns sound and percussion plays. Stabs of horns are joined by what sounds like a party in the studio. By then, the rhythm section are laying down the funkiest of grooves. Meanwhile, Akua Sewaa takes charge of the lead vocal. It’s sultry and soulful. Backing vocals and blasts of horns reply to her call. All the time, the rhythm section and percussion are creating an irresistible, funky and dance-floor friendly backdrop. Add to this Akua Sewaa’s sassy,soulful vocal and belatedly, Rim has arrived.
As backing vocalists sing “Believe In Yourself,” a bass line bounds across the arrangement. Thunderous drums and stabs of blazing horns add an element of drama, while percussion punctuates the arrangement. The backing vocalists add a soulful sound to this anthemic dance track. It has everything you could want in a dance track. Funky? You bet? Soulful? Definitely. What more can anyone one with a track where African and Western influences combine seamlessly.
There’s a change of direction on Sunkwa (Life First). It has a much more traditional sound. Having said that, Western influences haven’t been negated. After almost cha-chaing into life, the Afro-beat influence takes over. A piano and guitar accompany Rim’s vocal. Then the horn and rhythm section combine with myriad of percussion. Rim unleashes a vampish vocal, as his band kick loose. It’s a joy to behold.
Backing vocalists add a jazz-tinged vocal as Funky Drummer deigns to show its funky delights. The drums are loud and proud. They’re accompanied by the rhythm section and guitars. Soon, musical genres are melting into one. As the vocal becomes soulful, elements of Afro-funk and disco can be heard. Soon, the track takes on a hypnotic quality, as Rim’s band lock down the groove. Playing a starring role are the backing vocalist, rhythm section and blistering guitar solo. The horns deserve an honourable mention, as five minutes of fabulously funky music shares its secrets.
Afro-disco with a funky twist. That describes Brushing Means Making Love. The backing vocalists get the party started, adding a soulful accompaniment to the pounding, dramatic and funky rhythm section. Stabs of horns punctuate the arrangement. So is percussion. Meanwhile, another sensual, sultry vocal is added. Harmonies accompany it, as elements of classic disco and Euro disco provide inspiration for Rim. By then, it’s apparent that Rim and his band are determined to the listener to 127 disco heaven.
Just the drums and percussion accompany the backing vocalists as Nothing Is Free unfolds. Soon, the bass and growling horns are dropped in. By the time the lead vocal enters, the arrangement is just the rhythm section and percussion. Backing vocalists respond to the vocal, as the arrangement builds. Horns blaze and growl, drums roll and a searing guitar solo is unleashed. It soars above the arrangement, as the band stretch their legs, before the track reaches a dramatic, and sassy crescendo.
Closing Rim Arrives is Spend Your Money. It follows a familiar formula to Nothing Is Free. Just drums and percussion accompany the backing vocalists. Then the arrangement bursts into life. Horns sound, guitars chime and chirp while the backing vocalists sings: “Spend Your Money, miser.” It’s impossible not to be won over by this track. Hooks haven’t been rationed during this good time, dance track. It has an anthemic quality. That’s not all. Like so much of Rim Arrives, Spend Your Money has a timeless sound. It has survived the test of time, and is guaranteed to fill floors and get parties started.
Rim Arrives was released in 1977, and like so many albums released during the seventies, they failed to find an audience first time around. It was only later, when a new generation of DJs were looking for rare disco to spin, that they came across copies of Rim Arrives. They were the lucky ones.
Given Rim Arrives wasn’t a commercial success, very few copies were sold. Later, in the seventies, a shortage of vinyl in parts of Africa, including Ghana, led to many albums being recycled. Doubtless, this included copies of Rim Arrives. That’s why nowadays, trying to find a copy of Rim Arrives in good condition, is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Even if an original copy of this cult classic turns up, clued up record dealers will be asking anything up to £200. No wonder as it’s essential listening for anyone whose interested in either Afro-funk, disco, funk or soul. The music on Rim Arrives is funky, soulful, dance-floor friendly and timeless. Rim Arrives is also guaranteed to fill dance-floors and get any party started.
Cult Classic: Rim Kwaku Obeng-Rim Arrives.
Cult Classic: Klaus Schulze -Cyborg.
By the time Klaus Schulze released his debut solo album Irrlicht in 1972, he had already been in what would prove to be two of the most important, innovative and influential Krautrock bands, Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel. Both groups would write their names into the history books. However, being in a band didn’t seem suit Klaus Schulze. He found that the endless discussions got in the way of the important thing, making music. He wanted to make music, not talk about it.
Klaus’ approach was to let the music flow through him. Other musicians seemed to want to discuss every aspect of the music. Meanwhile, Klaus wanted to improvise. It was frustrating, and stifling Klaus’ creativity. As a solo artist, he wouldn’t have to put up with the endless pointless discussions. So Klaus left Ash Ra Tempel, and decided to pursue a solo career.
When Klaus embarked upon his solo career, he was something of a free spirit. He was determined to make music that was unique. Klaus couldn’t point at an artist, and say: “that’s the type of music I want to make.” While Klaus was aware of minimalist composers Terry Riley and Steve Reich, this wasn’t the type of music he was considering making. They did share some things in common, the concepts of repetition, phrasing and sequencing. Apart from that, Klaus was heading in a different direction.
This meant Klaus was never going to be accused of following in someone’s footsteps. Musically, he had a blank canvas to work with. His palette of sounds were unlike other musicians. When he began recording Irrlicht in April 1972, Klaus musical owned an amplifier that wasn’t working; a guitar; percussion; zither; an organ; a cheap microphone and a cassette recorder. The cassette recorder and microphone he used to tape the famous Freie Universitat Berlin orchestra.
Before the recording of Irrlicht, Klaus had gone along to watch the Colloquium Musica Orchestra rehearse. As he stood and watched, he told the conductor “I like what you are doing, but could you do something different for me for half an hour?” With that, the bemused conductor asked “what would you like to have?” Klaus responded, with: “I don’t care, just play anything. I just want the sound. I’m going to play the tape backwards.” When Klaus returned half an hour later, his tape was ready and an integral part of Irrlicht was complete. This recording Klaus would alter with filters. Now, it was a case of bringing everything together. However, before Klaus did this, he would modify some of his equipment.
Klaus set about modifying the broken amplifier. He modified it, so that when he turned the volume up it caused feedback, tremolo and chirping sounds. The organ was modified by Klaus so that it no longer sounded like an organ. Along with his microphone and cassette recorder, Klaus set about recording his debut album, Irrlicht.
Recording of Irelicht took place in Berlin, during April 1972.With his bruised, battered and modified equipment, Klaus got to work, and the recording studio became a place where he could experiment. Using his modified organ and amplifier, plus percussion, zither and guitar, Klaus got to work. The backdrop for what was one of the most ambitious and experimental albums of 1972, was the tape played backwards. One thing was missing..synths
Incredibly, Klaus didn’t even a synth. While other artists owned banks of expensive synths, Klaus created an album that sounds as if it’s made entirely by an array of synths. Instead, Irrlicht, with its cosmic sound and ambient drones was a synth free zone. Instead, Irrlicht was more like an album of Musique Concrète. Klaus manipulated tapes, adding filters, delay, echo and an array of effects. The result was a trio of cinematic tracks that sounded like the soundtrack to an early seventies sci-fi film. It was released in August 1973 as Irrlicht.
While Irrlicht was well received by some critics, many critics failed to realise how important an influence Klaus Schulze have on music. He was a musical pioneer who would become a leading light of the Krautrock and Berlin School movements. However, very few German record buyers were aware of either movement. That was the case throughout Europe. Apart from a few discerning critics and record buyers, neither albums of Krautrock nor Berlin School found an audience. That would come much later. By then, Klaus Schulze would’ve released several albums, including his sophomore album Cyborg.
When Klaus began work on Cyborg, he was still hampered by the equipment he owned. While other musicians owned banks of expensive synths, Klaus’ only synth was a twitter synth, the VCS 3. This was progress, as Klaus didn’t use synths on Irrlicht. To the VCS 3, Klaus added the organ that featured on Irrlicht, percussion and his Revox tape machine. Again, this played an important part in Cyborg’s sound.
Just like Irrlicht. Klaus would use tapes of an orchestra. Klaus had befriended music students at Colluquim Musica Orchestra. They had recorded some rehearsals at the recording studio in Berlin University. These tapes were important for several reasons.
The first was that Klaus wasn’t making much money out of music. That’s despite recording albums with Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel and releasing his debut album Irrlicht. These albums hadn’t been particularly successful. So the only time Klaus made money through music, was when he played live. Other times, Klaus had to resort to odd jobs to make ends meet. He delivered telegrams to augment his income. Given his financial situation, Klaus like many Krautrock and Berlin School bands and musicians, couldn’t afford expensive equipment. With the cupboard bare, Klaus again used the tapes to augment his array of instruments.
The tapes Klaus had been given by the music students at Colluquim Musica Orchestra, he decided to splice with a razor blade, and add to the four lengthy tracks that became Cyborg. This wasn’t easy and took time, patience and practice. However, by the time he came to record Cybord, Klaus was skilled at cutting up the tapes and rejoining them. Later, Klaus described this as “adding spice.” However, adding spice took time.
Recording of Cyborg began in February 1973, and the sessions continued until July 1973. During that five month period, Klaus played organ, the VCS 3 synth, percussion and added vocals. He also took charge of editing the tapes provided by the Colluquim Musica Orchestra. They’re billed as the Cosmic Orchestra on Cyborg, which by what became Cyborg was completed.
During the recording sessions, Klaus had recorded four lengthy tracks. They ranged from twenty-three to twenty-six minutes. Given the limitations of vinyl, there was no way that the music would fit onto one album. So a decision was made that Cyborg would be a double album. This would prove expensive for everyone involved.
It wasn’t just that a double album was more expensive to manufacture. Artists receive a reduced royalty rate for a double album. So often, artists avoided releasing a double album. Not Klaus Schulze. He must have realised that he had recorded a truly ambitious and groundbreaking, Cyborg. It found Klaus experimenting, pushing musical boundaries and fusing disparate musical genres. This time Klaus, was taking further what he began on Irrlicht. However, how would critics react?
When critics heard Cyborg, many critics realised the importance of the album. They heaped praise and critical acclaim on Cyborg. One critic from the music magazine Flash, enthusiastically described Cyborg as “cosmic music.” This didn’t please Klaus.
This he felt cheapened and debased the music on Cyborg. Cosmic music sounded as if it was the soundtrack to the cheap sci-fi novels of Klaus’ youth. One man who liked the term cosmic music, was Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, the founder and in house producer of the Ohr label. It was the label that was about to release Cyborg. Soon, Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser had coined the phrase Cosmic Couriers. This was partly a nod to Klaus’ job delivering telegrams. The term Cosmic Couriers didn’t please Klaus, but was used to market this groundbreaking album, Cyborg. It was scheduled for release in autumn 1973.
When Cyborg was released in October 1973, the album wasn’t a commercial success. Instead, the album sold in relatively small quantities. It would be much later before Cyborg found a wider audience. That was a great shame, as Cyborg was a genre classic.
Synphära opens Cyborg. The arrangement drones almost dramatically. That’s until a melancholy synth plays. Still, the drone pulsates, sending out washes of dark, gothic and ruminative music. Meanwhile the synth adds a contrast, while the gothic sound of an organ plays. It sounds as if belongs in one of Berlin’s churches. Later, there’s a maudlin sound to the organ, as what sounds like a lament. Still the sound of the church remains. Even as sci-fi sounds fights for the listener’s attention. They disappear, only to return as traditional and futuristic sounds combine. By then, the organ drones, as space invader synth are fired across the bows of the arrangement. These sounds assail the listener, as they encircle the arrangement. It’s dominated by the dark, gothic organ and futuristic synths . Later, the dark, gothic sound lessens, the arrangement veers between futuristic, wistful, cinematic and dramatic. By then, it’s as if Klaus is providing the soundtrack to sci-fi film. This captivating, complex and cinematic conjures up a journey to distant galaxies. Quite simply, Synphära is a timeless epic
The sound of traffic opens Conphära, before a drone makes its presence felt. One wonders if this maybe inspired Kraftwerk to make Autobahn? Meanwhile sounds flit in and of the arrangement. It has a mesmeric, motorik sound as it pulsates. Just like on the previous track Klaus has layered instruments and sounds. Klaus uses them like an artist uses a palette, and creates this ambient soundscape. To do this, Klaus combines elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, experimental and musique concrète are combined with Krautrock. The result is a soundscape that replicates the sound of a city. What sounds like traffic and sirens can be heard . Later, as the drone dominates the arrangement, it sounds as if Klaus is taking the listener on a journey. That’s until the Cosmic Orchestra add a melancholy hue. They play an important role in what’s a pulsating, cinematic epic. Strings are to the fore, while synths and the organ combine. Slowly and gradually, the arrangement begins to reveal its deepest secrets. By then, ambient and cinematic become melodic, futuristic and otherworldly. Much later, the ghostly arrangement pulsates and drones, as motorik and elegiac sounds unite. Together they play their part in what becomes an ethereal, beautiful, dramatic and futuristic. This multi-layered epic invites the listener to let their imagination run riot. If they do, they’ll be richly rewarded, as they wallow in Klaus pioneering the Krautrock and Berlin School sounds.
Again, Klaus uses the sound of traffic to open Chromengel. That’s because the listener is about to embark upon a journey, a musical one. There’s a mournful sound as the journey begins. A cello plays, it’s dark, ruminative sound dominating the arrangement. Soon, strings and sci-fi synths are added. The result is captivating and beautiful. Before long, sounds assail the listener. This includes the sound of a helicopter. Mostly, the strings and sci-fi synths take centre-stage, creating a beautiful, but mournful sound. Sometimes, it’s futuristic and otherworldly, while other times it’s elegiac and ethereal. Resistance is impossible as this sci-fi symphony unfolds. Later, the strings disappear, and the arrangement features just the sci-fi sounds. Klais unleashes washes of eerie, otherworldly sounds that encircle and assaie the listener. This is Klaus Schulze at his most innovative, as this sci-fi symphony takes an unexpected twist, before it reaches a crescendo.
Neuronengesang closes Cyborg. There’s an element of darkness and drama as the arrangement decides to share its secrets. A drone dominates the arrangement, while sci-fi, space invader synths beep and squeak. Meanwhile, distant strings add a wistful hue. By then, the dark drone sounds like a ship sending out a warning in a storm. Already sounds assail the listener, and the cinematic sound taunts the listener, daring them to let their imagination run riot. As they conjure up scenarios, drones dominate the arrangement. They’re joined by futuristic, Star Wars synths. Later, it’s all change as the arrangement takes on an ethereal sound. Still, the synths beep and squeak. They’re then joined by the melancholy sound of the organ and elegiac sounds. Just like previous tracks, instruments and sounds flit in and out, adding to a track that’s variously symphonic, experimental and futuristic. There’s also darkness and drama. Beauty, melancholy and otherworldly sounds also visit, as the arrangement meanders, drones and pulsates. Always though, continues to captivate and compel as one would expect of an innovator like Klaus Schulze. He had just Cyborg released Cyborg, which would later be hailed as a genre classic.
Sadly, although many critics recognised that Cyborg was an important, innovative and influential album, it passed most record buyers by. Especially in Klaus’ native Germany, where he was one of a new wave of musicians who were writing a new chapter in the country’s musical history. It was only later that most German’s discovered the music of the Berlin School and Krautrock.
Cyborg, 1973 Klaus Schulze’s sophomore album was later regarded as a Berlin School classic. However, Cyborg also references Krautrock, plus ambient, avant-garde, drone, experimental and musique concrète. This genre-melting album features Klaus Schulze at his innovative best. He pushes musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes way beyond. To do this, Klaus used his various modified musical instruments and his excerpts from his tapes from Colluquim Musica Orchestra. These tapes added “spice” to this captivating genre classic.
Cyborg featured four cinematic epics. They variously understated, broody, moody, dark, dramatic and gothic. Other times, the music is futuristic and full of otherworldly and sci-fi sounds. Sometimes, though, the music is beautiful, elegiac and ethereal. Occasionally, the music is eerie, mesmeric and ruminative. Always, Cyborg has a cinematic sound. The same could be said of Klaus Schulze’s debut solo album Irrlicht. Both are cult classic and feature cinematic, multilayered soundscapes. They are full of nuances, subtleties and surprises aplenty. The result is Cyborg, an epic cinematic space symphony, which features musical maverick Klaus Schulze at his innovative best on a timeless genre classic.
Cult Classic: Klaus Schulze -Cyborg.
Cult Classic: Requiem-A World After.
For six months, George A. Speckert and Massimo Grandi laboured long and hard in Sparky Studios to record Requiem’s debut album For A World After. Eventually, the two men had completed what was an ambitious and innovative concept album, For A World After. It had been written by George A. Speckert and “tells the story of world annihilation through nuclear war.” Requiem had recorded a powerful and poignant musical statement.
Now that For A World After was completed, 1,000 copies were pressed. They were released on David Cassidy’s Daviton label later in the autumn of 1981. Sadly, when For A World After was released as a private press, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. For George A. Speckert and Massimo Grandi all their hard work, dedication and perseverance had been for nothing. It was a huge disappointment.
It was only much later that For A World After that For A World After began to find the audience it so richly deserved. This genre-melting, cult classic finds Requiem fusing elements of ambient, Berlin School, Krautrock and psychedelia on For A World After. In doing so, Requiem reference Berlin School pioneers, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Conrad Schnitzler, Dieter Moebius, Popol Vuh and Michael Hoenig. It’s a captivating album, and very different from the music that originally dreamt of making.
When George A. Speckert was seven, he told his parents that he want to play the viola in an orchestra. This came as something of a surprise as George had never played the viola. Despite this, the Speckerts encouraged and helped their son to follow his dream.
So did George’s next door neighbour, a classically trained musician. He took George along to performances by the philharmonic orchestra. By then, George was receiving music lessons, and night after night, week after week, was practising on his viola. The weeks became months, and the months became years. Still, George continued to dedicate himself to music. He was determined that one day, he was going to make a career out of music.
By the time that George headed to university in Evansville, Indiana, he was already a classically trained musician. University was the next part of George’s musical education. It was also where love blossomed for George A. Speckert.
During his time at university, George fell in love with his German pen friend. Once he had graduated, George headed to Germany to be with his future wife. However, this meant sacrificing his dream of playing viola in an orchestra.
Instead, George got a job as a music teacher in the village of Bünde, in North Rhine-Westphalia. The only problem was there was no call for a viola teacher, so George found himself teaching piano and the basics of composition. Soon, George was climbing the career ladder, when he became music director in the nearby city of Löhne.
Despite being a more prestigious post, George became frustrated at the amount of paperwork he having to do on a daily basis. This was stifling his creativity. After a while, George decided to rethink his plans.
He decided to spend half his time working as a school administrator, and the other half writing, recording and producing music. This was the best of both worlds for George A. Speckert.
Before long, he was a familiar face within the local music scene. George wrote songs and worked as a producer. Sometimes, he would work with local school bands. This could range from writing a song, producing their music or even programming a synth. Not that synths were commonplace. They were beyond the budget of most bands.
The first time that George A. Speckert came across a synth was when he was producing a children’s record. George had been booked to produce We Are The Wives Of The Wanted. He also ended up accompanying the three girls on synth. This was a first, and was something of a eureka moment for George A. Speckert.
Suddenly, George A. Speckert wanted to know more about synths and the nascent musical technology. He also realised what was possible with synths and the new musical technology. Soon George realised, that the nascent technology would allow him to record an album. That was still something of a pipe dream.
Before George could even contemplate recording an album, he had to buy the necessary equipment and learn how to use it. Fortunately, he knew of a shop in Herford, in North Rhine-Westphaliathat that sold synths. It was owned by another American expat, David Cassidy. He also owned a recording studio and record label. Both would play an important part in the story of Requiem’s debut album For A World After. That was still to come.
On his first visit to David Cassidy’s music shop, he helped George choose a suitable synth. Little did George realise that this was the start of a musical voyage of discovery. It was also the start of an expensive six month period for George. Over the next six months, George assembled an array of synths, plus a keyboard, sequencer, drum machine, organ and Fender Rhodes. This proved expensive, and used up much of George’s disposable income. The rest he kept in reserve for recording his debut album.
Having bought the equipment, George set about discovering how to use it. Soon, he was immersing himself into the world of synths, sequencers and samplers. For a newcomer to the nascent technology, it was a steep learning curve. Soon, though, George began to realise the opportunities that the new technology offered. This would soon include recording Requiem’s debut album For A World After.
Inspiration for For A World After came about after George spoke to a friend who worked for the German government and the possibility of an atomic bomb being dropped on Germany. They were worried about the possibility of a third world war, between the East and West. It was after all, the height of the Cold War. George listened as his friend explained that if an atomic bomb was dropped, there would be no survivors. This was a horrifying thought, but one that inspired George to write a concept album, For A World After.
During For A World After George: “tells the story of a world annihilation through nuclear war.” This begins with the two aggressors unable to set aside their cultural or ideological differences. Soon, they’re unleashing an arsenal of bombs and rockets. Before long, the world is totally obliterated. However, like a phoenix from the ashes, the world and civilisation rebuilds. After the Destruction and Devastation, the world gradually rebuilds. This George planned on doing over six cinematic soundscapes lasting forty minutes.
To make provide the soundtrack to this third world war, George planned to deploy his newly assembled arsenal of instruments. This included a Korg MS 20 mono-synth; Korg SQ-10 sequencer; Casioton CT 201 electronic keyboard; Crumar DS-2 mono-synth with a polyphonic string section; Jupiter 4 polyphonic synth; Crumar Multiman orchestrator and a Yamaha CS5 mono-synth. To this, George added a drum machine, organ and Fender Rhodes. They had all see better days, but would be utilised by George during the recording of For A World After. He would play each of these instruments.
The only other musician who featured on For A World After, was Italian guitarist Massimo Grandi. He had been introduced by David Cassidy, who owned the music shop George bought all his equipment from. Massimo Grandi’s guitar would prove to the finishing touch to For A World After.
With Massimo Grandi onboard, work could begin on Requiem’s debut album, For A World After. They spent six months recording when the album at Sparky Studios. Massimo laid down the guitar parts, while George took charge of keyboards, synths and the rest of the nascent technology. David Cassidy engineered the sessions and fulfilled the role of producer. Gradually, the album began to take shape. Eventually, six tracks lasting just over forty minutes were completed. All that reminded was for David to master For A World After.
After this, 1,000 copies of For A World After were pressed. It was released as a private press on David Cassidy’s Daviton label. George managed to secure a distribution deal for Requiem’s debut album. Alas, For A World After wasn’t huge a commercial success. That is despite the music being ambitious, cerebral, challenging and innovative. For the two members of Requiem, it was a huge disappointment. They had dedicated six months of their lives to For A World After. It would be much later when For A World After eventually found the audience that it deserved.
Opening For A World After, is Destruction. It portrays the world on the brink of destruction. From the distance a slow and moody arrangement unfolds. A code being tapped out on a synth, before rockets soars above the arrangement. There’s a sense of foreboding as synths replicate a siren. It seems that the first bomb has dropped, and what was once a nightmare scenario has become reality. Ethereal synths are joined by a crystalline guitar solo and replicate the post nuclear landscape. Still, the sirens sound, despite there being very little, if any chance of anyone surviving the resultant nuclear winter. Drumbeats signal its onslaught, while rockets and bombs seem determined to obliterate humanity. Synths add a dramatic and urgent backdrop, while others replicate sirens, rockets and bombs. Surely, nobody can escape from this onslaught as third world war plays out? It’s a realistic, poignant and cinematic portrayal and reminder of the Cold War era and what was the nightmare scenario.
Somehow, a few survive the onslaught of bombs and rockets. They’re left to face the Devastation. People have been injured, mutilated or poisoned by the bombs that have been dropped. Towns and cities are reduced to rubble. Requiem set about creating a dark, dramatic and bubbling soundscape. Listening to it unfold, it’s sounds as if the listener is looking down from a helicopter on the trail of Devastation. As the listener is taken on a journey, slow, buzzing synths and the occasional guitar create a dark, despondent backdrop. Sometimes, it sounds as if the sound of bird song can be heard. They seem to be one of the survivors. Later, there’s a rueful, wistful sound as Requiem successfully create a post nuclear soundscape. There’s a sense of despondency and hopelessness as synths glide and bubble and the drama builds. So does the bleakness that’s replicated by a bass synth. By then, the full scale of the Devastation becomes apparent to the survivors.
It’s only having surveyed the Devastation, that there’s a Realisation by the survivors that civilisation has destroyed itself. Suddenly, the survivors are left confused and despairing at the cruelty, damage and Devastation that mankind has caused. A bass synth is played quickly as washes of futuristic music assail the listener. They’re akin to the thoughts that assail the listener as that they’re struggle to make sense of what they’ve discovered. Fittingly, the arrangement becomes dark, ominous and takes on a sci-fi sound. This suits the mood of the survivors. Synths are to the fore, and glide darkly and ominously along. Meanwhile, an effects laden Michael Rother inspired guitar is addd. Still, the bass synth dominates the arrangement, while the guitar and glacial, ethereal synths play a supporting role. As the sound draws to a close, the darkness seems to dissipate. Maybe there’s hope for the future?
Relevation finds the survivors analysing what’s happened in an attempt to make sense of it. Many years have passed since that fateful day. Everyone has accepted what happened and are determined to learn from their past mistakes. They’re determined that this will never happen again. Meanwhile, the soundscape begin to unfold, and a pulsating bass synths joins with gusts of wind and sci-fi sounds. A searing, rocky guitar joins elegiac, ethereal synths. Some of the sounds used, are almost reminiscent of Destruction. However, there’s a sense of hope, hope for the future as the guitar plays. One can’t help but wonder whether the gusts of winds signal a rebirth, and a new beginning for the survivors? Especially as the drama builds. Soon, the pulsating bass slows down and the guitar hangs in air. It’s as if it’s signalling a new beginning.
It does. Construction marks a new beginning as the People Of The World design and build new buildings. This is part of rebuilding of the post war infrastructure. Straight away, there’s a Krautrock influence in the drums. Meanwhile, notes and chords are picked out on the banks of synths. Sometimes, stabs of synths add to what’s a hopeful and upbeat backdrop. It’s very different to what’s g before. Synth strings are used to sweeten the soundscape. Briefly, the synths used are reminiscent of those used during Kraftwerk’s classic period. Augmenting the banks of synths is Massimo’s guitar. He unleashes a blistering guitar solo which cuts across the arrangement. It’s the perfect foil for George’s synths, during the joyous backdrop to this new beginning.
Closing For A World After is Creation. Having constructed the material things, the People Of The World decide to reconstruct their thoughts and spirits. They decide that tolerance, freedom of thought, communication and understanding are crucial to this work of this “Brotherhood” where everyone is happy. Synths are to the fore, with waves of synths pulsating, ebbing and flowing. Meanwhile, the lead synth piays the leading role in what could be this utopian land’s anthem. There’s a sense of hope and poignancy as the music unfolds. It marks the start of a new era for the People Of The World.
After six soundscapes lasting just over forty minutes, Requiem’s poignant concept album For A New World is over. It: “tells the story of world annihilation through nuclear war,” the aftermath, and how the People of the World having learnt from their mistakes, and rebuilt a new and better world. Out of despair, despondency and Devastation, came a new beginning and hope for the future. However, when Requiem released For A New World in 1981, it was poignant and thought provoking album.
Back in 1981, it was still the Cold War era, and a generation on both sides of the Iron Curtain lived in fear of nuclear war. For A New World is a reminder of these days, and what was the worst case scenario. Requiem replicate the Destruction, Devastation and the Realisation that mankind brought about the destruction of the civilisation. Then Requiem replicate the Construction and Creation of the post war landscape. To do this, George A. Speckert deployed banks of synths and the latest in musical technology. Adding the finishing touch was Massimo Grandi’s guitar. Together, they were responsible for what is nowadays regarded as a lost classic.
When For A New World was released, the 1,000 copies failed to sell. That was despite being ambitious, cerebral, challenging concept album. For A New World was genre-melting, cult classic that stood head and shoulder above the competition. Requiem fused elements of ambient and avant-garde with Berlin School, electronica, experimental, Krautrock, psychedelia and rock. Similarly, Requiem drew inspiration from Berlin School pioneers, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Conrad Schnitzler, Dieter Moebius, Popol Vuh and Michael Hoenig. The result was a captivating and cinematic album, that was a heady and potent brew of musical genres and influences It should’ve introduced Requiem’s music to a much wider audience.
Sadly, it was a familiar story. Just like many private presses released on small labels, the Daviton label lacked the financial muscle to promote For A World After. However, George A. Speckert wasn’t going to give up without a fight. He negotiated a distribution deal which helped sales. Still, though, Requiem failed to sell the 1,000 copies of For A World After. Record buyers in 1981 missed out on hearing an ambitious, captivating, cerebral and challenging album of innovative and cinematic soundscapes.
It was only much later that Requiem’s For A World After began to attract the attention of record buyers. Soon, the album had attracted a cult following. Alas, by then, original copies of this cinematic and thought provoking concept album were changing hands for upwards of $500. It’s a much prized album for anyone interested in Krautrock or the Berlin School of Electronic music.
Requiem’s debut album For A World is a cerebral, cinematic, poignant and thought-provoking cult classic that’s a powerful reminder of the dark days of Cold War era, when Destruction and Devastation loomed large in the lives of people on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Cult Classic: Requiem-A World After.
Cult Classic: Stomu Yamashta-Red Buddha.
Too often, Stomu Yamashta’s role in the popularisation of world music is overlooked by critics and cultural commentators. They forget that Stomu Yamashta helped popularise world music back in the sixties. Right through to the seventies, Stomu Yamashta was one of the leading lights in the burgeoning world music scene. That was way before world music was supposedly born in the late seventies and early eighties. By then, Stomu had been fusing traditional and popular music for two decades. He had also released a string of cutting edge albums. That’s not to mention his work with supergroup Go. Stomu Yamashta was one of the biggest names in Japanese music. This didn’t surprise people who had been following his career.
Stomu Yamashta was born Tsutomu Yamashita, in Kyoto, Japan, on 15th March 1947. Growing up, he played drums and percussion. Very quickly, Stomu Yamashta found his own unique style. He perfected this during his studies at Kyoto University, Julliard School Of Music and Berkeley School Of Music. Before long, he was being recognised as an pioneering musician.
This lead to Stomu Yamashta playing alongside Thor Johnson, Toru Takemitsu and Hans Werner Henze. By then Tsutomu Yamashita had become Stomu Yamashta. He felt it had sounded better. Now sporting a new name, Stomu was playing alongside like minded musicians. Just like Stomu, they were determined to push musical boundaries to their limits. Soon, Stomu Yamashta was known worldwide.
In 1969, Seiji Ozawa was conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Stomu Yamashta was asked to make a guest appearance. This was a huge honour for twenty-two years old Stomu Yamashta. Most musicians would’ve been intimidated at the thought of rubbing shoulders with such talented musicians. Not Stomu. He stole the show, delivering what Time Magazine called a “virtuoso performance.” Coming from such an esteemed publication, that was high praise indeed. What a way to close the first decade of Stomu Yamashta’s career.
As the seventies began to take shape, Stomu Yamashta’s star was very definitely in the ascendancy. Stomu was in demand as a collaborator.
Stomu and Japanese jazz pianist Masahiko Sato collaborated on Metempsychosis, which was released on Columbia. This album of groundbreaking jazz music was released in 1971. It was a fusion of avant garde, free jazz and modern classical. Critics were won over by this cutting edge collaboration. Later in 1971, Stomu released his debut studio album as a solo artist.
Percussion Recital was released on Columbia, in June 1971. Critics hailed Percussion Recital an inventive, genre melting album. Elements of abstract, experimental and free jazz melt into one. That’s the case from Variations From Odoru Katachi which opens side one, right through to Uzu, which closes side two. It’s a groundbreaking album, one that’s assured and innovative album, one that forty-four years later, has stood the test of time. So has his first live album,
The World Of Stomu Yamashta was released in April 1971, on Columbia. It had been recorded in the small hall of the Tokyo Metropolitan Cultural Hall on January 11th 1971. When The World Of Stomu Yamashta was released three months later, this groundbreaking release showcased one of Japanese music’s rising stars. For many record buyers, this was their introduction to the Kyoto born composer, songwriter and musician. Before long, a followup was released.
Uzu: The World Of Stomu Yamash’ta 2 was released in August 1971. Exaedros I opened the album, before Stomu improvised on Nenbutsu and UZu. It was a spellbinding and imaginative performance. Especially given Stomu’s unique and innovative style of drumming. Critics eagerly awaited the release of Stomu’s next studio album.
Luckily, they didn’t have long to wait for the release of Red Buddha. It was released later in 1971, Red Buddha was named after Stomu Yamashta’s Red Buddha Theatre Company, which was formed in 1971. The Red Buddha Theatre Company would later tour Europe, and work with director Peter Maxwell Davis. That was in the future. Before that, Stomu Yamashta released his most ambitious album Red Buddha.
Work began on Red Buddha in 1970. For Red Buddha, Stomu had composed two new tracks, Red Buddha and As Expanding As. Both tracks were lengthy, filling a side of the album. Red Buddha saw Stomu deploy a myriad of disparate instruments. Metal strings, were joined by tambura, cymbal, musical saw and mandolin harp. Then on As Expanding As, Stomu combined a steel drum and skin drum with a marimba, cow bell and wood block. The result was music that was bold, ambitious and innovative. Red Buddha was released later in 1971, and further enhanced Stomu’s reputation.
When critics heard Red Buddha, they were won over by Stomu Yamashta’s ability to create music that was not just groundbreaking, but captivating and ambitious. It seemed with each album, Stomu was trying to reinvent himself as a musician. That becomes apparent as the musical adventure that is Red Buddha begins.
Just understated drums pitter patter as the meditative Red Buddha begins. The drums are panned hard left, while instruments flit in and out. A musical saw, metal strings, tambura and cymbal can be heard. Some make a brief appearance, others are here to stay. However, it’s the mesmeric drums that take centre stage. Mostly, the tempo stays the same. Sometimes, it rises, as if in response to the otherworldly, futuristic and sometimes industrial sounding arrangement. Other times the arrangement veers between melodic to challenging. Always, Stomu ensures that the music captivates. Not once does one’s attention wander. There’s almost a hypnotic and cinematic quality. Then later, the arrangement reaches an urgent and dramatic crescendo, before returning to its understated sound.
As Expanding As has a similarly understated arrangement. It’s just the drums that play slowly and hypnotically. They too are panned hard right. This leaves the rest of the arrangement free for Stomu to deploy his eclectic and disparate selection of instruments. They play their part in what’s a melodic but almost industrial sounding arrangement. Instruments are dropped in and out. Some are instantly recognisable, including a wood block, skin drum and steel drum. Other times, Stomu disguises their sound, transforming it totally. By then, elements of avant garde, experimental, improvisation and industrial music are being combined. Later, as a marimba interjects, an alternative, industrial orchestra provide a backdrop. They boing, drone, beep, buzz and jingle. The marimba rings out, providing a contrast as what sounds like a siren sounds. An element of urgency and drama is added as As Expanding As reaches a dramatic climax, before returning to the earlier understated and spacious sound. This is similar to Red Buddha, another track where Stomu Yamashta pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond.
By the time Stomu Yamashta released Red Buddha in late 1971, his star was very much in the ascendancy. He had already released a studio album, Percussion Recital and two live albums. He had also collaborated with Masahiko Sato on the album Metempsychosis. His most recent venture was founding the Red Buddha Theatre Company. It took its name from Stomu Yamashta’s sophomore album Red Buddha.
Stomu Yamashta recorded Red Buddha in 1970. A year later, this groundbreaking and ambitious album was released. The music is variously captivating, challenging, cinematic, hypnotic, dramatic and urgent. Other times Red Buddha is melodic and meditative. It’s a timeless album, one that was way ahead of its time.
So much so, that it’s hard to believe that Red Buddha is forty-nine years old. Stomu Yamashta was a musical pioneer. He was way ahead of the industrial music pioneers of the mid-seventies. Red Buddha incorporates a proto industrial sound. However, it’s much more melodic than the industrial music that came a few years later. There’s also elements of ambient, avant garde, drone, experimental and free jazz on Red Buddha. That’s not forgetting world music, which Stomu Yamashta Stomu had pioneered since the sixties. It shines through on Red Buddha, which was the most innovative album of Stomu Yamashta’s nascent career.
Following Red Buddha, Stomu Yamashta would release a string of innovative and groundbreaking albums. Constantly, Stomu Yamashta sought to reinvent himself musically. He also enjoyed success with his Red Buddha Theatre Company, lead the supergroup Go, composed film scores and worked with the British Royal Ballet. However, looking back and Stomu Yamashta’s long, varied and illustrious career, one of his finest moments has to be his cult classic and groundbreaking Magnus Opus, Red Buddha.
Cult Classic: Stomu Yamashta-Red Buddha.
Cult Classic: Tim Maia-Tim Maia (1977.
As 1977 dawned, Tim Maia had already released seven albums since his 1970 eponymous debut, and although some of these album had been released to critical acclaim and were a commercial success, the charismatic Brazilian singer found himself financially embarrassed.
Things had been going from bad to worse over the last few years and Tim Maia now found himself being chased and hounded by bailiffs and debt collectors on a daily basis. He needed his 1977 eponymous album Tin Maia which was recently reissued by Mr. Bongo Records, would sell well enough to solve all his financial problems. By then, Tim Maia was desperate and needed money, as everything he had earned since 1970 was long gone. Tim Maia had spent his money on cars, musical instruments and the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle which Tim Maia had embraced almost defiantly. However, it hadn’t always been like this.
Tim Maia, who was born in Rio De Janeiro on September the ‘28th’ 1942.Tim Maia was the eighteenth of nineteen children. Aged just six, Tim Maia earned a living delivering homemade food which his mother cooked. This Tim Maia hoped would be the nearest he ever got to an ordinary job. After that, Tim Maia decided to devote himself to music which offered him an escape from the grinding poverty that was around him.
It turned out that Tim Maia was a prodigiously talented child, who wrote his first song as an eight year old. By the time he was fourteen, Tim Maia had learnt to play the drums and formed his first group Os Tijucanos do Ritmo. They were only together for a year, but during that period, Tim Maia took guitar lessons and was soon a proficient guitarist. This would stand him in good stead in the future.
In 1957, Tim Maia domed vocal harmony group, The Sputniks who made a television appearance on Carlos Eduardo Imperial’s Clube do Rock. However, the group was a short-lived, and Tim Maia embarked upon a solo career. This lasted until 1959, when seventeen year old Tim Maia made the decision to emigrate.
Tim Maia decided to head to America, which he believed he was the land of opportunity and headed to New York with just twelve dollars in his pocket. On his arrival, Tim Maia who was unable to speak English, managed to bluff his way through customs, telling the officials that he was a student called Jimmy. Incredibly, the customs officer believed him and Tim Maia made his way to Tarrytown, New York, where he lived with extended family and started making plans for the future. By then, Tim Maia had decided he would never return to Brazil.
During his time in New York, Tim Maia held down a variety of casual jobs and it has been alleged that he even augmented his meagre earnings by committing petty crimes. However, Tim Maia also learnt to speak and sing in English, which lead to him forming a vocal group The Ideals.
During his time with The Ideals, they decided to record a demo which included New Love which featured lyrics by Tim Maia. When The Ideals entered the studio, percussionist Milton Banana made a guest appearance. Sadly, nothing came of the demo, although Tim Maia later resurrected New Love for his album Tim Maia 1973. Before that, things went awry for Tim Maia and he was eventually deported.
Confusion surrounds why and when Tim Maia was deported from America, and there’s two possible explanations. The first, and more rock ’n’ roll version is that Tim Maia was arrested on possession of cannabis in 1963, and deported shortly thereafter. That seems unlikely given how punitive penalties for possession of even a small quantity of cannabis were in the sixties. Indeed, it’s highly unlikely that Tim Maia would’ve deported, without having to serve a jail sentence first. This lends credence to the allegation that Tim Maia was caught in a stolen car in Daytona, Florida, and after serving six months in prison, he was deported back to Brazil in 1964.
Now back home in Brazil, Tim Maia’s life seemed to be going nowhere fast. He was fired from several jobs, and was also arrested several times. It was no surprise when Tim Maia decided to move to São Paulo, where he hoped that he could get his career back on track.
Having moved to São Paulo, Tim Maia, hoped he would be reunited with Roberto Carlos who had been a member of The Sputniks. Ironically, it was Roberto Carlos who Tim Maia had insulted before he left The Sputniks. Despite leaving several messages, Roberto Carlos never returned Tim Maia’s calls and he had no option but to try to make his own way in the São Paulo music scene.
Tim Maia’s persistence paid off, and soon, he had featured on Wilson Simonal’s radio show, and then appeared alongside Os Mutantes on local television. Despite making inroads into the São Paulo music scene, Tim Maia was determined to contact Roberto Carlos and sent him a homemade demo. Eventually, Tim Maia’s persistence paid off.
When Roberto Carlos heard the demo, he recommended Tim Maia to CBS who offered him a recording deal for a single, and an appearance on the Jovem Guarda television program. However, when Tim Maia’s released his debut single Meu País in 1968, it failed to find an audience.
Tim Maia tried a new approach with his sophomore single and recorded These Are the Songs, in English. It was released later in 1968, but again, commercial success eluded Tim Maia. Things weren’t looking good for the twenty-six year old singer.
Fortunately, Tim Maia’s luck changed when he wrote These Are the Songs for Roberto Carlos, which gave his old friend a hit single. At last, things were looking up for Tim Maia.
Things continued to improve when Elis Regina became captivated by Tim Maia’s song These Are the Songs. This led to Elis Regina asking Tim Maia to duet with her on the song. Tim Maia agreed and they recorded the song in English and Portuguese, which the song featured on Elis Regina’s 1970 album Em Pieno Veroa. Recording with such a famous Brazilian singer gave Tim Maia’s career a huge boost, and soon, he was offered a recording contract by Polydor.
Having signed to Polydor in 1970, and somewhat belatedly recorded his debut album Tim Maia 1970. Although it showcased a talented, versatile and charismatic singer, who married soul and funk with samba and Baião. This groundbreaking album spent twenty-four weeks in the upper reaches of the Brazilian charts and launched Tim Maia’s career.
The following year, Tim Maia returned with his sophomore album Tim Maia 1971, where elements of soul and funk were combined with samba and Baião There were even hints of jazz, psychedelia and rock, during what was an ambitious and innovative album of genre-melting music which was released to critical acclaim and commercial success. Tim Maia 1971 also featured two hits singles Não Quero Dinheiro (Só Quero Amar) and Preciso Aprender a Ser Só. Tim Maia’s star was in the ascendancy, and it looked as if he was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest stars in Brazilian music.
After the success of his sophomore album, Tim Maia headed to London to celebrate after years of struggling to make a breakthrough. For the first time in his career he was making a good living out of music, and Tim Maia was determined to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of his label. However, it was during this trip to London, that he first discovered his love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.
Realising that he was only here for a visit, Tim Maia embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and almost defiantly, lived each day as if it was his last. He hungrily devoured copious amounts of drugs and alcohol which became part of Tim Maia’s daily diet. Fortunately, his new-found lifestyle didn’t seem to affect Tim Maia’s ability to make music. That was until Tim Maia discovered a new drug that would prove to be his undoing.
In London, Tim Maia discovered LSD He became an advocate of its supposed mind opening qualities. He took 200 tabs of LSD home to Brazil, giving it to friend and people at his record label. Little did Tim Maia know, but this was like pressing the self destruct button.
Over the next two years, he released two further albums, Tim Maia 1972 and Tim Maia 1973 which were released to critical acclaim and commercial success in Brazil. The only problem was that after the success of Tim Maia 1973, Tim Maia became unhappy at the royalty rate he was receiving from his publisher. This lead to him founding his own publishing company Seroma, which coincided with Tim Maia signing to RCA Victor
They had offered Tim Maia the opportunity to record a double album for his fifth album. He was excited by this opportunity and, agreed to sign to RCA Victor, and soon, began work on his fifth album. Somehow, Tim Maia was still seemed able to function normally on his daily diet of drink and drugs. Before long, he had already recorded the instrumental parts, and all that was left was for Tim to write the lyrics.
Seeking inspiration for the lyrics, Tim Maia decided to visit one of his former songwriting partners Tibério Gaspar. That was where Tim main found the book that would change his life, but sadly, not for the better. The book was Universo em Desencanto (Universe in Disenchantment), which revolved around the cult of Rational Culture who didn’t believe in eating red meat or using drugs. Given Tim Maia’s voracious appetite for drink and drugs, he seemed an unlikely candidate to join the cult. However, sadly, he did.
Straight away, the cult’s beliefs affected Tim Maia and his music. Ever since he joined the cult of Rational Energy, he beam fixated on UFOs, Tim was now clean-shaved, dressed in white and no longer drank, ate red meat, smoked or took drugs. Always in his hand was a mysterious book. Tim Maia was a changed man, and even his music changed.
The lyrics for his fifth album, and RCA Victor debut, were supposedly about his newly acquired knowledge that came courtesy of Universo em Desencanto. With the ‘lyrics’ complete, Tim Maia’s vocals were overdubbed onto what became Racional Volumes 1 and 2. With the album completed, Tim took it to RCA Victor who promptly rejected the album.
RCA Victor’s reason for rejecting the album was that it wasn’t of a commercial standard. To make matters worse, the lyrics made absolutely no sense. There was only one small crumb of comfort, and that was that Tim Maia’s voice was improving. That hardly mattered for RCA Victor, who weren’t going to release the album. For RCA Victor, Racional Volumes 1 and 2 was huge disappointment.
That was until Tim Maia offered to buy the master tapes from RCA Victor, so that he could release the album independently. RCA Victor accepted his offer, which allowed them to recoup some of their money. Having bought the master tapes, Tim Maia set about releasing Racional Volume 1 in 1975. Sadly, it didn’t enjoy the same critical acclaim and commercial success of Tim Maia’s four previous albums. Suddenly, many of Tim Maia’s fans thought he was no longer the artist he once was.
After releasing Racional Volume 1 in 1975, Tim Maia returned in 1976 with his sixth album Racional Volume 2. Lightning struck twice when Racional Volume 2 failed to impress the critics and was a commercial failure. Nowadays, Racional Volumes 1 and 2 are cult classics, whereas in 1976 they tarnished Tim Maia’s reputation. Maybe this was the wakeup call he needed?
In 1976, Tim quit the cult after the release of Racional Volume 2. By then, he had fallen out with its leader and felt as if he had been duped. So much so, that Tim Maia wanted the master tapes to Racional, Volumes 1 and 2 destroyed. The two albums were part of his past, and now Tim Maia was ready and wanted to move forward.
Tim Maia’s music changed after Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2 as he entered what was the most prolific period of his career. This began with the release of Tim Maia in 1976, which saw the thirty-four year old combine soul, funk and MPB (música popular brasileira). However, although Tim Maia proved reasonably popular upon its release, it didn’t match the success of his first four albums.
Tim Maia 1977
Ever since he had been signed by Polydor and received his first advance, Tim Maia had lavished large sums of money on everything from cars and musical instruments to his continued love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. The rest of Tim Maia’s money was used to pay various fines he ran up, and to pay lawyers bills that had accumulated over the last few years. This came at a price, and by 1977, Tim Maia realised that he was insolvent. Almost every day, Tim Maia was forced to play a cat and mouse game as he left his flat as bailiffs and debt collectors who were constantly chasing him for unpaid bills. It was a worrying time for Tim Maia. However, Tim Maia knew that if he could record another successful album then all his financial problems would be solved.
After the disappointment of his previous album, Tim Maia returned with Tim Maia (1977) with eighth album which he once again, decided to call Tim Maia. It featured twelve new songs, including five Tim Maia wrote with various songwriting partners. He also wrote six new songs including É Necessário, Leva O Meu Blue, Venha Dormir Em Casa, Ride Twist and Roll. Flores Belas (Instrumental) and Let It All Hang Out. These tracks were recorded at three studios with some top session players and backing vocalists and was produced by Tim Maia.
He combines soul, funk, MPB and jazz with Latin influences, disco and pop on Tim Maia (1977). It’s a slick and carefully crafted album where Tim Maia is joined by lush strings, horns and backing vocals on an album where beautiful ballads sit side by side with soulful songs, funky tracks and even the instrumental Flores Belas. Just like on previous albums, Tim Maia is equally comfortable delivering heart-wrenching ballads and funky tracks.
Among the highlights are the uptempo opener Pense Menos, the beautiful ballad Sem Você with an arrangement that combines drama and lush strings. It’s followed by the funky and soulful Verão Carioca, while É Necessário is regarded by many as one of the highlights of the album. Three other beautiful ballads are Leva o meu Blue and Venha Dormir em Casa and Música para Betinha. They feature Tim Maia balladeer at his very best. Then on Ride Twist and Roll, the instrumental Flores Belas and the album closer Let It All Hang Out Tim Maia rolls back the years.
Sadly, Tim Maia (1977) which is a hugely underrated album failed commercially and thirty-five year old Tim Maia was a worried man as he continued to play cat and mouse with the bailiffs that hounded him day in day out. This wa very different to a few years previously.
Tim Maia had struggled to reach the heights of his first four albums, but on Tim Maia (1977) he was back with what proved to one of the finest, but most underrated albums of his career. It combines funk, soul, MPB and occasionally jazz, pop and disco. It’s a slick, polished but Tim Maia (1977) failed to find the audience it deserved. The maverick soul man whose career had been a roller coaster since making a commercial breakthrough with Tim Maia 1970 was still looking for an album that would transform his career.
By then, Tim Maia enjoyed every minute of the past eight years Tim Maia knew he was only here for a visit and set out to live life to the full.That was just as well as Tim Maia passed away on March the ‘15th’ 1998, aged just fifty-five. Sadly, by then, Tim’ Mai’s shows and behaviour had become predictable, and that had been the case since his 1976 post-Racional comeback. Tim Maia was never the same man or musician after his dalliance with the cult of rational behaviour. However, Tim Maia (1977)was one of the finest albums Tim Maia released after his post-Racional comeback and is a poignant reminder of one of Brazilian music’s most talented sons at the peak of his power.
Since his death in 1998, Tim Maia’s music has been a well-kept secret outside of his native Brazil, and even within Brazil, many people still aren’t aware of Tim Maia’s music. However, older record buyers still talk about the maverick singer-songwriter in hushed tones and remember the flawed genius that was Tim Maia who could’ve, and should’ve, been a huge star outside of his native Brazil. Sadly, something held him back, and stopped Tim Maia from enjoying the widespread commercial success and critical acclaim that his music richly deserved. That is despite Tim Maia being a hugely talented singer, songwriter, musician and producer, and proof of his considerable talent can be found on Tim Maia (1977).
Cult Classic: Tim Maia-Tim Maia (1977.
Cult Classic: Guru Guru-UFO.
By the late sixties, the members of many British and American bands were well on their way to becoming multi-millionaires. Especially groups like The Beatles and Rolling Stones who had been at the top for the best part of a decade, and were now enjoying wealth beyond their wildest dreams.
To look after their wealth, these groups employed accountants, investment companies and tax advisers. They ensured that their clients minimised their tax liability and became even wealthier. It was changed days. No longer were they angry young men angry. Instead, they were affluent and aspirational and many critics and cynics asked where had the spirit of rock ’n’ roll gone?
It was alive and well, and living in Heidelberg, Germany. That’s where The Guru Guru Groove, who later became Guru Guru, had been formed in 1968 by drummer Mani Neumeier, bassist Uli Trepte and guitarist Eddy Naegeli. However, even The Guru Guru Groove hadn’t started off as a rock ’n’ roll band.
Instead, The Guru Guru Groove’s roots were in the German free jazz scene. Initially, they had worked with Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer. who like drummer Mani Neumeier was a stalwart of the German free jazz scene, and already, had won a several prizes. However, by 1968, when The Guru Guru Groove was born, its members were embracing psychedelic rock.
The three members of The Guru Guru Groove had been won over by American and British psychedelic rock. Jimi Hendrix and Franz Zappa had inspired Mani Neumeier, Uli Trepte and Eddy Naegeli. So had The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. These bands inspired not just The Guru Guru Groove, but Amon Düül, Can and Xhol Caravan. They would play an important part in the nascent, but burgeoning German music scene of the late sixties.
Unlike the American and British rock scenes, commune culture played an important part in the German music scene at that time. The three members of The Guru Guru Groove lived in a commune in the Odenwald region, where they experimented with various hallucinogenic drugs. Many of The Guru Guru Groove’s early concerts took place in communes. Soon, though, The Guru Guru Groove were a familiar face on they university circuit.
The Guru Guru Groove organised concerts with the Socialist German Student Union. This wasn’t surprising. Like many German bands of this period, The Guru Guru Groove were politically to the left. They were essentially a socialist band, who unlike many of their American and British counterparts, had a social conscience. This became apparent during concerts.
Concerts organised by The Guru Guru Groove and the Socialist German Student Union were spectacles. The band didn’t just take to the stage, play a few songs then say their goodbyes. Instead, members of The Guru Guru Groove read political texts between the songs. Sometimes though, the concerts descended into near anarchy. This didn’t seem to matter. All that mattered was the music.
It was a fusion of free jazz, avant garde, psychedelia and rock with the three musical alchemists combining elements of these disparate genres, wherever they played. Sometimes, this included prisons, where The Guru Guru Groove introduced inmates to their mind bending sound. By then, they were well on their way to becoming one of the leading groups in the German underground scene.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Change was afoot. The Guru Guru Groove became Guru Guru, who would become one of the leading lights of German music. Guru Guru’s lineup would also change twice. Guitarist Eddy Naegeli was replaced by American Jim Kennedy. Then Ax Genrich was drafted in to replace Jim Kennedy. By then, Guru Guru’s lineup featured drummer Mani Neumeier, bassist Uli Trepte and guitarist Ax Genrich. This is regarded as the classic lineup of Guru Guru, and the one that recorded their debut album UFO in June 1970.
When Guru Guru entered the studio for the first time, Julius Schittenhelm who was a producer for the Ohr label, and his wife Doris must have realised that they were about to record what was, no ordinary band. Guru Guru were far from a power trio, featuring drums, bass and guitar.
The three members of Guru Guru unpacked, and setup a wide array in instruments and electronics. Drummer and vocalist and Neumeier added cymbals, gongs and a tape to his setup. Bassist Uli Trepte added various electronic items, including a transistor radio, mixer and intercom. New guitarist Ax Genrich added an array of effects pedals, including an Echogerät Pedal. Ax and the rest of Guru Guru were determined to record a debut album nobody would forget.
So it proved to be. Guru Guru released UFO on the Ohr label, later in 1970. It was released to almost overwhelming critical acclaim, and hailed as a groundbreaking fusion of genres and influences. These growing reviews lead to UFO selling reasonably well, and launched Guru Guru’s career. They’ve released over forty studio and live albums over a career that has spanned six decades. The first of these albums was UFO.
Stone In opens UFO. Ax’s searing, Hendrix inspired psychedelic guitar cuts through the arrangement. Its effects laden sound dominates the arrangement. The rest of rhythm section are left playing supporting roles. Briefly, Mani’s improvised vocal flits in and out. By then, Guru Guru are in full flow. Mani’s urgent drums join with Uli’s bass in driving the arrangement along. They’re still not equal partners. Not when Ax is unleashing a mesmeric, spellbinding solo as his fingers fly up and down the fretboard, delivering a guitar masterclass. It’s a stunning start to UFO, which showcases the combined talented of the classic lineup of Guru Guru, as they make their recording debut.
Sci-fi sounds arrive from the distance, before Girl Call bursts into life. Ax’s bristling guitar, a buzzing bass and crashing cymbals join with pounding drums. There’s even a burst of feedback. Quickly, Ax tames the tiger, before taking centre-stage. He unleashes another scorching, psychedelic solo. Then the baton passes to Mani, who showcases his trademark drumming style. Uli’s bass matches him every step of the way. As the rhythm section power the arrangement among, the Ax man returns. Soon, he’s spraying blistering, machine gun licks above the rhythm section. Seamlessly, Ax combines speed and accuracy, as the musical shaman works his magic on a psychedelic, rocky opus.
Literally, Next Time See You At The Dalai Lhama explodes into life. Guru Guru dive feet first into the track, with Mani and Uli creating a hypnotic, mesmeric groove. This allows Ax to unleash another barnstorming solo. Mani’s determined not to be outdone, and powers his way round his kit. Neither is Uli. The three members of Guru Guru raise their game. Elements of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath shine through. So do elements of avant garde, free jazz, psychedelia and progressive rock. Guru Guru play with confidence, swaggering their way through this genre-melting soundscape.
UFO finds Guru Guru at their most inventive. They utilise the array of electronic that they took into the studio. The briefest bursts of guitar make an appearance as Guru Guru improvise. Elements of avant garde, experimental and musique concrète shine through, as Guru Guru eschew traditional song structure. What follows is a cinematic soundscape, where the listener supplies the script to what sounds like a journey. That journey is on Guru Guru’s UFO, as they take the listener to an unknown destination.
A droning sound arrives from the distance on Der LSD-Marsch, which closes UFO. Like the previous track, Guru Guru improvise. This time, they create a lysergic soundscape. It’s dark, moody, eerie and ominous. Washes of guitar shimmer, while otherworldly noises squawk. Later there’s a series of beeps, as if Guru Guru’s UFO has landed, and is about to be impounded at. After that, Guru Guru return to a much more traditional song structure. Ax’s guitar references both blues and psychedelia. Mani’s pounds and powers his drums, while Uli’s bass runs match him every step of the way. However, stealing the show is Ax, who was the final piece of the jigsaw. His addition was a masterstroke. Not to be outdone, Mani unleashes another solo where his jazz roots are apparent. Later, Guru Guru become one, as they bring to a close their debut album. It’s Ax who steps forward and delivers another psychedelic solo, as Guru Guru close UFO with a flourish, and in the process, make their mark in German musical history.
UFO was one of the best debut albums of the nascent Krautrock era. Nowadays, UFO is still regarded as a Krautrock classic, and is, without doubt, one of Guru Guru’s finest albums. That’s no surprise.
The lineup of Guru Guru that played on UFO, is regarded as the classic lineup of the band. This lineup were together until 1975, when former Kollective guitarist Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkiel replaced Ax. However, between 1970 and 1975, Guru Guru released eight albums. This includes 1971s Hinten, 1972s Känguru and 1973 Guru Guru and Don’t Call Us, We Call You. By then, Guru Guru were on a roll, and releasing some of the finest music of the Krautrock era. This music found a wider audience that many other Krautrock bands.
That’s why Guru Guru were still going strong after six decades and several changes in lineup. The one constant was drummer and vocalist Mani Neumeier, who nowadays, is regarded as one of the finest German drummers of his generation. He’s made a lot of music since UFO in 1970.
UFO is a timeless Krautrock classic, which features the classic lineup of Guru Guru. Seamlessly, the three musical alchemists fuse avant garde, blues rock, free jazz, musique concrète, progressive rock, psychedelia and rock. The result is a truly groundbreaking journey, where gradually, Guru Guru show their inventiveness.
Rather than dive in feet first with one of the more experimental tracks, Guru Guru showcase their considerable psychedelic talents on Stone In, Girl Call and Next Time See You At The Dalai Lhama. It’s only then that they introduce the listener to their most experimental music on UFO, and the the first half of Der LSD-Marsch. Guru Guru it seems, have been breaking the listener in gently, and educating them. Only then, are they ready to hear Guru Guru at their music inventive and innovative on two groundbreaking soundscapes. These two tracks show another side to Guru Guru, which references the group’s free jazz roots. UFO particularly, finds Guru Guru improvising, and pushing musical boundaries to their limits. In doing so, Guru Guru proved pioneers.
Even today, Guru Guru’s influence an be heard on the latest generation of Norwegian musicians. Many of them, seem to have been influenced by groups like Guru Guru, and are picking up where they left off. It seems that Guru Guru’s music lives on through a new generation of musicians; and through a new generation of music lovers who have discovered their music
Many of those who are discovering albums like UFO, weren’t even born when the classic lineup of Guru Guru made their first tentative steps into the recording studio. They recorded what became a timeless Krautrock classic, UFO. Part of its success is down to Guru Guru’s latest recruit, Ax Genrich. His addition to Guru Guru was a masterstroke, in what was a musical marriage made in heaven, that resulted in UFO which is lysergic and a captivating and groundbreaking cult classic.
Cult Classic: Guru Guru-UFO.
Cult Classic: Skid Row-34 Hours.
By late 1967, Dublin’s vibrant rock scene was thriving with many newly founded bands playing in universities and clubs around the city. Some were already spreading their wings, and heading further afield taking their music to other parts of the Republic of Ireland. Its music scene had come a long way since the mid-sixties, when it started to take shape.
Since then, two recent graduates of the Dublin music scene had gone on to greater things, and were well on their way to becoming international stars. This included Ian Whitcomb and Bluesville and Van Morrison, the former lead singer of Them who had just embarked upon a solo career and released his debut album Blowin’ Your Mind! in September 1967. It charted on both sides of the Atlantic and gave Van Morrison a tantalising taste of the commercial success and critical acclaim that he would enjoy over the next fifty years. Meanwhile, a new group was already making waves on the Dublin music scene, and looked like it would be the next to graduate from the Irish music scene…Skid Row.
Skid Row had only been formed in August 1967 by formed The Uptown Band]s former bassist Brendan ‘Brush’ Shiels, drummer Noel ‘Nollaig’ Bridgeman, guitarist Ben Cheevers and vocalist Phil Lynott. They were all experienced musicians, and were veterans of numerous groups. Two members of Skid Row had been in a number of bands together, Brendan ‘Brush’ Shiels and Ben Cheevers. Skid Row they hoped was the band that would transform their fortunes.
Given Skid Row comprised experienced musicians, it wasn’t long before the newly founded Skid Row made their debut in September 1967. This took place at basement club in Lower Abbey Street in the centre of Dublin. Little did those that were present that night, realise that they had witnessed history being made and that Skid Row were in the process of writing their way into rock history.
By September 1968, Skid Row’s lineup started to change. First to leave was guitarist Ben Cheevers, who decided to continue working full-time in the electrical industry. There was a problem though. Skid Row didn’t have a suitable guitarist lined up to replace him. However, waiting in the wings was sixteen year old virtuoso guitarist Gary Moore who stylistically, modelled himself on his hero Peter Green.
Before Ben Cheevers’ departure, Gary Moore joined Skid Row and briefly, they became a five piece band. The two guitarists played together during what was hand over period. When Ben Cheevers left the band in September 1968, Gary Moore stepped out of the shadows and a star was born.
Meanwhile, Robbie Brennan temporarily replaced original drummer Noel ‘Nollaig’ Bridgeman until June 1969. Robbie Brennan featured on Skid Row’s debut single New Places, Old Faces which featured Misdemeanour Dream Felicity on the B-Side. The single was released on Song Records, an Irish label in mid-1968 and featured Gary Moore’s recording debut. Skid Row’s debut single was the only recording to feature vocalist Phil Lynott.
Later in 1968, Phil Lynott was dropped from Skid Row’s lineup after a bout of tonsillitis. During his absence, Brendan ‘Brush’ Shiels took charge of lead vocals. This spelt the end of end of the Phil Lynott. During his absence, Phil Lynott spent his time learning to play the bass. This was just as well, as his days with Skid Row were numbered.
When Phil Lynott returned from his illness, he was told that Skid Row were about to become a power trio. To compensate the disappointed Phil Lynott, Brendan ‘Brush’ Shiels gave him a bass that he had purchased from former musician Robert Ballagh for £49. Brendan ‘Brush’ Shiels also taught Phil Lynott how to play the bass, which he would put to good use when he formed Orphanage and then Thin Lizzy. However, little did Phil Lynott realise that his sacking from Skid Row was the best thing that happened to him.
Not long after this, Skid Row released their sophomore single Saturday Morning Man, which featured Mervyn Aldridge on the B-Side. Saturday Morning Man was released on Song Records. This was the last recording before Skid Row’s classic era began.
There was just one more change to Skid Row’s lineup before their classic era began. This was the return of Noel ‘Nollaig’ Bridgeman in June 1969. With drummer Noel ‘Nollaig’ Bridgeman, bassist Brendan ‘Brush’ Shiels and guitarist Gary Moore, the classic lineup of Skid Row would soon emerge as one Ireland’s leading bands.
During the remaining of the sixties, and into 1970, Skid Row’ emerged as one of Ireland’s best unsigned bands. They opened for the great and good of rock, including Fleetwood Mac. Peter Green was so impressed by Gary Moore’s guitar playing that he introduced him to Fleetwood Mac’s manager Clifford Davis and executives at the Columbia/CBS Records. This was the break that Skid Row had been looking for.
Not long after this, Skid Row signed to CBS, and began working on their debut album Skid with producer Mike Smith. Nine songs were recorded during the session, including a new version of New Places, Old Faces. However, the session wasn’t the most fruitful of Skid Row’s career. Only two tracks were released by CBS, when Sandie’s Gone (Part 1)and Sandie’s Gone (Part 2) became Skid Row’s third single in April 1970.
By then, a decision had been made by Clifford Davis that Skid Row should re-record their debut album, and change some of the songs. The other change was the producer.
While some of the Mike Smith sessions were well recorded, he had failed to capture what was an innovative and vivacious band at the peak of their powers. They had honed their sound during their US tour, and in the process, changed rock critics’ perception of what a power trio was capable of. Skid Row’s music had been inspired and influenced by a fusion of country rock and angular progressive rock that headed in the direction of jazz. These songs featured complex arrangements, but Skid Row were a versatile and talented band who were capable of producing virtuoso performances and making it sound easy. To capture Skid Row’s sound would take a special producer, and one who understood what the band were about. Clifford Davis’ suggestion was that Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac produced Skid Row.
Skid Row added four new songs to their debut album Skid. By then, Brendan ‘Brush’ Shiels had emerged as the band’s songwriter-in-chief writing Mad Dog Woman, Virgo’s Daughter, Heading Home Again, An Awful Lot Of Woman and After Im Gone. Gary Moore contributed Felicity and the three members of Skid Row penned Unco-Up Showband Blues, For Those Who Do and The Man Who Never Was. These songs were produced by Peter Green.
As the sessions for Skid began, Gary Moore arrived with his favourite guitar, a maple Les Paul Standard which Peter Green had sold him not long after the pair first met. While it had been well used, it quickly became Gary Moore’s favourite guitar. He put it to good use on Skid Row, which was just another recording session for the band. They took recording Skid in their stride. For Skid Row it was another day at the office.
Skid Row had already recorded a number of live sessions for the BBC Radio and a number of studio sessions. This was all good experience for the band. Especially, when Skid Row went into the BBC studios, which was home to some of the best engineers in London. They took pride in getting the best performance out of the bands that they were recording, including Skid Row.
With Skid recorded, Skid Row prepared for the release of their debut album in October 1970. Skid was hailed as a groundbreaking debut album and was quite unlike the majority of albums produced by power trios. It was a cerebral album, that married disparate and unlikely musical genres, while drawing inspiration from all manner of sources during what was akin to a musical roller coaster.
Skid Row flit between and combine elements of various musical genres. This includes blues rock and hard rock, which were important components in their sound. That was only part of the story, as Skid Row were very different to the many blues rock and hard rock bands that were around in 1970. Their sound was much more sophisticated and cerebral as Skid Row take occasional diversions via blues, country, fusion, jazz and skiffle on their genre-melting debut album. It finds Skid Row playing with as one, as they combine speed, accuracy and power on what’s a breathtaking debut album. The music is complex and urgent, as musical butterflies Skid Row flit seamlessly between musical genres.
When Skid was released in October 1970, the album reached number thirty in the British charts. Considering this was Skid Row’s debut album, this was a good start to their recording career.
By then, Skid Row had moved to London, where they lived in two houses in Belsize Park. However, much of Skid Row’s time was spent touring, and opening for groups like The Allman Brothers, Santana, Ten Years After, Jethro Tull and Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. The constant touring helped to spread the word about Skid Row, whose star was definitely in the ascendancy. However, after tours of America, Britain and Germany, Skid Row returned home to record their sophomore album 34 Hours.
For 34 Hours, Skid Row penned Night Of The Warm Witch, First Thing In The Morning, Lonesome Still and Love Story, Pt. 1. Songwriter-in-chief Brendan ‘Brush’ Shiels wrote Mar and Go, I’m Never Gonna Let You, Parts 1 to 4. These songs became 34 Hours.
When recording of 34 Hours began, Clifford Davis took charge of production. Watching and learning, was nineteen year old Gary Moore. He and the rest of Skid Row spent just 34 Hours recording the band’s debut album.
Critics on hearing 34 Hours realised that it was a much tighter album. It received the same plaudits and praise as Skid, and a great future was forecast for Skid Row.
This was proof that the weeks and months spent touring was time well spent. Skid Row had honed their sound through constantly playing live, and on 34 Hours showcased a much heavier, progressive rock sound. It featured two nine minute epics, Night Of The Warm Witch and Go, I’m Never Gonna Let You, Parts 1 to 4. They allowed Skid Row to stretch their legs musically. By then, Skid Row had matured into a much tighter, accomplished and assured band. Still, the music on 34 Hours was groundbreaking, complex and cerebral. There was still a spontaneity to Skid Row’s playing as they continued to combine speed, accuracy, power on 34 Hours
The result was 34 Hours, an album of music that veered between, caustic, cerebral, challenging and complex to energetic and explosive to forceful, urgent and vigorous. Still, Skid Row combined elements of blues rock, country, fusion and progressive rock on 34 Hours. Apart from the country sound of Lonesome Still, 34 Hours is hard rocking album of progressive rock that incorporates elements of fusion. This is a potent and heady brew, and should’ve found favour with record buyers in 1971.
Sadly, when 34 Hours was released by CBS in early 1971 the critically acclaimed album failed to find the audience it deserved. For Skid Row, this was a huge disappointment.
Throughout the rest of 1971, Skid Row continued to tour. However, in December 1971, Gary Moore left Skid Row. Thin Lizzy’s Eric Bell briefly filed the void on a temporary basis. Ironically, Gary Moore would later replace Eric Bell in Thin Lizzy.
Paul Chapman then became Skid Row’s new full-time guitarist. However, his time with Skid Row proved brief, and the band split-up in August 1972.
While Skid Row reformed in 1973, the original lineup never took to the stage again. Over the next three years, Skid Row’s lineup continued to change, until they split-up for a second time.
That was the end of the Skid Row story until 2012, when the band reformed and released their first new album in forty-one years Bon Jovi Never Rang Me. By then, the only original member of Skid Row was Brendan ‘Brush’ Shiels. While many welcomed the Skid Row’s new album, many couldn’t help but compare them to the two cult classics they released between 1970 and 1971. Skid and 34 Hours and feature Skid Row at the peak of their considerable powers.
On Skid and 34 Hours, Skid Row rewrite the rules for future power trios. They created music that was cerebral, complex, hard rocking, innovative and progressive. Skid Row also fused and flitted between disparate and unlikely musical genres during their debut album Skid.
That was the case on the much anticipated followup 34 Hours, which nowadays is regarded as a cult classic. 34 Hours, just like Skid, is a reminder of one Ireland’s greatest musical exports during what was a short but memorable musical career. Between 1967 and the the release of 34 Hours in 1971, Skid Row’s light was shining bright and their star was in the ascendancy as they looked like becoming one of the great bands of the seventies. Sadly, that wasn’t to be and they split-up before they could realise their potential and the Skid Row story is a case of what might have been?
Cult Classic: Skid Row-34 Hours.
Cult Classic: Sylvian and Czukay-Plight and Premonition.
By early 1986, former Can bassist Holger Czukay was now a successful solo artist, and was working on his fourth solo album was eventually released in 1988 as Rome Remains Rome. It was being recorded at Can Studio, in Cologne, and Holger Czukay was joined by drummer Jaki Liebezeit and guitarist Michael Karoli who had both been members of Can. They were joined by a new generation of musicians of who had been influenced by Can’s music, including Jah Wobble and former Japan frontman David Sylvian who flew in to Cologne to record the vocal to Music In The Air.
After leaving Cologne airport, David Sylvian was driven to the Can Studio in on of the city’s many taxis. However, that day, he never saw the best of Cologne. The leaves had long fallen from the trees, and pavements were covered in snow and it was cold, bitterly cold. Cologne looked like the backdrop to a Cold War movie, but that didn’t matter to David Sylvian who was about to work with Holger Czukay, who was a pioneering musician who had been pushing musical boundaries to their limits and beyond for three decades. Eventually, the taxi arrived and David Sylvian made his way into the Can Studio.
David Sylvian’s destination had once been a cinema in a former life, but had been converted into a recording studio by Can. The Can Studio was where the group had recorded many of their albums, and was where Holger Czukay recorded his previous album Der Osten Ist Rot.
After meeting Holger Czukay, David Sylvian was introduced to the rest of the musicians who were working on Rome Remains Rome and looked around the famous Can Studio. He noticed that there were mattresses were scattered on floor, but what he was pleased to see was a pump organ in the studio. Twenty-eight year old David Sylvian hoped that he would get the opportunity to play the pump organ during his stay in Rome.
Plight and Premonition,
Little did David Sylvian know that when he got the opportunity to play the pump organ against a soundtrack of orchestral samples provided by Holger Czukay. Meanwhile, Holger Czukay who was watching from the control room had the tapes running and was recording the former Japan frontman’s performance. He was in a trancelike state and was enjoying playing the pump organ. Music flowed through and out of him, and it was as if it was being channeled through David Sylvian. In the control room, Holger Czukay watched and listened, realising that something special was unfolding.
After David Sylvian stopped playing the pump organ, he stood up and moved across to the piano and sat down. As airy, ethereal sounds filled the Can Studio soon, music was flowing through David Sylvian as he continued to improvise. However, after just ten or fifteen minutes, Holger Czukay told David Sylvian via the talkback system to move on to something new, a different concept.
This was the pattern for the remainder of the remainder of the evening, with Holger Czukay coaxing and cajoling a series of performances out of David Sylvian. Later, as they listened back to the performances, the ambient, avant-garde music was atmospheric and spartan and seemed to reflect winter in Cologne in early 1986. However, although both musicians were happy with what they had recorded, they realised that although they had the basis for an album, they knew that there was still a lot of work to be done.
The music that David Sylvian and Holger Czukay had recorded that night, formed the basis for their first collaboration Plight and Premonition It’s a collaboration between two musical pioneers that began by chance.
After reviewing the recordings made during the all-night session at Can Studio, David Sylvian and Holger Czukay continued to work on their first collaboration. Holger Czukay who had collaborated on several albums took charge of production on what later became Plight and Premonition.
Holger Czukay wasn’t just the producer, and was soon playing an important part in the recording process. One of his earliest and most important contributions was the piano motif he added to Plight. After that, Holger Czukay added flute samples. Elsewhere, he used orchestral and piano samples, environmental treatment and deployed his trusty short wave radio. However, his musical partner took a different approach to making music.
Meanwhile, David Sylvian who was a talented multi-instrumentalist played piano, harmonium, vibraphone synths and guitar. They were recorded and manipulated by producer Holger Czukay.
He was joined by his old friend and former Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit who added infra-sound effects. His drums weren’t necessary for the recording of Plight and Premonition which was a beat free zone.
When David Sylvian and Holger Czukay completed recording and Plight and Premonition, they mixed their first collaboration in 1987. It featured two lengthy tracks Plight (The Spiralling Of Winter Ghosts) featured on the first side, with Premonition (Giant Empty Iron Vessel) featuring on the second side of this what was an ambient classic in waiting.
With Plight and Premonition completed, David Sylvian and Holger Czukay began looking for a record company who were willing to release their first collaboration. Record companies were reluctant to release such an ambitious and innovative album. The problem was it wasn’t commercial album, and Plight and Premonition would likely only appear to connoisseurs of ambient, avant-garde and leftfield music, and maybe, fans of Can and Japan.
Eventually, Plight and Premonition was released to critical acclaim by Virgin Records in March 1988. Ironically, both David Sylvian and Holger Czukay were signed to as solo artists to Virgin Records. Somewhat belatedly, David Sylvian and Holger Czukay’s first collaboration Plight and Premonition was released and sold well enough to reach seventy-one in the UK album charts.
David Sylvian and Holger Czukay had combined elements of ambient, avant-garde, experimental and musique concrète on Plight and Premonition. The music was variously atmospheric, beautiful, elegiac, ethereal, futuristic, haunting and otherworldly. However, much of the music that David Sylvian and Holger Czukay recorded was cinematic.
Plight and Premonition’s cinematic sound transports the listener back to the bitterly cold Cologne winter in early 1986. Other times, it’s like listening to excerpts from a lost sci-fi soundtrack as a myriad of otherworldly sounds chatter as found sounds and samples interject during the two lengthy soundscapes. For much of Plight and Premonition, the music sets the listener’s imagination racing.
Sometimes, though, when David Sylvian plays the piano, beautiful music seems to flow through and out of him. However, other times the multilayered soundscapes meander along and seem almost reluctant to reveal their secrets which is the result of the first collaboration between two musical pioneers.
Buoyed by the success of Plight and Premonition, David Sylvian and Holger Czukay’s thoughts turned to a second collaboration. This eventually became Flux and Mutability.
Flux and Mutability.
After David Sylvian returned from his 1988 solo tour, which was neither the most successful nor memorable of his career, he returned to Can Studio, in Cologne in 1989, to record a new album with his friend Holger Czukay. When David Sylvian arrived at Can Studio, he realised that the old studio had received a makeover.
David Sylvian noticed that a new mixing console had been installed in the Can Studio since his last visit. There was even new lighting and a new recording engineer in the Can Studio which seemed brighter and more modern. This would make recording David Sylvian and Holger Czukay’s new album much easier, which they made with a little help from their friends.
Just like their first collaboration at the Can Studio, David Sylvian and Holger Czukay played many of the instruments themselves. David Sylvian played guitar and keyboards, while Holger Czukay played bass, guitar and added vocals. He also took charge of electronics and used a Dictaphone as a makeshift instrument. Meanwhile, former can guitarist Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit who played flute and a high-pitched hand-held drum played on Flux and Mutability. Other guest artists included vocalist Michi and Markus Stockhausen who played flugelhorn. For Holger Czukay this seemed fitting as he had had studied under Marcus’ father Karlheinz Stockhausen who was one of the most important and influential composers of the ‘20th’ and early ‘21st’ centuries.
Again, David Sylvian and Holger Czukay recorded two lengthy ambient soundscapes Flux (A Big, Bright, Colourful World) and Mutability (“A New Beginning Is In The Offing”). Both were written and produced by David Sylvian and Holger Czukay. Later, they mixed Flux and Mutability, which was delivered to Virgin Records.
Flux and Mutability which was the much-anticipated followup to Plight and Premonition, was released later in 1989. Just like their first collaboration, Flux and Mutability was released to widespread critical acclaim. Critics heaped praise upon the two lengthy and carefully crafted soundscapes.
Just like on Plight and Premonition, the soundscapes on Flux and Mutability are atmospheric and cinematic. Flux which is cinematic and benefitted from a widescreen sound, where David Sylvian and Holger Czukay were keen to portray a brave new world where everything was “big, bright and colourful.” That was the case as the listener basked in Flux’s feelgood sound as the multi-layered arrangement meanders melodically along with weeping guitars and Eastern sounds playing leading roles in this seventeen minute opus.
Although sonically and stylistically Mutability had much in common Flux, David Sylvian and Holger Czukay took a different approach to recording this soundscapes. It’s akin to a musical tapestry which is woven by the two sound designers. Rather then thread, they weave using weeping guitars, electronics, samples and found sounds, and also deploy all sorts of effects and processing and result is impressive.
Together, David Sylvian and Holger Czukay create anther beautiful, cinematic ambient soundscape. It’s a case of less is more as it once again, the soundscape meanders melodically along, as the listener basks in the beauty that is omnipresent during this musical tour de force.
After the release of Flux and Mutability, David Sylvian and Holger Czukay never recorded another album together. Flux and Mutability wasn’t as successful as Plight and Premonition, which had only released seventy-one in the UK charts. That was the end of what could’ve been a long and fruitful partnership from two musical pioneers.
Despite that, David Sylvian and Holger Czukay went on to enjoy long and successful careers. Sadly, Holger Czukay passed away on the ‘5th’ of September 2017, seventy-nine. Holger Czukay was one of music important, influential and innovative German musicians of his generation. He recorded and released several classic albums with Can, and then went on to enjoy a successful solo career and collaborated on several albums. They’re all part all part of Holger Czukay’s rich musical legacy.
Nowadays the two albums that David Sylvian and Holger Czukay collaborated were released to critical acclaim and regarded as ambient classics. This doesn’t mean that they were both commercially successful. Plight and Premonition reached seventy-one in the UK and passed most record buyers by while Flux and Mutability failed to find the audience it so richly deserved. However, Flux and Mutability is a cult classic, and just like its predecessor Plight and Premonition features beautiful, atmospheric and cinematic music that makes the world seem a better place.
Cult Classic: Sylvian and Czukay-Plight and Premonition.
Cult Classic: Joe Turner-The Real Boss Of The Blues.
After enjoying a renaissance in its popularity during the early sixties, blues music was in doldrums. Soul had replaced the blues in popularity, and Stax, Atlantic and Motown were among the most successful labels. However, many of the new breed of rock bands had been inspired by the blues. This included Cream, The Yardbirds, The Animals, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Despite their patronage, interest in blues music was at its lowest in a longtime. This was why the late-sixties seemed a strange time to found a new blues label? However, that’s what Bob Thiele did.
For eight years, Bob Thiele ran Impulse, ABC’s jazz label and then when the jazz revival began, he convinced his bosses to let him found a blues label. This was Bluesway. However, he left ABC’s employ after a coup d’état at Impulse. The next step for Bob was forming his own labels.
When he left ABC’s employ, he decided to form a new label. Through working with some of the most innovative and creative musicians in the history of jazz, Bob Thiele realised that often, large record companies aren’t the best environment for innovative and creative musicians. Often, these musical mavericks didn’t thrive within such an orthodox environment. Their creativity is restricted, and they’re unable to experiment and innovate like they’d like. So, Bob Thiele decided to create an environment where this would be possible. This was Flying Dutchman Productions and its blues subsidiary Bluestime.
Before long, Bluestime became home to many of the artists formerly signed to Bluesway. This included one of Bob Thiele’s favourite blues players, Joe Turner. The man the called The Boss Of The Blues was approaching veteran status. Now fifty-nine, he’d been signed to ABC’s blues subsidiary Bluesway. Joe Turner would become Bob’s latest signing to Bluestime, where he recorded The Real Boss Of The Blues. It was a very different album and saw the veteran bluesman’s music given a makeover.
Bob Thiele realised that with many artists and bands name checking blues artists who’d influence them, some of the people buying their records would decided to find out what blues music was about. There was a problem though. Blues music hadn’t really moved with the times. The music was still the same as it had been twenty-years before, when the blues went electric. Back them, this was a step too far or many blues purists. What would record buyers and fans of Joe Turner think of Bob Thiele’s decision to turn his new label Bluestime into a contemporary blues’ label?
Joe Turner had spent a lifetime playing the blues. He was born Joseph Vernon Turner Jr, in Kansas City, Missouri. When Joe was four, his father died in a train accident. However from an early age, music was a constant in Joe’s life. He sang at church and later, sang on street corners. Then in 1925, fourteen year old Joe Turner quit school and inadvertently, his career began.
His first job on leaving school was a chef. He then moved on to working as a barman. During his time working in the bar, Joe gained the reputation as The Singing Barman. Soon, he and pianist Pete Johnson were making a living working in Kansas City clubs. One of the clubs was run by Piney Brown, who inspired one of Joe’s best known songs, Piney Brown Blues. During this period, Joe and boogie woogie pianist Pete Johnson were making a name for themselves.
So much so, that they headed to New York and appeared on the same bill as Benny Goodman. After that, Joe and Pete returned to Kansas City. New York weren’t quite ready for Joe and Pete. They were ahead of their time. It took until 1938, when talent scout John H. Hammond realised their potential. He asked them back to New York to play at his From Spirituals to Swing concerts. The bill featured everything from gospel, blues and swing. These concerts featured integrated audiences and helped bring jazz and blues to a wider audience. For Joe and Pete, success was just round the corner. This started with the hit single Roll ‘Em Pete.
After that, Joe became resident at the New York nightclub Cafe Society in 1939. Then in 1941, Joe took part in Duke Ellington’s revue Jump For Joy. This meant a Hollywood debut for Joe. Three years later, Joe was back in L.A. providing the vocals for Meade “Lux” Lew’s silent movies. Then two years later, Joe and Pete founded their bar The Blue Moon Club in Los Angeles. That year, he signed to National Records.
At National Records, Joe worked with Herb Abramson. Soon, Joe was enjoying hits with S.K. Blues, My Gal’s A Jockey and Around The Clock. He then duetted with blues shouter Wynonie Harris on Battle of the Blues. While the singles sold well locally, this didn’t translate to national success. However, in 1947, Joe signed to a new label that Herb Abramson co-founded with Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun…Atlantic Records.
During his time at Atlantic, Joe Turner released both blues and rock ’n’ roll. However, it was rock ’n’ roll that Joe made his name releasing. Between 1950 and 1956 and he enjoyed fourteen top ten US R&B singles. This included two US R&B number ones, 1953s Honey Hush and Joe’s biggest hit Shake, Rattle and Roll. This fusion of twelve-bar blues and rock ’n’ roll helped transform Joe into a huge star. It was also during this time Joe released his debut album.
Whilst at Atlantic Records that Joe Turner released his debut solo album, 1956s The Boss of the Blues. The Boss Of The Blues Sings Kansas City Jazz followed later in 1956. Soon, Joe was releasing at least one album a year. Rock and Roll followed in 1957. Then in 1958 Joe released Rockin’ The Blues. 1959 was the end of what was a golden period in his career.
After leaving Atlantic, Joe turned his back on rock ’n’ roll. No longer was popular music for him. Maybe it was a case of returning to what he loved. Unfortunately, this coincided with a downturn in his career.
For much of the sixties, Joe combined playing live with recording a series of albums. This included Joe Turner With Pete Johnson’s Orchestra’s Jumpin’ The Blues, which was released in 1962 on Arthoolie. During this period, Joe’s albums didn’t sell well. Then in 1967, Joe recorded Singing The Blues for ABC’s jazz label Bluesway. Sadly, there was no followup. By then, Bob Thiele who ran Bluesway had been ousted. He founded Bluestime, which signed Joe Turner in 1969.
The newly founded Bluestime was trying to give blues music a more contemporary sound. For too long, many people felt, the blues had stood still. It was almost resistant to change. Not any more. Bob Thiele introduced fatback drumming, bubbling bass and rocky riffing guitars. This would all feature on the eight tracks that became The Real Boss Of The Blues.
For The Real Boss Of The Blues, a combination of old favourites and new tracks were chosen. Joe covered Charles Calhoun’s Shake, Rattle and Roll, Lou Turner’s Honey Hush, Carless Love and Leroy Carr’s How Long, How Long Blues. There was also a cover of Teddy McRae and Charles Singleton’s Lonesone Train and Joe’s Corrine, Corrina. Ted Murrell’s Two Loves Have I and Len Chandler’s Plastic Man completed The Real Boss Of The Blues. These eight tracks were arranged by Gene Page, produced by Bob Thiele and featured some top blues players.
When the band entered the studio to record The Real Boss Of The Blues, Bob Thiele had put together a crack band. The rhythm section included drummer Paul Humphrey, bassist Max Bennett and guitarist Louie Shelton. Tom Scott added tenor saxophone. Joe sang lead vocals, while Bob Thiele produced The Real Boss Of The Blues, which was released in 1969.
Despite Joe Turner’s music being given a makeover, The Real Boss Of The Blues wasn’t a commercial success. It passed both critics and music lovers by. Since then, The Real Boss Of The Blues has become a real rarity among blues fans. At last, this blues rarity has been release by Joe Turner and features the blues veteran doing what he spent a lifetime doing, singing the blues. That’s what The Real Boss Of The Blues does well.
Horns blaze, guitars chime and a wandering bass combines with a piano. They set the scene for Joe’s vocal on Shake, Rattle And Roll, which opens The Real Boss Of The Blues. Straight away, the years roll back for Joe. Fifteen years to be precise, when this gave him a number one single. Joe ensures the songs swings. Stabs of horns, pounding piano and riffing guitars accompany Joe. At the heart of the arrangement’s success are the horns and Joe’s despairing vocal as he gives a classic track a modern makeover.
Straight away, there’s a melancholy sound to Lonesome Train. Accompanied by rasping horns, rumbling bass and searing, blistering guitars, blues and rock combines. Heartache and hurt fills Joe’s vocal. It’s slow and oozes emotion. Enveloping Joe’s vocal is an arrangement that’s a fusion of power, drama and sadness. This results in one of the album’s highlights from The Real Boss Of The Blues.
Corrine, Corrina bursts into life, and is driven along by a harmonica, piano and rhythm section, complete with bubbling bass. Joe grabs the song, breezes life and emotion into it. It becomes a joyous celebration where Joe and his all-star band create a blistering slice of electric blues that truly, deserves a wider audience.
Slow, moody and bluesy describes Joe’s take on How Long, How Long Blues. Just a plodding bass, crystalline guitar and stabs of piano enter, before Joe’s lived-in vocal enters. It sounds as if he’s lived and survived the lyrics. At just the right moment, Bob Thiele drops the horns in and they’re the perfect accompaniment to Joe’s needy, pleading vocal.
From the get-go, the tempo rises on Careless Love. The rhythm section take charge, driving the arrangement along. Meanwhile, Joe’s vocal is frustrated and angry. With his band lock into a tight groove, horns are unleashed. They blaze above the arrangement, and really lift the track. It’s a transformation, as the song swings. That’s still the case when a flute enters. Accompanied by the horns, Joe heads for the finishing line doing what he does best, singing the blues.
Two Loves Have I has a much more contemporary sound. That’s down to the horns. They seems to have been influenced by soul music, that was popular during 1969. Having said that, Joe’s vocal is is reminiscent of Van Morrison as he grabs the song and lives it. Meanwhile, horns bray and the rhythm section provide the heartbeat to the arrangement. With its much more contemporary sound, it’s another of the highlights of The Real Boss Of The Blues. Bob Theile, it seems, achieved what he set out to do, give the blues a musical makeover.
Honey Hush is a cover of Joe’s first number one US R&B single. That was in 1953. Here, the song takes on new life. A blues harmonica and meandering helps propel the arrangement along. The rest of the band provide the heartbeat. It’s the harmonica, Joe’s vocal and later, a blistering saxophone solo that are at the heart of the reinvention of one of Joe’s best known songs. His high kicking vocal sees Joe Turner roll back the years.
Plastic Man, an eleven minute contemporary blues track closes The Real Boss Of The Blues. A blistering bluesy harmonica and riffing guitars envelop Joe’s heartbroken vocal. The drums and pulsating bass provides the heartbeat to a track that’s slow, moody and bluesy. Riffing guitars soar above the arrangement, while bursts of boogie woogie piano add to this blues epic. It’s as if Joe and his band are enjoying the opportunity to stretch their legs musically on this glorious blues jam. Later, growling horns are unleashed, soaring above the arrangement. Just like the jazz bands Joe played in earlier in his career, everyone gets the chance to shine. There’s no passengers in this band, just top class musicians, who Joe inspires to even greater heights. This modern blues Magnus Opus proves the perfect way to close The Real Boss Of The Blues.
Bob Thiele’s decision to give blues music a makeover was as you’d expect, from a musical pioneer, an astute one. He realised that the blues had to change. It had stood still since the blues went electric. It it didn’t change, blues music risked becoming irrelevant. Should that happen, blues music could’ve ended up as just part of musical history, rather than a musical genre that evolved and continued to be relevant. The problem was, America didn’t seem to cherish the blues. Ironically, it took a group of British musicians to remind America of the importance of the blues.
Groups like John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers, Cream, The Yardbirds, The Animals, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones realised the importance of the blues. It was their inspiration. That’s why when artists like Joe Turner toured Britain, they received a hero’s welcome. They were held in a higher esteem in Britain than America. These musicians, realised, that without the blues, there would be no rock ’n’ roll. Essentially, they owed their careers to artists like Joe Turner. So British artiest were keen to promote blues legends. Sadly, many of them were eking out a living. Even with the patronage of some of the most successful groups of the sixties, Joe Turner wasn’t enjoying the popularity he once enjoyed. There was no option, the blues had to change.
Artists like Muddy Waters and B.B. King realised this. When Muddy recorded Electric Mud for Chess, he changed direction. Electric Mud was a fusion blues, rock and psychedelia. It’s one of the most groundbreaking blues albums ever. Meanwhile, B.B. King was the most successful blues player. He’d opened for some of the biggest rock bands and his music was heard by a wider audience. Joe Turner wasn’t as successful which was why he had to change direction.
On The Real Boss Of The Blues, Joe Turner rolls back the years. It’s a vintage performance from the blues veteran. Accompanied by an all-star band, his music is given a modern makeover. Blues, jazz and rock combines. Drawing inspiration from rock music, fatback drums, riffing guitars and a bubbling bass feature on each of the eight tracks. Then there’s the horns. They variously blaze, soar and sound sultry. Add to this some stabs of piano and even some boogie woogie and the result is Joe Turner back to his best. Producer Bob Thiele and arranger Gene Page transformed Joe. The years rolled back and suddenly, Joe was producing some of the best music he recorded since leaving Atlantic. Sadly, not many people heard the music on The Real Boss Of The Blues.
Sadly, not many people heard the second coming of Joe Turner. The Real Boss Of The Blues was back, and back to his best. However, very few people heard The Real Boss Of The Blues which wasn’t a commercial success. However, since then, a number of blues aficionados have championed The Real Boss Of The Blues, which finds Joe Turner, The Real Boss Of The Blues back to his very best on this oft-overlooked cult classic.
Cult Classic: Joe Turner-The Real Boss Of The Blues.
Cult Classic: Cromwel-At The Gallop.
By 1975, Dublin had an eclectic and vibrant music scene , and there literally was something for all musical tastes. This ranged from the traditional showbands that had long been part of the Irish music scene, right through to traditional Irish music and sentiment-laden pop music. However, this was only part of the story.
At the other end of the musical spectrum was Dublin’s most successful music export, Thin Lizzy. Lead by the inimitable Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy’s hard rocking sound won them fans the world over. Then there was Horslips, the founding fathers of the Celtic rock sound. They had just released their fourth album and were one of Ireland’s most successful bands. Meanwhile, another Dublin based band Cromwell were about to release their debut album At The Gallop on their now Cromwell label.
The local critics who had heard At The Gallop, forecast a bright future for Cromwell. They had honed their hard rock sound over the last few years. Now that Cromwell had come of age musically, surely it was only a matter of time before they made the journey over the water, where they would sign for one of the London based major labels. Maybe then, Cromwell would follow in the footsteps of Ireland’s most famous sons like Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher?
Alas, that wasn’t the case. Cromwell’s debut album wasn’t the success that critics had forecast. Neither did Cromwell make the Journey to London to sign for a major label. Nor did Cromwell release a followup to At The Gallop. After releasing five singles and one album, the Cromwell story was at an end. Sadly, Cromwell’s discography consists of five singles and one album and their story began in Dublin 1970.
As a new decade dawned, a new band was born in Drumcondra, in Dublin in 1970. Originally, Cromwell was a quintet, based around the three Kiely brothers who previously had been members of Julian’s Heirs. Cromwell was a new start for the Kiely brothers. Dave Kiely became Cromwell’s frontman, while Desmond became the bassist and Michael the rhythm guitarist. They were joined drummer Derek Dawson and lead guitarist Patrick Brady. With the lineup complete, Cromwell were soon making their first tentative steps onto the local live circuit.
Cromwell made their live debut at an open air concert, in Swords, just north of Dublin. This was the start of a period where Cromwell were constant features of the local live circuit. They played pubs, clubs and dance halls, which allowed Cromwell to hone their sound. However, by November 1971, Cromwell were reduced from a quintet to a trio when Dave and Demond Kiely Kiely exited stage left. The two brothers had decided to pursue other opportunities.
Now that Cromwell were reduced to a trio, there were some changes. Michael Keily switched from rhythm guitar to bass and Cromwell’s sound became heavier and rockier. This was more in keeping with the sound that was popular on both sides of the Atlantic. For Cromwell, they were one step nearer to finding their true sound.
Meanwhile, when Cromwell played live, their setlist included covers of songs The Who, Rolling Stones and Granny’s Intentions. To this, Cromwell added covers of twelve-bar blues. Gradually, it seemed Cromwell were moving towards what would become their trademark sound. Maybe the addition of a new vocalist would prove to be the finishing touch?
When Cromwell went looking for a new vocalist, their luck was in. They managed to secure the services of Droghedaean born vocalist Mick O’Hagan. He had an impeccable musical pedigree. His father was famous Irish tenor Patrick O’Hagan, and his brother was Johnny Logan who would later, win the Eurovision Song Contest. However, when Mick O’Hagan joined Cromwell, he was regarded as Ireland’s premier blues and rock vocalist. Surely, he was the final piece in the jigsaw?
That should have been the case. The new lineup of Cromwell began playing live. By then, drummer Derek Dawson, bassist Michael Kiely and lead guitarist Patrick Brady were just nineteen. However, they played like seasoned veterans. With Mick O’Hagan as Cromwell’s new frontman, it looked like Cromwell were heading for bigger and better things.
Local hero Rory Gallagher certainly thought so, and booked Sleepy Hollow and Cromwell to open for him on his 1972 Irish tour. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. Cromwell’s music would be heard by a much wider audience, and maybe, A&R men would be in the audience?
If they were, they didn’t see Mick O’Hagan. He quit Cromwell just before the band headed out on tour with Rory Gallagher. Despite this disappointment, Cromwell headed out on tour with lead guitarist Patrick Brady taking charge of lead vocals. This continued when Cromwell returned from touring with Rory Gallagher.
Cromwell continued to play live. By now, Cromwell were heading much further afield. They were now touring the Emerald Isle and were regarded as one of the rising stars of the Irish music scene. So it made sense for Cromwell to record their first demo.
To record the demo, this necessitated a trip to Belfast, in Northern Ireland. This was at the height of the troubles. Three young men, who looked as if they belonged in a rock group were always going to attract the scrutiny of the British Army. When Cromwell crossed the border, their van was stopped. The three members of Cromwell were searched at gunpoint. Meanwhile, their van and the equipment it held was searched. This was the case each and every time Cromwell made the journey from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland. Considering Cromwell were heading to Belfast to record a demo, this wasn’t the best preparation.
Having arrived in Belfast, Cromwell made their way to the recording studio. That was where Cromwell recorded songs penned by the Patrick Brady and Michael Kiely songwriting partnership. It was beginning to blossom, and over the next few years, would be fruitful source of material.
With the demo recorded, Cromwell started trying to attract the attention of British record labels. This was the only option. Ireland didn’t have the successful music industry that it now has. So Irish bands had no other option but to sign to British labels. However, not every band signed to British labels.
After recording the demo, Cromwell tried to attract the attention of British based record labels. It was to no avail. So Cromwell returned to playing live. They travelled far and wide, following in the footsteps of Ireland’s two great bands, Rory Gallagher’s Taste and Thin Lizzy.
Usually, Cromwell weren’t short of gigs. Sometimes, though when gigs were hard to come by, Cromwell went in search of places to play. Cromwell weren’t averse to heading off the beaten track, and into small towns where no rock bands ever played. The three members of Cromwell were welcomed with open arms, by youths starved of music that was relevant to them. It was a heartening site.
The only problem for Cromwell was the 1973 oil crisis. Suddenly, petrol was rationed and the price soared. Fortunately, Cromwell were always able to secure an extra can of petrol which they stored with the equipment in their van, before heading out to gigs. Cromwell’s mission to take rock music to every town and village in Ireland continued.
Later in 1973, Cromwell’s thoughts turned to releasing a single. The three members of Cromwell had come to the conclusion that if a record label wasn’t going to sign them, they would release a single on their own label. That day, Cromwell followed in the footsteps of The Beatles and Rolling Stones and their Cromwell label was born.
Later in 1973, the nascent Cromwell label released its first single, Guinness Rock. This was the first single that Cromwell had released since they were formed three years earlier in 1970. Guinness Rock garnered some radio play locally, while the band were featured on RTE, the Irish national broadcaster. One of the Irish magazines New Spotlight championed Cromwell and their music. This paid off when Cromwell released their sophomore single.
This was Stomp Stomp Stomp which was released in 1974. It sold well and reached number eleven in the Irish single’s charts. For Cromwell, this was something of a coup, and introduced the band’s music to a new and wider audience.
Following the success of Stomp Stomp Stomp, Cromwell released Deal Me In. It failed to replicate the success of Stomp Stomp Stomp. For Cromwell this was a disappointment.
They didn’t release another single until You Got It Made in 1975. It would feature on Cromwell’s debut album At The Gallop, which was released later in 1975.
At The Gallop featured ten hard rocking tracks from the Patrick Brady and Michael Kiely songwriting partnership. They were recorded by drummer Derek Dawson, bassist Michael Kiely and lead guitarist Patrick Brady who took charge of the lead vocals. They were by then a tight and talented trio who many thought had a bright future ahead of them.
So much so, that some local critics thought that Cromwell were about follow in the footsteps of Ireland’s most famous sons like Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Cromwell’s debut album At The Gallop wasn’t the success that critics had forecast. However, At The Gallop is a timeless cult classic that’s won over a new generation of rock fans. That is no surprise.
Cromwell’s debut album At The Gallop was an irresistible fusion of musical genres and influences. Everything from swaggering, strutting, good time, seventies rock ’n’ roll rubs shoulders with blues, country rock and beautiful ballads on At The Gallop. Similarly, Cromwell were inspired by everyone from early seventies Rolling Stones’ albums to Thin Lizzy Mott The Hoople, The Faces and the Flamin’ Groovies’ 1971 album Flamingo. This potpourri of musical genres and influences should’ve transformed the fortunes of Cromwell.
After all, Cromwell were one of the top bands in the Irish music scene. They looked as if they were about to follow in the footsteps of two of Ireland’s most successful recent musical exports, Taste and Thin Lizzy.
Alas, despite the undoubted quality of the music on At The Gallop wasn’t a huge commercial success. There was some interest locally, in Dublin and in other parts of Ireland. This must have been a bitter blow. Especially given Cromwell had spent years touring Ireland, playing towns, cites and even villages. They took rock music to places it had never been before. For the three members of Cromwell, it must have been a huge disappointment. They had spent years working towards releasing their debut album.
What Cromwell were aware of, was that the market for rock music wasn’t as strong as in Britain. Rock music was still frowned upon by the establishment in Ireland, which didn’t even have a fledgling music industry. It would be some time before the Irish music industry took shape. However, in 1975, things were very different in Britain. Maybe Cromwell’s debut album At The Gallop, Cromwell would attract the interest of major labels based in London?
At The Gallop could’ve and should’ve acted as Cromwell’s calling card, and opened the doors to major labels in London. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. None of major labels based in London came calling.
Cromwell only released one further single, First Day. It was released later in 1975 and proved to be Cromwell’s swan-song. They neither released another single, nor album. The Cromwell story was all but over, and before long, the band called time on their career. For Cromwell, the dream was over.
Since then, a new generation of record buyers have discovered At The Gallop. It’s a musical hidden gem that’s a reminder of one Ireland’s great lost groups, Cromwell. Nowadays, their one and only album At The Gallop is regarded as a cult classic. It’s a rarity with original copies changing hands for upwards of €400. That is no surprise as Cromwell were the most underrated and talented Irish bands of the early seventies, and the heir apparent to the legendary Thin Lizzy.
Cult Classic: Cromwel-At The Gallop.
Cult Classic: David Axelrod-Songs Of Experience.
By 1968, composer, musicians and producer David Axelrod was just about to embark upon a solo career after nine years working in the music industry. Buoyed by the experimental climate of popular music, David Axelrod wrote and recorded what was akin to a suite-like tone poem that was based on Songs Of Innocence an illustrated collection of poems written in 1789 by William Blake. The poet had inspired many composers and musicians during the twentieth century.
Many composers had set his poems to music, and William Blake’s music had been used in theatre and inspired everyone from folk musicians to David Axelrod who was a self-confessed “Blake freak.”
In 1968, David Axelrod released his William Blake inspired debut album Songs Of Innocence, which sold just 75,000 copies. This was disappointing given that Songs Of Innocence was groundbreaking album.
Despite the disappointing sales of Songs Of Innocence, David Axelrod began to write the material for his sophomore album Songs of Experience. It was also inspired by William Blake’s poetry, but explored the darker side of humanity drew inspiration from composer Gunther Schuller’s Third Stream concept. David Axelrod’s sophomore album Songs of Experience was an ambitious and innovative album. He had come a long way from his days as a boxer.
Before embarking upon a career in music, David Axelrod had enjoyed what can only be described as a chequered career. He had started off as a boxer, before changing direction and finding work in film and television. However, in 1959 David Axelrod embarked upon a musical career when he produced Harold Land’s album The Fox. This launched David Axelrod’s nascent musical career.
Four years later, David Axelrod was hired by Capitol Records as a producer and A&R man. Initially, he worked with R&B artists, including Lou Rawls who was signed to Capitol Records. David Axelrod produced a string of hit singles for Lou Rawls, his Live album and several albums that were certified gold. David Axelrod was the man with the Midas Touch.
Soon, David Axelrod was working with jazz saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, and produced his 1966 Grammy Award winning album Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at “The Club.” The album also featured the hot single Mercy, Mercy, Mercy which reached number eleven in the US Billboard 100. By then, David Axelrod’s star was in the ascendancy at Capitol Records.
It was around this time, David Axelrod began working with some top session musicians including drummer Earl Palmer, bassist Carol Kaye and guitarist Howard Roberts. This band would play an important part in David Axelrod’s future.
David Axelrod wrote and arranged Mass in F Minor and Release of an Oath for the psychedelic rock band The Electric Prunes. The only problem was that both songs were complex pieces of music. Mass in F Minor consists of a mass sung in Latin and Greek and performed in a psychedelic style. However, there was a problem, it was too complex a piece for The Electric Prunes to record and it was recorded by David Axelrod’s band. This lead to The Electric Prunes disbanding and David Axelrod’s band completed the albums. Executives at Capitol Records were grateful that David Axelrod had rescued what was a particularly tricky situation, and wanted to reward him for his recent success. This resulted in David Axelrod being allowed to record his debut solo album Songs Of Innocence.
By them David Axelrod was watching trends in popular music and realised that there was a new breed of record buyer with much more sophisticated taste than the three chord pop of the early Beatles’ record. They were willing to embrace and buy much more experimental sounding albums, including two of the best known, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and The Beatles’ Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Both of these experimental had been hugely successful, and was proof to David Axelrod that there was a demand for this type of music.
Buoyed by the experimental climate of popular music David Axelrod decided to write and record his what was akin to a suite-like tone poem, which was based on Songs Of Innocence which was an illustrated collection of poems written in 1789 by William Blake. The poet had inspired many composers and musicians during the twentieth century. Many composers had set his poems to music, and William Blake’s music had been used in theatre and inspired everyone from folk musicians to David Axelrod who was a self-confessed “Blake freak.”
Over the space of a week, David Axelrod wrote seven compositions and borrowed titles from William Blake’s poems. The compositions death with a variety of themes, ranging from visions, religious iniquity, rite of passage and life experience after a person’s birth and innocence. After just a week, David Axelrod had completed Songs Of Innocence, which was his homage to William Blake. David Axelrod had been captivated by William Blake’s poetry since he was a teenager and seemed to relate to the poet. Neither William Blake nor David Axelrod were regarded as sociable men, and this could’ve hindered the producer’s career. However, he had a successful track record as he began recording Songs Of Innocence in 1968.
Songs Of Innocence.
Having written Songs Of Innocence in just one week, David Axelrod arranged the seven tracks which he intended to produce and add the vocals to. Now he was ready to record his debut album, and work was scheduled to start in mid-1968 at Capitol Studios, in Los Angeles.
David Axelrod decided to use many of the musicians that he worked with on a regular basis. This included drummer Earl Palmer, bassist Carol Kaye and guitarist Al Casey. They were joined by percussionist Gene Estes and organist and pianist Don Randi who would conduct the string and horn section that David Axelrod planned to use on Songs Of Innocence. They would allow David Axelrod to create his musical vision.
Songs Of Innocence was essentially an instrumental album of jazz-fusion, but incorporated elements of baroque pop, blues, classical music, funk, jazz, liturgical music, pop, psychedelia, R&B, rock and theatre music. During Songs Of Innocence, David Axelrod used contrast extensively during the orchestral compositions which was peppered with euphoric psychedelic soul and dramatic, sometimes, distressing arrangements to reflect the supernatural themes that are found within William Blake’s poems. So does the music’s almost reverential psychedelic undercurrent which brings to mind the themes of innocence and spirituality that is a feature William Blake’s poems which inspired David Axelrod to write such an ambitious album as Songs Of Innocence.
His arrangements on Songs Of Innocence accentuated the pounding drums played in 4/4 time, complex baselines, searing and gritty guitars, sweeping melodramatic and progressive strings, organ parts designed to disorientate and blazing, dramatic horns. David Axelrod who had written Songs Of Innocence in the rock idiom, but used a mixture of jazz, rock and classical musicians to record his debut album.
They were all comfortable when David Axelrod asked them to improvise during this psycheliturgical opus. David Axelrod had been influenced by György Ligeti’s 1961 piece Atmosphères, and Lukas Foss’ concept of starting a piece with a sustained chord and improvising for over 100 bars, and ending on a different chord. However, it wasn’t joust improvisation that David Axelrod embraced.
David Axelrod encouraged musicians to use various sound effects, including reverb and echo during the recording sessions. This included adding echo to breakbeats to reflect the spiritual nature of William Blake’s poetry. For much of the album, David Axelrod’s rock orchestra painted pictures with music which veered between spartan, dramatic and harrowing to liturgical, ruminative and celebratory. As the music changed, so did the rock orchestra.
Seamlessly David Axelrod’s rock orchestra changed direction and were transformed into a vampish big band. Other times, they played bluesy bop or locked into a jazzy groove and on occasions started to swing.
Meanwhile, producer David Axelrod was constantly encouraging his band to experiment, and not be afraid to improvise. Towards the end of recording sessions, David Axelrod’s rock orchestra had fully embraced psychedelia deploying organ licks that seemed to be designed to disorientate and gritty guitars. Then as The Mental Traveler was recorded, David Axelrod was keen to embrace and experiment with atonality. However, he felt that music that lacks a tonal centre of key was a step too far even on such an ambitions and innovative album as Songs Of Innocence.
When David Axelrod completed recording his suite-like tone poem, everyone who had worked on the concept album realised that it was an impressive, innovative and immersive album, that was ambitious, cerebral. However, the big question was what would the critics who make of Songs Of Innocence?
Not only was Songs Of Innocence David Axelrod’s debut album, but it was ambitious concept album inspired by William Blake’s poetry. This was too much for many critics, and the album regarded as something of a curio when it was released in October 1968 by Capitol Records. Many critics failed to understand what was essentially a mixture of genre-melting music, mysticism and philosophy that was cerebral, creative and showed just how much music had changed over the last few years. David Axelrod’s suite-like tone poem Songs Of Innocence, was a long way from Love Me Do in 1962. Music was changing, and record buyers were embracing much more experimental and sophisticated music. This augured well for the release of Songs Of Innocence.
Sadly, when Songs Of Innocence was released in October 1968, the album wasn’t the commercial success that David Axelrod or executives at Capitol Records had hoped. By October 1969, Songs Of Innocence had only sold 75,000 copies in America.
Despite the disappointing sales of Songs Of Innocence, David Axelrod began working on his sophomore album Songs of Experience.
Songs Of Experience.
For his sophomore album David Axelrod returned to the work of poet William Blake for inspiration, and especially his collection Songs Of Experience which was published in 1794. David Axelrod the self-confessed “Blake freak” chose eight poems from Songs of Experience which lent it name to his sophomore album.
William Blake was David Axelrod’s major influence, as explored the darker side of humanity on Songs Of Experience. The composer had been captivated by William Blake’s concept of birth and innocence, as he explored the theme of life experience, rite of passage and the changes of perspective in life during the writing and recording Songs Of Innocence. However, when David Axelrod wrote Songs Of Experience, he focused on William Blake’s concept: “of awareness after birth.” This wasn’t David Axelrod’s only source of inspiration for Songs Of Experience.
Another source of inspiration for David Axelrod during the writing ad recording of Songs Of Experience was composer Gunther Schuller’s Third Stream concept. This was part of what was another ambitious album that David Axelrod planned to record.
To record Songs Of Experience, David Axelrod brought onboard many of the musicians that recorded Songs Of Innocence. However, it took over thirty musicians to record what David Axelrod knew was a groundbreaking, genre-melting album.
David Axelrod’s sophomore album Songs Of Experience, was essentially a fusion album, but incorporated elements of European classical music, British and Irish folk music, percussive sounds and baroque arrangements. Meanwhile, the melodies and rhythms on Songs Of Experience ranged from pop, R&B and rock. However, this time, this time, the suite on Songs Of Experience which relied less on rock influences, and was much more symphonic. While this was a stylistic departure, for David Axelrod, Songs Of Experience was another major work that had the potential to enhance his reputation.
That was no surprise given Songs Of Experience’s the compositions to the eight genre-melting track were so different, and featured lush arrangements that were dramatic and rich in imagery. David Axelrod was bringing William Blake’s music to life by using his entire musical palette to paint pictures and allow him to explore much darker and ruminative sounds on Songs Of Experience. It was an album that should’ve captured the imagination of critics.
Sadly, when Songs Of Experience was released by Capitol in 1969, very few critics realised the importance of what was a truly groundbreaking and innovative album. To rub salt into the wound, Songs Of Experience sold less that the 75,000 copies that Songs Of Innocence sold. David Axelrod decision to create ambitious and innovative music wasn’t rewarded.
It wasn’t until much later that critics realised the significance of Songs Of Experience, which was hailed as an important, innovative and inspirational album. By then, Songs Of Experience was a favourite source of samples for hip hop producers. However, it was just a coterie of appreciative record buyers who had embraced and flew the flag for what was David Axelrod’s William Blake inspired cult classic Songs Of Experience which broke new ground and somewhat belatedly, became part of musical history.
Cult Classic: David Axelrod-Songs Of Experience.
Success came quickly for Tuxedomoon. They were formed in 1977, and released their debut single in 1978. A year later, Tuxedomoon’s sophomore single No Tears was hailed a post punk classic. Tuxedomoon were one of mus ic’s rising stars.
So it was no surprise that in 1980, Ralph’s Records signed Tuxedomoon and they released their debut album Half-Mute later that year. It was released to critical acclaim, and introduced Tuxedomoon’s music to a wider audience. However, the Tuxedomoon story began in 1977.
Their roots can be traced to 1977, and the Angels of Light, a musical collective and commune in San Francisco that Steven Brown was a member of. He was also at student at San Francisco City College. That was where Steven Brown met Blaine Reininger and Tommy Tadlock. They were all taking the same electronic music class at San Francisco City College, and quickly became friends.
As the electronic music course neared completion, Steven Brown and Tommy Tadlock decided to combine their talents for their final project. Little did the pair realise, that Tommy would end up managing Tuxedomoon. That was in the future.
Tuxedomoon had only been born in 1977, and were still to find their sound. So in the evenings, Steven Brown and Blaine Reininger would head over to Tommy Tadlock’s to make music. This was unlike the majority of the music being released. Especially with Blaine Reininger playing electronic violin and guitar. Tommy Tadlock however, was content to take a backseat, working on the sound. He also made tools to fix the nascent band’s equipment, and even created “Treatment Mountain,” a plywood pyramid structure that housed Blaine’s myriad of effects. This became important as the band started to play live
By then, punk rock was on its way to moving from the underground to mainstream. However, as the band began to make their tentative steps in San Francisco’s live scene, punk was still an underground scene. Punk had certainly influenced Tuxedomoon.
When Tuxedomoon took to the stage, they were determined to sound different to everyone else. As a result, their vocals were inspired by punk and were a mixture of power, frustration, anger and angst. Augmenting the core band of Steven Brown and Blaine Reininger were bassist Peter Principle, filmmaker Bruce Geduldig and performance artist Winston Tong. Some members of the band didn’t play a particular instrument. Instead, they arrived with whatever instrument that they could find and ‘played’ it. This was similar things to the happenings in the psychedelic sixties. However, for a new generation who watched Tuxedomoon fuse elements of punk and electronics it was a new experience. This new sound was quickly christened cabaret no-wave.
It wasn’t until 1978, that Tuxedomoon’s cabaret no-wave sound first found its way onto a single. Tuxedomoon’s debut single was Pinheads On The Move. Then later in 1978, came Tuxedomoon’s sophomore single No Tears. It was the song that made critics and record buyers sit up and take notice. Soon, No Tears was regarded as a a post punk classic, and had introduced Tuxedomoon’s to a wider audience. Already Tuxedomoon were making waves in the post punk era.
Having made a breakthrough with No Tears in 1978, Tuxedomoon released two further singles in 1979. By then, bassist Peter Principle was a permanent member of the band, and played on The Stranger. This was Tuxedomoon’s first single of 1979, but their second and final release on Time Release Records.
Later in 1979, Scream With A View was released on the short-lived Tuxedomoon Records. Soon, the band’s new label had outlived its usefulness, as they signed to a new label.
After signing to Ralph Records later in 1979, Tuxedomoon returned in 1980 with not just a new single, but a new album. The single was What Use? and the album was Half-Mute, which was released in 1980.
Half-Mute featured ten tracks. Nine were penned by Steven Brown, Blaine Reininger and Peter Principle. The exception was Crash, which was written by Blaine Reininger and Michael Belfer. These tracks were recorded at San Amigos Studios, San Francisco.
At San Amigos Studios, Tuxedomoon began setting up an array of instruments. Steven Brown would play keyboards, synths, saxophones, electronic percussion and add vocals. Blaine Reininger who had learnt to play violin and guitar, also played bass, keyboards, synths, electronic percussion, root toms, C.B. interference and vocals. Peter Principle played bass, guitar, piano, synths and electronic percussion. Producing Half-Mute were the three members of Tuxedomoon. Once the album was complete, Half-Mute was released later in 1980.
By then, word had spread about Tuxedomoon. They had already released five singles and were the toast of the underground music press not just in America, but in Britain. This bode well for Half-Mute.
When reviews were published, critics lavished praise on Half-Mute. They were won over by Tuxedomoon’s unique fusion of punk and electronics. Many critics remarked on the lyrics. They weren’t just dark and maudlin, but tinged with humour and often incisive. Some critics called Half-Mute a genre-classic. This proved to be the case, and was the springboard for Tuxedomoon to become one of leading avant-garde pop bands. However, things were about to get even better for Tuxedomoon.
Buoyed by critically acclaimed reviews, Half-Mute reached number ten in the UK Indie Chart. Suddenly, Tuxedomoon’s star was in the ascendancy, after releasing what many regard as their finest album, Half-Mute.
Opening Half-Mute is Nazca, an instrumental. Washes of moody synths sweep in and out, while a pulsating beat is accompanied by a chiming guitar. By then, there’s a hypnotic quality to the arrangement. Then when a sultry saxophone enters. It’s dreamy and floats above rest of the arrangement, adding to the melodic quality. Sometimes, it threatens to head in the direction of free jazz. This never happens, as the saxophone proves the perfect foil for the washes of synths. Together, they create a soundscape that’s not just cinematic and beautiful, melodic, hypnotic and timeless.
From the opening bars, it’s obvious that 59 To 1 is a song about time. A ticking sound is joined by a funky bass and synthetic sounding drums. The urgent vocal is sounds almost Kraftwerk-esque. When the vocal drops out, a wailing saxophone soars above the hypnotic, funky arrangement. By then, the vocal is urgent, impassioned and despairing, at being unable to beat time. Snippets of C.B. radio interject, as the scorching, blazing saxophone soars and flutters, joining a mesmeric vocal and walking bass. Hypnotic, funky and innovative it’s a timeless genre-melting track.
Straight away, Fifth Column takes on a cinematic sound. Synths and a saxophone join a dark bass and crisp drums. It’s the synths and braying saxophone that paint pictures. They add to the cinematic quality, as the bass provides the heartbeat to a track where beauty and mystery are omnipresent. The beauty comes courtesy of saxophone, while synths add mystery.
Drums scamper along as otherworldly synths, beep and squeak on Tritone (Musica Diablo). They add a darkness as an urgent scratchy violin plays. As the tempo increases, the track becomes robotic, rocky and urgent. A myriad beeps, buzzes, squeaks and whirs join the scampering, scratchy violin and synthetic drums to create a short otherworldly symphony.
A darkness descends on Loneliness, which owes a debt of gratitude to Kraftwerk and even Cluster. Bursts of drums and bass set the scene for a dark, fuzz-tone organ and a monotone vocal that’s tips its hat to Kraftwerk. The final piece of the jigsaw are repetitive elegiac sounds that add a mesmeric sound. This adds to the almost robotic sound of the arrangement, which marches to the beat of the drum. The result is captivating emotionless track, that’s a fusion of avant-garde, electronica, funk and Krautrock.
Bells chime, as variety of crackles, rumbling, galloping and ghostly sounds combine on James Whale. Sometimes, the tape speed varies, as Tuxedomoon pay their tribute to the late Hollywood director James Whale. Later, the track takes on a haunting sound, as an otherworldly being gallops towards the listener. This adds to the spine tingling cinematic sound, and is fitting, given James Whale directed a classic horror film The Bride Of Frankenstein.
In the distance, a walling sound encircles, before gradually moving closer on What Use? That’s a curveball, as a thunderous beat joins cinematic synths and bass on a track that sounds as if it’s been inspired by Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder. Even by the time the deliberate vocal has entered, the listener has been swept along by what’s an irresistible sounding dance track. At one point, Tuxedomoon replicate the sound of a high speed train. By then, there’s a Euro Disco influence, as the track heads into anthem territory and showcases Tuxedomoon’s versatility.
Volo Vivace provides the perfect showcase for Blaine Reininger’s violin skills. Buzzing synths are joined by a bass, before the elegiac sound of the violin enters. It provides a contrast to the rest of arrangement.Especially when its played with speed and precision. Meanwhile, the rest of the arrangement is spacious, hypnotic and sometimes futuristic. However, the violin adds beauty and elegance. By then, music’s past and present sit side-by-side, and unite to make the music of the future.
As 7 Years unfolds, straight away, washes of synths add an element of darkness and drama, as drums rattle and crack. Atop the arrangement, the vocal is deliberate and lacking in emotion as it sings of: “seven years in one night.” Who knows what horrors take place during this “psychedelic melodrama.” It sounds as if it’s been influenced by Kraftwerk and Gary Numan. Later, Blaine Reininger’s violin adds a myriad of spine-chilling sounds, adding a cinematic sound to what was in 1980, a modern day “psychedelic melodrama.”
Km-Seeding The Clouds closes Half-Mute, and is an eleven minute epic. As the sound of traffic, goes by a wistful saxophone solo plays. It’s joined by a plucked bass, as the sounds of the city pass by. However, it’s the hauntingly beautiful, but mournful saxophone that’s the focus of the listener’s attention. They’re oblivious to the sound of traffic, birdsong, cinematic synth strings and bold keyboards chords. Even the sound of horns beeping, doesn’t stop the listener revelling in the mournful beauty of Steven Brown’s saxophone. It takes centre-stage, and closes Tuxedomoon’s avant-garde pop classic.
Since its release, Half-Mute has influenced several generations of musicians. So much so, that many musicians were inspired to form bands after hearing Half-Mute. The music they went on to make was influenced by Tuxedomoon’s avant-garde pop classic Half-Mute.
It’s hard to believe that forty years have passed since the release of Half-Mute. It’s an innovative, inventive and genre-melting cult classic that has stood the test of time. On Half-Mute, Tuxedomoon flit between and fuse disparate musical genres including avant-garde, avant pop, electronica, Euro Disco, free jazz, funk, jazz ,Krautrock, no-wave, pop, post punk and psychedelia. There’s also elements of drama and a cinematic sound on an album that references everything from Cluster and Kraftwerk to Giorgio Moroder and even Gary Numan. The result is a captivating, genre-hopping cult classic where the music is always ambitious, innovative, inventive and continues to influence and inspire a new generation of musicians to push musical boundaries to their limits.
Cult Classic: Lightnin’ Slim-High and Low Down.
When Lightnin’ Slim recorded his 1971 album High and Low Down, it only took three days to record the album. There’s a good reason for this. Lightnin’ Slim could only get three days holiday from the lock factory he was working in, in Pontiac, Michigan. However, for three days in Muscle Shoals, he was back doing what he was born to do, play the blues.
Accompanied by the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and what became The Muscle Shoal Horns, the sixty-one year old Lightnin’ Slim recorded his comeback album. His career had stalled and hd was reduced to the 9 to 5 grind of working in a lock factory. That’s until Swamp Dogg decided to rejuvenate his career.
By the early seventies, it was apparent Swamp Dogg had the Midas touch. Previously, he’d rejuvenated the career of several artists and the songwriter, musicians and producer had established a reputation as one of the most talented producers of his generation. This made Swamp Dogg the perfect producer to rejuvenate the career of Louisiana Slim, the Godfather of the gutbucket blues.
He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and lived on a farm until he was thirteen, when his family moved to Baton Rouge. By then, Lightnin’ Slim had been taught to play guitar by his elder brother, Layfield. This led to Lightnin’ Slim playing in bars in the Louisiana area. It wasn’t until 1954 that Lightnin’ Slim made his recording debut.
In 1954, Lightnin’ Slim released Bad Luck Blues for Jay D. Miller’s Excello Records. This was the label Lightnin’ Slim called home for the next twelve years. Essentially, he was with Excello Records for the majority of his career. That’s where he released his 1960 debut album Rooster Blues. Five years later, in 1965, Lightnin’ Slim released his sophomore album Bell Ringer. Then a year later, Lightnin’ Slim left Excello Records and his career stalled.
For the next four years, Lightnin’ Slim dropped out of music. When he was discovered by Fred Reif in 1970, Lightnin’ Slim was down on his luck. Lightnin’ Slim was renting a room from Slim Harpo’s sister and working in a foundry in Pontiac, Michigan. This wasn’t good for his hands and he was in constant pain when he made his comeback.
This comeback took place at the University of Chicago Folk Festival in 1971. Accompanying Lightnin’ Slim was Lazy Lester, who Lightnin’ Slim had collaborated with in the past. The comeback concert lead to Lightnin’ Slim resigning to Excello Records. So, Lightnin’ Slim took three days off from his job in the foundry and headed to Muscle Shoals, where he recorded an album with a crack band of musicians and producer Swamp Dogg.
For High and Low Down, Lightnin’ Slim penned four songs, Bad Luck Blues, G.I. Blues, That’s All Right and Voodoo Blues. Lightnin’ Slim covered three Willie Dixon songs, My Babe, Oh Baby and Crazy ‘Bout You Baby. He covered Chuck Berry’s Things I Used To Do and Jerry West’s Rooster Blues. The other track was the Swamp Dogg penned Good Morning Heartaches. These ten tracks became High and Low, which was recorded in Muscle Shoals.
In the studios in Muscle Shoals, the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and what became the Muscle Shoal Horns accompanied Lightnin’ Slim. His rhythm section included bassist Bob Wary, drummer Fred Proudly and guitarist Jesse Carr. Tippy Armstrong played harmonica and Clayton Ivy piano and organ. The horn section included Charles Rose, Mike Stough, Sonny Royal and Stacy Goss. Lightnin’ Slim played guitar and sang lead vocals, while Swamp Dogg produced what became High and Low Down. It was released in 1971.
On the release of High and Low Down, the album opinions were divided about the album. Maybe they didn’t understand that Swamp Dogg was reinventing Lightnin’ Slim. He was a delta blues singer, and the delta blues was no longer as popular and unless Lightnin’ Slim’s music evolved, it risked becoming irrelevant.
Ironically, Lightnin’ Slim’s makeover wasn’t a commercial success. The reinvention of Lightnin’ Slim hadn’t worked and after that, he returned to work in the foundry and died three years later. This makes High and Low Down a poignant swan-song.
Opening High and Low Down is Rooster Blues, which literally bursts into life. Accompanied by stabs of blazing horns, the tightest of rhythm sections and a blistering guitar solo, Lightnin’ Slim unleashes a vocal full of innuendo. Then some honky tonk piano is thrown into the mix. Soon, the band unleash a glorious bluesy arrangement. A melange of horns, rhythm section, driving piano and guitars accompany Lightnin’ Slim. This seems to spur him on, before the track reaches a glorious crescendo.
Slow, moody and bluesy describes Things I Used To Do. A melancholy piano is joined by a shuffling rhythm section and reverberating guitar. Lightnin’ Slim’s vocal is despondent and full of misery. Heartbroken, he pleads “please don’t go.” Stabs of braying horns, shimmering guitar and a piano masterclass from Clayton Ivy provide the the perfect backdrop to Lightnin’ Slim’s heartbroken vocal.
Bad Luck Blues sees Lightnin’ Slim return to the first song he ever recorded. It’s given a makeover. The rhythm section provide a moody, broody, pulsating backdrop as Clayton Ivy’s piano is panned left and the guitar panned right. Smack bang in the middle is Lightnin’ Slim’s lived-in, worldweary vocal. With a sense of resignation he sings “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no love at all.” At just the right time, washes of Hammond organ are unleashed. This is perfect accompaniment to Lightnin’ Slim. He sounds as if he’s lived the lyrics, and somehow managed to survive them, but only just.
My Babe is a rocking bluesy track that many people will be familiar with. It was written by Willie Dixon. The band are determined to make the song swing. They unleash the blazing horns, a driving rhythm section and crystalline guitars. This should be the perfect backdrop for Lightnin’ Slim. He throws himself into the song. He tries to mix power and sass, and make the song swing. However, is voice isn’t as strong as it once was. There’s a fragility there. The result is a good version of a familiar track. Ten years before and Lightnin’ Slim would’ve strutted his way through the track.
G. I. Blues is one of three tracks Lightnin’ Slim wrote, and as it begins, Lightnin’ Slim briefly returns to his delta blues’ roots. That’s until his band plug in and provide a steady heartbeat. Soon, chiming,searing and blistering guitars accompany Lightnin’ Slim’s despairing vocal. The cause of his despair is his partner who’s got the “G.I. Blues.” With a voice full of longing, his parting shot is I’m going to pray to Uncle Sam, give me some place in this army please.”
From the get-go, Lightnin’ Slim’s band unleash some moody, bluesy licks on Oh Baby. Providing the heartbeat are the rhythm section, while the horns bray and blaze. What’s different is the guitar. It’s fuzzy, wah-wahing its way across the arrangement. Some critics felt its inclusion was a mistake and it continues to divide opinion. Lightnin’ Slim delivers a sassy, needy vocal. This is what was needed on My Babe. Here, Lightnin’ Slim is singing within himself on one of his best efforts and spurs the band on, as a horn and guitar solos play important parts in the track’s success.
That’s All Right was written by Lightnin’ Slim. Slow, moody and bluesy, describes this track, and Lightnin’ Slim’s vocal. He’s accompanied by a grinding rhythm section, rocky guitars and a harmonica solo from Tippy Armstrong. Later, a Hammond organ is dropped in as Swamp Dogg helps Lightnin’ Slim to give this familiar track a blues rock makeover.
The band build the drama as Crazy ‘Bout You Baby reveals its secrets. The rhythm section, growling horns and crystalline guitars set the scene for Lightnin’ Slim’s vocal. It’s frustrated, angry and heartbroken. Bursts of drums, stabs of horns and searing guitars match the anger and frustration in Lightnin’ Slim’s vocal. Just like other tracks, he gives vocal and guitar masterclasses. It’s as of he’s realised his future depended on the success of High and Low Down, so was playing and singing as if his future depended upon this album.
Good Morning Heartaches was the only track on High and Low Down that Swamp Dogg wrote. Having briefly drawn inspiration from the delta blues, a glorious slice of electric blues unfolds. A grinding rhythm section, searing guitars and harmonica join grizzled horns in driving the arrangement along. With the band in the groove, Lightnin’ Slim feeds of their energy. Sadness and despair fill his vocal, before the harmonica answers his call. Everything just falls into place and Lightnin’ Slim and his band create what’s the highlight of High and Low Down.
Voodoo Blues written by Lightnin’ Slim closes High and Low Down. The tempo is slow, with a despondent Lightnin’ Slim accompanied by piano, crystalline, chiming guitars and the rhythm section. His soul-baring vocal is full of emotion and heartbreak. Later, Jesse Carr and Lightnin’ Slim unleash some of the best guitar licks on the album. They take centre-stage,while the rhythm section mark time and one can only marvel at their playing which seems a fitting way to close High and Low Down.
While Lightnin’ Slim’s comeback album High and Low Down wasn’t a commercial success, it was proof that he still was one the most talented blues players in America. Sadly, Lady Luck hadn’t smiled upon him. He wasn’t even making a living playing the blues. Instead, he’d been working in a foundry since leaving Excello Records. This was hot, hard and dangerous work and affected Lightnin’ Slim’s health. His hands ached, which was a disaster for a guitarist. So when he was rediscovered by Fred Reif it must have been the answer to his prayers.
Accompanied by Lazy Lester, Lightnin’ Slim made his comeback at the University of Chicago Folk Festival. This lead to Lightnin’ Slim resigning to Excello Records. They brought in one of the hottest producers of the time, Swamp Dogg. He brought onboard some of the best musicians in Muscle Shoals. Accompanied by the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and what became the Muscle Shoal Horns, the sixty-one year old Lightnin’ Slim recorded his comeback album High and Low Down where Swamp Dogg reinvented Lightnin’ Slim.
High and Low Down was a fusion of delta and electric blues with jazz and rock. It saw Lightnin’ Slim follow in the footsteps of B.B. King. Lightnin’ Slim was able to showcase his lived-in, worldweary voice and his unmistakable guitar playing. Before the release of High and Low Down, great things were expected of the album. B.B. King who wrote the original sleeve-notes, sang High and Low Down’s praises. He was speaking as musician, music lover and former DJ. Sadly, he was wrong. High and Low Down sank without trace. Worse was to come for Lightnin’ Slim.
After the commercial failure of High and Low Down, Lightnin’ Slim continued to make a comeback. He continued playing live and toured America and Europe for the next three years. Then in 1974, aged just sixty-one Lightnin’ Slim died of stomach cancer. That day, one the five greatest blues musicians died. Lightnin’ Slim is up there with blues greats like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson. Sadly, Lightnin’ Slim didn’t enjoy the commercial success they did.
Despite his lack of success Lightnin’ Slim recorded some of the best blues music of the fifties and sixties at Excello Records. His back-catalogue is a musical treasure trove awaiting discovery. Part of that treasure trove is Lightnin’ Slim’s 1971 album High and Low Down, which is a hidden gem from the Godfather of the gutbucket blues.
Cult Classic: Lightnin’ Slim-High and Low Down.
Cult Classic: Aksak Maboul-Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
Nearly three years after releasing their seminal avant pop album, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine in the summer of 1977, Aksak Maboul returned with their much-anticipated 1980 sophomore album Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits. It was the first album Aksak Maboul released on Marc Hollander’s Crammed Discs, and the second chapter in a story that began three years earlier in 1977.
In early 1977, Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis decided to turn what had been a dream into reality, when they founded a new band together, Aksak Maboul. By April 1977, Aksak Maboul had entered the studio and began work on their debut album.
Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine.
Over the next two months, Aksak Maboul recorded what was a groundbreaking genre classic, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine. Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis who were both talented multi-instrumentalists had decided to take charge of production of their debut album. This was a brave decision considering they planned on recording a truly ambitions album.
Onlookers watched incredulously as the three members of Aksak Maboul fused disparate and unlikely musical genres and influences. Everything from avant-garde to African music was rubbing shoulders with Balkan, electronica and experimental, to free jazz, rock and proto-techno. There was even elements of American minimalist, jazz and early twentieth century classical music on album where Aksak Maboul had cast their net far and wide for inspiration.
It was as if the three members of Aksak Maboul were delving into the furthest corners of their respective record collections. This included the influence of minimalist composer and pianist Erik Satie; avant-garde composers like Tony Conrad, Jon Gibson, Frans Geysen and Terry Riley, plus Brian Eno who had popularised ambient music in the seventies. However, it was free jazz pioneers like Sun Ra, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman who seem to have been a starting point for Aksak Maboul. Free jazz, which was referred to as energy music in the sixties seemed to have inspired Aksak Maboul as embarked upon what’s akin to a journey without a map. This brave and adventurous approach worked for Aksak Maboul, as they continue to combine musical genres and influences.
Rock pioneers Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground seem to have influenced Aksak Maboul as the three musical magpies drew inspiration from countless disparate sources, combined it into something totally different. Often, though, this wasn’t the end of this ambitious musical experiment, and this musical mosaic was then deconstructed, and incredibly, seamlessly became something totally different and innovative. Astonished onlookers watched as the three musical alchemists worked their magic on their debut album. It was finished in May 1977 and became Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine.
By then, onlookers realised that Aksak Maboul were no ordinary band. It was obvious even to the casual observer that Aksak Maboul were musical pioneers who dared to go where other bands feared to tread. Aksak Maboul it seemed, were determined to challenge musical norms and push boundaries to their limits. Onlookers speculated how this would turn out?
Music industry insiders and critics knew that one of two things would happen when Aksak Maboul released Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine in the summer of 1977? Aksak Maboul would either crash and burn, or their debut album Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine would be hailed as a groundbreaking, genre-melting classic? The three members of Aksak Maboul held their breath as critics and cultural commentators had their say on Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine.
Critics on hearing Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine which translates to Eleven Dances For Fighting Migraines, hailed the album as ambitious, imaginative and innovative. Some critics went even further, describing Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine as a groundbreaking masterpiece from a band who had a huge future ahead of them. For Aksak Maboul this was encouraging as they released their avant-pop classic, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine.
Later in the summer of 1977, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine was released on the Belgian independent label Kamikaze Records. However, Aksak Maboul’s debut wasn’t solely credited to the band. Instead, the album was credited to Marc Hollander/Aksak Maboul. There was a reason for this.
Much of the music on Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine was the work of Marc Hollander, and it was only fair that he received much of the credit for what’s now regarded as a seminal album, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine. However, when Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine was released by Kamikaze Records, which was only a small independent label, the album wasn’t a commercial success. The problem was Kamikaze Records was only a small independent label, that had neither had the budget to promote the album, nor it into the major record shops. However, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine became a cult album, and set the bar high for future avant-pop albums which are always compared to Marc Hollander/Aksak Maboul’s genre classic.
The commercial failure of Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine was a hugely frustrating and disappointing for the two members of Aksak Maboul. Especially after receiving critically acclaimed reviews and being hailed an avant pop classic. It was a case of what might have been, as a new chapter began in the autumn of 1977.
By then, Aksak Maboul who were still a duo had never played live. This was about change when two became four. Percussionist Chris Joris and keyboardist Marc Moulin had joined Aksak Maboul. They were meant to be the final piece of the musical jigsaw, when the band when played live. However, Chris Joris was soon replaced by Frank Wuyts and they would become the classic lineup of Aksak Maboul.
Although Aksak Maboul was now playing live as a quartet, they were often augmented by guest musicians who took to the stage when they played live or recorded albums. That was the case when Aksak Maboul recorded their much-anticipated sophomore album Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits in 1979.
Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
It would be expanded lineup of who recorded the six tracks that became Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits. The core quartet of Marc Hollander, Vincent Kenis, percussionist Frank Wuyts and keyboardist Marc Moulin were joined by two English musicians, Fred Frith a bassist, guitarist, violinist and drummer and percussionist Chris Cutler. The two new additions would play their part in the songwriting process on an album of two parts.
Founder member Marc Hollander contributed A Modern Lesson, and wrote Palmiers En Pots with Frank Wuyts, which featured André Verchuren’s Trio. Frank Wuyt and cellist Denis Van Hecke wrote Inoculating Rabies while new recruit Fred Frith penned Geistige Nacht. The other track on side one was the traditional song I Viaggi Formano La Gioventù. On the second side was the most ambitious piece of music of Aksak Maboul’s three year career.
This was Cinema a near twenty-three epic that featured four movements. Catherine Jauniaux who had agreed to add the vocal to Cinema, wrote Ce Qu’On Peut Voir Avec Un Bon Microscope with Chris Cutler, Denis Van Hecke, Fred Frith and Belgian bassoonist Michel Berckmans. Meanwhile, Alluvions and Azinou Crapules was written by Marc Hollander and Frank Wuyts. Closing this four piece suite was Age Route Brra! (Radio Sofia) which was credited to “All The Players.”
When it came time for Aksak Maboul to record Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, All The Players made their way to Sunrise Studios in Kirchberg, Switzerland in February 1979. Sunrise Studios was still relatively new, and had only been founded by Swiss composer, musician and producer Etienne Conod in 1975. This was just two years before Aksak Maboul recorded their seminal avant rock classic Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine. It had set the bar high for Aksak Maboul’s sophomore album, but Marc Hollander, Vincent Kenis and the rest of the band were up for a challenge, and began recording what later became Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
Joining Aksak Maboul were the two English musicians Fred Frith and Chris Cutler, who were joined by Belgian vocalist Catherine Jauniaux, cellist Denis Van Hecke plus bassoonist and oboist Michel Berckmans, cellist Denis Van Hecke. This extended lineup of Aksak Maboul spent the next month recording the group’s sophomore album. However, after a month, Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits wasn’t finished, and Aksak Maboul returned home to Belgium.
Aksak Maboul made the return journey to Sunrise Studios in August 1979, where they would complete recording of Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits. However, it would be 1980 before Aksak Maboul’s much-anticipated sophomore album Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits was released by Marc Hollander’s new label Crammed Discs.
Rather than release Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits on another record label, a decision was made to release the album on Crammed Discs, which was a relatively new label. It had only been founded earlier in 1980, and releasing Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits on such a new label wasn’t without a degree of risk.
Would Crammed Discs have the financial muscle and expertise to promote Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, and get the album into the larger record shops? This was where Kamikaze Records had failed, and had cost Aksak Maboul dearly. However, Crammed Discs was a very different label to Kamikaze Records, and after releasing Aksak Maboul’s sophomore album Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, Marc Hollander’s label has released over 250 albums. That was still to come.
Prior to the release of Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, critics and cultural commentators had their say on Aksak Maboul’s long-awaited and much-anticipated sophomore album. The first time round, Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis who back then, were the only members of Aksak Maboul had held their breath as critics and cultural commentators passed judgment. However, by 1980 Aksak Maboul were flavour of the month among the critics and so was Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
When Aksak Maboul returned with Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, critics discovered another ambitious and groundbreaking album, from the new lineup of the band. Along with some of their musical friends they had recorded a much more experimental album than its predecessor Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine. There was also an intensity to this powerful, carefully crafted, genre-melting album. It showcased two very different sides to Aksak Maboul, who had written parts of what were incredibly complex, intricate horn charts and used Eastern scales in the multilayered arrangements. Other parts of the songs had been improvised by Aksak Maboul, including the hardcore ambient pieces. They had put their extensive musical arsenal to good use, as they combined a disparate and eclectic selection of musical genres.
This included mixture of traditional instruments including an oboe, bassoon, saxophones, guitars, bass and piano which joined the latest in musical technology, a drum machine. Aksak Maboul also used sampling despite 1979 being the pre-sampler era. Instead, they taped short pieces of sound including the flipper from a pinball machine, excerpts from the vocals of delta blues and added gibberish vocals. Aksak Maboul also took excerpts of popular tangos which were sliced and diced and then randomly reassembled to create a “new” piece of music, Tango. To the rich musical tapestry that was Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, Aksak Maboul added Bulgarian, crypto-punk, Polynesian, Pygmy and pseudo-Varese music on Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits. Add to this the influence of baroque music, the Canterbury scene, French café music and everyone from Frank Zappa to Henry Cow and Stravinsky and the result was bold and ambitious album of innovative experimental avant-rock. It epitomised the type of music that bands within the Rock In Opposition, including Aksak Maboul were recording in 1979. Once again, critics were astounded at the sheer variety of musical genres and influences that had inspired Aksak Maboul.
Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits was no ordinary album, with Side A featuring five dissipate dance tracks. Modern Lesson set the scene as a “twisted blues” track unfolds and gibberish vocals are joined by a guitar, cello and later saxophone, which play with a freedom and invention before the horn chart becomes intricate. Despite that, it’s a captivating track that is variously rhythmic, mesmeric and melodic.
Very different is Palmiers en Pots which comprises two short tracks. Trio from Nuits D’Argentine is a beautiful piece of wistful music that was originally written for a string trio. It gives way to Aksak Maboul’s slice and dice Tango, which is an irresistible dance track that is a reminder of how innovative a group Aksak Maboul were in 1979.
Geistige Nacht shows the two sides of Aksak Maboul. Initially, they’re a tight band, as the rhythm section powers the arrangement along as the saxophone and piano play leading roles. Later, and seamlessly, the band play with freedom, invention and the same urgency as before on what’s one of the oft-overlooked tracks on the album.
I Viaggi is a Turkish folk song where Aksak Maboul use a Middle Eastern scale, while the dumbeg and cello play traditional scales. However, the cello and vocal also double the melody line. In doing so, they play their part in a track that is initially haunting, hypnotic, ethereal and cinematic. Always though, the Turkish influence shines through even when the music takes on a more experimental sound, before becoming urgent as it reaches a rocky crescendo.
Inoculating Rabies is totally different from what’s gone before, and finds a bassoon and bass clarinet playing against backdrop of driving, anthemic rock and punk. It’s best described as bassoon punk where Aksak Maboul unleash angst, anger and frustration.
Flipping over to B-Side and critics and record buyers discovered Cinema, the four piece suite that made Aksak Maboul the toast of progressive rock fans. They were won over by a quite remarkable suite, which features four separate solos, including a six-string bass, acoustic cello, electric cello, and synths. Add to the equation woodwind passages that are deliberately become almost discordant and dissonant but are certainly moody and atmospheric. Later, the members of Aksak Maboul are sometimes transformed into psychedelic rockers, before showcasing their talent and versatility during short pieces of Middle Eastern music. However, on the final piece of the suite, Age Route Brra! (Radio Sofia) Aksak Maboul improvise and replicate what was a well known Bulgarian talk radio show. This brought to an end what was Aksak Maboul’s Magnus Opus on Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.
It was one of inner reasons why Aksak Maboul’s sophomore album Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits was released to widespread critical in 1980, and hailed an avant rock classic. Some critics went as far as to say that Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits was possibly the finest album released by a group from the Rock In Opposition movement. This was quite an accolade, given how much groundbreaking music was being released during this period.
Many record buyers won’t remember when Aksak Maboul released their debut album Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine in the summer of 1977, and the followup Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits three years later in 1980. Both albums are avant pop classic and feature musical pioneers Aksak Maboul creating ambitious, imaginative, inventive and innovative music that was inspired by disparate musical genres and influences. They play their part in Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits, which is a carefully crafted musical tapestry and timeless avant rock classic that featured the classic lineup of Aksak Maboul as the created musical history for the second time in just three years.
Cult Classic: Aksak Maboul-Un Peu de L’âme Des Bandits.