Sun Ra-“Of Abstract Dreams.”
Nowadays, the inimitable Sun Ra is regarded as one of the true pioneers of free jazz and a truly innovative and influential musician who pushed musical boundaries to their limit, and sometimes, way beyond. Sun Ra was also a prolific artists who released around 125 albums during a career that spanned six decades. However, since Sun Ra’s death nearly twenty-five years ago on May the ‘30th’ 1993, that number has risen with many more albums and compilations being released. This includes “Of Abstract Dreams” which is the latest exclusive release by Strut and Art Yard which features unreleased radio sessions recorded in Philadelphia in 1974-1975. These recordings are a reminder of the cosmic jazz pioneer Sun Ra at the peak of his powers. His story is a fascinating one.
Before dawning the moniker Sun Ra, Herman Poole Blount was born on the ‘22nd’ of May 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama, but very little is known about his early life. So much so, that for many years, nobody knew what age he was. However, at an early age Herman immersed himself in music.
He learnt to play the piano at an early age and soon, was a talented pianist. By the age of eleven, Herman was to able read and write music. However, it wasn’t just playing music that Herman enjoyed. When the leading musicians of the day swung through Birmingham, Herman want to see them play and saw everyone from Duke Ellington to Fats Waller live. Seeing the great and good of music play live only made Herman all the more determined to one day become a professional musician.
By his mid teens, Herman was a high school student, but even by then, music was his first love. His music teacher John T. “Fess” Whatley realised this, and helped Herman Poole Blount’s nascent musical career.
John T. “Fess” Whatley was a strict disciplinarian, and this rubbed off on Herman who would layer acquire a reputation as a relentless taskmaster when he formed his Arkestra. The future Sun Ra was determined that the musicians in his Arkestra to reach his high and exacting standards and fulfil the potential that he saw in them. At rehearsals, musicians were pushed to their limits, but this paid off when they took to the stage. Led by Sun Ra, the Arkestra in full flow were peerless. However, that was way in the future. Before that, Herman’s career began to take shape.
In his spare time, Herman was playing semi-professionally in various jazz and R&B groups, and other times, he worked as a solo artist. Before long, Herman was a popular draw. This was helped by his ability to memorise popular songs and play them on demand. Strangely, away from music, the young Herman was very different.
He’s remembered as studious, kindly and something of a loner and a deeply religious young man despite not being a member of a particular church. One organisation that Herman joined was the Black Masonic Lodge which allowed him access to one of the largest collection of books in Birmingham. For a studious young man like Herman this allowed him to broaden his knowledge of various subjects. However, still music was Herman Poole Blount,’s first love.
In 1934, twenty-year-old Herman was asked to join a band that was led by Ethel Harper. She was no stranger to Herman Poole Blount, and just a few years earlier, had been his high school biology teacher. Just a few years later, and he was accepting Ethel Harper’s invitation to join her band.
Before he could head out on tour with Ethel Harper’s band, Herman joined the local Musicians’s Union. After that, he embarked on a tour of the Southeast and Mid-West and this was the start of Herman’s life as a professional musician. However, when Ethel Harper left her band to join The Ginger Snaps, Herman took over the band.
With Ethel Harper gone, the band was renamed The Sonny Blount Orchestra, and it headed out on the road and toured for several months. Sadly, The Sonny Blount Orchestra wasn’t making money, and eventually, the band split up. However, other musicians and music lovers were impressed by The Sonny Blount Orchestra.
This resulted in Herman always being in demand as a session musician. He was highly regarded within the Birmingham musical community, so much so, that he was awarded a music scholarship to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in 1937. Sadly, he dropped out after a year when his life changed forever.
In 1937, Herman experienced what was a life-changing experience, and it was a story that he told many times throughout his life. He describes a bright light appearing around him and his body changing. “I could see through myself. And I went up … I wasn’t in human form … I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn. They teleported me. I was down on a stage with them. They wanted to talk with me. They had one little antenna on each ear. A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me. They told me to stop attending college because there was going to be great trouble in schools … the world was going into complete chaos … I would speak through music, and the world would listen. That’s what they told me.” For a deeply religious young man, this was disturbing and exciting. It certainly inspired the young Herman Poole Blount.
After his: “trip to Saturn,” Herman Poole Blount decided to devote all his time and energy to music. So much so, that he hardly found time to sleep. Day in, day out, Herman spent his time practising and composing new songs in his first floor home which he had transformed into a musical workshop. That was where also where he rehearsed with the musicians in his band. Away from music, Herman took to discussing religious matters. However, mostly, though, music dominated his life.
It was no surprise to when Herman announced that he had decided to form a new band. However, his new band was essentially a new lineup of The Sonny Blount Orchestra. It showcased the new Herman Poole Blount, who was a dedicated bandleader, and like his mentor John T. “Fess” Whatley, a strict disciplinarian. Herman was determined his band would be the best in Birmingham. This proved to be the case as seamlessly, The Sonny Blount Orchestra were able to change direction, as they played an eclectic selection of music. Before long, The Sonny Blount Orchestra were one of most in-demand bands in Birmingham, and things were looking good for Herman. Then in 1942, The Sonny Blount Orchestra were no more when Herman was drafted.
On receiving his draft papers, Herman declared himself a conscientious objector. He cited not just religious objections to war and killing, but that he had to financially support his great-aunt Ida. Herman even cited the chronic hernia that had blighted his life as a reason he shouldn’t be drafted. Despite his objections the draft board rejected his appeal, and things got worse for Herman.
His family was embarrassed by his refusal to fight and some turned their back on him. Eventually, Herman was offered the opportunity to do Civilian Public Service but failed to appear at the camp in Pennsylvania on the December ‘8th’ 1942.
This resulted in Herman being arrested, and when he was brought before the court, Herman Poole Blount debated points of law and the meaning of excerpts from the Bible. When this didn’t convince the judge Herman Poole Blount said he would use a military weapon to kill the first high-ranking military officer possible. This resulted in Herman being jailed and led to one of the most disturbing periods in his life.
Herman’s experience in military prison were so terrifying and disturbing that he felt he no option but to write to the US Marshals Service in January 1943. By then, Herman felt he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He was suffering from stress and feeling suicidal. There was also the constant fear that he would be attacked by others within the military prison. Fortunately, the US Marshals Service looked favourably on his letter.
By February 1943, Herman was allowed out during the day to work in the forests around Pennsylvania, and at nights, he was able to play the piano. A month later, Herman was reclassified and released from military prison which brought to an end what had been a harrowing period of his life.
Having left prison, Herman formed a new band that played around the Birmingham area for the next two years. Then in 1945, when his Aunt Ida died, Herman left Birmingham, and headed to the Windy City of Chicago.
Now based in Chicago, Herman quickly found work within the city’s vibrant music scene. This included working with Wynonie Harris and playing on his two 1946 singles, Dig This Boogie and My Baby’s Barrelhouse. After that, Herman Poole Blount worked with Lil Green in some of Chicago’s strip clubs. Then in August 1946, Herman Poole Blount started working with Fletcher Henderson but by then, the bandleader’s fortunes were fading.
By then, Fletcher Henderson’s band was full of mediocre musicians, and to make matters worse, the bandleader was often missed gigs. This couldn’t be helped as Fletcher Henderson, was still recovering after a car accident. What Fletcher Henderson needed was someone to transform his band’s failing fortunes and this was where Herman came in. His role was arranger and pianist, but realising the band needed to change direction, he decided to infuse Fletcher Henderson’s trademark sound with bebop. However, the band were resistant to change and in 1948, Herman left Fletcher Henderson’s employ.
Following his departure from Fletcher Henderson’s band, Herman formed a trio with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and violinist Stuff Smith. Alas, the trio was somewhat short-lived and didn’t release any recordings.
Not long after this, Herman made his final appearance as a sideman on violinist’s Billy Bang’s Tribute to Stuff Smith. After this, Herman Poole Blount became Sun Ra.
By then, Chicago was changing, and was home to a number of African-American political activists. Soon, a number of fringe movements sprung up who were seeking political and religious change. When Herman became involved he was already immersing himself in history, especially, Egyptology. He was also fascinated with Chicago’s many ancient Egyptian-styled buildings and monuments. This resulted in Herman Poole Blount discovering George GM James’ book The Stolen Legacy which turned out to be a life-changing experience.
In The Stolen Legacy, George GM James argues that classical Greek philosophy actually has its roots in Ancient Egypt. This resulted in Herman concluding that the history and accomplishments of Africans had been deliberately denied and suppressed by various European cultures. It was as if Herman’s eyes had been opened and was just the start of a number of changes in his life.
As 1952 dawned, Herman had formed a new band, The Space Trio. It featured saxophonist Pat Patrick and Tommy Hunter. At the time, they were two of the most talented musicians Herman knew. This allowed him to write even more complicated and complex compositions. However, in October 1952 the author of these tracks was no longer Herman Poole Blount was Sun Ra had just been born.
Just like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, adopting the name Sun Ra was perceived by some as Herman choosing to dispense with his slave name. This was a kind of spiritual rebirth for Sun Ra, and was certainly was a musical rebirth.
After Pat Patrick got married, and moved to Florida, this left The Space Trio with a vacancy for a saxophonist. Tenor saxophonist, John Gilmore was hired and filled the void. He would become an important part of Sun Ra’s band in the future.
So would the next new recruit alto saxophonist Marshall Allen. They were then joined by saxophonist James Spaulding, trombonist Julian Priester and briefly, tenor saxophonist Von Freeman. Another newcomer was Alton Abraham, who would become Sun Ra’s manager. He made up for Sun Ra’s shortcomings when it came to business matters.
While he was a hugely talented bandleader, who demanded the highest standards, Sun Ra, like many other musicians, was no businessman. With Alton Abraham onboard, Sun Ra could concentrate on music while his new manager took care of business. This included setting up El Saturn Records, an independent record label, which would release many of Sun Ra’s records. However, El Saturn Records didn’t released Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s debut album, Jazz By Sun Ra.
Instead, Jazz By Sun Ra was released in 1956, on the short-lived Transition Records. However, Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s sophomore album Super Sonic Jazz was released in March 1956, on El Saturn Records. Sound Of Joy was released on Delmark in November 1956. However, it was El Saturn Records that would release the majority of Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s albums.
In 1961, Sun Ra deeded to leave Chicago and move to New York where he would begin a new chapter in his career. Much had happened to Sun Ra since he first arrived in Chicago 1945 as the World War II drew to a close. Back then, he was still called Herman Poole Blount and was trying to forge a career as a musician. By the time he left Chicago he was a pioneer of free jazz
Phase Two-New York.
Sun Ra and His Arkestra journeyed to New York in the autumn of 1961, where they lived communally. This allowed Sun Ra to call rehearsals at short notice, and during the rehearsals, he was a relentless taskmaster who was seeking perfection. However, this paid off and Sun Ra and His Arkestra recorded a string of groundbreaking albums. This included Secrets of the Sun in 1962 which was the most accessible recording from their solar period. However, Sun Ra and his music continued to evolve in the Big Apple
The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Volume 1 was released by Sun Ra and his Solar Arkestra in 1965. Sun Ra had dispensed was the idea of harmony and melody, and also decided there should be no continuous beat. Instead, the music revolved around improvisation and incorporated programmatic effects. This was the case The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Volume 2 which was released later in 1965.
As Sun Ra and His Arkestra came to the end of their time in New York, their music was often described as “avant-garde jazz” or “free jazz.” However, Sun Ra started to reject the free jazz label that was attached to his music. He pointed out that his music had been influenced by different types of ethnic music and he often used percussion, synths and in one case strings.
A case in point was Strange Strings which was released in 1967 and found Sun Ra and His Arkestra playing an array of stringed instruments while he adds vast quantities of reverb. Strange Strings was just the latest innovative album Sun Ra released during his New York period, which came to an end in 1968. By then, the cost of living was proving prohibitive and Sun Ra decided to move his band again.
Sun Ra wasn’t moving his Arkestra far, just to Philadelphia where it was much cheaper to live. Again, Sun Ra and His Arkestra lived communally in Philadelphia which was their “third period.”
During this period, Sun Ra’s music became much more conventional and often incorporated swing standards when they played live. However, still Sun Ra’s concerts featured performances where his sets were eclectic and the music full of energy as they veered between standards and always at least, one lengthy, semi-improvised percussive jam.
In the studio, Sun Ra and His Arkestra continued to innovate, releasing albums of the quality of 1970s My Brother The Wind Volume 1, The Night Of The Purple Moon and 1972s Astro Place. However, Sun Ra in 1973 released two classic albums like Space Is The Place and Discipline 27-II. Sun Ra was at the peak of his powers and seemed to have been reinvigorated creatively after moving to Philly.
“Of Abstract Dreams.”
Buoyed by the critical acclaim and commercial success of Space Is The Place and Discipline 27-II had enjoyed during 1973, Sun Ra knew that 1974 was going to be yet another busy year. He was used to this, as Sun Ra and His Arkestra had been working non stop since 1972. They embarked upon lengthy tours and recorded several albums in Chicago, California and Philly. It was more of the same in 1974, with Sun Ra and His Arkestra embarking upon yet another lengthy and gruelling tour of America. Still, Sun Ra found time to prepare a couple of live albums for his El Saturn label, and record a session for the Philly based radio station WXPN FM.
From 1974 to 1980, Sun Ra was a regular visitor to the WXPN FM radio studios which were situated on the campus of the University Of Pennsylvania. That was where he first encountered station manager Jules Epstein and music director Russ Woessner who played their part in introducing Sun and His Arkestra to a new and wider audience. Ir was also at the WXPN FM radio studios where the material for The Antique Blacks album was recorded. However, while some of the material recorded during the WXPN FM sessions were released by Sun Ra, some has lain in the Sun Ra vaults for over forty years. Remarkably, this includes the four tracks on “Of Abstract Dreams.”
The exact dates of the recordings on “Of Abstract Dreams” is unknown, and all that can be said for sure is the they were recorded during 1974 and 1975. During that two year period, it’s thought that Sun Ra and His Arkestra made several visits to the studios of WXPN FM, where Sun Ra’s compositions Islands In The Sun, New Dawn and I’ll Wait For You were recorded. So too was the Lacy Gibson and Alton Abraham composition I’m Gonna Unmask The Batman. These four tracks were recorded by Sun Ra and His Arkestra and although the core band is the same on each track, there’s the occasional change in the lineup. This allows Sun Ra and His Arkestra to create another set whee the music is innovative and groundbreaking.
That is the case from the jangling piano that opens this new and previously unheard of version of Island In The Sun that opens “Of Abstract Dreams.” With no bass player present, Sun Ra’s left hand beats out a rhythmic bass pattern on the piano as the fluttering flute soars high above the arrangement as extra layers of percussion are added and thicken the sound. Later, a chant adds to the spiritual quality of this new and previous unheard version of Island In The Sun.
It gives way New Dawn a ten minute epic where a rueful fluid saxophone joins a dark deliberate piano as the arrangement meanders. Soon, the saxophone veers between fluid to a much more freer and inventive sound. Especially when the arrangement builds and other members of the Arkestra play their part. Wailing horns, drum rolls and percussion play their part in what’s one of the finest moments on “Of Abstract Dreams.”
I’m Gonna Unmask The Batman finds Sun Ra and His Arkestra fusing the music of the past and present to make the music of the future. It features a rhythmic, melodic sound that is tinged with h swings as a gravelly vocal and harmonies play their part in this raucous version of I’m Gonna Unmask The Batman.
Closing “Of Abstract Dreams” is the first studio recording of I’ll Wait For You which featured on Strange Celestial Road. Here it has a much more understated sound with Sun Ra’s piano taking centre-stage and sometimes, even hinting at boogie woogie. Soon, John Gilmore’s tenor saxophone veers between a much more traditional swinging sound to a freer, more avant-garde sound. At one point, cosmic pioneer Sun Ra can be heard unleashing a stream of conscious that includes: “many light years in space,” as the arrangement continues to build. Later, it becomes an inventive free jam before becoming understated, as it draws to a memorable close.
For anyone with even a passing interest in Sun Ra’s music, “Of Abstract Dreams” is another reminder of this musical pioneer at the peak of his powers. With the classic lineup of his Arkestra, he recorded the four tracks between 1974 and 1975 at the WXPN FM radio studios which were situated on the campus of the University Of Pennsylvania. Nobody knew these tracks even existed until the tape was discovered in Sun Ra’s vaults. Despite it being nearly twenty-five years since the great man’s death, still hidden treasures are being unearthed and that includes “Of Abstract Dreams” which was recently released by Strut. It’s a welcome reminder of a pioneer of free jazz and a truly innovative and influential musician
For nearly forty years, Sun Ra pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. He was a pioneer and innovator, but also a perfectionist and relentless taskmaster. With some of most talented, inventive and adventurous musicians of their generation, Sun Ra set about honing his Arkestra’s sound. This paid off with music of the standard of the four tracks on “Of Abstract Dreams.” It’s played by Sun Ra’s Arkestra who like their leader were innovators and musical adventurers.
Sun Ra was never content to stand still musically, throughout his career was always trying to reinvent his music. Similarly, he was always looking to reinvent familiar tracks and the original version was merely the starting point. What it became, was anyone’s guess? Sun Ra was forever determined to innovate, and when he reinvented a track.
That was the case on “Of Abstract Dreams” where what are now familiar tracks head in a new and different direction. To do that, he combined Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with free jazz, avant-garde, improv and sometimes a much more traditional jazzy sound that had become part of his music since the end of time in New York. However, still Sun Ra’s music on “Of Abstract Dreams” is unique, inimitable and innovative and is a reminder of a musical legend and cosmic traveller, who sadly, left this planet nearly twenty-five years ago, but left behind a rich musical legacy.
Sun Ra-“Of Abstract Dreams.”
Tim Maia-Disco Club.
Label: Mr. Bongo Records.
By 1978, Tim Maia had released nine 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 by bailiffs and debt collectors on a daily basis. Tim Maia hoped that his tenth album Disco Club, which was recently reissued by Mr. Bongo Records, would sell well enough to solve all his financial problems, given disco’s popularity in Brazil. Disco Club needed to sell well as all the money that Tim Maia had earned since 1970 was long gone, spent 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.
After the disappointment of his previous album, Tim Maia returned in 1977 with eighth album which he once again, decided to call Tim Maia. It found Tim Maia combining soul, funk and Latin influences on what’s an underrated album. Sadly, Tim Maia failed commercially and thirty-five year old Tim Maia was a worried man.
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.
Fortunately, there was still a small sum of money left from the advance Tim Maia had received from Polydor, and he decided to use this to record his ninth album. Unlike previous albums, he decided to record the album in English, which was something Tim Maia had always dreamt of. Using the last of his advance, he put a band together and recorded Tim Maia en Ingles. When the album was released in early 1978, Tim Maia en Ingles sold less than 10,000 which was nothing compared to what his other albums had sold. This was another financial disaster for Tim Maia whose finances went from bad to worse.
With no money, and his popularity at an all-time low, the future wasn’t looking good for Tim Maia who watched as Brazil was won over by disco. The film Saturday Night Fever had just been released in Brazil, and records by Chic, Gloria Gaynor, KC and The Sunshine Band and Kool and The Gang were filling dancefloors in clubs across the country. Little did Tim Maia that two of the leading lights of Brazilian music were hatching a plan for him to record a disco album.
Lincoln Olivetti was one of the top arrangers in Brazil, while Guti Carvalho one of the country’s leading producers and they were keen to record a disco album with Tim Maia. They were both aware that the maverick singer was one of Brazil’s most talented singers, but were also aware of the reputation of being unpredictable. Their job was to harness Tim Maia’s talent and help him record an album where he reached the heights of his first four albums. However, to do that, required the backing of a record company.
Guti Carvalho approached Warner Bros in the hope that they would be interested in signing the flawed genius Tim Maia. However, they were well aware of his past and knew what had happened when he signed to RCA Victor. However, eventually, they decided to take a chance on Tim Maia, and he signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. His debut would be Disco Club, which was arranged by Lincoln Olivetti and produced by Guti Carvalho.
Now that he had signed to Warner Bros, Tim Maia was keen to begin work on Disco Club which he hoped would transform his career and finances. He wrote Acenda O Farol, Sossego, Vitória Régia Estou Contigo E Não Abro, All I Want, Se Me Lembro Faz Doer, Juras and Johnny. Tim Maia also joined forces with Hyldon to write the album opener A Fim De Voltar. It was joined by Cassiano’s Murmúrio while Arnaud Rodrigues and Piau penned Pais E Filhos. These ten tracks became Disco Club, which was recorded in two studios in Rio de Janeiro, Estudios Level and Estúdio Transamérica.
When the recording of Disco Club began, arranger and keyboardist Lincoln Olivetti and Guti Carvalho who co-produced the album with Tim Maia were joined by Argentinian conductor and arranger Miguel Cidrás. He was brought onboard to write the string arrangements to five of the tracks on Disco Club. No expense was spared and some of the top Brazilian musicians made their way to the studio to record an album that was soulful, funky and was also influenced by Tim Maia’s love of American disco. Lush strings, rasping horns and soulful backing vocalists joined percussion, keyboards and the rhythm section who added the Disco Club’s heartbeat. Gradually, a disco classic started to take shape on Tim Maia’s tenth album Disco Club. However, during the recording there was a problem.
When Tim Maia went to listen to the playback of Pais E Filhos he wasn’t impressed by what he heard, so producer Guti Carvalho opened the microphone to ask Miguel Cidrás to listen to the playback. Not knowing the microphone was open, Tim Maia explained that he felt his voice was being overpowered by the strings, and would rather have one of his friend arranging the strings. Miguel Cidrás heard every world and raced into the studio and grabbed Tim Maia by his tie and through him to the ground and it’s alleged started choking him. It took Guti Carvalho and Piau to get Miguel Cidrás off of Tim Maia.
As Tim Maia gasped for breath, he made it clear that he wanted Miguel Cidrás to play no further part in the session. He was gone for good as far as Tim Maia was concerned. Meanwhile, Miguel Cidrás was furious at this act of disrespect, but Warner Bros realised that the session couldn’t continue with him and at great expense paid the Argentinean arranger off. Things only lightened up when Tim Maia’s friend Mauricio do Valle arrived at the session and produced a large bag of cocaine. Suddenly, things started to return to normal.
After that, Tim Maia’s tenth album Disco Club began to take shape, and over the next few days and weeks, the musical maverick recorded what was one of his finest albums.
Opening Disco Club is the hook-laden, soulful disco of A Fim De Voltar where strings sweep and swirl as horns punctuate the arrangement and soulful harmonies accompany Tim Maia who announces his return. There’s no stopping him as the horns and strings combine while the rhythm section provide the heartbeat to Acenda O Farol which features a heartfelt and soulful vocal.
The tempo drops on Sossego where the arrangement is initially tough and funky as a clavinet joins with the rhythm section as horns blaze and strings sweep. When Tim Maia’s vocal enters, the band take their lead from the soul man and locks into a groove on another irresistible track. It gives way to Vitória Régia Estou Contigo E Não Abro which is a funky instrumental workout complete with stabs of blazing horns where Tim Maia allows his band to take centre-stage.
Tim Maia’s at his most soulful, as he delivers a hopeful soliloquy on All I Want where he’s augmented by backing vocalists. Later, though, things get funky while disco strings dance on this carefully crafted, genre-melting track. Murmúrio has a dreamy, jazz-tinged sound as the arrangement floats along before Tim Maia deliver a tender, soulful vocal. He’s accompanied by a Fender Rhodes, lush strings and gentle harmonies that play their part in this beautiful song. It’s followed by the beautiful ballad Pais E Filhos where strings sweep and join keyboards, harmonies, stabs of horns as the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. When Tim Maia enters, he delivers one of his most soulful as scatted harmonies accompany him and reaches new heights. This continues on the string drenched ballad Se Me Lembro Faz Doer where Tim Maia delivers a soul-baring vocal.
When Juras begins to reveal its secrets, Tim Maia’s soulful vocal is accompanied by harmonies and lush sweeping disco strings. They play their part in a soulful and funky dancefloor filler. It gives way to Jhony which closes Disco Club, where Tim Maia delivers an impassioned vocal as the arrangement combines elements of funk, disco and a rocky guitar solo. This ensures that Disco Club which marked the return of Tim Maia, ends on a high.
After several years where Tim Maia had struggled to reach the heights of his first four albums, he was back with what proved to one of the finest albums of his career, Disco Club. It combines disco with funk, soul, MPB and occasionally jazz and rock. Disco Club’s slick, polished and hook-laden sound found an audience across Brazil when it was released later in 1978. Tim Maia’s Disco Club became one of the most successful albums of his career.
The Brazilian soul man was back with what’s one of the finest album that Tim Maia released during a career that spanned three decades and thirty-four albums. Disco Club marked the return of the maverick soul man whose career had been a roller coaster since making a commercial breakthrough with Tim Maia 1970.
Since then, he had embraced become one of the most successful Brazilian singers of the early seventies, defiantly embraced the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, joined a cult and spent all the money that had earned. That was why Tim Maia found himself playing a game of cat and mouse with bailiffs and debt collectors before releasing Disco Club. However, apart from joining the cult, 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, Disco Club was one of the finest albums Tim Maia released after his post-Racional comeback. So much so, that Disco Club is as good as Tim Maia’s first four albums, when his star shone the brightest. These albums are 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 who was capable of producing several classic albums, including Disco Club, which was one of the highlights of his long and eventful career.
Tim Maia-Disco Club.
The Fugitives-The Promise Of Strangers.
Label: Borealis Records.
A lot has happened to the Canadian indie folk collective The Fugitives since they were founded eleven years ago in 2007, and began what has been a roller coaster musical adventure. They’ve been nominated for several Canadian Folk Music Awards and a Western Canadian Music Award, headlined many top Americana festivals, toured Britain, Western Europe and constantly toured their native Canada where they’re one of the leading lights of the music scene. Still, The Fugitives have found time to release four albums, including The Promise Of Strangers which was recently released by Borealis Records. This is just the latest chapter in The Fugitives story.
The Fugitives roots can be traced to the day when songwriter Brendan McLeod joined forces with three of his poet friends who just happened to play an instrument. Initially, Brendan McLeod remembers how: “we pretended to be a band” and “the music side was secondary.” However, after a while things started to change.
Especially when Adrian Glynn joined the nascent band, and Brendan McLeod discovered that he had much in common with the newcomer. Both were from a performance, theatre and acting background, which meant they were able to see things from a different perspective. This proved useful when they began writing songs together.
Straight away, Adrian Glynn and Brendan McLeod seemed to click as songwriters, and this was the start of a successful and fruitful partnership. That was no surprise to Adrian Glynn as: “we have similar ideas and politics.” The only problem was that Brendan McLeod was living in Vancouver and Adrian Glynn called Toronto home. Despite the distance between the two songwriters they collaborated on songs and soon, decided to road test them by playing live.
Little did Adrian Glynn and Brendan McLeod realise as they embarked on that first round of gigs that over the next decade they would spend much of their time in cars, vans and planes as they toured Canada, and later Western Europe and Britain. During these tours, the two core members of The Fugitives were augmented by other musicians, including banjo player and vocalist Mark Berube, ‘beatbox’ and vocalist CR Avery and accordionist and vocalist Barbara Adler. They played their part in The Fugitives success story. However, the early gigs allowed The Fugitives to hone and tighten their sound which also introduced the band’s music to a new audience. This would soon prove important,
The Fugitives having clicked as songwriters and musicians decided to released Face Of Impurity in 2007 which spent a month in the Canadian folk charts. This was the start of The Fugitives’ recording career.
Later in 2007, The Fugitives returned with their debut album In Streetlight Communion which the band released. In Streetlight Communion was a showcase for the songwriting and musical skills of Adrian Glynn and Brendan McLeod as The Fugitives won over music fans with their unique indie folk sound. Already people were taking notice of The Fugitives whose career was well underway.
Over the next couple of years, The Fugitives continued to tour their native Canada, and spent much of their time in cars and vans travelling between venues. The rest of the time Adrian Glynn and Brendan McLeod spent on the other arts projects that they were involved with. However, in 2009, The Fugitives returned with their Find Me EP, which whetted music fans appetite for the band’s sophomore album.
A year later, The Fugitives returned in 2010 with their eagerly awaited sophomore album Eccentrically We Love. Although this was The Fugitives’s first album in three years, Eccentrically We Love showed a band that was maturing with every release. While the music was ostensibly indie folk, other genres including folk hop and slam folk could also be heard on Eccentrically We Love, which marked the return of The Fugitives.
It was another three years, before The Fugitives returned with a new album, and between 2010 and 2013 they continued what was a gruelling touring schedule. They were no familiar faces on the Canadian live scene and had already started to spread their wings, as they began to play further afield. However, in 2013 The Fugitives released their Bigger than Luck EP and their third album Everything Will Happen, which was hailed as the finest album of their career. Everything Will Happen spent ten weeks in the top ten of the Canadian folk charts, and was The Fugitives’ most successful album.
After the success of Everything Will Happen, The Fugitives were invited to support Buffy Sainte-Marie during her tour of Western Canada and to appear at the prestigious Glastonbury Festival, in England. The Fugitives’ star was definitely in the ascendancy.
Over the next four years, The Fugitives have continued to tour extensively playing at the major Canadian folk festivals, playing headlining slots in Americana festivals in different parts of the world and touring Britain and Western Europe. During this period, The Fugitives have continued to be nominated for a variety of prestigious awards in their native Canada. So far, this included several Canadian Folk Music Awards and a Western Canadian Music Award. This is no surprise to anyone whose been to The Fugitives show or heard their albums as The Fugitives are without doubt, one of Canada’s top musical efforts.
Now after nearly five years away, The Fugitives recently returned with their much-anticipated fourth album The Promise Of Strangers. It features eleven new songs, including ten from the Adrian Glynn and Brendan McLeod songwriting partnership. They also wrote Till It Feels Like Home with drummer and percussionist John Ramsay, whose one of the guest artists who joined The Fugitives when The Promise Of Strangers was recorded.
When The Fugitives began recording The Promise Of Strangers, the core band still featured Adrian Glynn and Brendan McLeod. This talented duo was able to play many of the instruments on the album themselves. Especially Adrian Glynn who is a multi-instrumentalist who played bass, guitars, mandolin, organ, piano, percussion, synths and added vocals. Brendan McLeod played guitars and added vocals on The Promise Of Strangers. However, The Fugitives still needed the help of some of their musical friends.
As a result, Adrian Glynn and Brendan McLeod only brought musicians onboard as and when they needed them. This has served The Fugitives well on previous albums, and worked well during the recording of The Promise Of Strangers.
The Fugitives drafted in a rhythm section that variously included drummer and percussionist John Ramsay, drummer Leon Power and bassists James Scholl and Marcus Ambramzik. Meanwhile, Steve Charles switched between banjo and bass and also added vocals, while Cory Sweet played baritone and tenor saxophone. Other musicians who made their way to the studio to augment The Fugitives were organist Ben Elliot, Cayne MacKenzie on synths, trumpeter Vince Mai, violinists Carly Frey and Ali Romanov who also added vocals. When it came to record No Words The Awesome Gospel Choir joined The Fugitives, and then The Awesome Friends Gang featured Come Back Down and the album closer Lights Out.
When The Promise Of Strangers was completed, it was scheduled for release in early 2018 and marks the welcome return of the musical yin and yang Adrian Glynn and Brendan McLeod. They showcase their considerable skills on The Promise Of Strangers which is the fourth album they’ve recorded as The Fugitives.
Just like previous albums and their live shows, The Promise Of Strangers combine complex harmonies with top class musicianship on cerebral songs that are full of social comment. Other songs are incredibly poignant and personal to The Fugitives. This includes songs that are dedicated to friends and family of the band. However, other songs are purely figments of The Fugitives’ fertile imagination. All of these songs are based around arrangements that are built around an acoustic guitar, piano, banjo, and violin, which is similar to previous albums. However, Promise Of Strangers is the most ambitious album from Adrian Glynn and Brendan McLeod and features some of the finest songs they’ve written during a career that spans four album and eleven years.
Opening The Promise Of Strangers is No Words, a beautiful, poignant homage to Leonard Cohen written the day after his death. It features a heartfelt vocal and slow-burning arrangement on a song that sets the bar high for the rest of the album. The tempo rises on See This Winter Out which deals with a young friend The Fugitives who is undergoing cancer treatment. They’ve written a deeply moving and poignant country-tinged song that tugs at the heartstrings.
Till It Feels Like Home is a piano led ballad that was written for the protagonist of the hit Canadian show Orphan Black. Again, the arrangement is a slow-burner which provides the backdrop to a soaring, soul-baring vocal. Another emotive vocals follows on Northern Lights where indie folk meets country as another carefully crafted arrangement takes shape. The Fugitives’ trademark harmonies opens the ballad For Everyone Else before a vocal bristling with emotion breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. It’s a similar case on My Mother Sang where the two members of The Fugitives pay an emotional and impassioned tribute to their mothers who both single-handedly brought up three children.
The Fugitives indulge in some time travel on London In The Sixties, which features lyrics that are rich in imagery as they sing of the possible regrets of emigrating to start a new life overseas. As a result, the lyrics are delivered with power and passion as a rasping baritone saxophone solo soars above the arrangement adding the finishing touch to this thought-provoking song.
On Orlando, which is dedicated to the victims and survivors of Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016, The Fugitives deploy synths and drums that have been treated with effects to provide a poignant backdrop to a vocal that is emotive and full of disbelief.
From the harsh reality of real life, The Fugitives turn their attention to another fictional character in The Wind One. The Fugitives wrote this ballad for the adolescent lead in director in Randall Okita’s critically acclaimed debut feature film debut The Lockpicker. It gives way to Come Back Down where tubular bells join The Awesome Friends Gang’s backing vocals and play their part in the sound and success of this anthemic track. Closing The Promise Of Strangers is the rueful ballad Lights Out which The Fugitives dedicated to Adam Capay who has been held in solitary confinement in a Thunder Bay jail for four years with the lights on. It’s a thought-provoking way for The Fugitives to close their comeback album.
After nearly five years away, The Fugitives recently returned with their eagerly awaited and much-anticipated fourth album The Promise Of Strangers. It features uptempo songs, anthems and beautiful ballads on a carefully crafted album which features cerebral and thought-provoking lyrics. They were written by The Fugitives who have come of age on The Promise Of Strangers, which is the finest album of their eleven year career. So much so, that The Promise Of Strangers is best described as a career-defining album from The Fugitives, who reach new heights on and set the bar high for future albums.
The Fugitives-The Promise Of Strangers.
Gene Page-Hot City and Lovelock.
By 1974, Gene Page was thirty-five, and a successful arranger, composer, conductor and producer, who already had over 350 credits to his name. Many of these singles and albums had been certified gold or platinum, and there was no shortage of artists wanting to work with Gene Page who seemed to have the Midas touch. He had come a long way since Jimmy Bowen had hired him as a staff arranger for Frank Sinatra’s new label Reprise in 1962.
Since then, he had worked with the great and good of music, including Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Merry Clayton, Barbra Streisand, The Fifth Dimension, Love Unlimited, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Redbone, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Andy Williams and Barry White. Despite working on so many successful singles and albums, there was still one thing missing from Gene Page’s CV…his solo album.
Over the last twelve years, Gene Page had been so busy working with other people, that he just hadn’t gotten round to writing, recording and releasing his debut album. This changed in 1974, when Gene Page released Hot City, which was produced by his old friend Barry White. He was well on his way to becoming a soul superstar after his debut album I’ve Got So Much To Give and the followup Stone Gon’ which both featured arrangements by Gene Page, had topped the US R&B charts in 1973 and been certified gold. This was just the latest successful project Gene Page had been involved in. Hot City which was recently released alongside his sophomore album Lovelock by BGO Records, marked the start of a new chapter in the Gene Page story.
Gene Page was born in Los Angeles on September the ‘13th’ 1939, but grew up in a musical family in New York. His father was a composer and his singer, and both enjoyed listening to music in the evenings. As a young boy, Gene Page’s father taught him to play the piano and growing up, he hoped that one day he would become a professional classical pianist
After graduating from high school, Gene Page enrolled at the Brooklyn Observatory in New York on a four-year course. He was one step nearer fulfilling his dream of becoming a concert pianist. However, Gene Page’s dream never became reality and he left the Brooklyn Observatory before graduating.
After that, Gene Page headed to the West Coast, where he enrolled at college in an attempt to revive his musical dream. Having left college, Gene Page joined up with his elder brother Billy who was a professional songwriter.
Soon, Gene Page was also writing songs for Billy Page and for American Music Group. Then when his brother Billy needed demos of these songs recorded, Gene Page arranged the songs which were recorded by two young, up-and-coming singers Glen Campbell and Johnny Rivers. All this was good practise for Gene Page, would made a breakthrough in 1962.
This was the year that Frank Sinatra planned to open his own record company Reprise, where Jimmy Bowen was the in-house producer. He spotted the potential in Gene Page, and offered him a job as a staff arranger, where he worked with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. However, after a couple of years at Reprise, Gene Page was ready to spread his wings.
Having made the decision to freelancer in 1963, Gene Page was hired to work with Debby Worth and The Olympics. Later in 1963, Gene Page was asked to arrange Harlem Shuffle for soul duo Bob and Earl, which was the first successful single he had worked on. It was also during this session that Gene Page met Barry White, and a lifelong friendship began.
The following year, Phil Spector brought Gene Page onboard to arrange The Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling when Jack Nitzsche was unavailable. Following the success of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Gene Page’s star was in the ascendancy.
By 1965, Gene Page was worked with some of the biggest names in American music, including Bobby Darin, The Drifters and The Fifth Dimension. He also arranged The In Crowd for Dobie Gray which was penned by Billy Page. However, the most successful single Gene Page worked on was Solomon Burke’s Got To Get You Off My Mind which topped the US R&B charts. After another successful year, Gene Page was approached by Berry Gordy of Motown.
Berry Gordy wanted Gene Page to move to Detroit, and become part of the Motown success story. Despite enjoying freelancing, Gene Page agreed, and became a member of the Motown studio band the Funk Brothers.
During the remainder of the sixties, Gene Page continued to freelance, and was also a member of the Funk Brothers who accompanied all the artists on the Motown roster. The hours were long, with one session finishing, and another beginning. Often the sessions lasted into the early hours of the next morning, as the Funk Brothers accompanied everyone from Marvin Gaye and The Supremes to the label’s latest signing. However, during this period, it was Motown’s policy not to credit individual musicians, so there’s no accurate record of how many sessions musicians like Gene Page played on between 1966 and 1969.
As 1970 dawned, Gene Page was busier than ever, and continued to work on arrangements for singles and albums by soul and funk artists. By then, Gene Page was also working with a with a number of pop artists, inducing the Everly Brothers and Barbra Streisand. However, in 1970, another opportunity arose for Gene Page when he was asked to score the soundtrack to the movie Brewster McCloud, which eventually featured five pieces by the Gene Page Orchestra. Two years later, and Gene Page would be back with another soundtrack.
Over the next two years, Gene Page continued to work almost non stop as an arranger and producer. He worked with The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Solomon Burke, Frankie Vali and also with The Four Seasons and with Barbra Streisand, Robert John, Gary Puckett and Love Unlimited who were Barry White’s backing group. The future soul superstar was Love Unlimited, but just like his own career, commercial success was eluding them.
After releasing his debut single in 1964, Barry White had struggled to make a breakthrough for the best part of a decade. By 1972, Barry White was ready to record his debut album, and Gene Page was brought onboard to take charge of the arrangements. When Barry White released his I’ve Got So Much To Give in March 1973 it reached sixteen in the US Billboard 200, number one in the US R&B charts and was certified gold. At last, Barry White was enjoying the success his talent deserved.
Four months later, in July 1973, Love Unlimited released their sophomore album Under The Influence Of… Love Unlimited which was produced by Barry White and featured arrangements by Gene Page. It reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and US R&B charts and was certified gold. Meanwhile in Canada, Under The Influence Of…Love Unlimited topped the album charts. For the production and arrangement team of Barry White and Gene Page this was their second success of 1973. Soon, two became three.
Three months later, in October 1973, Barry White released his sophomore album Stone Gon’ which reached twenty in the US Billboard 200, topped the US R&B charts and was certified gold. Barry White knew this wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of his friend Gene Page and was keen to help him launch his solo career.
That was why Barry White suggested to Gene Page that it was time to record another album. This time though, it wasn’t going to be another Barry White solo album, as he had just completed work on his third album Can’t Get Enough, which again, featured arrangements by Gene Page. Instead, Barry White wanted to produce an orchestral album with no singers that would become Gene Page’s debut album Hot City.
When Billy Page heard of Barry White’s plan to produce his brother Gene’s debut album, he too, was in favour of the plan. However, Billy Page like Barry White knew that they couldn’t take the plan any further without a record company backing them. Recording an album which featured orchestral arrangements and top session players came at a price, and this was a price only a record company could afford.
Fortunately, when Atlantic Records heard of Barry White’s plan to produce Gene Page’s debut album they were won over and offer him a two album contract. With the contract signed, work began on Hot City.
For Hot City, Gene Page wrote All Our Dreams Are Coming True and with his brother Billy Page penned Jungle Eyes and She’s My Main Squeeze. Gene Page and wrote Cream Corner and To The Bone with Barry White who contributed Gene’s Theme, Don’t Play That Song and Satin Soul. The other track on the album was I Am Living In A World of Gloom which was written by Barry White, Carnell Harrell, Elbert Denny. These tracks were recorded at Whitney Studio, in Glendale, California.
At Whitney Studio, some of the top session players joined Gene Page who arranged, conducted and played keyboards on Hot City. Barry White also played keyboards but was main role was producing Gene Page’s debut album. It featured a rhythm section of drummer Ed Greene, bassist Wilton Felder and guitarists David T. Walker, Dean Parks, Melvin “Wah-Wah” Watson and Ray Parker Jr. They were joined by keyboardist Clarence McDonald, conga players Joe Clayton and Gary Coleman plus Ernie Watts who played flute and saxophone. Later, strings were added which gave the Hot City the symphonic sound Barry White was looking for. When Hot City complete the release date was scheduled for later in 1974.
Before that, critics had their say on Gene Page’s much-anticipated debut album. Critics on hearing Hot City was compared favourably to Barry White’s first two solo albums. This was no surprise as both albums had been produced by Barry White and featured arrangements by Gene Page. However, Gene Page wrote much of Hot City and plays keyboards on album that allows the creme de la creme of LA’s session musicians to play to their strengths.
That is the case from the album opener All Our Dreams Are Coming True where Ed Greene’s drums drive the arrangement to this early disco track along as strings sweep and swirl adding a symphonic sound. The strings are omnipresent and feature on Jungle Eyes with its baroque harpsichord and French horns, the mid-tempo She’s My Main Squeeze, the uplifting symphonic soul of I Am Living In A World of Gloom, the dramatic Don’t Play that Song, right up to the closing notes of To The Bone which showcases the skills of guitarist Wah Wah Watson as he unleashes a spellbinding effects laden performance. This ensures that Hot City closes on a high.
Hot City is a slick, carefully crafted and melodic album where strings sweeten the nine tracks on Hot City, adding the finishing touch to an album where elements of baroque, disco, funk, jazz and soul are combined by the cream of LA session players. In many ways, Hot City is similar to the music that the disco orchestras would record between 1975 and 1979. The only difference was the lack of vocals on Hot City. However, Gene Page’s arrangements and Barry White’s arrangements speak for themselves on Hot City.
Buoyed by the reviews of Hot City, the album was released by Atlantic Records, but stalled at 156 in the US Billboard and forty-one in the US R&B charts. When All Our Dreams Are Coming True was released as a single it reached number nine in the US Dance. The followup Satin Soul then reached number four in the US Dance charts and thirty-seven in the US Adult Contemporary charts. While Hot City hadn’t come close to replicating the success of Barry White’s first two albums, Gene Page’s solo career was well underway, and he would return in 1976 with the followup Lovelock.
Although Gene Page spent most of 1975 in the studio with a number of artists, he still found time to record Lovelock which was the followup to Hot City. By then, Gene Page had parted company with Barry White.
Gene Page’s arrangements had featured on Barry White’s first four albums which all topped the US R&B charts and were certified gold. Ironically, despite their successful working relationship, the two men who were musical opposites. Barry White was unable to read or write music while Gene Page was a classically trained musician. In the studio, it was Gene Page’s job to translate the music in Barry White’s head and help him bring it to life. This had worked well for four albums, but with their schedules no longer coinciding, they had no option but to go their separate ways.
Fortunately, Billy Page was able to fill part of the void left by the loss of Barry White when Gene Page began work on his sophomore album Lovelock. Gene Page penned Into My Thing and Escape To Disco and then wrote Organ Grinder, Higher My Love and Fantasy Woman with Billy Page who contributed Straw in the Mind. The Page brothers wrote two other songs with different songwriting partners. Gene Page wrote Together-Forever with Louis Johnson, Melvin Ragin, Rasputin Bantte, while Billy Page and Ray Parker Jr wrote Wild Cherry. These eight tracks became Lovelock which was produced by Gene and Billy Page.
Recording of Lovelock took place at the Sound Factory, in Hollywood during 1975, and many of the same musicians that played on Hot Love returned. The rhythm section of drummer Ed Greene, bassists Wilton Felder and Henry Davis and guitarists David T. Walker, Dean Parks, Melvin “Wah-Wah” Watson, Ray Parker Jr and Le Ritenour. They were joined by keyboardist Joe Sample, Tom Hensley, Reginald “Sonny” Burke and Michael Rubini while conga player Bobbye Hall was joined by percussionist Gary Coleman. Ernie Watts who played flute and saxophone was part of an expanded horn section Marry Clayton, Jim Gilstrap, Augie Johnson, John Lehman, Gregory Matta, Louis Patton, Carolyn Willis and Edna Wright added backing vocals. Meanwhile, keyboardist Gene Page took charge of arrangements and produced Lovelock with his brother Billy. When it was complete, Lovelock was scheduled for release in 1976
Two years after the release of Hot Love, Gene Page returned with Lovelock where string drenched arrangements were once again the order of the day. The main difference was the addition of backing vocals that added a soulfulness to the uplifting album opener Wild Cherry. It gives way to the disco funk of Organ Grinder and then the beautiful mid tempo ballad Higher My Love. Things get über funky on the hook laden Together-Whatever which features a circular chord pattern. The funk continues on the slow burner Fantasy Woman where stabs of horns punctuate the arrangement. Into My Thing was an anthem-in-waiting, while the jazz-tinged Straw In The Mind has a much looser sound, while Escape To Disco which closes the album is a mid tempo funk track. It brings to an end Gene Page’s sophomore album.
Just like Hot City, Lovelock was a slick, polished album which featured Gene Page’s trademark string drenched arrangements and intricate horn charts. Hooks hadn’t been spared in an album where Gene Page and his band switched between funk, soul, disco and jazz. The addition of the horn section and backing vocalists was a masterstroke and resulted in what’s a hugely underrated album.
Sadly, when Lovelock was released in February 1976 it failed to chart in the US Billboard 200, and reached just forty-five in the US R&B charts. Then when Close Encounters Of The Third Kind was released, it stalled at thirty in the US R&B charts. This wasn’t good enough for Atlantic Records, and Gene Page left the label shortly afterwards.
The two albums that Gene Page released for Atlantic Records, Hot City and Lovelock which have just been remastered and reissued by BGO Records, and are the first chapter in his short recording career. Gene Page who was at the peak of his powers was a hugely talented arranger, conductor, keyboardist, producer and songwriter, but only released four albums. Close Encounters followed in 1978 with Love Starts After Dark following in 1980. Sadly, it was Gene Page’s swan-song and he never released another album.
Still, though Gene Page continued to work was an arranger, conductor, producer and songwriter right up until the mid-eighties. By then, he was most prolific arrangers, conductors and producers and had worked on over 200 albums that were either certified gold or platinum. This was a remarkable achievement as Gene Page’s career began in 1962, and by all intents and purposes was over by the mid-eighties.
By then, the only the thing that had eluded Gene Page was a successful solo album. However, Hot City and Lovelock are both slick, polished and carefully crafted melodic albums where Gene Page hasn’t spared the hooks. Both Hot City and Lovelock have stood the test of time and showcase the Gene Page’s skills as an arranger, musician, producer and songwriter. Sadly, Gene Page passed away on August the ’24th’ 1998, aged just fifty-eight and that day, music lost one of its most talented sons. A reminder of that talent can be heard on Gene Page’s debut album Hot City and the followup Lovelock.
Gene Page-Hot City and Lovelock.
Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul and Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa.
Label: Soundway Records.
When 1980 dawned, little did the people of the Republic South Africa realise that this was the start of one of the most turbulent decades in the history of this proud and once great country. Over the next decade, there was political turmoil in South Africa which lead to repression, an increase in violence, poverty and unemployment in parts of the country. Things got so bad by July 1985 that it looked as if South Africa was tearing itself apart from within.
On the ‘21st’ of July 1985, the South African government declared a partial State of Emergency in thirty-six magisterial districts in the Eastern Cape and Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging area. This was the first State of Emergency since 1960, and was a sad day for South Africans, whose political leaders were meant to be working towards a peaceful transition of power and equality. For the people of South Africa, this looked like a pipe dream, and they watched as their country descent further into chaos.
Following the partial State of Emergency, resistance grew throughout the country and eventually in 1986 the South African government declared a State of Emergency nationwide. The government tried to micromanage media coverage and imposed curfew times and movement for individuals, group and organisational was restricted. Soon, the government imposed a complete clamp-down of citizen’s rights which resulted in the house arrests of many influential anti-apartheid leaders. In total, 2,346 people were detained under the Internal Security Act in an attempt to end resistance to the government’s control. However, this was failing and causing further problems within an already divided country.
While, the government had succeeded in disrupting the anti-apartheid movement, they continued to protest. In townships, fierce resistance and violent protests continued, and some parts of South Africa became increasingly difficult to govern. Meanwhile, tension was increasing and there was paranoia and distrust across the racial divide.
South Africa in the eighties was what was later described in the nineties as a “rainbow nation,” but was tearing itself apart. There was paranoia and distrust between the white South Africans and black and Indian South Africans which meant that the instability increased. However, there was one industry within the rainbow in this divided nation where everyone worked happily side-by-side making music. Some of that music features on Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul and Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa which was recently released by Soundway Records.
Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul and Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa features fifteen tracks from The Survivals, Hot Soul Singers, Zoom, Ashiko, Monwa and Sun, Black Five, Starlight, Zasha, Peter Maringa and Ozila. They provided the soundtrack to life in South Africa during this troubled decade and regularly featured on the South African Broadcasting Company’s network of regional stations where listeners heard the message of tolerance, unity and understanding.
Opening Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul and Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa is The Survivals’ My Brother, which is taken from their 1989 debut album The Big Mechanics which was released on the short-lived Anneko label. My Brother is a fusion of bubblegum soul and boogie, where gospel-tinged harmonies accompany the impassioned vocal on this powerful track. It sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation.
Stimela which is the Zulu word for locomotive, rose like a phoenix from the ashes of guitarist Ray Phiri’s previous band The Cannibals, in 1981. Three years later, in 1984, Stimela released their debut album Fire, Passion, Ecstasy on Gallo Records. It features the soulful boogie of Mind Games which opened the album and thirty-four years later is a timeless dance track. Nowadays, Stimela has become a musical institution who are revered in South Africa.
The Tembisa Happy Queens were formed in 1975, and four years later changed their name to the Hot Soul Singers in 1979. Having released their debut Together in 1981, the Hot Soul Singers released the mini album Give Me My Love Back in 1986. The following year 1987, they self-released their sophomore album Desire. One of the highlights of Desire was Hlala Nami which features the Hot Soul Singers at their most soulful.
When Zoom released their debut mini album on Priority Records in 1987, it closed with Wayawaya. It’s a smooth and soulful slice of boogie that is truly irresistible and has stood the test of time.
Ashiko released five albums during the eighties, including their album Gumba Fire (Madlakadlaka) on Teal Records in 1986. One of the highlights of the album is Gumba Fire (Madlakadlaka where this six piece band combine elements of Afrobeat with soul, funk and boogie. The result is a potent and heady brew that is irresistible.
Monwa and Sun collaborated on the album Tigers Don’t Cry which was released on the Cool Spot label in 1989, and featured Heartbeat. Straight away, there’s a bubblegum soul sound before the track incorporates elements of boogie and funk. It’s produced by Mally Watson who owned the Cool Spot label and is responsible for a melodic and catchy dance track.
During the eighties, Ntombi Ndaba was one of the most successful South African female singers. Ntombi Ndaba released her eponymous debut album on the Anneko label in 1988. It features Ntombi Ndaba’s backing band Survival and the backing vocalist The Angels. They play their part in the sound and success of Do You Trust Amajita which features a powerful, sassy vocal on this carefully crafted example of quality bubblegum soul.
Black Five only released the one album during their career, Pula Ea Na which was released on Third World Music in 1983. The standout track on Pula Ea Na was Selallane, a boogie dancefloor filler which is funky, soulful and hook-laden.
In 1983, Starlight released their eponymous debut album which was released on the Heads label. It featured Picnicing which from get-go heads in the direction of boogie. Synths are to the fore on this instrumental which was penned by producers Emil Zoghby and John Galanakis, and play their part in this contemporary sounding track that was way ahead of the musical curve. So much so, that it still sound fresh thirty-five years later.
Only one group features twice on the compilation, and that is the Afro pop group Zasha. Their first contribution is Hayi Ngodlame which is the title-track to their third album, which was released on the Super Kurl label in July 1989. Zasha delivers their bubblegum soul vocal against an arrangement that sounds as if it’s been inspired by Hall and Oates’ eighties albums. Arrow Dub is Zasha’s second contribution and is taken from their debut album Love Target which was released on Teal Records in 1986. It’s a fusion of funk, soul, jazz and Afrobeat which is given a dubby makeover.
When Sabela self-released their debut mini album Sikiza in 1988, it featured Africa which is full of social comment. This catchy genre-melting track fuses elements of funk, soul Afrobeat and jazz, and is one of the highlights of the compilation.
By 1987, Condry Ziqubu was thirty-six and had previously been a member of The Anchors, Flaming Souls, and Flaming Ghettoes and was about to release his debut album Shut Your Mouth on The CCP Record Company. One of the highlights of Shut Your Mouth was the soulful boogie that is She’s Impossible.
The tempo drops on Peter Maringa’s Listen To Me where washes of a dusty swirling Hammond organ are accompanied by handclaps as a guitar weaves in and out of the arrangement. They set the scene for Peter Maringa’s bubblegum soul vocal while backing vocalists add the finishing touch to a beautiful track released in the late eighties.
Ozila close Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul and Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa with Wola Wola featured on their 1987 album S.O.S. Save Our Souls which was released on Teal Records. Three tracks from the albums were released as a 12” maxi single in 1987, including the bubblegum soul of Wola Wola. This quality cut bookends this carefully curated compilation.
Very few music fans will be aware of South Africa’s bubblegum soul and boogie scene in the eighties, which was a troubled time for this proud country. Sadly, there was political turmoil, repression, violence, unemployment and poverty in a divided country. Meanwhile, tension was increasing and there was paranoia and distrust across the racial divide. That was apart from in South Africa’s music industry, where skin colour didn’t matter and musician worked alongside each other creating the bubblegum soul and boogie Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul and Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa.
These singers, songwriters, musicians, backing vocalists, arrangers and producers were part of a mini rainbow nation, who were only interested in making music, which was what they were passionate about. That music has stood the test of time, and features on the Soundway Records latest lovingly curated compilation Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul and Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa. It features fifteen bubblegum soul and boogie cuts that are funky, soulful and dancefloor friendly. Other tracks incorporate elements of Afrobeat, jazz, pop and social comment and are a reminder of time when the South African music was thriving despite the problems facing this troubled country. However, the rainbow nation with the South African musical industry trumped in the face of adversity and created the music on Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul and Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa which is the perfect introduction to this oft-overlooked period in the South African musical history.
Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul and Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa.
French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987.
Label: Favourite France.
Over the last few months, there seems to have been a resurgence of interest in disco and boogie, with major and independent record labels in Britain and America releasing countless compilations that look back to the glory days of both genres. Despite this, these compilations of disco and boogie have varied in quality, and can be described as the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s a reason for this, and that is the different approaches each compiler takes.
Some of the disco and boogie compilations have combined a mixture of familiar tracks with rarities and hidden gems, meaning that there’s something for everyone in a quality compilation. Often these lovingly curated compilations are released on small, independent labels by people with a genuine love for the music. However, that isn’t always the case in other parts of the music industry.
On a regular basis, especially around the holiday period, major labels release budget compilations or box sets where the lazy compiler takes no chances and chooses the same tired and predictable tracks that have previously featured on countless compilations. It was a similar case with the DJ and remixer who recently released a compilation of overblown, bloated and rambling remixes of disco and boogie tracks that were guaranteed to empty a packed dancefloor. This supposed legend seems to have lost his Midas Touch, and a new breed of DJs are snapping at his heels and compiling compilations that ooze quality.
This new breed of compilers are thinking outside the box and digging deeper than some of the older compilers. By digging deep, there’s been disco and boogie compilations that have focused on a particular period, while others have focused on certain labels and others have focused on private presses and others on tracks released within one country. However, the recent instalment in Charles Maurice’s Disco Boogie Sounds’ series takes a different approach entirely.
Ever since 2015, Charles Maurice has been documenting the French disco boogie sound, on a compilation series released by the Favourite France label. The last instalment is French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987, which is distinctively Gallic, but American-sounding. This has been the case since this compilation series began, and Charles Maurice introduced many newcomers to the American-sounding world of French disco-boogie.
It was on the ’21st’ of April 2015, that French Disco Boogie Sounds 1975-1984: Selected By Charles Maurice was released, and found favour with critics who were won over by this lovingly curated compilation. Many critics and record buyers hoped that there would be further instalments in the series.
Eighteen months later, French Disco Boogie Sounds 1978-1985: Selected By Charles Maurice was released on the ’14th’ of October 2016 by Favourite France. Just like the first instalment in the series, it was a lovingly curated compilation of disco boogie where the emphasis was definitely on quality. So much so, it surpassed the quality of French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987. DJ and compiler Charles Maurice was on a roll.
Now fourteen months later, he returned with French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987 which features thirteen tracks from familiar faces and new names. This includes Maya, Paul Fathy, Judy Carter, KKE, Caramel, Yannick Chevalier, Silence, Zorgus and Joël Daydé. They’re just a few of the names on the much-anticipated French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987.
Opening French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987 is the dub version of Maya’s Lait De Coco, which was on the B-Side of the 1987 single for Marina Media. It was penned by Christophe Laurent and Olivier Andres and features an arrangement that is funky, jazz-tinged and thanks to the soulful vocal which drifts in and out. Add to the mix lush disco strings and a Latin influence and it’s a quite beautiful way to open the compilation.
During his musical career, Ernest Koffie used a variety of monikers including N.S.T Cophie’s who self-released his fourth album Segregation in the Ivory Coast in 1985. The highlight of the album is title-track Segregation, which is a soulful and full of social comment.
Sadly, Paul Fathy’s recording career amounted to just one single, Je N’Speak Que L’Amour which was released on Vague Music in 1985. Hidden away on the B-Side was Funky Baby Love which is a slick, soulful, and funky slice of boogie with a disco influence. As synths strings dance, eighties drums crack and later, a saxophone interjects. In doing so, dance music’s past and present combined in 1985 to create a track that has stood the test of time.
Judy Carter only ever released the one single, Listen To The Music on the Paco Rabanne Design label which was active from the early eighties up until the ‘23rd’ of October 1987. Two versions of Listen To The Music were released, and it’s the 12” version that features on the compilation. It featured a soulful vocal from Judy Carter while strings sweep and horns interject as the arrangement combines elements of jazz-funk and funk during this carefully crafted and irresistible dancefloor filler.
By 1980, much had changed in dance music after disco’s fall from grace in July 1979. Suddenly, disco sucked in America and record companies dropped disco artists, while DJs and dancers embraced the new boogie sound which filled dancefloors. Meanwhile, Janet N’Diaye Lokamba released her debut album Aimey on the record company that she lent her name to. One of the highlight of Aimey was Funky and Fire which was produced by Ebeny Donald Wesley. It finds Janet N’Diaye Lokamba delivering a soulful vocal during a track that showcases the French disco boogie sound
KKÉ only released one album during their career, and that was Pas Tout, which was released on MM Records in 1982. Frank Faas produced Pas Tout, including the standout track Money. It’s initially funky and soulful, before Afrobeat, and jazz are added to this melodic disco boogie anthem.
Caramel’s 1979 single L’Amour Toujours L’Amour was released on the Barclay label, and also featured in the soundtrack to the comedy Bête Mais Discipliné. This was a film was never going to win an Oscar, and L’Amour Toujours L’Amour may have been the best thing about the film. Realising that, compiler Charles Maurice has chosen the 12” version of this disco boogie track that lasts six funky and soulful minutes and features stabs of piano that are reminiscent of Leroy Burgess, while the overall production has been influenced by Patrick Adams disco releases.
When Yannick Chevalier released Ecoute Le Son Du Soleil as a single on the Point 12 label in 1984, the instrumental version featured on the B-Side. Alas, the single passed most people by upon its release despite being an innovative and melodic example of disco boogie where Yannick Chevalier made good use of the available technology. In doing so, it sounds as if he’s been inspired by American boogie, but takes it in a different direction to create something new and innovative. Nowadays, Ecoute Le Son Du Soleil is real rarity which changes hands for £125 or $175 and the instrumental version is a favourite of DJs.
Jekys only single was Fire, which was released on Polydor in 1982. Tucked away on the B-Side is the oft-overlooked disco boogie hidden gem Looking For You which has a slick, polished production by Henry Gassin. Thirty-six years later, and Looking For You and this timeless track would still tempt dancers onto the dancefloor.
Silence is another group who only released the single during their career. This was Un Peu D’amour, which they produced and self-released in 1987. It’s funky, slick and soulful song that deserved to fare better than it did. Sadly, like may groups who release private presses, Silence probably had neither the budget nor the expertise to promote the track, and that is why Un Peu D’amour is the one that got away.
Wally Badarou and Sher Komisar wrote Give Back My Song which they released on BBZ Productions in 1977 as Wally and Shane. This was the height of the disco era, and strings dance before the vocal enters and this funky, soulful and sensual hidden gem starts to reveal its secrets. It’s without doubt one of the highlights of French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987. Sadly, despite the quality of Give Back My Song the single failed commercially, and Wally and Shane never released a followup.
After recording Flash at Studio Marcadet, in Paris, the members of Zorgus decided to release the single themselves. This wasn’t unusual, as many artists and bands had released private presses. Most of them had a few hundred, or at most a thousand copies of their single or album pressed. Usually, bands erred on the side of caution, as releasing a single was expensive. Especially, when it failed to sell, which was what happened to Flash a funky, soulful and dancefloor friendly track where the hooks haven’t been spared.
Closing French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987 is Qu’est Ce Que Tu Fais Par Amour which was released on the B-Side of Joel Dayde’s single Les Petits Robert which was released in 1981. This was a decade after Joel Dayde made her debut. Since then, she had released four albums and twenty-seven singles and EPs. However, music was changing, and changing fast, so Joel Dayde decided to change direction on Qu’est Ce Que Tu Fais Par Amour which is a melodic and memorable disco track that shows another side to the French blues and soul singer.
For the past three years, DJ and compiler Charles Maurice has been documenting the French disco boogie sound, on a compilation series released by the Favourite France label. The last instalment is French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987, which is distinctively Gallic, but American-sounding.
That has been the case throughout this lovingly curated series which began in 2015. However, for latecomers to the series, French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987 is the perfect place to start. It features an array of hidden gems from new names, including a number of artists who only released one single. That singe, or even its B-Side features on French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987.
Others artists were familiar faces who enjoyed lengthy recording careers, while others enjoyed a career that lasted a decade. After that, their career was over, and they left behind a musical legacy that includes their contribution to French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987.
Unlike some musical genres, it was impossible to describe what a typical French disco boogie track sounded like. Some of the tracks on French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987 are jazz-tinged, while others are funky or soulful. Sometimes, Afrobeat and jazz-funk influenced the disco boogie sound on French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987. Some of these carefully crafted tracks feature slick polished arrangements have been influenced by American disco, while other have been influenced by some of the pioneers of boogie including Leroy Burgess and Patrick Adams. Despite these differences, all of these tracks can be described as French disco boogie umbrella, which many people won’t be aware of…until now.
For anyone who likes dance music that is funky, soulful and sometimes jazz-tinged, then French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987 is the perfect introduction to the uniquely Gallic, but American-influenced French disco boogie sound that provided the soundtrack to life in France during much of the seventies and eighties.
French Disco Boogie Sounds Volume 3: 1977-1987 .
Label: We Jazz Finland.
Although Finish free jazz trio Black Motor were formed just over thirteen years ago, in January 2005, this exiting and innovative band is still one music’s best kept secrets. That is despite releasing nine albums, including Branches which was recently released by We Jazz Finland. It marks the debut of saxophonist Tane Kannisto who previously was a member of Sound and Fury, and joins the established rhythm section of bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer Simo Laihonen. This new lineup of Black Motor is responsible for Branches melodic and innovative album of free jazz full of energy. It’s the latest chapter in the Black Motor story.
It was back in January 2005 that saxophonist Sami Sipple, bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer Simo Laiho founded the Black Motor. By then, they were all experienced musicians who were familiar faces on the Finnish jazz scene. They also shared the same taste in music, especially the soulful free jazz of Albert Ayler and John Coltrane, the Finnish avant-garde drummer Edward Vesala and German saxophonist and clarinetist Peter Brötzmann. These musicians influenced and inspired the members of Black Motor, who soon, made its first tentative steps on the vibrant Finnish jazz scene.
Soon, though, people were sitting up and taking notice of Black Motor, as they hit the ground running in a series of unforgettable shows. It didn’t take long for critics to start taking notice of Black Motor.
By 2007, Black Motor had released already their eponymous debut album, and later that year returned with their much-anticipated sophomore album On Duty. Both albums featured a group that sour as if they had been together much longer than two years, and were a tantalising taste of Black Motor’s potential.
When Black Motor released Club El Toro and Vaarat Vastukset in 2008, they had matured they were starting to fulfil the potential that critics had spotted on their first two albums. However, it wasn’t just the critics that were won over by Black Motor’s two new albums.
Already Finnish music fans were flocking to Black Motor’s live shows, and they were becoming a popular live draw. Soon, when Black Motor played live they were joined onstage by various guest artists. This included guitarist Jukka Orma and woodwind virtuoso Jorma Tapio. By then, Black Motor was no longer an underground band and as their popularity grew, and their music began to find a wider audience.
One way that Black Motor did this, was when they toured Finland, they decided to arrange workshops and regularly played in front of a younger audience. This ranged from schoolchildren at elementary grade schools to students attending music colleges. For many of those who saw Black Motor play, their music was very different to what they heard at home or on the radio.
The music Black Motor played was also very different to the hard bop and soul jazz that many bands within the Finnish jazz scene used as a foundation for the sound. Instead, Black Motor continued to play their unique, innovative and energetic brand of melodic free jazz as their popularity continued to grow.
By 2010, Black Motor had just released their fifth album Never Out Of Fashion-Live in Amsterdam and the band was no longer just gigging in their native Finland. Instead, they were playing abroad where their music was growing in popularity.
Following Never Out Of Fashion-Live in Amsterdam, Black Motor’s star was in the ascendancy and their music was regarded as a breath of fresh air. By then, many people were tiring of the hard bop and soul jazz that dominated the Finnish jazz scene at that time. Black Motor’s music was different and the band even looked different. They didn’t look like jazz musicians and instead, the intrepid trio looked and acted more like a grunge band. Some critics even thought that Black Motor had a similar attitude to grunge bands. Meanwhile, Black Motor who were rising stars of the Scandinavian improv scene, continued to attract a new audience to their concerts, including many people who had never attended a jazz concert before.
As 2010 gave way to 2011, Black Motor released their sixth album Hoojaa. which featured seven of Kusti Vuorinen’s compositions. Hoojaa which was a much more focused album, was released to widespread critical acclaim, and it was no surprise when the album was shortlisted for the annual Jazz-Emma, which is the Finnish equivalent of the Jazz Grammy. This was showed just how far Black Motor had come since the band was formed in January 2005.
In 2012, Black Motor released their seventh Jumehniemi, which was quite different to Hoojaa, which was a more focused album. Instead, Black Motor’s playing on Jumehniemi was looser on what was a meandering album where the trio enjoyed another opportunity to improvise and innovate. Jumehniemi won over critics and before long, Black Motor was releasing another album.
Just a few months after the release in Jumehniemi early 2012, Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and Black Motor released the album they had been collaborating on Rubidium. It was a very different album to Hoojaa and was a more concentrated set that was released praise and plaudits. By then, Black Motor was a favourite of Finnish critics who continued to fly the flag for the trio.
Having released two albums in early 2012, Black Motor spent much of the summer touring, and were sometimes joined on the stage by guest artists. This included pianist and harpist Iro Haarla, guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and saxophonist and clarinettist Jone Takamäki. However, at one concert in Club Telakka in Black Motor’s hometown of Tampere, they were joined onstage by one of their heroes, and someone who had influenced and inspired the trio, Peter Brötzmann. This was a huge thrill, and was without doubt one of the highlights of the summer of 2012 for Black Motor.
Later in 2012, Black Motor were joined by two celebrated saxophonists Juhani Aaltonen and later, Mikko Innanen when they played live. Then in November 2012 Black Motor starred at the Tampere Jazz Happening in November 2012, and as the year drew to a close Black Motor they were invited to play at the prestigious London Jazz Festival.
By May 2013, Black Motor returned with their eighth album, Yöstä Aamun Kynnykselle which was meditative, ruminative and poignant album of beautiful ballads. This showed a very different side to Black Motor who headed out to tour their latest album. It was a triumphant tour, with Black Motor receiving standing ovations nights after night, including when they played at the annual Winter Jazz event in New York City in January 2014.
When Black Motor returned home, they soon were soon collaborating again with Verneri Pohjola. This time, they recorded an album of Edward Vesala’s compositions which has yet to be released. However, in the spring of 2014, Black Motor’s sixth album Jumehniemi which was released in 2012, was belatedly released on CD. To celebrate Black Motor played a series of shows where they were joined by a number of guest artists. This included jazz pianist Seppo Kantonen and progressive rock guitarist Pekka Rechardt of Wigwam. They helped Black Motor celebrate one of their finest album Jumehniemi.
Towards the end of 2014, the members of Black Motor began to think about how they should celebrate their tenth anniversary. When these plans began, bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer Simo Laiho had no idea know that saxophonist Sami Sippola was about to drop a bombshell. In late 2014, Sami Sippola announced that he was Black Motor for personal reasons. After nine years together, the original lineup of Black Motor was no more.
Soon, the search for Sami Sippola’s replacement began. However, it didn’t take long for Ville Rauhala and Simo Laiho to choose forty-one year old Tane Kannisto who played saxophone and flute. He joined Black Motor in time to help the trio celebrate their tenth anniversary.
Having helped Black Motor celebrate their tenth anniversary, the time came for Tane Kannisto to make his recording debut with his new band. They would record two albums in a relatively short space of time. The first was a spilt album that featured another band from Tampere, Rakka.
Rakka featured on the first side of the album, while the new lineup of Black Motor featured on the second side. Black Motor’s rhythm section of bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer Simo Laiho was joined by saxophonist Tane Kannisto. The eponymous split album was released on the ’15th’ of April 2017 and marked the debut of saxophonist Tane Kannisto. However, just six weeks later, Black Motor returned with Branches which was their ninth album, and the first in nearly five years.
On the ‘2nd’ of June 2017, Black Motor released Branches in their native Finland on vinyl and cassette. It wasn’t until the spring of 2018, when Black Motor released Branches on CD and the album was available to buy across Europe.
Branches features seven tracks, including five penned by Black Motor bassist Ville Rauhala. He wrote But Not Willingly, At The Red End Of The World, Decision Jump, Tulee Päivä and Longer The Distance, Sweeter The Sound. The new lineup of Black Motor wrote Branches (Citizen Music), and cover Fred Rose’s Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain. These seven tracks would eventually become Branches.
Recording of Branches took place at Studio JJ in Tampere, 2016 at Studio JJ in Tampere. Black Motor’s rhythm section of bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer and percussionist Simo Laiho was joined by Tane Kannisto who played alto, baritone and tenor saxophone and also a nagaswarm which is the world’s loudest non-brass acoustic instruments. Joining Black Motor who produced Branches, was recordist Juuso Nordlund. By the end of 2016, Black Motor had recorded their comeback album which was then mastered by Jukka Sarapää. Now Branches was ready to be released.
When Branches was released, the new lineup of Black Motor were hailed as the comeback kings as they released their first full-length album in nearly five years. That was apparent from the opening bars of But Not Willingly which gives way to At The Red End Of The World, Decision Jump and Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain. At the halfway point it’s apparent that Branches is another powerful and innovative album of melodic and free jazz from Black Motor.
The comeback Kings continue to create music that is vibrant and full of energy as the new lineup showcased their considerable skills on Branches (Citizen Music) and Tulee Päivä which was inspired by Edith Södergran’s poem Animalisk Hymn. By then, everything seems to fall into place and there’s a sense of unity throughout Branches.
This continues to be the case, including on Longer the Distance, Sweeter the Sound. That is despite saxophonist Tane Kannisto only making his Black Motor debut on Branches. However, he’s an experienced musician and just like Black Motor’s rhythm section, his playing veers between tight and fluid and sometimes, becomes inventive as he plays with freedom and power. Always, though, Black Motor’s playing is of the highest quality right up to Letting Go (Was Part of the Plan) which has a poignant sound as Tane Kannisto’s saxophone takes centre stage. His playing is slow and deliberate before the tempo gradually starts to rise on this beautiful track that ensures that Branches closes on a high.
Fittingly, it was saxophonist Tane Kannisto who plays a starring role on the album closer Letting Go (Was Part of the Plan). He replaced founder member Sami Sippola who announced his departure in late 2014. This could’ve spelt the end of Black Motor, but by recruiting another talented saxophonist, this talented and innovative free jazz trio go from strength-to-strength.
So much so, that Branches which was recently released by We Jazz Finland, is one of the finest albums of Black Motor’s career. It’s the first album that Black Motor have released in nearly five years. They’ve not lost their Midas Touch, and the addition of Tane Kannisto more than makes up for the loss of saxophonist Sami Sippola. He played his part in the rise and rise of Black Motor over the first nine years of their career. Since then, his replacement Tane Kannisto has played a part in the continued success of Finland’s top free jazz trio Black Motor, whose ninth album Branches is innovative, vibrant, melodic and full of energy and emotion.
Barrence Whitfield and The Savages-Dig Everything! The Early Rounder Albums.
Label: Ace Records.
Barry White, who later found fame as the frontman for Barrence Whitfield and The Savages was born on June the ‘13th’ 1955, in Jacksonville, Florida, but his family moved to East Orange, in New Jersey when he was a child. That was where the Barry White sang in a gospel choir, and where he attended West Side High School where he sang and played drums in various rock and funk bands. This came as no surprise to Barry White’s friends and family who had watched his love of music blossom.
Initially, Barry White discovered Little Richard, Sam Cooke, James Brown and Otis Redding, before later, embracing Jimi Hendrix and Funkadelic’s music. All these musicians and bands had inspired and influenced Barry White when he played the various high school bands. However, after he graduated from West Side High School, it looked like Barry White had turned his back on a musical career.
Instead, Barry White enrolled at Boston University, where he planned to spend the next four years studying for a degree in journalism. However, Barry White soon discovered that a student loan didn’t go far, and decided to look for a part-time job after the university. Fortunately, a local used record shop was looking for someone to work part-time in the early evenings, and after Barry White spoke to the owner he was given the job.
For Barry White who had loved music ever since he was a child, working in the record shop was a dream job. He didn’t even mind people joking about his name, as he was doing something he loved and meeting and mixing with people who shared his passion for music. This included Peter Greenberg the former guitarist with the Boston-based punk group DMZ, who had also played the with legendary local band The Lyres. When he entered the used record store one evening in 1977, he happened to hear Barry White singing, and straight away, realised that Barry White had potential.
Little did Peter Greenberg realise that twenty-two year old Barry White had been in a number of bands while he was in high school ands he had been in back home in New Jersey. Soon, the pair got talking and before long, Peter Greenberg had invited Barry White to his house later that evening.
Having spent the evening listening to records, Peter Greenberg and Barry White had come up with an idea of forming a new group, and had worked out what they wanted to do and who they wanted to bring onboard. This included The Lyres’ former rhythm section of drummer Howard Ferguson, bassist Phil Lenker and guitarist Peter Greenberg who would be joined by local saxophonist Steve LaGreca. The final member of the band was Barry White who was going to be the new band’s vocalist. Initially, the pair planned to call the band Barry White and The Savages, but the worry was people would confuse the journalism student and used record story employee with the soul superstar having. That was why Phil Greenberg and Barry White decided to call their new band Barrence Whitfield and The Savages.
Before long, the nascent Barrence Whitfield and The Savages were playing live and soon, had established a reputation for their high-octane live performances where they played a mixture of new songs and obscurities from the fifties and sixties that Barrence Whitfield had discovered during his days working in the used record shop. These songs Barrence Whitfield and The Savages learnt and incorporated into their stage show.
Over the next few years, Barrence Whitfield and The Savages who were now a six piece band after the addition of pianist and organist Bill Mooney-McCoy, hit the stage running and unleashed sets where the music was raw, raucous, rough and tough and struck a nerve with many fans of fifties and sixties R&B. Meanwhile, Barrence Whitfield seemed to be channeling the spirit of the old soul screamers including his hero Little Richard and Don Covay, Solomon Burke and Wilson Pickett. Barrence Whitfield and The Savages were a force to be reckoned with, whose star was in the ascendancy as they became one of the top acts on the Boston music scene.
Many within the Boston music scene thought that it was only a matter of time before a record company came calling and Barrence Whitfield and The Savages signed on the dotted line. However, when this didn’t happen, Barrence Whitfield and The Savages decided to take matters into their own hands and finance and produce their eponymous debut album.
Barrence Whitfield and The Savages.
Having made the decision to record their debut album Barrence Whitfield and The Savages, chose a mixture of cover versions and original songs penned by the band. This included Walking With Barrence, Mama Get The Hammer, Go Ahead And Burn, Savage Sax, Walk Out, Miss Shake It, Whiskey Wagon and King Kong. They joined covers of Don Covay’s Bip Bop Bip, Ronnie Molleen’s Fat Mama, Bill Ballard’s Cotton Pickin’, Jimmy McCracklin’s Georgia Slop and The Customs’ The Ship Sailed At Six. These tracks were recorded at Perfect Crime Studios, Watertown, Massachusetts.
That was where the rhythm section of drummer Howard Ferguson, bassist Phil Lenker and guitarist Peter Greenberg who would be joined by local saxophonist Steve LaGreca and pianist and organist Bill Mooney-McCoy. Barrence Whitfield continued in his role of soul screamer, while Peter Greenberg took charge of production. With the band financing the recording, the band worked quickly and Barrence Whitfield and The Savages, was ready for release later in 1984.
Despite the band financing Barrence Whitfield and The Savages, which they released on their own short-lived label Mamou Records, critics were won over by an album that managed to replicate the band’s live sound. There was a raw, raucous sound to Barrence Whitfield and The Savages’ unique brand of high-octane R&B and rock ’n’ roll.
After the release of Barrence Whitfield and The Savages in 1984, mostly, the album was sold at the band’s gigs or through various independent distributors.
Meanwhile, Barrence Whitfield and The Savages continued with what was a gruelling live schedule and by late 1984 were omnipresent on the Boston music scene. Whenever any of the bigger local bands played in Boston, including De Fuegos, they wanted Barrence Whitfield and The Savages to open for them. Barrence Whitfield and The Savages worked the audience into a frenzy before passing the baton to the headliner.
Across the Atlantic, copies of Barrence Whitfield and The Savages had become prized items among music lovers. This included David Woodhead, who was a member Billy Bragg’s touring band. He had discovered the album whilst touring America, and on his return home, leant his copy to Radio One DJ Andy Kershaw.
When he heard Barrence Whitfield and The Savages, went into bat for the band. Soon, he was playing the album on his radio show. Before long, Andy Kershaw headed stateside where saw Barrence Whitfield and The Savages in Boston when they opened for Del Fuegos. The next time he saw Barrence Whitfield and The Savages, was in London, where they once again, were opening for Del Fuegos. This lead to an appearance on the legendary BBC television programme The Old Grey Whistle Test, where Barrence Whitfield and The Savages were following in the footsteps of many musical legends. After their first appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, promoters were scrambling to book Barrence Whitfield and The Savages on their first British tour.
When Barrence Whitfield and The Savages returned to Britain for the tour, things had changed for the band. Rounder Records had swooped and signed Barrence Whitfield and The Savages, and sent the band into Blue Jay Studios, in Carlisle, Massachusetts where they recorded the twelve songs that became Dig Yourself which featured on Dig Everything! The Early Rounder Albums, which was recently released by Ace Records.
For Dig Yourself, Barrence Whitfield and The Savages chose eleven tracks that became their sophomore album. Unlike their eponymous debut album, Barrence Whitfield and The Savages didn’t write any of the songs on the album. However, Phil Lenker penned Bloody Mary and Bread Box and wrote Hug Me Squeeze Me with Barrence Whitfield, Howard Ferguson and Peter Greenberg. The members of Barrence Whitfield and The Savages also arranged the traditional song Big Mamou. It was joined by covers of Rudy Green’s Juicy Fruit, Bobby Dunn and Lee Cropper’s Dig Yourself, Jerry McCain’s Geronimo’s Rock, Bob Geddins and Jimmy McCracklin’s Shame Shame Shame, Jerry West and Leroy Washington’s Wild Cherry, Billy Jones’ Frieda Frieda and Chris Tyler’s Sadie Green. These tracks were recorded by the latest lineup of Barrence Whitfield and The Savages.
When Barrence Whitfield and The Savages arrived at Blue Jay Studios, in Carlisle, Massachusetts, there had been one change in the band’s lineup since they recorded their eponymous debut album. Pianist and organist Bill Mooney-McCoy had left the group and they returned to being a five piece band. This meant that the lineup featured a rhythm section of drummer Howard Ferguson, bassist Phil Lenker and guitarist Peter Greenberg who would be joined by local saxophonist Steve LaGreca and soul screamer Barrence Whitfield. They were joined Rob Dimit who engineered and produced Dig Yourself which was released later in 1985.
Critics on hearing Dig Yourself were won over by what was a relatively short, but explosive album of high-octane music that flitted between and fused elements of R&B, rock ’n’ roll, blues, funk and soul. Still, the music had a rawness, energy and vibrancy from the explosive opening bars of Bloody Mary where the saxophone accompanies primal soul screamer Barrence Whitfield as he whoops and hollers. Meanwhile, The Savages turn the calendar back to 1955 as they work their way standout tracks like Juicy Fruit which is dripping with innuendo, while Hug Me Squeeze Me is raw and ribald.
The stomping Geronimo Rock opened the second side of Dig Yourself, as the music became visceral, gritty and explosive as Barrence Whitfield and The Savages strut and swagger their way Bread Box, Wild Cherry, Frieda Frieda and Sadie Green, which closes the album on a high.
When Barrence Whitfield and The Savages’ sophomore album Dig Yourself was released in 1985, it proved popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Especially in Britain were record buyers played the album non stop, then told their friends who did the same thing. Mostly, through word of mouth, Dig Yourself sold well in Britain, and back in home in America, especially in Boston and across Massachusetts.
Eight years after Barry White met Peter Greenberg, and first spoke about forming a new band together, Barrence Whitfield and The Savages were enjoying more success in Britain than in America. This was frustrating for the members of Barrence Whitfield and The Savages.
While Barrence Whitfield and The Savages enjoyed their trips to Britain, where their records sold well, but not well enough to chart, they were a popular live band. That was the case in their home city of Boston. However, still Barrence Whitfield and The Savages’ albums weren’t selling well, and after eight years of playing live almost nonstop, this frustration boiled over, when The Savages quit. The last man standing was Barrence Whitfield, who decided to put a new lineup of the band together.
Call Of The Wild.
Eventually, Barrence Whitfield drafted in six new members and lineup of Barrence Whitfield and The Savages was almost unrecognisable. Barrence Whitfield was the only familiar face and he was joined by a rhythm section of drummer Lorne Entress, bassist Richie Robertson and guitarist and vocalist Milton Reder. He was joined by pianist and organist Bruce Katz and saxophonist David Sholl. Given this was essentially a new band, it took time for the latest lineup of Barrence Whitfield and The Savages to hone their sound.
It took longer than Barrence Whitfield had envisaged to get the new lineup road ready, but eventually, he took the latest lineup of the band he cofounded in 1977 on the road. This allowed Barrence Whitfield and The Savages to reconnect with their fans, before heading into the studio to record their third album Call Of The Wild.
Two years had passed since Barrence Whitfield and The Savages released Dig Everything in 1985, and the band’s fans were clamouring for a new album. When Barrence Whitfield and The Savages recorded just six new tracks in studios in Boston and New York. This included Madhouse and Girl From Outer Space which was penned by Milton Reder who wrote Livin’ Proof with Jon and Sally Tiven. They were joined by on Call Of The Wild by David Sholl’s Stop Twisting My Arm, Ben Vaughn’s The Apology Line and Sid Prosen’s Rockin’ The Mule In Kansas. These tracks were produced by Mike Costello and Milton Reder, and scheduled for release in 1987.
With Call Of The Wild only featuring six tracks it was referred to as a mini album. Despite this, Call Of The Wild was released in Europe in 1987, and later in 1987 four other tracks were added and became Ow! Ow! Ow! which was released in America as a full length album. By then, Call Of The Wild was selling reasonably well, but not enough to trouble the charts.
Call Of The Wild opened with Stop Twisting My Arm and straight away, the band’s trademark raw rocking sound can be still heard, although the almost manic energy of Dig Yourself has been reigned in somewhat. The tempo drops on the bluesy Madhouse where David Sholl’s saxophone accompanies the vocal. However, one of the highlights of Call Of The Wild Livin’ Proof which features a much more contemporary sound as rock and R&B melt into one. Soul Screamer Barrence Whitfield unleashes a vocal powerhouse on the bluesy Girl From Outer Space, before he delivers a heartfelt vocal on the ballad The Apology Line. Rockin’ The Mule Back In Kansas which showcases the sound that featured on Dig Yourself closes the album on a high, and leaves the listener wanting more the new lineup of Barrence Whitfield and The Savages.
Despite only featuring six tracks and being called a mini album, Call Of The Wild was actually a longer album than Barrence Whitfield and The Savages’ sophomore album Dig Yourself. Both albums feature on Barrence Whitfield and The Savages-Dig Everything! The Early Rounder Albums which was recently released by Ace Records. It documents the end of the first chapter in the Barrence Whitfield and The Savages’ story, and the start of the second chapter.
The first chapter closes with the release of Dig Yourself in 1985, which was high-octane album where Barrence Whitfield and The Savages flitted between and fused elements of R&B, rock ’n’ roll, blues, funk and soul, as they swaggered and strutted their way through twelve tracks that were visceral, gritty and explosive. This proved more popular in Britain than in America which was frustrating for Barrence Whitfield and The Savages and hastened the demise of the original lineup of The Savages.
Two years later, the second chapter in the Barrence Whitfield and The Savages’ story began with the release of the mini album Call Of The Wild. It features blues, R&B and rock as Barrence Whitfield and The Savages on an album that features raw and explosive tracks as well as a ballad, where Barrence Whitfield soul screamer becomes the soul balladeer on The Apology Line. This shows another side to Barrence Whitfield and The Savages, who celebrated their tenth anniversary in 1987.
Little did anyone realise that thirty years later, and Barrence Whitfield and The Savages would still be making music. They’ve been together since 1977, and although the lineup has changed several times, their music is still raw, energetic and explosive. That was the case on their 1985 sophomore album Dig Yourself and Call Of The Wild, which featured on this latest Barrence Whitfield and The Savages’ release Dig Everything! The Early Rounder Albums.
Barrence Whitfield and The Savages-Dig Everything! The Early Rounder Albums.
Nils Frahm-All Melody.
Label: Erased Tapes Records.
Over the last two years, much of Nils Frahm’s time was spent building a new studio in his adopted home city of Berlin where he recorded his seventh studio album All Melody which was recently released by Erased Tapes Records. With All Melody released, Nils Frahm headed out on what was his first world tour since January 2015. This was the latest chapter in the career of thirty-five year old Nils Frahm
Nils Frahm was born in Hamburg, Germany, on the ’20th’ September 1982, and was introduced to music at an early age by his father Klaus a photographer who also designed covers for ECM Records. Soon, Nils Frahm was immersing himself in the music classical pianists from the past as well as embracing the music of the contemporary composers. This insured Nils Frahm to embark upon his own career as a composer.
Before that, the young Nils Frahm visited a recording studio owned by a family friend, which was a life changing experience. From that day on, Nils Frahm dreamt of building his own recording studio.
This dream would eventually become reality and Nils Frahm is now the proud owner of Saal 3, which is housed within the historical 1950s East German Funkhaus building on the banks of the River Spree. However, in the early days of his career, Nils Frahm became a familiar face in Hamburg’s recording studios, and especially the Hammer Versteck Studios.
That was where Nils Frahm spent the winter months in late-2004 and early 2005 recording the nine tracks that became his debut album Streichelfisch. He was joined on two tracks, Anfangtastisch and Morning Bliss, by guitarist Martyn Heyne. When Streichelfisch was released in December on the AtelierMusik label as a limited edition vinyl LP it was a captivating, ambitious and innovative album that features elements of abstract, avant-garde, future jazz and glitch. Streichelfisch showcased a talented composer, musician and producer who a promising future in front of him.
Three years later, Nils Frahm released My First EP and the digital album Electric Piano on the AtelierMusik label. Both releases found Nils Frahm’s music evolving, and on Electric Piano he fuses improv and modern classical
By 2009, Nils Frahm had returned with The Bells which was recorded during a two-day period in the Grunewald Church, in Berlin where there was space for Nils Frahm’s piano to breath. The Bells was initially released on Swedish Kning Disk label, and was an enchanting and beautiful album. That was despite the music being slow, solemn, deliberate and sometimes intense despite the sheer simplicity of the music. There was no doubt that The Bells was Nils Frahm’s finest hour, and it was no surprise when Erased Tapes Records released the album across Europe which introduced it to a new and wider audience.
The Bells was Nils Frahm’s debut for Erased Tapes, and has been his musical home for the past nine years. Later in 2009, Nils Frahm returned with the EP new album Wintermusik which was released by Erased Tapes.
Nils Frahm collaborated with German cellist Anne Müller on the album 7fingers, which was self-released in 2010. However, a year later in 2011, Erased Tapes released 7fingers and a wider audience was able to hear this minimalist album. By then, Nils Frahm had released another innovative solo album.
When Nils Frahm was working on the followup to The Bells, he was often working late at night in his flat and was worried about disturbing his neighbours. That was when Nils Frahm hit on the idea of placing felt on the strings of his piano which would dampen the sound and allow him to play late at night, and even into the early hours of the morning. However, when Nils Frahm heard the sound the piano produced with felt on the strings
he liked it, and wondered about using this sound when recording his new album? However, this was a big risk, so Nils Frahm decided to test the water by releasing the EP Unter/Über which featured the new sound.
After the success of the EP Unter/Über which showcased Nils Frahm’s new sound, Nils Frahm’s began work on the new album at his Durton Studio. Before the recording began, he placed felt over the strings of the piano, and then decided to place the microphones deep into the piano, which he knew would produce a much more intimate sound. This proved to be the case, and this latest masterstroke would play a part in the success of Nils Frahm’s new album.
When Nils Frahm had finished recording the album, there was only one possible title…Felt. It features music that is beautiful, ethereal, understated and intimate album as Nils Frahm combined elements of avant-garde and neo-classical on one what was the finest album of his career. Felt was released to critical acclaim by Erased Tapes in October 2011 and set the bar high for future albums.
Fourteen months later, and Nils Frahm returned with his much-anticipated followup to Felt, Screws which had been recorded in remarkable circumstances. Nils Frahm had injured one of his thumbs so badly, that he was forced to record Screws using just nine fingers. This was a challenge, but one that Nils Frahm rose to and Screws contemporary classical sound won the approval of critics. The Nils Frahm success story continued.
After the release of Screws, Nils Frahm continued to work on a more experimental album, Spaces which was recorded during live performances over a two-year period. Nils Frahm used different methods to capture the recordings, with some tracks being recorded on reel-to-reel, and others on the humble cassette tape.
Spaces which Nils Frahm described as a: “collage of field recordings” was released in November 2013. Stylistically, Spaces had much in common with Screws with the contemporary classical sound proving the foundation for an album that also incorporated elements of avant-garde and improv. The result was an absorbing, beautiful, mesmeric and captured the essence of Nils Frahm’s live performances. Screws just like its predecessor Spaces, was released to widespread critical acclaim and hailed as another of Nils Frahm’s finest albums.
On the ’13th’ of April 2015, Nils Frahm launched the first ever National Piano Day, which was an official global body he and a group of his closest friends had founded. To celebrate the piano, a series of innovative, piano related projects were launched worldwide including building the world’s tallest piano, the Klavins 450. However, it was on a somewhat smaller version of this impressive piano built by David Klavins, Nils Frahm recorded eight improvised piano motifs during one session at his Durton Studio. These pieces became Nils Frahm’s new Solo album which as lunched on National Piano Day, and for many people, including his legion of loyal fans, was the highlight of the day.
Following the release of Solo, work began on Saal 3, which was the name of his new studio that Nils Frahm planned to build within the historical East German Funkhaus building in Berlin. It was built in the 1950s and is situated on the banks of the River Spree which became a familiar sight to Nils Frahm as he arrived in the mornings and began what was slow and laborious work.
Nils Frahm set about deconstructing what one day would be his new studio, before reconstructing. Before that, new cables were installed and electricity installed. Having finished the basics, Nils Frahm set about building and a pipe organ and with the help of some of his friends, built a mixing desk from scratch. This was akin to building a giant, interactive 3-D jigsaw puzzle for the group of friends. Eventually, the mixing desk was complete, and Nils Frahm was putting the finishing touches to Saal 3, which had been a labour of love that took the best part of two years to complete. The first person to use Saal 3 was Nils Frahm who recorded his seventh album All Melody in his new studio.
Unlike previous albums, which featured just Nils Frahm and his trusty piano, he was joined by many of his musical friends as work began on All Melody. This included the Shards’ choir, cellist Anne Müller, violist Richard Koch, drummer and percussionist Tatu Rönkkö, trumpeter Richard Koch and Sven Kacirek who plays bass marimba. Multi-instrumentalist Sytze Pruiksma switches between timpani, gongs bass drum and percussion, while, Erik Skodvin added processed guitar sounds and added various “sounds” including some that are inaudible to humans. Meanwhile, Nils Frahm who took charge of production on All Melody, played piano, celesta, harmonium, mellotron, pipe organ, synths, percussion programmed the drum machine and added effects. Once the album was recorded, All Melody was mixed by Nils Frahm. All that remained was for Berlin based Zino Mikorey to master All Melody, and his seventh album would be ready for release.
When All Melody was recently released by Erased Tapes, it was the most ambitious album of Nils Frahm’s thirteen year recording career. He’s joined by the Shards choir, woodwind and horn players and puts to good use an array of vintage synths, effects processors, his handmade pipe organ and the reverb chambers that are also a feature of Saal 3. They played their part in what Nils Frahm knew was going to be the most ambitious and experimental album of his career.
Ironically, although All Melody didn’t quite turn out as Nils Frahm had originally envisaged, it turned out to be a much better album and is regarded as a career-defining opus. All Melody is also the equivalent of a veritable twelve course musical feast where only the finest and richest fare is on offer, and this is sure to please even those with the fussiest appetites.
As the title suggests, All Melody is an extremely melodic album where Nils Frahm and friends play their part in what’s a captivating, multilayered album that veers between intimate and amiable, to sombre and symphonic, to playful and dancefloor friendly. All Melody opens with the jazz-tinged The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched where Nils Frahm’s rounded piano chords set the scene before the Shards choir add their unique atmospheric, wordless vocals to this amuse bouche before this delicious musical feast reveals the rest of its delights.
Sunson is a showcase for Sven Kacirek’s bass marimba which takes centre-stage, and is augmented by Nils Frahm’s vintage synths that later, combine with pan pipes. They create a rueful, atmospheric track. Very different is A Place where drums and shimmering keyboards are joined by scatted vocals that add a familiar motif before stings are added a melancholy sound to this beautifully repetitive, melodic and dubby seven minute epic.
Many of the soundscapes on All Melody are slow with a wistful and ruminative sound, that invites reflection. Indeed, this sense of wistfulness is almost present throughout All Melody, but there’s a beauty to it that worms its way into one’s psyche. That is the case on My Friend The Forest, the short, melodic Forever Changeless and Fundamental Values where Nils Frahm’s piano takes centre-stage.
Elsewhere, Nils Frahm enjoys the opportunity to experiment with a much more expansive sound on tracks like Human Range where a trumpet squeals as various understated instruments, sounds and choral passages are added. Then on All Melodic and #2, which are among the longer tracks, Nils Frahm deploys drum machines and vintage synths as he enjoys the opportunity to experiment with this much more expansive, multilayered tracks. Familiar motifs appear, disappear and reappear and this repetitiveness is part of the charm and success of these two mesmeric and melodic tracks.
Momentum has a moody, cinematic sound despite the addition of choral passages as elements of ambient and electronics combine. It’s all change on Kaleidoscope which cascades along an array of disparate sounds escaping from the arrangement and playing their part in a quite beautiful, captivating track. Closing All Melody is Harm Hymn ruminative soundscape where there’s time for relocation during this liturgical track. It’s one of the highlights of All Melody.
After twelve sumptuous and carefully crafted courses served up by composer, pianist and producer Nils Frahm, his latest veritable musical feast All Melody is over. During this veritable musical feast he serves up an array of mouth-watering and tasty treats that will appeal to his old fans and newcomers to his music. Both will enjoy the amuse bouche that is The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched, while his old fans will be immediately drawn to My Friend The Forest, Forever Changeless, Fundamental Values and Harm Hymn which feature Nils Frahm’s old sound. Doubtless, those who have followed Nils Frahm’s since his debut album in 2005 will welcome this musical adventurer’s latest adventure into sound.
Newcomers to Nils Frahm’s music will enjoy and embrace the more expansive sound on All Melody. This may appeal more than some of his previous albums, which featured a much more understated, minimalist and starker sound. Many people fail to ‘get’ this type of music and aren’t won over by its beauty. Instead, they’ll prefer the more expansive sounding tracks on All Melody which are deeply melodic and an aural feast as strings, choral passages and an array of disparate instruments augment and accompany Nils Frahm’s piano and various keyboard instruments. They play their part in the sound and success of All Melody, which is the latest chapter in the career Nils Frahm.
He reinvented his music on All Melody, and embraced a much more expansive sound with the help of some of his musical friends. Other tracks on All Melody feature a much more wistful and ruminative sound, that invites reflection and contemplation. This is much more like Nils Frahm’s old sound. In a way, All Melody shows two sides to Nils Frahm on this carefully crafted, critically acclaimed, career-defining album that is a veritable musical feast.
Nils Frahm-All Melody.
Nowadays, the word innovative is often overused in journalism, especially by those who make a living writing about music. However, eighty-one year American composer Steve Reich, who was one of the pioneers of minimalist music in the late-sixties, has spent a lifetime creating ambitious, groundbreaking and innovative music that has influenced and inspired several generations of musicians. This includes the music on Pulse/Quartet which was recently reissued by Nonesuch and is a reminder of a true pioneer of minimalist music. Steve Reich along with Phillip Glass, Terry Riley and La Monte Young pioneered minimalist music in the late-sixties and has spent lifetime writing, recording and performing innovative music.
Since then, many musicians have embraced some of Steve Reich’s many musical innovations over the past six decades. One of his earliest innovations was using tape loops to create phasing patterns in his minimalist composition It’s Gonna Rain in 1965 and Come Out which was released a year later, in 1966. Many musicians who heard It’s Gonna Rain and Come Out, would also go on to use tape loops to create phasing patterns, and later, would incorporate some of Steve Reich’s other ideas into their music.
This included Steve Reich’s use of simple, audible processes which he used to explore a variety of musical concepts. A case in point was Pendulum Music which was composed August 1968 and was revised in May 1973, and was example of process music. The origins of Pendulum Music can be traced to the day that Steve Reich swung a microphone like a cowboy’s lasso and realised that this produced a feedback. Having made this discovery, he set out to compose for an: “orchestra” of microphones.
That was how Steve Reich found himself in a studio in May 1973 where microphones and speakers were suspended from the roof to create phasing feedback tones during Pendulum Music. Steve Reich pulled the microphones back and let them swing and then switched them on, watching as gravity caused them to with at swing various speeds and create different levels of squealing feedback. During Pendulum Music, the microphones became the stars of this innovative example of process music, which twenty-six years later, was replicated by Sonic Youth on their album SYR4: Goodbye ‘20th’ Century which was released in November 1999. By then, Sonic Youth were just the latest band to be influenced by Steve Reich.
Nearly nineteen years after Sonic Youth paid homage to Steve Reich, artists and bands are still inspired by pieces like Pendulum Music and Four Organs which was composed in January 1970. Both compositions feature the use of repetitive figures, slow harmonic rhythm and canons, which influenced contemporary music. So much so, that nowadays, Steve Reich is regarded as one of the most important contemporary composers who was written string of innovative compositions.
Among his most important and innovative pieces is Drumming, a ninety minute piece that was inspired after spending five weeks in Ghana where he studied under Ghanaian master drummer Gideon Alorwoyie. Having written Drumming on his return to America, it was performed by Steve Reich and Musicians who were making their debut, and over the next few years, would interpret many of his pieces.
Having performed Drumming, Steve Reich moved on from his “phase shifting” technique, and investigated a verity of other techniques. This included augmentation where the phrases fragments of melody are lengthened. It was during this time that Steve Reich wrote two important compositions Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ and Six Pianos in 1973. However, a year later, Steve Reich returned with omen of his seminal pieces.
This was Music For 18 Musicians which Steve Reich wrote in 1974, and is based on a cycle of eleven chords. It was Steve Reich’s first attempt to write for a large ensemble and saw an increase in psycho-acoustic effects. However, Music For 18 Musician also featured another important factor-the use of human breath, with clarinets and the voice which help add structure and provide a pulse to what became the groundbreaking album Music For 18 Musician which marked Steve Reich’s debut on ECM Records on 1975. Eighteen years later in Confessions Of A Vinyl Junkie David Bowie called Music For 18 Musicians his favourite album. That was no surprise, as it’s one the finest albums of Steve Reich’s long and illustrious career.
By 1978, Steve Reich’s music contained much more harmonic detail and this was something he explored on Music For A Large Ensemble and Steve Reich continued to Reich experiment with: “the human breath as the measure of musical duration…the chords played by the trumpets are written to take one comfortable breath to perform.” Steve Reich continued in his mission to innovate.
When Octet and Steve Reich’s orchestral debut Variations For Winds, Strings and Keyboards were both released in 1979, the influence of biblical bantillation which he had studied in Israel shines through on both albums. This wasn’t the last time that his Jewish heritage influenced Steve Reich.
As the eighties dawned, Steve Reich had established a reputation for writing, recording and performing ambitious, cerebral, innovative and thought-provoking music. That was the case during the eighties, when Steve Reich introduced historical themes to his music, and was heavily inspired by his Jewish heritage. This was apparent on his 1981 composition Tehillim (Psalms), which was very different to anything that Steve Reich had written before. Tehillim was written in a formal structure, makes melody a substantive element and makes use of both formal counterpoint and functional harmony. This was very different to Steve Reich’s previous loosely structured minimalist recordings and saw his music continue to evolve.
That was the case when Steve Reich wrote the three movement Different Trains which was recorded and released by the Kronos Quartet in 1989, and features a string quartet, tape recorders and recorded speech. It provides a melodic, rather than rhythmic function during a thought-provoking album that is full of imagery. In writing the piece, Steve Reich had drawn inspiration to the time he spent between 1939 and 1941 as a teenager riding on trains in California and New York. However, he compares and contrasts his experiences to the children in Europe being transported to their death by Nazi regime. The Kronos Quartet’s album Different Trains won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition for what was powerful, poignant and thought-provoking album, that was written by fifty-two year old Steve Reich.
During 1993, Steve Reich and his wife Beryl Korot collaborated on the opera The Cave, which explored the roots of Christianity, Judaism and Islam through the words of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians. Their words were interpreted by Steve Reich’s ensemble who brought his latest work to life.
Following The Cave, Steve Reich and Beryl Korot collaborated on the video opera Three Tales. It explored the Hindenburg disaster, the testing of nuclear weapons on Bikini Atoll and subjects like cloning which brought Three Tales up to date. Steve Reich also used sampling during Three Tales and on City Life which was released in 1994. However, after that, Steve Reich made a conscious decision to return to composing for the concert hall, writing Triple Quartet in 1998 for the Kronos Quartet.
When the new millennia dawned, Steve Reich continued to write instrumental pieces for the concert hall, starting with 2002s Dance Patterns and then the three-piece Cello Counterpoint in 2003. You Are (Variations) followed in 2004 with Variations For Vibes, Pianos, and Strings in 2005. With his seventieth birthday fast approaching, there was no sign of Steve Reich slowing down.
In 2007, Steve Reich was commissioned by American contemporary music sextet Eighth Blackbird to write Double Sextet. This was just the latest in the long line of innovative compositions by Steve Reich who two years later in 2009 won the Pulitzer Prize for Music.
By then, Steve Reich was regarded as one of only a small number of living composers who could claim that they had changed the direction of musical history. Despite doing so, the man who American composer and critic Kyle Gann called: “America’s greatest living composer” remained a modest man who has as a new decade dawned continued to compose and record ambitious, cerebral, innovative and thought-provoking music.
This included WTC 9/11 which was written by Steve Reich and was played by the Kronos Quartet at the premiere at Duke University in North Carolina. Steve Reich hadn’t lost his ability to write innovate, engaging, cerebral and thought-provoking music.
Two years later, on the ‘5th’ of March 2013 the London Sinfonietta, conducted by Brad Lubman premiered Radio Rewrite which was inspired by Radiohead’s music and written for an eleven piece ensemble. The same night, the audience heard Double Sextet and Clapping Music, which Steve Reich wrote for “two people and four hands.” That night, Steve Reich and percussionist Colin Currie provided the “four hands” on what was a captivating evening’s music that celebrated a musical pioneer.
Later in 2013, Steve Reich wrote Quartet a near nineteen minute composition that was co-commissioned and was premiered by the Colin Currie Group at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, at the Southbank Centre in London on October ’12th’ 2014. It would be nearly three years before the Colin Currie Group recorded Quartet.
Two years later, and Steve Reich had been commissioned to write Pulse, which was a fourteen minute piece that was premiered by the International Contemporary Ensemble in the Carnegie Hall in New York on the ‘1st’ of November 2016. The following year it was recorded by the International Contemporary Ensemble and opened Pulse/Quartet.
Pulse is a fourteen minute epic from the pen of Steve Reich that consists of just one lengthy movement where the International Contemporary Ensemble showcase their considerable skills. It opens with what’s best described as a lush melodic phrase as the piano and bass provide a rhythmic pulse to the piece. As is the case with Steve Reich’s compositions, the rhythmic beat repeats and provides a mesmeric backdrop that proves omnipresent as the drama builds and the imagery is rich and vivid. Later, Pulse becomes ruminative and leaving room to reflect and takes on a meditative sound that has been a trademark of Steve Reich’s compositions.
Quartet is a three-part piece consisting of Fast Slow and Fast that Steve Reich regards as one of the most complex pieces he’s ever written. It’s played by the Colin Currie Group whose lineup features vibes players Colin Currie and Phillip Walton plus pianists Phillip Moore and Simon Crawford-Phillips. They play with speed, accuracy and urgency during the two Fast pieces that bookend Quartet. They’re a hive of activity, while a calm descends during Slow and again, this allows time for reflection before the tempo quickens and Fast closes Pulse/Quartet.
For anyone yet to discover Steve Reich’s music, then Pulse/Quartet which was recently issued by Nonesuch, is a perfect introduction to a true musical pioneer, who has spent a lifetime writing, recording and performing innovative music. On Pulse/Quartet, the International Contemporary Ensemble interpret Pulse and then the Colin Currie Group reinterpret Quartet. While the two tracks on Pulse/Quartet last just over thirty-one minutes, this is enough to discover a true innovator and one of the greatest living composers.
Pulse/Quartet is an accessible introduction to Steve Reich that is sure to be the first step on a captivating voyage of discovery through his extensive back-catalogue. This is a journey well worth embarking upon, as it will allow a newcomer to Steve Reich’s music to discover the different periods of his long and illustrious career including Pulse/Quartet.
Firefall-Undertow, Clouds Across The Sea and Break Of Dawn.
Label: BGO Records.
By September 1979, Firefall had released three successful studio albums which had sold nearly two million copies in America alone. However, this had come at a cost and the years of constant touring and recording, had caught up on the band from Boulder, Colorado. Firefall were almost burnt out, after years of constantly recording and touring. Despite this, Atlantic Records were expecting Firefall to begin work on their fourth album, Undertow which was recently reissued by BGO Records alongside Clouds Across The Sea and Break Of Dawn.
That was despite Firefall having just returned from a fraught and eventful tour of Japan. During the tour, drummer Michael Clarke had been drinking excessively and sometimes, this resulted in him missing shows. Other times, was ‘unfit’ to play and got that Firefall placed German drummer Dan Holsten was on standby, and he was ready to replace Michael Clarke at a moment’s notice. However, before long, Firefall realised there was another problem.
Having released three successful album the members of Firefall believed that they had a nice nest egg awaiting them when they called time on their career with the band. The way things were going, this could be sooner rather than later. This made Firefall’s discovery all the more worrying.
Firefall finances the band discovered weren’t in the best shape. While the cupboard wasn’t quite bare, it wasn’t far of it. That came as no surprise to many who had watched the Firefall story unfold over the years.
The Firefall story began in Boulder, Colorado where Rick Roberts returned to, after the death of his friend Gram Parsons on September the ‘19th’ 1973. The death of God Own Singer came as a shock to Rick Roberts who had been playing alongside Gram Parsons for three years.
Gram Parsons had been one of the founding members of The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1968, who Rick Roberts had joined in 1970. The men quickly became friends and when Gram Parsons embarked upon a solo career, Rick Roberts left The Flying Burrito Brothers and became a member of The Fallen Angels, Gram Parsons’ backing band. That was until that fateful night in September 1973.
Having returned home to Boulder to come to terms with Gram Parson death, eventually, Rick Roberts began to think of the future. By then, Rick Roberts was back home in Colorado and so was Jock Bartley, who had replaced Tommy Bolin in Zephyr. They had first met when Gram Parsons and The Fallen Angels were playing two nights in the same venue in New York. Since then, they had kept in touch.
A few days later, Rick Roberts decided to look his old friend up, and that day, his timing was perfect as Jock Bartley was playing his guitar. Rick Roberts watched as Jock Bartley unleashed a virtuoso performance. This lead to Rick Roberts suggesting they practise together.
Soon, Rick Roberts and Jock Bartley were practising together regularly, and before long, were thinking about forming a band together. They started thinking about possible additions to the band, and the first name on their list was Mark Andes, a bassist and vocalist.
Mark Andes had previously been a member of Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne, until he decided to retire, albeit temporarily, and went to live in the rocky mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado. Rick Roberts and Jock Bartley were hoping to tempt Mark Andes out of retirement an succeeded in doing so. With Mark Andes now a member of the nascent band, now there were only three names on Rick Roberts and Jock Bartley’s shortlist.
The first was Larry Burnett, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, who Rick Roberts had met on his travels. Larry Burnett fitted the bill and Rick Roberts was keen to add him to the lineup of the new band.
It was a similar case with keyboardist and guitarist Mark Hallman, who knew Mark Andes from the band Navarro. However, when Mark Hallman was asked to join Firefall, he rejected the opportunity, and eventually joined Carole King’s backing band.
Meanwhile, the search for a drummer for the band continued, with various local drummers auditioning, but failing to make the grade. Eventually, Rick Roberts decided to phone his old friend Chris Hillman who had previously been a member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. That was where he met Rick Roberts. However, since leaving The Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Hillman had lived first in Hawaii and latterly in Washington. WhenRick Roberts phoned Chris Hillman, he agreed to head to Colorado and joined Firefall.
For their first year together, Firefall played in the clubs around Colorado. Quickly, Firefall became a popular draw in Boulder and Aspen, where the nascent band honed and tightened their sound. After just over a year of playing live, Firefall decided to record a demo.
Firefall recorded a three song demo which was produced by Chris Hillman, and shopped to the major labels. Alas, the demo failed to find a taker, and things weren’t looking good for Firefall.
So much so, that in 1975, Rick Roberts, Jock Bartley and Mark Andes were drafted in to Chris Hillman’s band for several performances. This included a gig at The Other End in New York, during June 1975. Not long after the band arrived in New York, Chris Hillman became ill, and couldn’t continue the tour and Larry Burnett and The Byrds’ drummer was drafted in to play at The Other End and finish the tour.
In the audience that night at The Other End, was an Atlantic Records’ A&R executive. He had listened to Firefall’s demo tape, and was keen to hear the new band, so made his way to the front of the stage. After Firefall’s set, the Atlantic Records’ A&R executive headed backstage and signed Firefall on a multi-album contract. At last, Firefall had signed to a major label.
The only problem was that Rick Roberts had agreed to head out on tour with Stephen Stills during the summer of 1975. This meant the recording of Firefall’s eponymous debut album had to be postponed until Rick Roberts’ return and it wasn’t until late 1975 that work on Firefall could begin.
After Rick Roberts returned from touring with Stephen Stills, a decision was made that David Muse should also join Firefall in the studio. He was a talented multi-instrumentalist, who could seamlessly switch between saxophone, flute, keyboards and harmonica. David Muse would add a new dimension to Firefall’s sound. So would Jim Mason, who had been chosen to produce Firefall’s debut album.
For Firefall’s eponymous debut album, Rick Roberts penned the album opener It Doesn’t Matter with Stephen Stills and Chris Hillman. He was no longer a member of Firefall, and had been replaced by Michael Clark. Rick Roberts the cofounder was also Firefall’s songwriter-in-chief and wrote Livin’ Ain’t Livin’, Dolphin’s Lullaby,You Are The Woman and Mexico. Larry Burnett wrote Love Isn’t All, No Way Out, Cinderella, Sad Ol’ Love Song and Do What You Want. These songs featured on Firefall which was recorded at Criteria Recording Studios, in Miami.
When Firefall arrived at Criteria Recording Studios, the lineup featured a rhythm section of drummer Michael Clark, bassist Mark Andes, and Larry Burnett on electric and acoustic rhythm guitar. Jock Bartley added lead, slide and pedal guitar, while Rick Roberts added acoustic guitar. New recruit David Muse played piano, clavinet, synths, flute, tenor sax and harmonica. Guest artist Joe Lala was drafted in to add a myriad of percussion to Firefall, which was produced by Jim Mason. Once the album was recorded, mixed and mastered, Firefall was scheduled for release May 1976.
Before that, critics had their say on Firefall. They were won over by a polished and accomplished album where soft rock rub shoulders with folk rock, country and Americana. This genre-melting album showcased a tight, talented and versatile band who put all their years of experience to good use on Firefall. It was released to critical acclaim in May 1976.
When Firefall was released May 1976, it reached number twenty-eight on the US Billboard 200, and sold in excess of 500,000 copies and was certified gold. By then, Firefall were already being compared to The Eagles and Poco, which was a lot for the band to live up to. However, more success had come Firefall’s way after enjoying their first hit single.
You Are The Woman had been released as the lead single, and reached number nine on the US Billboard 100 and number six on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts. Livin’ Ain’t Livin’ then reached forty-two in the US Billboard 100, while Cinderella reached just thirty-four in the US Billboard 100. This was despite many radio stations refusing to play the single because of its controversial lyrics. Still, Cinderella gave Firefall another minor hit single as they were hailed as one of American music’s rising stars.
That was no surprise, as Firefall had already three hit singles to their name and their eponymous debut album had just been certified gold by the RIAA. Buoyed by this success, Firefall embarked upon what was their first lengthy tour.
Over the next two years, Firefall were constantly touring and shared the bill with everyone from Leon Russell to The Doobie Brothers and Tom Waits to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Roy Buchanan, the Electric Light Orchestra and The Band. In the midst of this gruelling schedule, Firefall had to fit in the recording of their sophomore album Luna Sea.
Originally, the working title for Firefall’s much-anticipated sophomore album was Tropical Nights, and it was scheduled to be recorded at Criteria Recording Studios, in Miami. That was where David Muse would make his debut as a full-time member of Firefall. However, percussionist Joe Lala, who returned for the recording of Luna Sea, was still a guest artist.
Joe Lala was one of several guest artists who joined Firefall when they began recording their sophomore album Criteria Recording Studios. The Memphis Horns, Poco’s Timothy B. Schmidt and a trio of female backing vocals joined percussionist Joe Lala, and the newly expanded lineup of Firefall. After the success of Firefall, Jim Mason had been drafted in to produce the album. Everything seemed to go to plan, and within a month, Firefall had recorded their sophomore album. However, there was a problem.
Once the album was completed, it was sent to Atlantic Records who decided after hearing the final mix, that the album would have to be recorded. This was a huge blow for Firefall and an added expense the band could’ve done without.
For the recording, Fireball headed to Los Angeles, where some of the songs on Luna Sea were rerecorded. Other songs were discarded, and replaced by new songs. By the time Luna Sea was complete, it featured four songs penned by Rick Roberts So Long, Just Remember I Love You, Someday Soon and Only a Fool. Rick Roberts wrote Even Steven with Larry Burnett who Sold On You, Getaway and Head on Home. Just Think and Piece Of Paper were credited to Firefall, which was the first time the band had written songs together. Both songs made their way onto Luna Sea, which was released in 1977.
Prior to the release of Luna Sea, critics received advance copies of an album that had much in common with Firefall. Luna Sea was a slick, polished and accomplished album that attracted critical acclaim from critics as soft rock rubbed shoulders with folk rock, country and Americana. Luna Sea showcased a talented and versatile band who were maturing with every album.
When Luna Sea was released in 1977, it reached twenty-seven in the US Billboard 200. The lead single, Just Remember I Love You reached number eleven in the US Billboard 100, and number one in the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts. However, the followup So Long, stalled at just forty-eight in the US Billboard 100. Despite this, Luna Sea had built on the success of Firefall and the future it seemed looked bright for Firefall.
Behind the scenes, it was a different story and all wasn’t well within Firefall. The band had spent nearly two years touring almost nonstop. That had been the case since the release of Firefall in May 1976, right through to 1978 when the band’s thoughts turned to recording their third album Elan.
By 1978, Firefall had toured the world with the great and good of music and had recently opened for Fleetwood Mac on their Rumours’ tour. This Firefall hoped would introduce their music to a wider audience, but instead, it almost tore the band apart.
During the two years of nonstop touring, some of the members of Firefall had acquired expensive habits. Rick Roberts, Larry Burnett and Michael Clarke all began to drink heavily and began to experiment with drugs. Soon, things had escalated, and drink and drugs became a problem within Firefall, as Rick Roberts, Larry Burnett and Michael Clarke all became heavy drug users. This started to affect the group dynamics. To further complicate matters, Firefall were having problems with their management. For a group who were at the peak of their popularity about to record their third album, this didn’t bode well.
For their third album Elan, Firefall decided to bring a new producer onboard. This was a huge risk, as Jim Mason had played an important part in the rise and rise of Firefall. They seemed to have underestimated the importance of Jim Mason, and sadly, he was cast aside for a producer with a bigger name…Tom Dowd.
By 1978, Tom Dowd had an enviable track record as a producer, and had been working in the music industry since 1947. Over the last thirty-one years he had produced everyone from Charlie Mingus and Cream to Dusty Springfield and Eric Clapton, to Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, The Allman Brothers, Chicago and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Now Tom Dowd was about to work with Firefall, and set about uniting a band divided.
Despite the problems within the Firefall, they had written ten new songs, with songwriter-in-chief Rick Roberts contributing Strange Way, Count Your Blessing, Goodbye, I Love You, Sweet Ann and Winds of Change. Rick Roberts also teamed up with Jock Bartley to pen Sweet and Sour. Larry Burnett contributed Wrong Side of Town, Get You Back and Baby and also joined forces with Mark Andes to write Anymore. This time, there were neither songs penned by Rick Roberts and Larry Burnett nor Firefall. The times they were a changing as Firefall made the journey to the familiar surroundings of Criteria Sound with Tom Dowd.
When recording began at Criteria Recording Studios, Miami, Firefall were joined by drummer Jim Keltner, vocalist Laura Taylor and percussionist Steve Forman who would augment Firefall as they recorded ten new tracks. However, the Firefall and Tom Dowd partnership proved not to be the dream team everyone had hoped.
While the members of Firefall got on well with Tom Dowd, the problem was he had a different ‘vision’ for the band. They were content to stick with the formula that had served them well for two albums. Rather than trying to sort out their differences with Tom Dowd, Firefall continued to record Elan. Eventually, and somewhat belatedly, Firefall’s new management company decided to intervene and try to resolve the situation. By then, Elan was recorded, and a large amount of money had been spent. This was money wasted, in light of what happen next.
Firefall’s management company approached Mick Fleetwood, who the band had recently befriended when they opened for Fleetwood Mac during their recent Rumours’ tour. Mick Fleetwood was a member of one of the most successful bands in the world, and listened as Firefall told him that they weren’t happy with their third album. Eventually, he agreed to speak to executives at Atlantic Records, in the hope that they would allow Firefall to rerecord Elan.
When Mick Fleetwood got in touch with Atlantic Records, they agreed to let Firefall rerecord Elan. There was a catch though, Firefall would have pay for the rerecording of their third album. There was a problem though, this would put Firefall would put Firefall into debt with Atlantic Records. Whether the members of Firefall were fully aware of the implications of recording Elan was unclear?
For the rerecording of Firefall’s third album Elan, Atlantic Records brought onboard Howard and Ron Albert to coproduce the album. The sessions took place at Firefall’s favoured studios Criteria Sound in Miami, with other sessions taking place at the Record Plant in Los Angeles. By the time the sessions were complete, Elan was transformed and was a very different album. Firefall’s decision to rerecord Elan had paid off.
Before the release of Elan, critics had their say on Firefall’s third album. They called the album Firefall’s finest hour which wasn’t surprising given the quality of songs on Elan.
When Elan was released in 1978, it reached number twenty-seven in the US Billboard 200, and was certified platinum. The lead single Strange Way reached number eleven in the US Billboard 100, while Goodbye, I Love You stalled at number forty-three. Despite this, Firefall had just enjoyed the most successful album of their career. It should’ve been a time to celebrate.
Sadly, all wasn’t well within Firefall. The years they had spent constantly touring and recording, had caught up with the band and Firefall were almost burnt out. There was still tension within Firefall who had been divided when they began work on their last album, which they ended up recording twice. Although it was a time to celebrate, it was worrying and expensive time for Firefall.
This wasn’t helped by Firefall’s love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, which although pleasurable and pleasing was proving expensive and eventful. The Japanese tour that took place during August 1979 was a case in point.
Firefall had spent most of August 1979, touring Japan, and during the tour Michael Clarke had been drinking heavily, and sometimes, even missed shows. Other times, he was ‘unfit’ to play, and it got that German drummer Dan Holsten had to be on standby, and ready to replace Michael Clarke at a moment’s notice. This was the chance of a lifetime for Dan Holsten who Jock Bartley and Larry Burnett saw play in a bar in Colorado Springs. Now he was playing with Firefall on their Japanese tour. It had been a dream come true for Dan Holsten, as he flew home with the rest of Firefall. They had much to think about.
Having returned from a fraught and eventful Japanese tour, Firefall’s thoughts in September 1979 turned to their fourth album for Atlantic Records Undertow.
Just like previous albums, Rick Roberts continued in his role as songwriter-in-chief when work began on Undertow. He wrote Love That Got Away. Headed For A Fall, Stardust, If You Only Knew and Undertow. Rick Roberts and Mark Andes renewed their songwriting partnership when they wrote Laugh Or Cry. Larry Burnett penned Only Time Will Tell and Business Is Business while Jock Bartley contributed Leave It Alone. These songs were recorded in the familiar surroundings of Criteria Recording Studios.
A Criteria Recording Studios, the rhythm section of drummer Michael Clarke, bassist Mark Andes and Larry Burnett on electric, acoustic and rhythm guitar. Meanwhile, Jock Bartley played guitars and added lead vocals, while Rick Roberts added acoustic and electric guitar plus backing vocals. Multi-instrumentalist David Muse played flute saxophone, harmonica, acoustic and electric guitar. The members of Firefall were augmented by various guest artists who often only played on or two tracks. This included percussionist Joe Lala; organist Bill Payne, drummer Andy Newark, Paul Harris on electric piano and Christopher Dennis on tambourine and cowbell. Adding backing vocals were Rhodes, Chalmers and Rhodes who featured on numerous Hi Records’ recordings and Tom Kelly who featured on Laugh Or Cry. These guest artists played their part on Firefall’s eagerly awaited fourth album Undertow, which was released in 1981.
Despite the infighting and tension with Firefall, who continued to embrace the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, Undertow found favour with critics who were won over with their fourth carefully crafted album. It showcased the different sides to Firefall on what was the band’s most eclectic and intense album. This intensity came as no surprise given the in-fighting within Firefall at that time. However, this wasn’t the only change as Firefall embraced an eighties sound and production styles as they flit between soft rock, country rock, pop rock and power pop on Undertow where beautiful ballads and rocky tracks rub shoulder.
Undertow opens with the rueful rocker The One That Got Away. It gives way to the wistful rocky ballad Headed For A Fall where Larry Burnett delivers an emotionally charged vocal. He reaches new heights on the beautiful understated ballad Only Time Will Tell. Very different is the anthemic Laugh Or Cry, before Firefall drop the tempo on Stardust which another is beautiful ballad where harmonies augment Larry Burnett AOR and country rock combine. Firefall change things around on If You Only Knew, which is a freewheeling rocker. It’s followed by the pop rock of Some Things Never Change, the acoustic ballad Business Is Business and the power pop of Leave It Alone. Closing the album is Undertow another rocky track from Firefall, which closed a chapter in their career.
Despite the critically acclaimed reviews, Undertow failed to even trouble the lower reaches of the charts. The singles fared slightly better with Love That Got Away reaching fifty in the US Billboard 100 and nine in the Adult Contemporary charts. The followup Only Time Will Tell the reached forty-six in the Adult Contemporary charts. This was a disaster for Firefall who two years earlier, had sold a million copies of their third album Elan.
Not long after the release of Undertow, drummer Michael Clarke and Mark Andes both announced that they had left Firefall. They were soon replaced by Kenny Loggins’ rhythm section of drummer Tris Imboden and bassist George Hawkins. The new additions made their debut on Firefall’s fifth album Clouds Across The Sun.
Clouds Across The Sun.
When work began on Clouds Across The Sun, it soon became apparent that things were changing within Firefall. This time around, songwriter-in-chief Rick Roberts only wrote three songs Clouds Across The Sun, I Don’t Want To Hear It and Don’t It Feel Empty. Jock Bartley penned Be In Love Tonight and Quite Like You while Larry Burnett wrote No Class. David Muse joined with George Hawkins who made his Firefall songwriting debut on Dreamers. These songs were joined by covers of Jimmy Webb’s Old Wing Mouth, Robin Miller’s Love Ain’t What It Seems and John Lewis Parker and Tom Snow’s Staying With It, and became Clouds Across The Sun.
This time around, the new lineup of Firefall didn’t head to Criteria Recording Studios in Miami, and instead, sessions took place at four different studios. Over the next few weeks and months, the rhythm section of drummer Tris Imboden, bassist George Hawkins and Larry Burnett on electric guitar. Meanwhile, Jock Bartley played guitars and added lead vocals, while Rick Roberts added acoustic and electric guitar plus backing vocals. Multi-instrumentalist David Muse played flute, saxophone, synths, keyboards and vocoder at Northstar Studios, in Boulder, Lee Hazen’s Studio By The Pond, in Hendersonville, Tennessee, GroundStar Studios, Nashville and at Mountain Ears Studio, Boulder. Gradually, Clouds Across The Sun which was produced by Kyle Lehring took shape and was released in December 1980.
Critics on hearing Clouds Across The Sun noticed that Jock Bartley had emerging more as singer and vocalist as Firefall moved in the direction of a harder, new wave sound. This was very different to Firefall’s sound on their first three albums. However, like previous albums, Clouds Across The Sun still incorporated elements of pop rock and country rock.
Clouds Across The Sun opens with the rocky Be In Love Tonight, where blistering guitars provide a counterpoint to the harmonies as Firefall move in a new direction. Staying With It is an anthemic and melodic rocker which gives way the melancholy ballad Old wing Mouth. After that, Firefall revisit the rockier sound on No Class, Clouds Across The Sun which is one of the album’s highlights and then Quite Like You, However, things change on the ballad Love Ain’t What It before Dreamers features an urgent anthemic sound complete with harmonies and sultry saxophone. Closing Clouds Across The Sun is the power ballad How It Seems, which ends the album on a high.
When Clouds Across The Sun was released in December 1980, history repeated itself when the album failed to chart. This was yet another disappointment for Firefall, who desperately needed the album to chart as their contract with Atlantic Records was almost at end.
Things got for worse for Firefall when bassist George Hawkins resigned from Firefall and joined Mick Fleetwood’s new side project Zoo who were recording in Africa. This left Firefall in the lurch.
As 1991, dawned, Staying With It was released as a single and reached thirty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and forty-six in the Adult Contemporary charts. This resulted in Firefall being invited onto American Bandstand.
The only problem was the band didn’t have a bassist. Fortunately, former bassist Mark Andes agreed to return to help his old band when they played on American Bandstand in February 1981.
On April the ‘19th’ Firefall were one of several bands on the bill at Miami Baseball Stadium, where they were due to play in front of a huge audience. However, this time it was Larry Burnett who left Firefall in the lurch when he disappeared, and was eventually found in his hometown of Washington DC. Surely, things couldn’t get any better for Firefall?
Later in 1981, Atlantic Records dropped Firefall from its roster after six years and five albums. In late 1981, Atlantic Records released the ubiquitous Greatest Hits album which brought Firefall’s time at the label to an end. With no recording contract Firefall was at a crossroads.
Break Of Dawn.
In the spring of 1982, Jock Bartlett who was still unhappy with how things had ended for Firefall, decided to put together a new lineup of the band. At the suggestion of producer Ron Howard, Jock Bartlett got in contact with two Miami based musicians including guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Johnne Sambataro. Having secured his services, Jock Bartlett brought onboard singer, keyboardist and guitarist Chuck Kirkpatrick. The three men became the latest lineup of Firefall.
With ten new songs written, the new lineup of Firefall headed to Criteria Recording Studios in Miami, where guitarist and lead vocalist Jock Bartlett, Johnne Sambataro and Chuck Kirkpatrick were joined by producers Howard and Ron Albert. Helping the trio new lineup record Break Of Dawn were drummer Joe Galdo, bassists Arnold Paseiro, Richie Goldman and Kim Stone. They were joined by percussionist Joe Lala and Alain Salvatia who played synth, synthesised strings, piano and flutes. The other musicians made their way to Criteria Recording Studios included some familiar faces.
This included Stephen Stills who played guitar, piano and added backing vocals. He was joined by alto saxophonist David Sanborn and two former members of Firefall. David Muse played flute, harmonica, synths and vocoder, while Rick Roberts added backing vocals. Alas, he was only a guest artist on the group he had cofounded all these years ago. It must have been a sad day for Rick Roberts who once lead Firefall during their glory days.
That must have seemed like a long time ago, but in reality was just four years since Firefall had released their million selling third album Elan. Four years and two albums later, the new lineup of Firefall was looking for a record company to release Break Of Dawn.
Eventually, Firefall found a label willing to take a chance on Break Of Dawn…their former label Atlantic Records. They scheduled the release Break Of Dawn for September 1982.
Prior to the release of Break Of Dawn, it received mixed reviews from critics. Break Of Dawn with its synth, synths strings and Roland drums had an eighties sound as Firefall continued to combine AOR, country rock and pop rock.
That was the case on album opener Break Of Dawn and Body On Soul where Firefall combine eighties technology with tight harmonies. This is the case on Falling In Love where a needy vocal is delivered against an urgent arrangement. The ballad Always is without doubt one of Break Of Dawn’s highlights. In The Dead Of The Night features a West Coast sound and a strong Eagles influence. Again, there’s an urgency to the melodic It’s Too Late which gives way to Take Me Back which features a heartfelt and hopeful vocal. Fall For You has a rockier sound before Firefall drop the tempo on Suddenly. Don’t Tell Me Why is almost anthemic song that closed Break Of Dawn and Jock Bartlett hoped would bring about a change in fortune for Firefall.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be and Break Of Dawn failed to trouble the charts. When the single Always reached fifty-nine in the US Billboard 100 and twenty-four in the US Adult Contemporary charts. This was a far cry from the days when Firefall were being compared to The Eagles and their third album Elan sold a million copies.
That must have seemed like a lifetime ago for Jock Bartlett who by the time Break Of Dawn was released in 1982, owned the name to Firefall. Break Of Dawn was just the latest chapter in the Firefall story which began seven years ago in 1982 when two friends started making music together.
Seven years later, and the various lineups of Firefall had released six albums, which included Undertow, Clouds Across The Sea and Break Of Dawn which were recently digitally remastered and reissued by BGO Records as a two CD set. While these three albums failed to replicate the commercial success of Firefall, Luna Sea and Elan, they feature some of the most underrated music of Firefall’s career.
Especially Undertow and Clouds Across The Sea which should’ve followed in the footsteps of Firefall’s first three albums. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, and commercial success eluded Undertow and Clouds Across The Sea.
Even when Firefall reinvented their sound on Break Of Dawn, it failed to find the audience that it was aimed at, and the latest lineup of Firefall were left scratching their heads. This was disappointment for Firefall, whose first three albums sold around two million copies.
After the release of Break Of Dawn in 1982, Firefall’s roller coaster career continued, and continues to this day. Sadly, they’ve never again reached the heights of Firefall, Luna Sea and Elan which feature a group at the peak of their powers. They hoped to reach these heights on Undertow, Clouds Across The Sea and Break Of Dawn where the talented and versatile Firefall, continue their search for commercial success with their unique and inimitable brand of genre-melting music.
Firefall Undertow, Clouds Across The Sea and Break Of Dawn.
Millie Jackson-Caught Up.
Label: Southbound Records.
It didn’t look like life was going to be easy for Millie Jackson who was born in the city of Thomson, in Georgia, on July the ’15th’ 1944. Her father was a sharecropper and worked long hours for little reward. Life was tough for the Jackson family, and got tougher when Millie Jackson’s mother became ill and passed away while her daughter was still a child. The family was devastated and Millie Jackson and her father decided to move to Newark, New Jersey, where they lived with an aunt. This was a new chapter for the Jackson family.
By the time Millie Jackson was in her mid teens, she had moved to Brooklyn, and was working as a model for Jive and Sepia magazine. Millie Jackson’s luck was starting to change.
One night in 1964, a friend dared Millie Jackson to enter the talent contest at Small Paradise nightclub in Harlem. Millie Jackson who was just sixteen decided to enter the talent contest which she won. Little did Millie Jackson know that this was the start of long career as a singer.
Five years later, in April 1969, Millie Jackson released her debut single A Little Bit Of Something on MGM Records. After the single failed to trouble the charts, Millie Jackson signed to Spring Records in 1970 and began a long association with the label.
At Spring Records, Millie Jackson was paired with the label’s in-house producer, Raeford Gerald who produced her 1971 single A Child of God (It’s Hard to Believe). On its release, it reached twenty-two in the US R&B charts and became Millie Jackson’s first single to chart.
The following year, 1972, Millie Jackson released Ask Me What You Want which reached twenty-seven in the US Billboard 100. Soon, two became three, when My Man, A Sweet Man reached forty-two in the US Billboard 100 and seven in the US R&B charts. Both these songs featured on Millie Jackson’s eponymous debut album.
When Millie Jackson was released later in 1972, it featured a collection of songs which seemed to have been influenced by the Motown sound. However, this proved popular and Millie Jackson reached 166 in the US Billboard 200. Millie Jackson’s career was underway.
In 1973, Millie Jackson returned with her sophomore album It Hurts So Good which this time, was produced by Raeford Gerald and Brad Shapiro. The pair was responsible for an album where Millie Jackson’s sound started to evolve, and move away from her Motown influenced debut album. However, It Hurts So Good stalled at 175 in the US Billboard 200, but reached thirteen in the US R&B charts. This was an improvement on her debut album Millie Jackson.
Just when Millie Jackson’s career seemed to be going places, her third album Got To Try It One Time which was released in early 1973 failed to even trouble the lower reaches of the charts. For Millie Jackson this was a disaster for the twenty-nine year old, who began to wonder when she would release a successful album? Her first two albums had stalled at the lower reaches of the US Billboard 200, and now Got To Try It One Time had failed commercially. However, Millie Jackson’s luck was about to change.
For her fourth album, Caught Up, which was recently reissued on vinyl by Southbound Records, an imprint of Ace Records, Millie Jackson decided to record one of the first soul concept albums. Caught Up documents the story of a woman having an affair with a married man. On the first side Millie Jackson sings from the mistress’ point of view and on the second side the story is told from the wife’s point of view. Essentially, Caught Up was the musical equivalent of a mini soap opera, where Millie Jackson plays both roles.
For Millie Jackson’s concept album Caught Up, nine tracks were chosen including Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson classic (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right which opened the album and was added later as a reprise. Millie Jackson penned The Rap and wrote All I Want Is A Fighting Chance and t’s All Over but the Shouting. These tracks were joined by Bobby Womack’s I’m Through Trying to Prove My Love to You, Bobby Goldsboro’s Summer (The First Time) and Phillip Mitchell’s So Easy Going, So Hard Coming Back. He also teamed up with Billy Clements to write I’m So Tired Of Hiding. These tracks were recorded by some of the top musicians of the day, the Muscle Shoals Swampers.
It was a masterstroke bringing the Muscle Shoals Swampers onboard for the recording of Caught Up which began in 1973. They had played on numerous hit singles for the great and good of music and brought with them a wealth of experience to Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and the Criteria Studios in Miami.
Millie Jackson was hoping that the rhythm section of drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, guitarist Jimmy Johnson and keyboardist Barry Beckett would work their magic one more time. Adding percussion was Tom Roady and Brad Shapiro who co-produced Caught Up with Millie Jackson. Sweetening the arrangements with strings were Brad Shapiro and Mike Lewis. As the sessions began, Millie Jackson embraced the two roles singing the first side from the mistress’ point of view and the second side from the wife’s point of view. Over the next few weeks and months Millie Jackson lived both roles brilliantly, breathing life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics which she delivered and passionately. The Muscle Shoals Swampers watched on as this musical equivalent of a mini soap opera unfolded before their eyes. Little did they know when Caught Up was completed in 1974, that they had witnessed history being made.
When critics had their say on Caught Up, it received critical acclaim from the majority of critics who realised that this was an important and innovative soul album. There were very few soul concept albums, and Millie Jackson who was still a relative unknown as a pioneer. However, she wasn’t going to be an unknown for much longer.
Upon the release of Caught Up in late 1974, the album reached twenty-one in the US Billboard 200 and number four in the US R&B Charts. This resulted in Millie Jackson receiving her first ever gold disc after Caught Up sold over 500,000 copies. Caught Up also The album spawned the hit singles, If (Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right which reached forty-two in the US Billboard 100 and was nominated for two Grammy Awards. However, neither The Rap nor I’m Through Trying To Prove I Love You charted which was a disappointment for Millie Jackson. However, she was well on her way to securing superstar status after her performance on Caught Up.
The first side of Caught Up which opens with If (Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right, finds Millie Jackson singing from the other women’s point of view. Before that, the understated arrangement builds and drums, sweeping strings and braying horns builds combine and reach a crescendo. This is the cue for Millie Jackson to deliver a vocal tinged with sadness. Later, her vocal grows in power and she unleashes a vocal that is a mixture of sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment and emotion. In doing so, she delivers one of the finest covers of this song and one worthy of two Grammy Award nominations.
The Rap featured a stylistic departure from Millie Jackson who raps the lyrics about the frustration and problems about having an affair with a married man as the arrangement meanders along. Later it builds, and continued to grows in power as does Millie Jackson’s vocal. By then, it’s a mixture of power, frustration and drama as she brings to life what it’s really like to be the “other woman.”
This gives way a brief Reprise of If (Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right, which quickly builds as guitars scream, horns blaze, a Hammond organ swirls and strings sweep and swirl. Meanwhile, Millie Jackson unleashes another emotive vocal where she lays bare her soul.
All I Want Is A Fighting Chance features a powerful driving arrangement as Millie Jackson confronts her love rival, telling her all she wants is a fighting chance to win and wow him. Behind her, the tempo quickens as braying horns sweeping strings and the rhythm section join they searing guitar. They combine elements of soul, funk and even rock, and somehow, manage to match Millie Jackson’s anger, frustration and passion.
Closing side one of Caught Up is I’m Tired of Hiding, where Millie Jackson talks to her lover, telling him that she’s tired of sneaking around, hiding and longing for him, when he’s not around. Her delivery is full with emotion, but this time, she’s tired, fed up and unsure of their future. Her voice lacks the power and strength, but makes up for it with her heartfelt delivery of the lyrics as the arrangement veers between subtle and understated to dramatic and tinged with sadness. By then, Millie Jackson seems resigned that the affair might be over, and risks everything with the ultimatum, it’s her or me. After that, she becomes subdued, emotional as she’s overcome sadness and regret on one of the most powerful and moving tracks on Caught Up.
On side two of Caught Up, Millie Jackson plays the wife and “wronged woman,” whose husband has been cheating on her. Bad news awaits Millie on It’s All Over But the Shouting, with her husband cheating on her, and her marriage all but over. This is played out against a driving arrangement where the rhythm section, rasping horns, percussion and chiming guitars provide a backdrop for Millie Jackson. He vocal os full of anger and frustration as she tells her cheating husband their marriage is over, and she won’t be staying with him for the sake of the kids. Not when: “he’s been practicing baby-making” with someone else. Her powerful, angry vocal is supplemented by soulful backing vocals and a fast, furious and hugely stirring, hook laden arrangement which opens the second part of this soul soap opera.
So Easy Going, So Hard Coming Back sees dialogue between Millie Jackson and her husband whose trying to win her back. This isn’t going to be easy as she’s determined to keep her pride in tact. Meanwhile, the arrangement is slow, atmospheric and understated as Millie Jackson’s vocal which is full of sadness and regret, as she realises that she’s deceived herself, having turned a blind eye at his unfaithfulness. Millie Jackson brings to life the drama, sadness and mistrust of the situation, as she delivers an emotive and impassioned vocal during this heart-wrenching song which she makes her own.
Having realised that their marriage is over, I’m Through Trying To Prove My Love To You finds Millie Jackson moving on, having met someone else, someone better, more reliable. During the song, she sings about how she had to move on, how she had to end the marriage, because she’s through with his cheating and deceiving, and unwilling to keep proving she loves him. Ultimately, she wants them to remember the good times, and move on with life as she delivers her vocal against a quite beautiful understated arrangement.
Caught Up closes with Summer The First Time which starts off understated before becoming dramatic and soulful. Setting the scene is the Muscle Shoals Swampers who provide a full and dramatic arrangement as Millie Jackson enters, and sings of a young woman of seventeen being seduced by an older man of thirty-one, and being transformed into a woman. Meanwhile, backing vocalists add a contrast to Millie Jackson’s voice as she recreates the drama, passion and emotion of If (Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right, and transforming the song into something very different and full of drama, emotion and soul. It’s the perfect way to end Caught Up, Millie Jackson’s concept album and soap opera.
Caught Up is a captivating mini soul soap opera that sees Millie Jackson transformed from the “other woman” on side one, to wronged woman of side two. The album traces the two relationships and the various stages they go through. From the opening bars of If (Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right, to the final notes of Summer The First Time, she recreates a range of emotions, ranging from the defiance, frustration and passion of side one, to the anger, betrayal and forgiveness of side two. Regardless of the emotion, Millie Jackson recreates it brilliantly, making each song her own, transforming the lyrics and bringing the song to life. In doing so, Millie Jackson the slickest of soul concept albums, Caught Up, where one song segues seamlessly into another, as the next chapter in this drama about to play out in front of you.
Millie Jackson along with co-producer Brad Shapiro were responsible for an album that record buyers in 1974 were unable to tear themselves away from, just in case they missed the next twist in this tale of love, love lost and betrayal. Over 500, 000 people bought a copy of and tuned into Millie Jackson’s mini soul soap opera Caught Up which has just been released on vinyl by Southbound Record, an imprint of Ace Records. This is a welcome reissue of Caught Up, which one of the greatest soul concept albums ever released, and the album that launched the career of Millie Jackson when it was relaxed in 1974.
Millie Jackson-Caught Up.
When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby.
Label: Ace Records.
Compilation Of The Week.
During the golden age of vinyl, buying a new album was often part of a wider musical education and could lead the record buyer on a long and fascinating musical journey. That was the case for the small group of people who bought Nick Drake’s debut album Five Leaves Left on the ‘3rd’ of July 1969 and the followup Bryter Later on the ‘3rd’ of March 1971. Bryter Later opened with the orchestrated Introduction where swathes of beautiful, haunting strings accompanied Nick Drake’s plucked guitar. Suddenly, record buyers were reaching out and looking for Bryter Later’s album cover to see who orchestrated Introduction? On discovering the name Robert Kirby, many record buyers went in search of other albums featuring his orchestral arrangements.
By the time Bryter Later was released, Robert Kirby had only worked on around seventeen albums, which featured his trademark string arrangements. This included albums by Vashti Bunyan, Gillian McPherson, Ralph McTell, Audience, Andy Roberts, John Kongos, Keith Christmas and Spirogyra. These artists feature on When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby, which was recently released by Ace Records. Later, Robert Kirby went on to work with John Cale, Ian Matthews, Sandy Denny and Richard and Linda Thompson who also When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby, which is a lovingly curated homage to one of the oft-overlooked arranger.
Robert Kirby was born on the ’16th’ of April 1948 in Bishop’s Stortford, in Hertfordshire into a lower middle class family. His father was a factory foreman, but he had high hopes for his son when the young Robert Kirby won a scholarship to become a day pupil at Gresham College.
By then, Robert Kirby had discovered rock ’n’ roll and was listening to Elvis Presley, Fats Domino and even Connie Francis. However, Robert Kirby’s love of music also included singing in the choirs in the local church and at Gresham College where he won a choral scholarship to study at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
On his arrival at Gonville and Caius College in 1966, Robert Kirby realised that he was about to study at one of the top Oxbridge colleges. Gonville and Caius College had a reputation for producing many leading academics and it had already produced five Nobel Prize winners. However, Robert Kirby hoped that his time at Gonville and Caius College would lead to a teaching career.
That wasn’t how it turned out. During his time at Gonville and Caius College met Nick Drake, when the pair auditioned for the Footlights. Neither was successful, but having met Nick Drake, Robert Kirby he was an aspiring songwriter. When Robert Kirby heard Nick Drake’s lyrics, he fell in love them. Soon, though, Robert Kirby had fallen in love for the second time.
This came after Robert Kirby discovered The Beatles’ song She’s Leaving Home. This resulted in Robert Kirby realising that he would rather eventually work as an arranger than a teacher. However, Robert Kirby hadn’t envisaged his career as an arranger beginning until he left Gonville and Caius College.
Not long after that, Nick Drake started playing live and needed string arrangements for his shows. The man he turned to, was Robert Kirby, and this was the start of a successful musical partnership.
In 1969, Nick Drake signed to Joe Boyd’s Witchseason Productions, who would record his debut album Five Leaves Left. It was an album that required string arrangements, and Joe Boyd decided to that Richard Hewson take charge of the arrangements. Nick Drake rejected Richard Hewson’s arrangements and suggested using his old friend from Cambridge Robert Kirby.
When Robert Kirby was asked to take charge of the arrangements for Five Leaves Left before recording began at Sound Techniques, the well known studio in Chelsea, London. Robert Kirby began work on the arrangements, and Joe Boyd was so impressed with his work that he asked him to work on another album being produced by Witchseason Productions.
This was Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day which was recorded at Sound Techniques and released in 1970. When people heard Robert Kirby’s work on Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left and Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day the offers of work started to pour in. His service as an arranger were much in demand.
During one of the Joe Boyd sessions at Sound Techniques, Robert Kirby met producer and manager Sandy Robertson who owned September Productions. He was also looking for an arranger, and Robert Kirby became Sandy Robertson’s arranger of choice.
Despite working for Sandy Robertson, Robert Kirby still worked for Joe Boyd, and when the time came for Nick Drake to record his sophomore album Bryter Later in 1970. It was released on ‘3rd’ of March 1971 and was last Nick Drake album that Robert Kirby worked on. Bryter Later also features the song that opens When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby.
This is the orchestrated Introduction which opens Bryter Later which was released by Island Records on the ‘3rd’ of March 1971. On Introduction, Nick Drake’s plucked guitar opens the track and soon, swathes of beautiful, haunting strings accompanied Nick Drake’s plucked guitars. It’s one of the finest songs that Nick Drake would record during his tragically short career.
In 1971, singer-songwriter Keith Christmas released his third album Pigmy on B&C Records. It features the beautiful folk rock ballad Forest and The Shore which was written by Keith Christmas and produced by Sandy Robertson. Robert Kirby’s strings add the finishing touches with a carefully crafted dark mellotron choral arrangement. It transforms the track and shows how far Robert Kirby had come as an arranger by 1971.
By 1975, Robert Kirby had worked on John Cale’s album Helen Of Troy, which was released on Island Records. It was a controversial album, and one that John Cale didn’t want to release as he believed the album featured demos. However, when he returned from an Italian tour in November 1975, he discovered that Helen Of Troy has been released against his wishes. One of the highlights of the album was I Keep A Close Watch a dark, brooding ballad which featured a stunning string arrangement by Robert Kirby. They dance above John Cale’s vocal and add a contrast and help bring out the beauty in the song.
Rainbow River was a song from Vashti Bunyan’s debut album Just Another, which was released by Phillips in 1970. By then, Vashti Bunyan had been around for a few years, but had yet to make a commercial breakthrough. Sadly, Just Another failed commercially and Vashti Bunyan turned her back on music for over thirty years. The understated and ethereal Rainbow River which features beautiful arrangement by Robert Kirby and is a reminder of what music lost during the years Vashti Bunyan was away from music.
Andy Roberts was a British folk rock artist who released his third album Nina And The Dream Tree on the B & C Records sub-label Pegasus in 1971. One of the highlights of Nina And The Dream Tree was I’ve Seen The Movie which featured an impassioned, needy vocal from Andy Roberts as he delivered lyrics that were sometimes lysergic and always rich in imagery. However, the song wouldn’t have been as successful without Robert Kirby’s string drenched arrangement that sometimes added to the emotion and drama.
By 1977, Robert Kirby was a successful arranger who had worked on many different projects, and with many folk rock artists. This included on Spriguns 1977 album Time Will Pass which was released on Decca and featured White Witch. This Mandy Morton composition benefits from a string arrangement as Spriguns successful fuse elements of a folk rock, psychedelia and progressive rock on this enchanting ballad.
Belfast born Gillian McPherson had served her musical apprenticeship on the club scene before signing to RCA and releasing her debut album Poets And Painters And Performers Of Blues in 1971. It was produced by Danny Thompson who brought Robert Kirby onboard to add strings to a couple of tracks. This included the sweeping strings that feature on the ballad It’s My Own Way where Gillian McPherson delivers a tender, ethereal vocal. Sadly for Gillian McPherson and music lovers Poets And Painters And Performers Of Blues was the only album this truly talented chanteuse.
Apart from being a member of The Strawbs, Fairport Convention and Fotheringay, Sandy Denny enjoyed a successful solo career. The final album released before her death in 1978 was Rendezvous, which was released by Island Records in 1977. It featured the heart-wrenching ballad Silver Threads And Golden Needles which features a silver arrangement by Robert Kirby.
Spirogyra was formed in Bolton, Lancashire in 1967 by Martin Cockerham and Mark Francis and in 1971 they released their debut album St. Radigunds on B&C Records and featured vocalist Barbara Gaskin. St. Radigunds was arranged and produced by Robert Kirby, and featured the Martin Cockerham composition Love Is A Funny Thing. Barbara Gaskin delivers a tender, ethereal vocal that hints at vulnerability. Coupled with Robert Kirby’s arrangement and crystalline production this was a winning formula, and one of the highlights of St. Radigunds which today is a cult classic.
In 1975, Australian singer-songwriter Gary Shearston released his seventh album The Greatest Stone On Earth And Other Two-Bob Wonders on the Charisma label. It was arranged and produced by Gary Shearston and Robert Kirby, and featured Friend To Me which is one of the album’s highlights. A cascading piano plays its part in the arrangement to this Gary Shearston composition, while his vocal had obviously been influenced by American folk and French chanson. Although unlikely bedfellows they work well on Friend To Me which is a reminder of Gary Shearston who later, turned his back on music to become an Anglican minister.
After their ill-judged decision to turn their back on music to establish a Sufi community in Suffolk, Richard and Linda Thompson hit the comeback trail in with the release of First Light on Chrysalis in 1978. The Thompson’s brought Robert Kirby onboard to add strings to First Light, which was produced by Jon Wood and Richard Thompson. He also wrote the title-track First Light, where Robert Kirby’s strings augment the harmonies that accompany Linda Thompson’s vocal on this spiritual sounding ballad.
When art rockers Audience recorded their third album The House On The Hill for Charisma, Gus Dudgeon produced the album and Robert Kirby arranged and conducted the strings. This included the Howard Werth composition Ravioléo. It showcased Robert Kirby’s string arrangement while a Nick Drake inspired guitar plays and later, a scatted vocal is added. The result was an intriguing and enchanting track from The House On The Hill which was released on Charisma in 1971.
The progressive folk band Illusion who were formed by the four remaining members of Renaissance, and added guitarist John Knightsbridge and drummer Eddie McNeil to their lineup. Illusion released their debut Out Of The Mist for island Records in 1977. A year later, Illusion released their eponymous debut album for island Records in 1978. By then, progressive music was no longer flavour of month amongst the critics. Instead, the new breed of cynical critics slated anything progressive and flew the flag for New Wave music. In doing so, the critics missed out on a hugely underrated album which featured Madonna Blue which like the rest of Illusion was produced by Paul Samwell-Smith and featured a string arrangement by Robert Kirby. They provide the finishing touch to this progressive folk pop opus penned by Jim McCarty.
Ralph McTell penned the folk rock ballad Pick Up A Gun closes When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby. It’s one of his own compositions and featured on his 1971 album You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here. It was produced by Gus Dudgeon with Robert Kirby’s taking charge of a brass arrangement while his strings sweetened a poignant song full of social comment.
When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby is the perfect introduction to one of the greatest British arrangers of his generation whose career spanned five decades. Robert Kirby sometimes produced artists and groups, and there are several of his productions on When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby which was recently released by Ace Records. Robert Kirby was much more than an arranger, and was a talented producer who was The Strawbs keyboardist between 1975 and 1978. During that period there was still plenty of work for Robert Kirby. However, after 1978 the work dried up for Robert Kirby
Over the next two decades, Robert Kirby was no longer as busy and only arranged four albums during the eighties and three during the nineties. Most of Robert Kirby’s time was spent working for the market research company RSL. For a man of Robert Kirby’s this must have been a disappointment, considering his musical CV. Despite that, Robert Kirby continued to play his beloved piano and in the evenings listened to classical music. This was Robert Kirby’s routine until the late nineties.
As the new millennia dawned, a new generation of artists had discovered Robert Kirby’s arrangements. May had heard his arrangements on Nick Drake’s debut album Five Leaves Left and the followup Bryter Later. Artists like Paul Weller and Teddy Thompson and old friends like The Strawbs and Vashti Bunyan brought arranger Robert Kirby onboard and he was back doing what he loved. Sadly, after a short illness which required emergency heart surgery Robert Kirby passed away in a West London hospital on the ‘3rd’ of October 2009.
That day, British music lost one of the greatest arrangers of his generation, Robert Kirby. He left behind a rich musical legacy, including the twenty tracks he arranged and produced during the seventies which feature on When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby. The lovingly curated When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby is a near flawless compilation of tracks and essential listening for anyone who appreciates and loves music from this golden age of British music.
When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby.
Z.Z, Hill-That’s It! The Complete Kent Recordings 1964-1968.
Label: Kent Soul.
Sadly, the Z.Z. Hill story is a familiar one, with Texan born soul and blues man never really enjoying the commercial success his considerable talent deserved. Z.Z. Hill moved to Los Angeles in 1963, and in 1964 had a minor hit with You Were Wrong, which reached 100 in the US Billboard 100. However, this was enough for the Bihari brothers to sign Z.Z. Hill to Kent-Modern Records where he spent the next four years. This period is documented on That’s It! The Complete Kent Recordings 1964-1968 which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. That’s It! The Complete Kent Recordings 1964-1968 is two CD set that is a reminder of what was a golden period for Z.Z. Hill, who was regarded as one of soul’s rising stars.
Arzell J. Hill was born in Naples, East Texas, on September the ’30th’ 1935, and began his singing career in the late fifties, when he joined the gospel group the Spiritual Five. They who toured Texas, which was akin to a musical apprenticeship for the young Arzell J. Hill . However, like many gospel singers before him, Arzell J. Hill would eventually crossover,
By then, Arzell J. Hill had discovered the music of Sam Cooke, BB King, and Bobby “Blue” Bland, who influenced him when he began singing in club in and around Dallas. Around this time, Arzell J Hill became the vocalist in bands led by Bo Thomas and Frank Shelton. It was around this time that Arzell J. Hill became Z.Z. Hill, a homage to his musical hero BB King.
In the late fifties, Z.Z. Hill’s elder brother Matt Hill who was a producer decided to move to California. Once he was settled, he invited Z.Z. Hill to join him in the California sunshine.
As the fifties gave way to the sixties, Matt Hill booked some studio time for Z.Z. Hill who recorded six songs. When Matt Hill sold the six songs to Chess Records, it looked as i Z.Z. Hill was about to make a breakthrough. However, Chess Records decided not to release the songs, which frustrated the Hill brothers.
Not long after Chess Records decided not to release Z.Z. Hill’s songs, Matt Hill founded two record labels Mesa and MH Records in late 1963. The new labels’ first signing was one Z.Z. Hill who released his debut single Five Will Get You Ten on Mesa. The single sold well locally, and Matt Hill released You Were Wrong as Z.Z. Hill’s sophomore single.This was a song that Z.Z. Hill had recorded in 1960 as You Was Wrong. However, when Z.Z. Hill released You Were Wrong in 1964, the sold well enough to reach number 100 in the US Billboard 100 where it spent just one week. However, for Z.Z. Hill this was the break he had been looking for.
The Bihari brothers who owned Kent-Modern Records had been following Z.Z. Hill’s career, and after the success of You Were Wrong, offered him a recording contract. Z.Z. Hill accepted and signed for Kent Records which would be his home for the next four years.
Having signed for Kent-Modern Records, Z.Z. Hill entered the studio to record his debut for his new label on ’15th’ September 1964. That day, Z.Z. Hill recorded two of his own compositions the bluesy, soulful single You Don’t Love Me and the rueful ballad If I Could Do It All Over which featured on the B-Side. However, when You Don’t Love Me was released on Kent Records in 1964, it failed to trouble the charts. This was a huge disappointment for Z.Z. Hill considering the quality of You Don’t Love Me.
It wasn’t until November 1964 that Z.Z. Hill returned to the studio, and cut four new sides. This included the two Z.Z. Hill compositions, including the soul-baring ballad Someone To Love Me which was released on Kent Records in 1965. Tucked away on the B-Side was the racy twelve-bar Have Mercy where Z.Z. Hill delivers a needy, pleading vocal. History repeated itself when Someone To Love Me failed commercially on its release.
Later in 1965, Z.Z. Hill returned with his third single for Kent Records, which featured another two of his compositions. This included Hey Little Girl which featured Oh Darlin’ on the B-Side. Both songs featured horns which added to the tougher sound that Z.Z. Hill was showcasing. However, it failed to find an audience and Z.Z. Hill’s third single for Kent Records sunk without trace.
By then, Kent Records had exhausted their supply of material by Z.Z. Hill, so once again sent him into the Western studio with arranger Maxwell Davis. That day, they cut four songs penned by Z.Z. Hill, including the uptempo dancer What More which featured the blues-tinged stomper That’s It on the B-Side. It’s a hidden gem and was too good to be consigned to a flip side. Maybe it would’ve fared better than What More which didn’t even trouble the lower reaches of the charts upon its release.
For his final release of 1965, two Z.Z. Hill songs were chosen for his fifth single for Kent Records. The beautiful string drenched ballad Happiness Is All I Need where horns and punctuate the arrangement was chosen as the single. On the B-Side was Everybody Has To Cry another quality song which features an impassioned and emotive vocal could’ve been released as a single. However, Happiness Is All I Need got the nod, and was released as a single. Z.Z. Hill flew to Dallas to appear on the television show The !!! Beat, but even this publicity didn’t help sales Happiness Is All I Need. Just like previous singles, it failed to find and audience and Z.Z. Hill was zero from five.
As 1966 dawned, Z.Z. Hill had released five singles for Kent Records, and was no nearer making a breakthrough than the day he signed to the label. For his next single, Jules Bihari and Roscoe Gordon’s No More Doggin’ was chosen. It features a Motown inspired dance track whose ‘contemporary’ sound it was hoped would appeal to record buyers. Hidden away on the B-Side the Z.Z. Hill penned The Kind Of Love I Was which was a bluesier sounding track. Z.Z. Hill’s sixth single for Kent Records showcased the two sides of the Texan singer. Alas, ZZ Hill’s cover of No More Doggin’ was no more successful than his previous singles, and failed to chart.
Just a few weeks after No More Doggin’ failed to chart, Z.Z. Hill was back with his seventh single for Kent Records, I Found Love. It was penned by Z.Z. Hill and was one of his finest releases. He’s accompanied by backing vocals as he gives thanks for the love he’s found. On the B-Side was the shorter version of Aaron Collins’ uptempo Set Your Sights Higher. Backing vocals and horns accompany Z.Z. Hill on another of the hidden gems from his time at Kent Records. However, when I Found Love was released in 1966, it too failed commercially and things were getting serious for Z.Z. Hill.
By then, Z.Z. Hill had released seven singles for Kent Records and none of these singles had troubled the charts. However, the Bihari brothers thought that their new producer, Richard Parker who had penned and produced a number of successful singers. The Bihari brothers believed that he could turn round Z.Z. Hill’s career.
Richard Parker took Z.Z. Hill into the studio where they recorded the Fred Hughes and Freeman King ballad You Can’t Hide A Heartache was recorded. For the B-Side Aaron Collins’ twelve bar stomper Gimme Gimme was chosen. When You Can’t Hide A Heartache was released on Kent Records in 1966, Z.Z. Hill, his producer and the label owners the Bihari brothers hoped that it would provide the Texan soul man with a hit single. Alas, it wasn’t to be and the search for a Z.Z. Hill’s first hit single for Kent Records continued.
After eight singles which failed to chart, the Bihari brothers might have been forgiven for reigning in the spending on Z.Z. Hill. After all, he wasn’t making Kent Records any money. Quite the opposite, with eight singles failing to even trouble the lower reaches of the charts. Despite that, the Bihari brothers decided to release Z.Z. Hill’s debut album.
Rather than send Z.Z. Hill into the studio to record fresh material, six of his first seven singles became The Soul Stirring Z.Z. Hill. Only No More Doggin’ and The Kind Of Love I Want were omitted from The Soul Stirring Z.Z. Hill when it was released in 1966. Sadly, it was a familiar story with The Soul Stirring Z.Z. Hill failed to find an audience. Following the commercial failure of The Soul Stirring Z.Z. Hill, it was a year before the Texan soul man returned to the studio.
In January 1967, Z.Z. Hill headed to Custom Studios, in Culver City, where he met Mike Akopoff who was tasked with rescuing his career. By then, Z.Z. Hill desperately needed a hit single, and the song that was chosen was Allen Toussaint’s ballad Greatest Love. Z.Z. Hill sounds not unlike Ray Charles as he delivers a heartfelt, hopeful and needy vocal that is full of emotion. When it was released by Kent Records, Greatest Love started to sell well, and it looked like it was about to give ZZ Hill his first hit single in three years. However, distribution problems hampered the sales of Greatest Love and Z.Z. Hill’s search for a hit single continued.
Just two months later, on the ‘16th’ of March 1967, Z.Z. Hill was back in Custom Studios with Mike Akopoff, where he recorded two new tracks. The first was Jimmy Holiday, Jimmy Lewis and Cliff Chamber’s horn driven dancer Where She Att which would be his tenth single. On the B-Side was Z.Z. Hill’s Baby I’m Sorry where horns and harmonies play an important part in this irresistible dancer which could’ve been released as a single in April 1967. It stood a good chance of doing better than Where She Att which never came close to troubling the charts. Z.Z. Hill was zero for ten after three years at Kent-Modern Records.
When it came time for Z.Z. Hill to record his eleventh single, Jimmy Holiday, Jimmy Lewis and Cliff Chamber’s Everybody Needs Somebody was chosen. Singer-songwriter Jimmy Lewis even supplied a demo which Z.Z. Hill copied when he came to record his heart-wrenching cover of Everybody Needs Somebody. On the B-Side was Arthur Adams’ You Just Cheat And Lie which was a slick and hook-laden uptempo dancer. Later in 1967, Everybody Needs Somebody was released as a single, but this quality cut followed in the footsteps of its ten predecessors and failed to chart.
Despite his lack of success, the Bihari brothers hadn’t given up on Z.Z. Hill. They decided to book a week’s studio time in June 1967 where he recorded his sophomore album A Whole Of Soul. It was an album that featured cover versions of familiar songs, including many soul classics. This included David Porter and Isaac Hayes’ When Something Is Wrong With My Baby which joined Jimmy Hughes’ Steal Away, Toussaint McCall’s Nothing Takes The Place Of You, Deadric Malone’s You Gonna Make Me Cry, Wilson Pickett’s Midnight Hour, Bettye Swann’s Make Me Yours, Allen Toussaint’s Greatest Love and Sam Cooke’s You Send Me and Nothing Can Change The Love I Have For You. They were Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper’s Knock On Wood; Andrew Wright and Calvin Lewis’ When A Man Loves A Woman and Art Harris and Fred Jay’s What Am I Living For? These songs became A Whole Of Soul which was produced by Mike Akopoff. Could the album transform Z.Z. Hill’s fortunes?
Sadly, it wasn’t to be and A Whole Of Soul which is a hugely underrated album by Z.Z. Hill slipped under the musical radar when it was released by Kent Records later in 1967. Z.Z. Hill’s career was now at a crossroads.
After the release of A Whole Of Soul, Kent Records released What Am I Living For as Z.Z. Hill’s twelfth single in December 1967. It found Z.Z. Hill laying bare his soul as backing vocalists accompany him every step of the way. Tucked away on the B-Side was a powerful and poignant cover of Nothing Can Change This Love (I Have For You). Despite the quality of both songs, What Am I Living For failed to trouble the charts.
Just a month later, in January 1968, Z.Z. Hill released the ballad Nothing Can Change The Love I Have For You which featured another ballad Steal Away on the B-Side. Both songs featured Z.Z. Hill at his most soulful and he breathed meaning and emotion into the lyrics. However, Nothing Can Change The Love I Have For You passed record buyers by and it was a case unlucky thirteen for Z.Z. Hill.
Nothing more was heard of Z.Z. Hill until he released a cover of Arthur Adams and Larry Perrault’s You Got What I Need on Kent Records in September 1968. It was produced by Freddy DeMann was an uptempo track where strings and backing vocalists accompanied Z.Z. Hill’s needy vocal as his search for a hit continued. Sadly, the slick and contemporary sounding You Got What I Need failed commercially, and it was nearly the end of the road for Z.Z. Hill.
Three months later in December 1968, Z.Z. Hill was back with a cover of Tim Hardin’s Don’t Make Promises (You Can’t Keep). This was Z.Z. Hill’s fifteenth single for Kent Records which was once again, produced by Freddy DeMann. He again uses strings and backing vocalists who accompany Z.Z. Hill on his catchy single that should’ve charted. Alas, Don’t Make Promises (You Can’t Keep was the one that got away for Z.Z. Hill. Sadly, it was also Z.Z. Hill’s swan-song for Kent Records.
After the release of Don’t Make Promises (You Can’t Keep, Z.Z. Hill left Kent Records after releasing fifteen singles, twelve B-Sides, two albums and ten bonus tracks on disc two. All this features on That’s It! The Complete Kent Recordings 1964-1968 which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. That’s It! The Complete Kent Recordings 1964-1968 is the most comprehensive overview of Z.Z. Hill’s time at Kent Records.
Disc one features the fifteen singles Z.Z. Hill released on Kent Records and twelve singles. This includes the twelve tracks from his first seven singles which that became Z.Z. Hill’s debut album The Soul Stirring Z.Z. Hill. However, this is only half the story of Z.Z. Hill’s time at Kent Records.
Then on disc two there’s Z.Z. Hill’s sophomore album A Whole Of Soul and ten bonus tracks. This includes two tracks from 1984 the ballad Please Take Me Back and I’m Gonna Love You made their debut on the Kent compilation Final Appearance. Eight years later, the ballad You Won’t Hurt No More which featured on The Down Home Soul Of Z.Z. Hill which was released by Kent Records in 1992. In 2000, You’ve Got Me Chained To Your Love and My Girl Has Gone Away featured on Southern Soul Brothers a Kent Soul complication that featured Clay Hammond and Z.Z. Hill. The other tracks on disc two are alternate versions of I Need Someone (To Love Me) and You Don’t Love Me which were released 1971, while If I Could Do It All Over, You Won’t Hurt No More and Nothing Can Change The Love I Have For You were released in 1972. All these tracks have been sweetened by adding strings to the original recording. In doing so, they transform these tracks which are a reminder of what was a golden era for Z.Z. Hill.
Despite consistently recording soul music of the highest quality, neither Z.Z. Hill’s fifteen singles, nor the two albums he released for Kent Records were a commercial success. This was ironic as the music Z.Z. Hill recorded at Kent Records was some of the finest of his career. During the seventies, thirteen of Z.Z. Hill’s singles charted in the US R&B charts and two in the US Billboard 100.
This included Don’t Make Me Pay for His Mistakes which reached sixty-two in the US Billboard 100 and seventeen in the US R&B charts. However, when Kent Records decided to release I Need Someone (To Love Me), it reached eighty-six in the US Billboard 100 and thirty in the US R&B charts. After this, Z.Z. Hill’s singles charted in the US R&B charts, but most were minor hits, apart from Love Is So Good When You’re Stealing which reached fifteen in 1977. Sadly, Z.Z. Hill would only enjoy two more hit singles during his lifetime.
In 1982, Cheating in the Next Room reached nineteen in the US R&B charts, while Get A Little, Give A Little stalled at eighty-five in 1984. Sadly, on April the ’27th’ 1984 Z.Z. Hill passed away aged just forty-eight in Dallas, Texas. That day, soul and blues music lost a truly talented singer-songwriter who never enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim that his considerable talent deserved. That was despite Z.Z. Hill’s career spanning four decades. However, Z.Z. Hill released some of the best music of his career at Kent Records, during the golden period which is documented and celebrated on That’s It!The Complete Kent Recordings 1964-1968.
Z.Z. Hill-That’s It! The Complete Kent Recordings 1964-1968.
Eleanor Dubinsky-Soft Spot Of My Heart.
Label: Self Released
Release Date: ‘30th’ of March 2018.
After years spent travelling and exploring different corners of the globe, jazz singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Eleanor Dubinsky found herself living in New York where she had been part of the Big Apple’s contemporary dance scene for the past ten years. Dance and was something that Eleanor Dubinsky was passionate about, but music was her other love, and she spent much of her time writing songs.
Songwriting allowed Eleanor Dubinsky to put her linguistic skills to good use as the multilingual songwriter wrote rhythmic songs in English, French and Spanish that were designed to engage with the listener. This was something that Eleanor Dubinsky enjoyed doing and she hoped resonated with people. That was certainly the case for Eleanor Dubinsky when she heard Lisbon-based singer-songwriter Sara Tavares sing in 2012.
That day, Eleanor Dubinsky’s life was changed forever. Even today, she remembers the effect hearing Sara Tavares sing had: “It felt like listening to my own blood and bones…It makes you want to dance, and I love the melodies, the message. I’ve learned over time how intentional Sara is about her excellence. It’s not an accident, it’s not magic. She composes, rehearses and performs with a focus that I also admire and have learned from.”
Having heard Sara Tavares sing Eleanor Dubinsky wanted to know about this singer-songwriter who had had such an effect upon her. Soon, Eleanor Dubinsky discovered that Sara Tavares’ family originally came from Cape Verde, and that was how she gravitated towards Lisbon’s vibrant Cape Verdean and Angolan music scene. This was something that Eleanor Dubinsky wanted to know more about, especially the Cape Verdean music scene.
By using her connections within the artistic community, Eleanor Dubinsky was able to discover more about the Cape Verdean music scene. Soon, she was making the first of a number trips to Cape Verde, where after a while she got to know some of the musicians.
This eventually included some of Cape Verde’s tope musicians, and later, some of the musicians that Sara Tavares regularly works with. Before long, Eleanor Dubinsky was collaborating with Rolando Semedo, Miroca Paris and Ivo Costa would eventually feature on her album Soft Spot Of My Heart. That was still some way down the road.
After several years spent time collaborating, rehearsing, and recording in New York and Lisbon with Cape Verdean and American musicians who all feature on Soft Spot Of My Heart which Eleanor Dubinsky will release on the ‘30th’ of March 2018. Soft Spot Of My Heart is the latest chapter in a story that began in St. Louis.
In The Beginning.
Eleanor Dubinsky grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, where she started to study classical cello at the age of three. By the time she was in high school, Eleanor Dubinsky was the vocalist in her high school jazz band and heavily involved in musical theatre and contemporary dance. However, it wasn’t just the arts that interested Eleanor Dubinsky.
Apart from music, it soon became apparent when Eleanor Dubinsky was growing up that she was a talented linguist, who was fluent in French. She put her linguistic skills to good use during cultural exchanges and academic programs. However, like many people born and raised in St. Louis, Eleanor Dubinsky was also interested in civil rights and developed a sense of social justice. Just like music and language, this has been a constant during Eleanor Dubinsky life.
Having graduated high school, later, Eleanor Dubinsky travelled to the Czech Republic where she spent time studying and learning the Czech language. This was the just the first of several spells spent living abroad. Eleanor Dubinsky explains: “I’ve always been able to absorb languages easily and to feel at home in the warmth of ‘foreign’ environments”.
Having lived in the Czech Republic, Eleanor Dubinsky’s wanderlust continued as she spent time in Argentina and Mexico. After that, Eleanor Dubinsky made the journey to Cuba, where she learnt to speak Spanish, whilst studying dance and percussion. It was after that, that Eleanor Dubinsky made the decision to head home.
On her return home, Eleanor Dubinsky didn’t return to her home city of St. Louis, and instead headed to New York, where she became part of the Big Apple’s contemporary dance. This played an important part in Eleanor Dubinsky’s life for the next ten years, as did music.
During this period, Eleanor Dubinsky continued to hone her skills as a songwriter and was use her linguistic skills as she wrote rhythmic songs in English, French and Spanish which featured social comment and were designed to engage with listener. Some of these songs featured on Eleanor Dubinsky’s 2011 debut album Touch The Sky and her sophomore album Listen To The Music in 2012. However, it wasn’t just Eleanor Dubinsky’s songs that captivated the listener.
One day in 2012, Eleanor Dubinsky heard Lisbon-based singer-songwriter Sara Tavares sing, which changed her life forevermore in 2012. This was a life-changing moment, and Eleanor Dubinsky decided she needed to know more about Sara Tavares and Lisbon’s vibrant and eclectic music scene. Especially the Cape Verdean and Angolan music that was happening within Lisbon.
Little did Eleanor Dubinsky know that this was the start of a five-year journey, where she spent time in Lisbon and Cape Verde researching and exploring the local music scenes. The rest of the time was spent touring and learning to speak Portuguese. It’s a time that Eleanor Dubinsky remembers well: “Living in Lisbon, you can’t help but hear semba, funana, coladeira, mourna, samba, bossa nova, It’s in the air, at least with the musicians I became close with.”
Eleanor Dubinsky used her many contacts within the artistic community to discover more about the Cape Verdean music scene and soon, she was making the first of a number trips to Lisbon and Cape Verde. Gradually, she got to know some of the local musicians. This eventually included some of Cape Verde’s top musicians, and later, some of the musicians that Sara Tavares regularly works with in Lisbon.
Before long, Eleanor Dubinsky was collaborating with Lisbon-based Rolando Semedo, Miroca Paris, and Ivo Costa who eventually featured on her album Soft Spot Of My Heart. This album was several years in the making, and was recorded in two continents.
Over the next few of years, Eleanor Dubinsky spent time collaborating, rehearsing, and recording in New York and Lisbon with Cape Verdean and American musicians. They would all play their part in Eleanor Dubinsky’s third album Soft Spot Of My Heart.
On Soft Spot Of My Heart, Eleanor Dubinsky addresses both the vulnerabilities and delicate moments that people face in relationships, and examines affection and attachment in her own way. She was a pupil of Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron and has benefited from his: “awakened heart” approach. This allowed Eleanor Dubinsky to look at things from a different perspective.
Eleanor Dubinsky explains that: “The soft spot is about holding with deep compassion all the stuff we run away from. This helps us love others better. If this process feels painful, I have found I need to grow my brain to contain more, more of others’ perspectives and stories and needs. I try to carry this understanding into my songwriting. You have to continuously expand your understanding of what a human being can do, of what they can be.”
With her newfound philosophy and graceful, elegant melodies and the Lus-African sway that come courtesy of multitalented band that features musicians from New York, Lisbon and Cape Verde, Eleanor Dubinsky’s third album Soft Spot In My Heart features music that is cerebral, though-provoking, enchanting and has the capacity to captivate.
That is the with the enchanting piano lead album opener Turn It Around which showcases Eleanor Dubinsky’s impassioned, jazz-tinged vocal as gospel-tinged harmonies and horns play an important part in a song that sets the bar high for the rest of Soft Spot Of My Heart.
The title-track Soft Spot In My Heart features an understated arrangement and allows Eleanor Dubinsky’s vocal to take centre-stage. It’s akin to a confessional as she lays bare her soul on this beautiful ballad. Wind Won’t Knock It Down is another ballad which features an emotive vocal as the band provide the perfect backdrop and showcase their considerable skills. Initially, the arrangement to Wait For You arrangement is minimalist and allows Eleanor Dubinsky’s heartfelt and emotive vocal to take centre-stage. However, there’s also a sense of vulnerability and sadness as she sings: “my clock is ticking…I’ll wait for you, into the night” on this beautiful ballad.
Free Again is another piano led song, where Eleanor Dubinsky’s vocal is filled with frustration and sadness as she sings of a relationship that is teetering on the brink. They no longer talk and are ready to go their separate ways. Having realised this, here’s almost a sense of relief as she sings: “got to be Free Again, guess I have no choice to walk away…I wanna be free again.” This jazz-tinged song is an emotional roller coaster that is rich in imagery and like a short play set to music.
El Sabor de la Vida allows Eleanor Dubinsky to showcase her skills as a linguist as she delivers a vocals that is a mixture power, passion and emotion while percussion and washes of Hammond organ accompany her.
Melodic and memorable describes Morning Song which is a bright, joyous and uplifting. Eleanor Dubinsky sounds like Rumer did on her debut album, and the song even hints at Bacharach and David.
Very different is I Let Go, where the melancholy introduction sets the scene for a song where Eleanor Dubinsky’s vocal is a mixture of emotion and sadness but sometimes hopeful and needy. However, she realises that the only way “to grow” is to “let go.” Meanwhile, the carefully crafted contemporary arrangement provides the perfect backdrop for Eleanor Dubinsky’s latest soul-searching vocal.
Cuando Voy a Mi Trabajo is a multilingual track where Eleanor Dubinsky draws on her own experience and the people she’s met during her life. She remembers in the song working beside migrants in service jobs who were homesick having left loved ones behind in their own country. This is the sacrifice they felt they had to make, which would allow them return home and build a better life for their loved ones. It’s a poignant and thought-provoking song.
Closing Soft Spot Of My Heart is You Are Special You Are Beautiful which Eleanor Dubinsky wrote for those in America who have been left felling intimidated and marginalised since the election of the latest incumbent in the White House. This is a beautiful, and thought-provoking way to end the album.
For anyone yet to discover Eleanor Dubinsky’s music, then Soft Spot Of My Heart which she will self-release on the ‘30th’ of March 2018 is the perfect introduction to this truly talented jazz singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. She’s spent a lifetime honing her skills and comes of age on Soft Spot Of My Heart.
Quite simply, Soft Spot Of My Heart is a cerebral, though-provoking and enchanting album that has the capacity to captivate. It is full of melodic and memorable music which Eleanor Dubinsky delivers against a series of carefully crafted and polished arrangements. They’ve been honed to suit each song, including the beautiful ballads, which is Eleanor Dubinsky’s speciality on Soft Spot Of My Heart. Elsewhere, the hooks haven’t been spared on the uptempo Morning Song which has a radio friendly songs. Other tracks like Cuando Voy a Mi Trabajo and the album closer You Are Special You Are Beautiful are poignant, powerful and thought-provoking.
Soft Spot Of My Heart is a genre-melting album from Eleanor Dubinsky who with the help of her talented band add a Lus-African sway. Meanwhile, Eleanor Dubinsky combines jazz and pop sensibilities with elements of Brazilian and Latin music. It’s a potent and heady brew as singer and storyteller extraordinaire Eleanor Dubinsky puts her sultry, soulful and jazz-tinged vocals to good use on her career-defining album Soft Spot Of My Heart.
Eleanor Dubinsky-Soft Spot Of My Heart.
Eric Andersen-Be True To You and Sweet Surprise.
Label: BGO Records.
In 1975, thirty-two year old folk singer and songwriter Eric Andersen moved to Greenwich Village, New York, where it had all started for him in the early sixties. Back then, Eric Andersen was part of the folk scene, and as a twenty-one years in 1964, had auditioned for Vanguard Records at Gerdes Folk City, a well known music venue in the East Village. The audition was successful, and Eric Andersen was signed to Vanguard Records.
The following year, 1965, Eric Andersen released his debut album Today Is The Highway on Vanguard Records. It was well received by critics, and launched Eric Andersen’s nascent career.
1966 was one of the most important years of Eric Andersen’s career. He made his debut at the Newport Folk Festival, and released his sophomore album ‘Bout Changes ‘N’ Things. Songs like Violets Of Dawn, Thirsty Boots,I Shall Go Unbounded and Close The Door Lightly When You Go showcased a hugely talented songwriter who many critics believed had a big future ahead of him. Just like his debut album, ‘Bout Changes ‘N’ Things was released to plaudits and praise, and Eric Andersen was seen as one of the rising stars of the vibrant folk movement.
When Eric Andersen released ‘Bout Changes ‘N’ Things 2 in 1967, it had much in common with ‘Bout Changes ‘N’ Things. The same songs featured on the album, but they had been rerecorded and Eric Andersen had used different instruments. The songs were resequenced, and When ‘Bout Changes ‘N’ Things 2 was released, it showed another side to these familiar songs as Eric Andersen’s music evolved and moved towards folk rock.
The reinvention of Eric Andersen’s music continued on his fourth album More Hits From Tin Can Alley, which was released in 1968. It was the most eclectic album of Eric Andersen’s career.
When it came time for Eric Andersen to record his fifth album for Vanguard Records, A Country Dream, he was following in the footsteps of many folk singers who had also made the journey to Nashville. Joining Eric Andersen was a band that featured top session players. They played their part in Eric Andersen’s first album of country rock which featured a cover of Otis Redding’s Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay. It was given a makeover and was one of the talking points of A Country Dream when it was released in 1969. Despite being well received, A Country Dream was Eric Andersen’s swan-song for Vanguard Records. He was about to go up in the musical world.
After releasing five albums for Vanguard Records, Eric Andersen signed to Warner Bros. Records. Later in 1969, Eric Andersen released Avalanche where he flits between country-rock and his now familiar folk rock sound. Some of the songs are cerebral, while others feature a reflective, introspective Eric Andersen as he sings of roller coaster romances. However, on It’s Comin’ and It Won’t Be Long, Eric Andersen sounds like Bob Dylan right down to his phrasing. Other songs are understated and allow Eric Andersen’s emotive vocal to centre-stage as this new chapter to his career began.
This new chapter continued with the release of Eric Andersen in 1970. It was Eric Andersen’s second album for Warner Bros. Records, and saw him continue to mature as a singer and songwriter. He had written then entire album which saw Eric Andersen continue to combine country rock and folk rock and on occasions move towards a pop rock sound. Despite being one of his finest albums of recent years, Eric Andersen failed commercially. For Eric Andersen this was the end of his time at Warner Bros.
Later in 1970, Eric Andersen joined Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and country rockers The Speckled Hen on the Festival Express Tour. It wound its way across Canada and introduced Eric Andersen’s music to a new audience. However, it would be two years before Eric Andersen returned with a new album.
By 1972, Eric Andersen had signed to Columbia and began work on Blue River which was produced Norbert Putnam and features The Jordanaires and Joni Mitchell on backing vocals on the title-track. When Blue River was released later in 1972, it was to overwhelming critical acclaim. Record buyers were also won over by an album the featured elements of AOR, country rock, folk rock, pop and rock, and Blue River reached 169 in the Us Billboard 200. This meant that Blue River was Eric Andersen’s most successful album. It had taken seven years and eight albums, but somewhat belatedly, Eric Andersen had made a commercial breakthrough.
Buoyed by the success of Blue River, Eric Andersen returned to the studio and began work on the followup, which was going to be called Stages. Eric Andersen completed the album, but before it could be released, the master tapes disappeared. This was almost unheard of, and despite searching high and low for the master tapes, there was no sign of it. For Eric Andersen this was a devastating blow, as he had just made a commercial breakthrough.
The loss of the Stages’ master tapes affected Eric Andersen badly, and he decided to take a break from recording. Little did anyone realise that this break would last two long years.
It wasn’t until 1974 that Eric Andersen decided that he was ready to return to the recording studio. This was perfect timing as Clive Davis, who signed Eric Andersen to Columbia, had founded a new label Arista earlier in 1974 and was looking to add artists to the roster. One of the artists he wanted to sign was Eric Andersen, who signed to Arista in 1974, and began work on Be True To You. It’s the first two albums that Eric Andersen released for Arista, and these albums Be True To You and Sweet Surprise were recently remastered and reissued by BGO Records. The first of these albums Be True To You, features Eric Andersen as he hits the comeback trail.
Be True To You.
Having signed to Arista, Eric Andersen began writing the ten songs that eventually became Be True To You. This was the much-anticipated followup to the album that was regarded as his masterpiece, Blue River. Be True To You was an album Eric Andersen’s fans had waited patiently for. They had heard about the loss of the master tapes to Stages, and Eric Andersen’s two year absence from the recording studio.
Some of the songs on Be True To You had originally featured on Stages, while others were new songs that Eric Andersen had just written. There was also one cover version Ol 55 on Be True To You. These songs became part of an album that focused on the subject of love and various events that happened during life. However, there was more to Be True To You than that. The album also dealt with how love had affected other people. Be True To You featured two themed sides, with side one entitled I’m Weary Of These Petty Wars while and side two Lovers They Make Promises, But Lovers They Tell Lies.
Recording of Be True To You began at Eric Andersen’s comeback album began at Wally Heider’s in August ’74, when Keep Fallin’ Like the Rain was recorded with producer Tom Sellers who was joined in the control room by John Florez. The pair co-produced the song with Eric Andersen before moving to another of LA’s top studios.
Four months later, in November 1974, Eric Andersen arrived at The Sound Labs, where he once again joined by a band that featured some of city’s top musicians. Some of the musicians were part of the core band, while others were drafted in to play on one or two tracks on Be True To You. The rhythm section alone included drummers Dennis St John, John Guerin, and Russ Kunkell; bassists Emory Gordy, Scott Edwards and Mark Sporer and guitarists Dean Parks and Chris Bond. They were joined by pianist Allen Lindgren, flautist Ernie Watts, cellist Jesse Ehrlich, tenor saxophonist Tom Scott and Richard Bennett who played acoustic guitar and steel guitar. Among the backing vocalists were Maxine and Julia Waters, Jackson Browne, Hern Pedersen and Maria Muldaur. Meanwhile, Tom Sellers took charge of production, except on Ol 55 Tom Sellers which was co-produced by John Florez. By December 1974, Be True To You was completed and ready for release in 1975.
Before the release of Be True To You in 1975, critics had their say on what was the belated followup to Blue River and essentiality, Eric Andersen’s comeback album after three years away. Just like Blue River, critics dissevered that Be True To You was a carefully crafted album where featured folk rock, country rock and pop rock. Critics hailed Be True To You a fitting followup to Blue River, and welcomed the return of Eric Andersen. His partnership with producer Tom Sellers was success.
Tom Sellers was responsible for a slick, polished production with woodwind and strings sweetening the country rock ballad Moonchild Riversong which open the album. It gives way to the beautiful heartfelt ballad Be True To You where again strings sweetens the sound and harmonies add the finishing touch. Very different is Wild Crow Blues where the tempo increases and Eric Andersen showcases a tougher country rock sound. The tempo drops on Ol 55, an anthemic country rock ballad where a weeping steel guitar provides the perfect foil to Eric Andersen’s vocal. Time Run Like A Freight Train features an understated arrangement and a tender, soul-baring vocal from Eric Andersen who sometimes sounds like James Taylor. This beautiful ballad closes side one, which was entitled I’m Weary Of These Petty Wars.
Side two was entitled Lovers They Make Promises, But Lovers They Tell Lies and opened with the hurt-filled folk rock ballad Liza, Light The Candle. It’s followed by Woman, She Was Gentle where backing vocals accompany Eric Andersen’s vocal which is akin to a confessional. Can’t Get You Out Of My Life features another emotive, hurt-filled vocal which is delivered against a jaunty arrangement where harmonies and a sultry saxophone play starring roles. It’s all change on The Blues Keep Fallin’ Like The Rain, where blues and jazz combine as Eric Andersen accompanied by drums played with brushes, subtle harmonies, a Wurlitzer and saxophone delivers a vocal full of sadness and despair. Closing the album is Love Is Just A Game, another beautiful ballad where a piano, lush strings and backing vocals accompany a rueful vocal full of hurt. It closes Be True To You on a high, and is one of many highlights on the album.
Just before the release of Be True To You, Eric Andersen and Arlen Roth played at the opening show of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. This was a huge coup, and great publicity for his forthcoming album Be True To You.
Sadly, when Eric Andersen released Be True To You in 1975, his Arista debut failed to trouble the charts. This was a huge disappointment for Eric Andersen, who maybe, had been away too long? Three years had passed since Blue River, and many record buyers had short memories and may have forgotten about Eric Andersen. Music was also changing by 1975, and record buyers had moved on to different genres. However, despite the commercial failure of Be True To You, Eric Andersen decided to begin work on the followup Sweet Surprise.
For Sweet Surprise, Eric Andersen wrote eight new songs whist living in one room high in the mountains of Montana. This backdrop provided the inspiration for Eric Andersen to write Sweet Surprise, where he would renew his partnership with producer Tom Sellers.
Just like on Be True To You, Tom Sellers took charge of production on Sweet Surprise. This time, it was a much smaller band who joined Eric Andersen when recording of Sweet Surprise and they used a different selection of instruments to those that featured on Be True To You.
This time around, Eric Andersen’s band included a rhythm section of drummer Chris Parker, bassist Tony Brown and guitarists Sister Joon Millington who also played acoustic guitar and Arlen Roth who played lead acoustic guitar. They were augmented by David Mansfield who played steel guitar and fiddle, percussionist Antonio Ramos, keyboardist Tom Sellers and Richard Bell who keyboards and ARP synth. Additional musicians included Jennifer Condos acoustic guitarist Paul Horan, Happy Traun on concertina and mandolin, cellist Wacky Jacky Robbins, steel guitarist Ben Keith and saxophonist Tom Scott. They provided the backdrop for Eric Andersen on Sweet Surprise which was released in 1976.
Just like Be True To You, Sweet Surprise was a slick, polished album that veered between country rock, folk rock and even pop rock. That was the case on the album opener Lost In A Song, where country rock and pop rock melt into one in this beautiful ballad. How It Goes is country rock all the way as a weeping guitar accompanies Eric Andersen’s vocal which sounds like Bob Dylan. Eric Andersen showcases his “own” vocal on the understated ballad Dreams Of Mexico which gives way to San Diego Serenade. It features saxophonist Tom Scott and a weeping guitar on this jazz-tinged, country rock ballad that closes side one.
Sweet Surprise opens side two and is another country rock ballad where Eric Andersen delivers a heartfelt vocal. The balladry continues on the ballad Down At The Cantina which features a hopeful vocal from Eric Andersen. It’s a similar case on Crazy River which features a country rock arrangement. Closing Sweet Surprise is another beautiful ballad where Eric Andersen delivers a tender vocal against an understated but effective carefully crafted arrangement. This ensures that Sweet Surprise closes on a high.
Sweet Surprise was scheduled for release later in 1976. Before that, the critics sat in judgment, before having their say on the followup to Be True To You. The majority of critics were impressed by Sweet Surprise, which should’ve found an audience within the country music community.
When Sweet Surprise was released in 1976, the album failed to even trouble the charts. This was another disappointment for Eric Andersen, who wound’t release another album for Arista.
Eric Andersen’s Arista years lasted two just two years, when he released Be True To You and Sweet Surprise which were recently remastered and reissued by BGO Records. It was the end of another chapter in a story that began in 1964 when Eric Andersen auditioned for Vanguard Records at Gerdes Folk City.
Twelve years later, and Eric Andersen’s time at Arista had come to a close after releasing just two albums in two-year. During his short stay at Arista, Eric Andersen released two carefully crafted albums, Be True To You and Sweet Surprise, which are best described as hidden gems in his back-catalogue. Especially Be True To You which was the followup to his 1972 album Blue River. Be True To You is a fitting followup to Blue River, and showcases a truly talented singer, songwriter and guitarist. Sadly, Be True To You didn’t find the audience it deserved and slipped under the musical radar. It was a similar case with Sweet Surprise where Eric Andersen embraces country rock on his second set for Arista. When Sweet Surprise failed commercially this was the last album that Eric Andersen released in America for eighteen years.
By the late seventies, Eric Andersen found himself without a record company, and for nearly two decades he fell into obscurity. During that period, Eric Andersen moved to Europe, and released 1980s Midnight Son, 1984s Tight Is The Night and Istanbul in 1985. Things changed in 1988 when Eric Andersen released Ghosts Upon The Road which sold well and caught the attention of critics in Europe. Still though, Eric Andersen was a forgotten man in America, despite producing albums of the quality of Blue River the two carefully crafted hidden gems he released on Arista Be True To You and Sweet Surprise.
Eric Andersen-Be True To You and Sweet Surprise.
Label: BBE Music.
Release Date: ‘30th’ of March 2018.
New Release Of The Week.
Italian multi-instrumentalist and master percussion Gabriele Poso’s lifelong love affair with music began after he discovered his family’s record collection as child. This was a cultural awakening for Gabriele Poso who was soon discovering the delights of jazz, soul and Afro-Latin music. Before long, Gabriele Poso wasn’t content just to listen to music, and wanted to learn how to play an instrument. Over the next few years, Gabriele Poso learnt to play a number of musical instruments, but one of his favourites was the guitar, which even today, plays an important part in his life as a professional musician. It’s often the guitar that brings life and meaning to some of his finest compositions. However, later in life when Gabriele Poso discovered percussion this was a life-changing experience and something that gave him: “a real reason to live.”
It turned out that Gabriele Poso was a natural percussionist who was blessed with flair and talent. Over the next few years, he spent time studying with master percussionists in Italy, Puerto Rico and Cuba where he completed his musical education.
Having learnt from the best, Gabriele Poso embarked upon a successful musical career, and has already released a trio of albums and the critically acclaimed compilation Gabriele Poso Presents The Languages Of Tambores (A Spiritual Journey Through The Cultural Heritage Of Drums) on BBE Music in 2017. Just over a year later, and Gabriele Poso will return on ‘30th’ of March 2018 with his much-anticipated fourth album Awakening. It’s the latest story in the Gabriele Poso story.
Gabriele Poso was born on the ‘22nd’ of October 1978 in Sardinia, which is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. However, the Poso family moved to Lecce, where Gabriele Poso grew up and his love of music began.
This came after Gabriele Poso discovered his family’s record collection, which was akin to cultural awakening for him. Soon, he was discovering the delights of Afro-Latin music, jazz and soul which would influence him when he embarked upon a career as a professional music. That was a long way down the line.
Having discovered and immersed himself in the family record collection, Gabriele Poso decided that he wasn’t content just to listen to music, he wanted to play music. Over the next few years, he learnt to play a variety of musical instruments, including the guitar, which even today, plays an important part in his life as a professional musician. It’s often the guitar that brings life and meaning to some of his finest compositions, and which he uses when he’s writing new material. This was all still to come.
Later, Gabriele Poso discovered the world of percussion, which was a life-changing experience, and gave him what he describes as: “a real reason to live.” Soon, he was enjoying and understanding percussion, and music was becoming a way of life for Gabriele Poso. He was a natural percussionist, who was blessed with flair and talent. Despite this, Gabriele Poso wanted to learn from the best percussionists in the world.
In 1998, twenty year old Gabriele Poso enrolled at the Timba school of music in Rome, where he studied percussion under Roberto Evangelista. Once he had completed his studies in Rome, Gabriele journeyed to San Juan, in Puerto Rico in 2001, where he studied at the prestigious Universitad Interamericana De Puerto Rico. After completing his studies in Puerto Rico, Gabriele headed to Cuba, where he spent time studying at the world-renowned Escuela National De Arte, in Havana. This was where Gabriele Poso completed his musical education.
By the time Gabriele Poso returned from Havana, having completed his musical education, he had only featured on the one recording, DJ Jazzy Jeff’s 2002 single Rock Wit U. This only came about when DJ Jazzy Jeff was struggling to find a conga player, and someone suggested they try Gabriele Poso. He was drafted in at short notice, and this proved to be the break that Gabriele Poso had been looking for. Over the next few years, he would work with a number of artists.
This included the American producer Osunlade, who Gabriele Poso first met when he was studying in Puerto Rico. Soon, the pair became friends and decided to collaborate together. Having worked together, the next natural step was for Gabriele Poso was to record his debut album.
Gabriele Poso returned in 2008, with his debut album From The Genuine World, which was released on Osunlade’s Yoruba Records. It was well received by critics and launched Gabriele Poso’s career.
Over the next few years, much of Gabriele Poso’s time was spent playing live. Sometimes, he worked alongside some of the highest profile producers, including Louie Vega, Boddhi Satva and Osunlade. On a couple of occasions he cowrote songs, but most of the time, Gabriele Poso put his considerable skills as a percussionist and multi-instrumentalist to good use. However, after spending three years working with other people, the time came for Gabriele Poso to record his sophomore album.
Gabriele Poso returned in June 2012 with his much-anticipated sophomore album Roots Of Soul which he had written, recorded, produced and mixed. In the studio, Gabriel Poso became a one man band, switching seamlessly between instruments. Joining him, were a trio of guest vocalists, Osunlade, Nailah Porter and Tanya Michelle who played their in the sound and success of Roots Of Soul. When it was released to critical acclaim on ‘12th’ June 2012, it was hailed by critics as Gabriele Poso’s finest hour.
Later in 2012, Gabriele Poso released Roots Of Soul Remix. This remix album showed another side to Gabriele Poso’s music, and introduced it to a new audience.
Nearly two-year later, and Gabriele Poso returned with his eagerly awaited third album, Invocation in April 2014. It had been recorded in Berlin between August and December 2012. Not only was Gabriele a one man band, who arranged, recorded, produced and mixed Invocation, he also decided to record all the vocals. This made sense as Invocation was a very personal album, and one which Gabriele Poso explained: “represents my feelings, all my emotions and all my fears.” This personal and powerful album won the approval of critics, and was showered with praise and plaudits upon its release.
Just over a year later, and Gabriele Poso returned with the second remix album if his career, Electric Invocation. When it was released in May 2015, Electric Invocation continued to introduce a new audience to Gabriele Poso’s music.
Since then, Gabriele Poso has spent much of his time touring Invocation. Each night, he puts on a spectacular and memorable stage show which received praise and plaudits from critics. However, when he found some free time, the alt-jazz star compiled Gabriele Poso Presents The Languages Of Tambores (A Spiritual Journey Through The Cultural Heritage Of Drums) for BBE Music. This captivating and eclectic compilation was released to widespread critical acclaim in January 2017, and was the latest chapter in the Gabriele Poso story.
Three years after the release of Invocation, Gabriele Poso is preparing for the release of his much-anticipated fifth album Awakening, which will be released on the ‘30th’ of March 2018. The Italian multi-instrumentalist and master percussionist has written, eleven new songs and decided to cover Roy Ayer’s classic Everybody Loves The Sunshine. The twelve songs were arranged, recorded and produced by Gabriele Poso and became Awakening.
Awakening is probably the most rounded release of Gabriele Poso’s two decade career, and features a talented and versatile multi-instrumentalist and master percussionist at the peak of his powers. However, when Gabriele Poso began work on Awakening he was at a crossroads, and wondering about his future career as a musician after a life-changing event?
“The birth of my eldest son Viktor caused me to question my career in music and explore other, more ‘secure’ options, but thanks to my wife I quickly realised that to be different from your neighbor doesn’t make you wrong. After all, in this life, does anyone really have any security? So actually Viktor and my family have become my super power: they teach me to believe in myself more than I ever did before. This album is all about that realization; that Awakening.”
Spurred on by his wife and the birth of his son Viktor, Gabriele Poso began work on Awakening which is an ambitious genre-melting album where elements of Afro-Latin, jazz, soul and dance music are combined by Gabriele Poso and the various guest artists. However, the glue that holds each of the arrangements together is Gabriele Poso’s unique and inimitable layered live percussion sounds. They play their part in Gabriele Poso’s musical Awakening.
Opening Awakening is Playa 80 where a myriad of percussion and handclaps are joined by thunderous 4/4 dance beats. Soon, hi-hats hiss, metal pans rattle and provide a contrast to the pounding 4/4 beats. They’re augmented by the percussion and together, create an irresistible and uplifting call to dance.
A lone piano opens Awakening before a flute enters and flutters high above the arrangement, adding to the ruminative sound. Meanwhile, flourishes of piano accompany the flute, before a spiritual sounding vocal is added. Soon, percussion is added before the piano plays and the tempo rises and a dancefloor friendly paean is unfolding. It features a shimmering Fender Rhodes, flute, percussion which accompany the heartfelt vocal. Later, lush strings are added and sweep and swirl. However, when the vocal returns it becomes a soliloquy as Gabriele Poso delivers the lines: “I’m a warrior fighting for love, fighting for the heart without love.” Latterly, as his vocal soars high above the arrangement, instruments are dropped in at just the right time, playing their in a carefully crafted seven minute epic paean.
As Cumbachero opens, percussion and drums sets the scene before a guitar and funky bass are added. Soon, Gabriele Poso adds a chanted vocal before a piano and blazing horns enter. They’re joined by otherworldly sounds before the horns return and then are replaced by harmonies as an alto saxophone. Before long, the rest of the horn section return and join the Fender Rhodes. It remains when the arrangement is stripped bare and just the percussion and harmonies remain. However, soon, this irresistible, joyous and hook-laden floor filler rebuilds, before reaching a crescendo.
The tempo drops on Adorando as percussion plays before the prowling bass makes its impression felt, and the braying horn is joined by keyboards. Gradually, this genre-melting, cinematic track begins to reveal its secrets. Braying, wailing horns are added as the rhythm section add the heartbeat as jazz and funk are combined with Gabriele Poso’s trademark percussive sound. The result is a beautiful, cinematic track that is rich in imagery.
Back in 1976, Roy Ayers released the original version of Everybody Loves The Sunshine, which is regarded as the definitive version this classic song. Covering such a well known and much-loved song is never easy, so rather than stay true to the original, Gabriele Poso reinvents it and takes it in an entirely new generation. He stretches the melody, and sometimes, it heads in an entirely new and unexpected direction. Later, though, this cover stays true to the original version as crisp beats provide a backdrop for the backing vocalists whose contributions veer between soulful and jazz-tinged. Meanwhile, Gabriele Poso plays everything from keyboards, vibes, percussion and a bass synth during this summer anthem in-waiting.
After percussion opens Words Never Work, Gabriele Poso’s heartfelt, soulful vocal is accompanied by keyboards, stabs of blazing horns, drums, a bass synth and later, a flute. Later, washes of swirling Hammond organ are joined by a fleet fingered guitar solo that veers between jazz and rock as Gabriele Poso continues to deliver a soulful vocal. Everything seems to falls perfectly into place during this latest genre-melting hook-laden, anthemic paean with a summery sound.
Gabriele Poso successfully replicates the sound nightfall on The Night Falls before a myriad of percussion is added. Later, thunderous drums power the mesmeric sounding arrangement that is rich in imagery.
A spiritual sounding vocal sings call and response on Mi Amigo as percussion and a xylophone play. They’re soon joined by drums and a funky bass enter. They accompany an impassioned soliloquy while handclaps are added. Later, the spiritual sounding vocal returns and sings call and response against an understated backdrop. In doing so, they show another side to Gabriele Poso.
The sound of waves breaking on a deserts beach opens Repulse Bay which is one of the shortest tracks on Awakening and lasts just 1.47. Soon, keyboards, an accordion and flute unite to create a beautiful, jazz-tinged soundscape that once again, is rich in imagery.
Percussion and a scatted vocal opens Sotto Il Campanile before pounding drums, a bass and guitar enter before horns soar above the arrangement as strings sweep. Still, though, Gabriele Poso’s galloping percussion is at the heart of the arrangement. It’s joined by harmonies, a plucked guitar, the bass and a lone horn. Everything falls perfectly into place and another beautiful, dreamy and summery track takes shapes.
A probing bass and handclaps combine on Otro Barrio before cymbals crash, and percussion joins with a shimmering Fender Rhodes and flute. They provide the backdrop for an effects treated vocal as Gabriele Poso seems to draws inspiration from Herbie Hancock and Santana, as musical influences and genres melt into one. Elements of funk, jazz, jazz-funk, Latin and even electronica play their part in this explosive and irresistible floor filler that is full of twists and turns.
6 In 4 scurries along with drums, percussion and bass at the heart of the arrangement which initially, is stop-start. Soon, though the arrangement is flowing along, and master percussionist enjoys the opportunity to showcase his considerable skills. Midway through the track, there’s a brief pause before normal service is resumed and this exquisite and irresistible percussive arrangement continues apace.
This leaves just the extended mix of Words Never Work to close Awakening. It’s a near nine minute floor filling epic which closes Gabriele Poso’s eagerly awaited fourth album Awakening on a high.
Just over a year after the release of Gabriele Poso Presents The Languages Of Tambores (A Spiritual Journey Through The Cultural Heritage Of Drums) the Italian multi-instrumentalist and master percussion returns with his fourth studio album Awakening. It will be released on BBE Music on the ‘30th’ of March 2018 and is finest album of Gabriele Poso’s two decade career.
Awakening features elements of Afro-Latin, jazz, funk, soul and dance music which are combined by Gabriele Poso and the various guest artists that feature on the album. It finds the multi-instrumentalist playing an array of instruments, as well as the layers of live percussion that is the glue that holds each of the arrangements on Awakening together.
The percussion plays a leading role on many of the tracks, and on other tracks plays a supporting role. On these tracks, Gabriele Poso deploys everything from 4/4 dance beats to blazing horns, lush strings, a shimmering Fender Rhodes and washes of swirling Hammond organ. They play their part in the sound and success of the slick, carefully crafted productions on Awakening where Gabriele Poso comes of age as an arranger and producer. However, that is just part of the story of Awakening.
Gabriele Poso is also a talented singer and songwriter who puts his considerable talents to good use on Awakening. It’s fourth and finest album of Gabriele Poso’s career and features cinematic tracks, paeans, hook-laden anthems and floor fillers that showcase a talented and versatile multi-instrumentalist and master percussion at the peak of his powers during this musical Awakening.
The Herbaliser-Bring Out The Sound.
Label: BBE Music.
As October 2012 dawned, Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba had been making music as The Herbaliser since 1995, and were now regarded as UK hip hop’s most exciting live band. The two members of The Herbaliser were also preparing to release their seventh studio album There Were Seven on the ‘8th’ of October 2012. This was the first album that The Herbaliser had released since Same As It Never Was in June 2008. That was four years ago, and The Herbaliser knew that music had changed since then. Would their still be an audience for their music and would it still be relevant?
The Herbaliser needn’t have worried, because when There Were Seven was released it was to widespread critical acclaim. After nearly four years away, Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba were the comeback Kings who had returned with yet another groundbreaking album which was being hailed as one of the finest of The Herbaliser’s three decade career.
Just twenty months later, The Herbaliser returned in June 2014 with There Were Seven Remixes where two generations of remixers reworked and reinvented tracks from There Were Seven. In doing so, they whetted the appetite for The Herbaliser’s much-anticipated eighth studio album.
Seven years and five months after The Herbaliser released There Were Seven, Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba make a welcome return with Bring Out The Sound which was recently released by BBE Music. Bring Out The Sound features guest artists Just Jack, Rodney P, Mark Keds and Stac. They play their part on Bring Out The Sound which is the eighth album from The Herbaliser were formed in 1993.
Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba who first met in the early nineties bonded over their shared love of music, and in 1993, decided to form a new hip hop group, The Herbaliser. Little did they realise that they would still be together twenty-five years later, and be regarded as one of the important and influential UK hip hop groups who are famous for their exciting live shows.
Two years, after founding The Herbaliser, Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba signed to the UK label Ninja Tunes, who released their groundbreaking debut album Remedies in 1995. Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba put samples to good effect during this carefully woven musical tapestry. It found favour with critics who were won over by The Herbaliser’s music.
By the time The Herbaliser released Blow Your Headphones in March 1997, they had decided to introduce live musicians which would augment the samples used on the album. Joining The Herbaliser on Blow Your Headphones were Fabian and Ted and What? What? They played their part in a carefully crafted hip hop album that is sometimes jazz-tinged.
Just over two years later, and The Herbaliser returned with their third studio album Very Mercenary in April 1999. It featured a number of guest artists including Roots Manuva, Blade, Dream Warrior, Philly-based Bahamadia and What? What? They play their part in the sound and success of Very Mercenary where The Herbaliser fuse hip hop and jazz. In doing so, they ensure that The Herbaliser’s sound continues to develop
A year later in 2000, The Herbaliser returned with Session One, which was the first in the occasional Session series. It proved to be a turning point for The Herbaliser as it was their first album that was recorded entirely by live musicians. They helped Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba reinvent tracks from their first three albums and the result was a genre-melting album where The Herbaliser Band combined funk, jazz, hip hop and a big band sound. Although this was a stylistic departure from previous albums, it showed that Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba were unwilling to stand still musically. Instead, The Herbaliser continued to innovate and reinvent their music and move forward musically on Session One and beyond.
In March 2002, The Herbaliser returned with their fourth studio album Something Wicked This Way Comes which was a quote from Macbeth. Joining The Herbaliser were a number of guest artists including Seaming To, Rakaa Taylor, Blade, Wildflower, Phi Life Cypher and MF Doom. They played their part in a groundbreaking fusion of hip hop and nu jazz where The Herbaliser’s music continues to evolve.
Following the success of Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Herbaliser began work on the followup Take London. They were joined in the studio by a whole host of guest artists, including Trap Clappa, Cheech Marina, Daddy Mills, A.K, MacGuyver, Private E1, Jean Grae, Katerine and Roots Manuva. This all-star cast played their part in the recording of The Herbaliser’s latest jazz-tinged album of hip hop, Take London.
When Take London was eventually released in May 2005, The Herbaliser’s latest jazz-tinged album of hip hop was well received by critics who called the music ambitious and innovative. Record buyers agreed and Something Wicked This Way Comes reached seventy-one in the UK Album charts. Even though The Herbaliser hadn’t released an album for three years, their music was still relevant.
In 2006, The Herbaliser released their instalment in the Fabric Live series, which had featured mixes from the great of hip hop and electronic music. The Herbaliser’s mix was instantly hailed as one of the finest in the series. That is still the case today, with The Herbaliser’s contribution to the Fabric Live series regarded as one of the finest.
Two years later, The Herbaliser returned with Same As It Never Was in 2008. It featured Jessica Darling, Jean Grae and Essa who play their part in another genre-melting album where The Herbaliser fuse funk, hip hop, jazz and soul. Upon the release of Same as It Never Was, it was well received by critics and music lovers.
Just a year later, in 2009, The Herbaliser released Session Two where with the help of a few friends they reinvented songs from their previous albums. However, after releasing two albums in two years, would be three years before The Herbaliser released their seventh studio album.
When The Herbaliser released their seventh studio album There Were Seven in October 2012, it was to widespread critical acclaim. There Were Seven was a return to form from The Herbaliser which was hailed as one of the finest albums of The Herbaliser’s career. There Were Seven was a return to form from the hip hop veterans.
Twenty months later, The Herbaliser returned in June 2014 with There Were Seven Remixes where two generations of remixers reworked and reinvented tracks from There Were Seven. In doing so, they whetted the appetite for The Herbaliser’s much-anticipated eighth studio album.
Now the long wait is over with the release of The Herbaliser’s much anticipated eighth studio album Bring Out The Sound. Just like on previous albums, Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba are joined by a number of guest artists. This includes Just Jack, Rodney P, Like Shaft and Mark Keds who all play their part in The Herbaliser’s long-awaited comeback album Bring Out The Sound.
Opening Bring Out The Sound is the cinematic sounding Breach, where a myriad an alarm sound before the announcement of: “a security beach on level twenty,” Meanwhile, a dark bass, crisp beats and scratch are joined by blazing horns. Together, they play their part in a cinematic arrangement before the tough, swaggering rap enters. It’s joined by scratches as the arrangement briefly veers between cinematic to dubby. Then as the vocal drops out, the cinematic sound increases as the arrangement builds. It draws inspiration from seventies Blaxploitation movies to library music. Later, The Herbaliser continues to combine funk with elements of soul jazz and hip hop to create genre-melting cinematic epic.
Very different is Seize The Day which initially features an understated which allows Just Jack’s heartfelt, emotive vocal to take centre-stage. Again there’s a cinematic sound as the arrangement combines pop, soul and hip hop before rueful horns and lush sweeping horns enter. They’re the perfect foil and later replacement for Just Jack’s vocal as the arrangement builds and another carefully crafted epic takes shape.
Like Shaft features the London Posse’s Rodney P who is joined by 28Luchi. However, it’s Rodney P who unleashes a fiery, rap that is a mixture of emotion, frustration and defiance. Nothing it seems fazes Rodney P as a funky bass joins reggae-tinged beats. They provide the backdrop as two of the leading lights of the UK hip hop scene unleash raps that are full of emotion, defiance and machismo.
Glistening guitars play before Out There gradually reveals its secrets. Soon, blazing horns soar above the arrangement before dropping out, and just a shimmering Fender Rhodes and crisp beats remain. Soon, the horns return and usher in the vocal. It sits in the midst of this latest slick, carefully crafted, genre-melting production where The Herbaliser seamlessly combine hip hop, funk and electronica.
Submarine is best described as eerie and atmospheric as The Herbaliser showcase their cinematic brand of hip hop. Soon, rocky guitars, braying horns and a scratch is added to the arrangement. Later, shimmering keyboard, drums and synths are added as The Herbaliser continue to create another dramatic and cinematic sounding track. Maybe cinematic and soundtrack work is the future for The Herbaliser, who showcase their talent and versatility on Submarine.
There’s a degree of drama before Stac adds a tender, ethereal and breathy vocal on Over and Over. Even after a few bars it’s obvious that she is a very talented singer who can breathe meaning and emotion into lyrics. Meanwhile, drums crack and guitars shimmer but don’t overpower Stac’s vocal. Later, she adds tight, soulful harmonies which provide the perfect accompaniment to her vocal on what’s without doubt the highlight of Bring Out The Sound.
The introduction to Cyclops is dark and dramatic with sci-fi sounds ushering in crisp beats, a bass synth and stabs of blazing horns. When The Herbaliser throw in some scratches, a genre-melting dramatic track unfolds. It fuses hip hop with funk, seventies Blaxploitation, library music and electronica. Seamlessly, these musical genres melt into one and make perfect musical sense.
A drum pounds before a keyboards plays and sci-fi sounds join with a bass and chirping guitar on Some Things. It marks the return of Rodney P, whose joined by Tiece whose dreamy, soulful vocal proves the perfect foil to his machismo fuelled rap. Meanwhile, the atmospheric arrangement fuses elements of hip and dub, as Rodney P and Tiece act out this kitchen sink drama that tells of the story of a relationship that has literally gone to “pot.”
A sultry saxophone opens Tripwire and adds an atmospheric backdrop before horns, percussion, crisp beats and bass are added before the arrangement meanders along. Meanwhile, the occasional scratch is added as the arrangement veers between jazz-tinged, funky and sometimes dubby as The Herbaliser showcase this much more grownup sound on Bring Out The Sound. It’s very different from the rest of Bring Out The Sound, and is another of the album’s highlights.
Scratches and an eerie vocal combine as Hearts Of Men unfolds, and initially, as the arrangement meanders along, it sounds as if The Herbaliser are trying to create a hip hop tinged spaghetti western soundtrack. A rueful horn drifts in and out, while the arrangement marches to the beat of the drum. Meanwhile, instruments flit in and out, and play their part in this captivating track that features The Herbaliser pushing musical boundaries to their limits.
Twenty Years features Mark Keds who previously, was a member of Senseless Things and has also collaborated with The Libertines. He delivers an intense and incredibly intimate vocal that is akin to a soul-baring confession. Meanwhile, pizzicato strings and sci-fi sounds are part of a dramatic arrangement that provides the perfect backdrop for Mark Keds’s impassioned and powerful performance.
The Herbaliser toy with the listener as EMT unfolds, during an understated but dramatic and cinematic arrangement. Soon, drums crack and a mesmeric siren sounds as the arrangement reveals its secrets. Soon, a myriad of instruments and sounds are flitting in and out during a moody, mesmeric and eerie cinematic arrange which incorporates everything from funk, hip hop, surf music and library music. They play their part in the sound and success of this latest cinematic track from The Herbaliser
From the opening bars of Takedown, it sounds as if it’s a long-lost track from The Incredible Bongo Band. If it was, it would provide a plentiful supply of samples from a new generation of hip hop producers. They’re sure to enjoy Takedown, an uplifting and B-Boy anthem in waiting where elements of funk and soul jazz are combined by The Herbaliser, and close Bring Out The Sound on a high.
After a wait of seven years and five months after The Herbaliser recently released Bring Out The Sound on BBE Music. Bring Out The Sound is the much-anticipated and long-awaited followup to There Were Seven. However, Bring Out The Sound surpasses There Were Seven, and is one of the finest albums The Herbaliser have released during a recording career that began in 1995.
With the help of Just Jack, Rodney P, 28Luchi, Mark Keds, Tiece and the truly talented Stac, The Herbaliser recorded another inventive and innovative album where they combine hip hop with elements of electronica, funk, jazz, rock, soul, soul jazz and surf rock. The influence of seventies Blaxploitation movies and library music can be heard on Bring Out The Sound. This genre-melting sound is a far cry the music that featured on The Herbaliser’s early albums, and is why they’re one of UK hip hop’s most exciting live bands.
The Herbaliser have also honed their own sound on Bring Out The Sound. For much of the time, it’s best described as cinematic and it sounds as if The Herbaliser are creating the soundtrack to a movie. Maybe that is what the future holds for Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba? They’re certainly capable of creating music that in rich in imagery and cinematic.
Despite that, it’s Stac’s performance on Over and Over which is the highlight of The Herbaliser’s eighth album. Stac is a truly talented singer who has the potential to enjoy a long and successful career. Just like the rest of the guest artists, Stac played her part in the sound and success of Bring Out The Sound.
Bring Out The Sound marks the welcome return of Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba, who founded The Herbaliser twenty-five years ago in 1993. Since 1995, The Herbaliser’s have released eight studio albums, a remix album, an instalment in Fabric Live and two volumes of Session where they reinvented songs from their previous albums. However, one of The Herbaliser’s finest albums is their latest album Bring Out The Sound, which features Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba’s unique and inimitable branch of cinematic hip hop and songs of the quality of Over and Over which showcase one of the stars of the album Stac.
The Herbaliser-Bring Out The Sound.
Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion.
Label: Z Records.
During the late-seventies and early eighties, one of most popular DJs on the UK jazz-dance scene was Colin Curtis, who was born Colin Dimond, in Madeley, Staffordshire 1952. That was where the his lifelong love of music began when he started to listen to offshore pirate radio stations like Radio Caroline. Not long after that a friend of Colin Curtis’ sister showed him her collection of Tamla Motown singles, and this was the state of a lifelong love of black American music.
Soon, Colin Curtis was collecting record soul and R&B, and in the late-sixties, started attending Northern Soul all-nighters at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, and later, at the Golden Torch in Tunstall, Staffordshire. However, Colin Curtis wasn’t content just to dance at the all-nighters, what he really wanted to do was DJ.
He got his opportunity in the late-sixties, while still a teenager, and before long was part of the DJ line-up at the Golden Torch all-nighters. However, it was in 1973 that Colin Curtis got his big break, when he began a weekly residency at the soul nights at the Highland Rooms at the Blackpool Mecca. Soon, Colin Curtis was joined by fellow DJ and record collector Ian Levine, and this was the start of a five-year partnership which that lasted until 1978. However, during this period, there was a split in the Northern Soul scene.
Up until then, the Northern Soul scene was primarily a revivalist scene, with the majority of DJs looking for obscure soul singles from the sixties and seventies. This was too restrictive for Colin Curtis and Ian Levine whose music tastes were much more eclectic. The pair who pioneered mixing in the UK, began adding disco, funk and jazz to their sets which was a controversial move. So much so, that the Northern Soul scene was split in two and the modern soul movement emerged out of the Highland Rooms.
The demise of the Colin Curtis and Ian Levine DJ-ing partnership took place in September 1978, after five years at the Highland Rooms. However, Colin Curtis left to take up a residency at Rafters nightclub in Manchester, which marked a turning point in his DJ-ing career.
Although Colin Curtis still played soul and disco in his sets, they started to move towards jazz funk and fusion. This was the sound that Colin Curtis played at all-nighters up and down the country, including venues like the Blackpool Mecca and Manchester Ritz. These nights were hugely popular, with Colin Curtis regularly playing in front of crowds that ranged from 1,500 right up to 3,000. Colin Curtis’ new sound was proving as popular as the Northern Soul nights he had played at a decade earlier.
Buoyed by the success of his new sound, Colin Curtis started playing at venues around the UK, and by the early eighties, was even playing in mainland Europe. By then, Colin Curtis was regarded as a pioneer of the UK jazz-dance scene which would explode over the next few years. However, if it wasn’t for DJs like Colin Curtis, the UK jazz-dance scene may not have been the success it was.
Now over thirty years later, and Colin Curtis is still passionate about the music he played on the UK jazz-dance scene. So much so, that he has just released a new two CD set Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion which was released by Z Records and documents the glory days of the UK jazz-dance scene.
On Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion the twenty tracks on the two CDs he eschews the predictable and familiar, and instead digs deep into his collection for deep cuts, rarities and hidden gems. However, there’s still plenty of floor filling favourites, Latin jazz and top quality workouts that will test the stamina of even the fittest dancers. As a result, it’s not going to be easy to choose the highlights of a compilation of the quality of Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion.
Michele Hendricks’ cover of What’s Going On which was the title-track to Marvin Gaye’s 1971 classic album opens Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion. It’s a track from Michele Hendricks sophomore album Keepin’ Me Satisfied which was produced by David Leonhardt of The 77s and released on Muse Records in 1988. This beautiful, jazz-tinged cover of What’s Going On sets the bar high for the rest of compilation.
Harold’s House Of Jazz is a track from Richie Cole’s 1979 album Keeper Of The Flame, which was also released on Muse Records. It’s an explosive and swinging example of post bop where Eddie Jefferson adds an urgent scat that most dancers will struggle to keep up with.
In 1972, Emanuel K Rahim and The Kahliqs released the album Total Submission on the Cobblestone label. One of the highlights was Spirit Of Truth where modal jazz and Latin jazz combine to create a truly irresistible dancefloor filler. Eight years later, and Total Submission was reissued by Muse Record which is how many on the jazz-dance scene first heard Spirit Of Truth.
Although Dave Pike is best known for his 1966 album Jazz For The Jet Set, that was only a small part of a long and successful career. The vibes and marimba player released around seventeen albums, including Let The Minstrels Play On in 1980. It was recorded on March the ’22nd’ and ’23rd’ 1978 at Sage and Sound Studio, in Hollywood. One of the album’s highlights was Spirit’s Samba where Carol Eschete, who adds a tender scatted vocal and Dave Pike adds a spellbinding solo before guitarist Ron Eschete plays his part in this irresistible fusion of Latin jazz and jazz funk.
When guitarist and vocalist Walt Barr released his sophomore album East Winds on Music Records in 1979, it featured Zamba. It epitomises everything that was good about fusion, and even incorporates a hint of Latin music during four magical minutes.
In 1980, Eric Kloss released Celebration on Muse Records, which featured The Samba Express. It’s a high-octane track where Latin jazz and fusion are combined seamlessly by Eric Kloss and his tight, talented band
Closing disc one of Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion is Charlie Earland’s Murilley, which is taken from his 1981 album Pleasant Afternoon which was released on Muse Records. It was the first album Hammond organ player had released since switching from Charles to Charlie Earland. By then, he was one of the greatest Hammond organ player of his generation. Proof of this is Murilley where elements of soul jazz and jazz funk are combined by Charlie Earland on this swinging track that was a favourite of dancers at Dingwalls in the late-eighties.
Richie Cole’s New York Afternoon opens disc two of Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion. It’s a track from Richie Cole’s 1977 album New York Afternoon (Alto Madness) which was released on Muse Records. New York Afternoon was one of the album’s highlights, and finds Richie Cole unleashing one of his finest performances, as he plays speed and fluidity on this soul jazz deep cut.
In 1974, Dom Um Romao released his eponymous album on Muse Records, which was his third solo album. His career began a decade earlier, but still Dom Um Romao was still struggling to make a break thought. That was ironic as he was a talented drummer and percussionist. He and his band showcase their considerable skills on Ponteio, which is a rare Latin jazz track that os one of the highlights of Dom Um Romao.
Jazz saxophonist David Schnitter was thirty-four when he released his third album Thundering on Muse Records in 1979. It failed commercially which was a disappointment for someone who had once been a member of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. However, one of the hidden gems on Thundering was Flying Colors which features blistering solo from David Schnitter who plays with power, fluidity and speed which many dancers would struggle to keep up with as when Colin Curtis played it at venues across the UK.
When the Dave Matthews’ Big Band released Night Flight on Muse Records in 1977, it marked the debut of this innovative band. They were one of the few big bands were incorporating jazz funk into their music. This was a radical departure and one that would upset purists. One of Night Flight’s finest moments was Vera Cruz where the big band sound was combined with jazz funk and even a hint of fusion. It was a heady brew and one which reinvented the big band sound. Sadly, Night Flight despite its quality failed to attract an audience and slipped under the radar.
Eric Kloss makes a return on disc two with Morning Song which is a track from his 1978 album Now, was released on Muse Records. From the get-go, Eric Kloss’ saxophone is playing a starring role on another high-octane track. He plays with speed, accuracy and fluidity, especially during a spellbinding solo were dancers would surely be forced to just retire defeated and revel in what was one of Eric Kloss’ finest moments on Now.
American saxophonist and flautist Harold Ousley was forty-eight when he released his fourth album The People’s Groove on Muse Records in 1978. One of the highlights of the album was the genre-melting El Exi-Hente where Harold Ousley and his band combine elements of Latin jazz, soul jazz and even fusion to create a dancefloor filler.
Bill Hardman who made his name as a jazz musical playing trumpet and flugelhorn closes Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion with Samba Do Brilho. It’s a track from Bill Hardman’s 1978 album Home which was released on Muse Records. On Samba Do Brilho Bill Hardman’s trumpet plays a leading role Samba Do Brilho on what’s another irresistible track that closes the compilation on a high.
For veterans of the UK jazz dance scene Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion is the perfect opportunity to relive the nights spent dancing to jazz funk, fusion and Latin jazz. The twenty tracks on Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion which is a two CD set, which has just been released by Z Records were part of this hugely popular scene, which was very different to what had gone before, including Northern Soul, disco and boogie.
Never before had DJs played sets that featured jazz funk, Latin jazz and fusion. This many onlookers thought was unheard of, but the roots of the UK jazz dance scene could be traced to the Highland Rooms in Blackpool, when Colin Curtis and Ian Levine started playing funk and disco in their Northern Soul sets. Over the next few years, Colin Curtis’ sets evolved and eventually, he was a pioneer of the UK jazz dance scene.
While other followed in his footsteps, Colin Curtis will always be remembered as one of the pioneers of the UK jazz dance scene who played eclectic sets where anything was possible. Soon, Colin Curtis’ sets featured jazz funk, fusion and Latin jazz, where he eschewed the predictable and familiar, for deep cuts, hidden gems and rarities. That is the case on Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion which is full of floor filling favourites, including swinging jazz funk, fiery fusion and irresistible Latin jazz that are a remainder of the glory days of the UK jazz dance scene .
Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion.
Norma Winstone-Descansado: Songs For Films.
Label: ECM Records.
There aren’t many British jazz singers who have enjoyed the longevity, commercial success and critical acclaim that Norma Winstone MBE has enjoyed over a career that has lasted over fifty years. Despite all the commercial success, critical acclaim and awards, the seventy-six year old shows no signs of slowing down, and recently released a new album on ECM, Descansado: Songs For Films. It features twelve songs, including six where Norma Winstone wrote lyrics to the instrumental melodies. This is a reminder that Norma Winstone isn’t just a talented singer, but also a gifted lyricist. Many people will find this ironic, as Norma Winstone is best known for her wordless improvisations. However, Descansado: Songs For Films shows another side to Norma Winstone, whose story began in the midst of World War II.
Norma Winstone was born on the ’23rd’ of September 1941, in Bow, in East London, which was devastated by a German bombers during World War II. However, as normality returned to London in the post war years, the young Norma Winstone started to play the piano. This would stand her in good stead later in life
By the early sixties, Norma Winstone started singing in bands in the clubs around Dagenham in Essex. Over the next few years, Norma Winstone served what was akin to a musical apprenticeship, as she became a familiar face on the London club scene. That was where Norma Winstone learned to control her vocal which wasn’t just pure but at times powerful. This she had honed on the club scene, and by the time she met pianist and composer Michael Garrick in 1968, was ready to move on.
Michael Garrick had spotted Norma Winstone’s potential the first time he first heard her sing that night in 1968. After she came of the stage, Michael Garrick introduced himself to Norma Winstone and asked her to sit in with his band at a forthcoming gig. When she agreed, he wrote out a list of songs that she had to learn.
On the night of the concert, Norma Winstone took to the stage with Michael Garrick’s band, and began singing the songs she had been asked to learn. Michael Garrick was so impressed after hearing her sing, that he asked her to sing a few more songs and take over from the saxophonist who had recently left the band. The only problem was that when Norma Winstone looked at the parts, there were no lyrics. Instead, there were some written melodies, and on occasions the saxophonist had riffed on a lone chord. Many singers would’ve been put off by the lack of lyrics. Not Norma Winstone who started to improvise, using the vowel based wordless improvisation that she would become famous for. Those in the audience had witnessed musical history being made.
A year after joining forces with Michael Garrick in 1968, Norma Winstone made her recording debut on the Joe Harriott and Amancio D’Silva Quartet’s 1969 album Hum Dono. This was the first of over 150 appearances Norma Winstone would make over the next fifty years.
In 1970, The Michael Garrick Sextet With Norma Winstone released the British jazz classic The Heart Is A Lotus. A year later, Norma Winstone was voted the top vocalist in the Melody Maker jazz poll. Having sung on two important British jazz albums, Norma Winstone was now an award-winning vocalist.
The following year, 1972, Norma Winstone released her much-anticipated debut solo album Edge Of Time. It featured the great and good of British jazz, on what’s regarded as one of Norma Winstone’s finest solo albums. However, it would be a while before Norma Winstone released the followup.
After releasing Edge Of Time, Norma Winstone was a member of Ian Carr’s Nucleus when he recorded the jazz rock concept album Labyrinth, which was based on the Greek myth about the Minotaur. When Labyrinth was released in 1973, the album became a cult classic and introduced Norma Winstone to a new audience. So did the years she spent with a new band Azimuth.
By 1977, Norma Winstone was a member of the British jazz trio Azimuth, which featured pianist John Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. Azimuth released their debut eponymous debut album to widespread critical acclaim in March 1977 and it was hailed a British improv classic.
Azimuth returned with the atmospheric improv of The Touchstone in 1978. The group’s third album was Départ which was a collaboration with American guitarist Ralph Towner, which was released in 1980. It would be another five years before Azimuth returned with a new album.
Over the next five years, Norma Winstone worked on a number of projects, but still found time to record Azimuth’s fourth album. This was Azimuth ’85, which was released in March 1985. Nothing more was heard of Azimuth until 1995 when they released How It Was Then… Never Again which was the band’s swan-song.
Two years later, Norma Winstone returned with her long-awaited sophomore album Somewhere Called Home in 1987. It was released to the same critical acclaim as Edge Of Time fifteen years earlier in 1972.
Norma Winstone seemed in no rush to release her third solo album, and over the next eight years, recorded albums with Vocal Summit and the Norwegian jazz band Fairplay. She also recorded Freedom Jazz Dance with Mona Larsen which was credited to NormaMona, when it was released in July 1995. However, later in 1995, Norma Winstone released her third solo album Well Kept Secret in 1995. It had been well worth the wait, and featured Norma Winstone at her very best.
Just three years later, in 1998, Norma Winstone returned with her fourth solo album Manhattan In The Rain which was released to critical acclaimed. So was Norma Winstone’s collaboration with pianist John Taylor .. Like Song, Like Weather when it was released a year later in 1999. As the new millennia approached, Norma Winstone was one of the top female jazz singers not just in Britain, but Europe.
As new millennia sawed, this was the start of one of the busiest periods of Norma Winstone’s career. She worked on other artists and groups albums, and collaborated on several projects. This included Songs and Lullabies which was a collaborations between Fred Hersch and Norma Winstone which was released in 2003. The same year, Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing released the album Chamber Music. It was just the latest project that featured Norma Winstone’s vocals.
While she was kept busy over the next three-year, Norma Winstone was joined by The NDR Big Band on her 2006 album It’s Later Than You Think. The same year, Norma Winstone renewed her acquaintance with the man who gave her big break, Michael Garrick. Norma Winstone became the featured vocalist on the Michael Garrick Jazz Britannia Orchestra’s 2006 album Children Of Time. It was like old times for the two old friends and colleagues.
On the ‘23rd’ of February 2006 and then on the ‘14th’ of December 2006, Norma Winstone joined forces with the Stan Tracey Trio and Bobby Wellins to record twenty tracks that later became the double album Amoroso…Only More So. The album featured what was essentially a British jazz supergroup, who sadly, released only album in 2007. The same year, Norma Winstone was awarded an MBE for her services to music.
In 2008, Norma Winstone returned with her fifth solo album Distances, which marked her return to ECM Records. Just like previous albums, Distances was released to plaudits and praise.
It was a similar case when the Michael Garrick Jazz Orchestra which featured Norma Winstone released Yet Another Spring in July 2009. This was forty years after Norma Winstone first sat in with Michael Garrick’s band in 1969. A lot had happened since then, and Norma Winstone was regarded as one of the legends of British jazz.
Two years later in 2011, Here’s A Song For You was released by Mike Gibbs with The NDR Big Band featuring Norma Winstone. By then, Norman Winstone had featured on around 150 albums, and had just celebrated her seventieth birthday. However, she wasn’t ready to retire.
The following year, Kenny Wheeler, another of Norma Winstone’s old friends invited her to part in a new project he was working on with the London Vocal Project. That was how Norma Winstone found herself at the Red Gables Studio, London between the ‘4th’ and ‘8th’ of June 2012. During that four-day period, Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone and London Vocal Project recorded the album Mirrors, which was released in 2013. However, the next project Norma Winstone would work on, was a solo album.
Dance Without Answer was released on ECM Records in 2014, and found favour with critics who lauded the album. Despite the quality of the music on Dance Without Answer, it would be the best part of four years before Norma Winstone released Descansado: Songs For Films on ECM Records.
Originally, six of the twelve tracks on Descansado: Songs For Films were instrumentals that had featured on films of Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Martin Scorcese and Wim Wenders. Norma Winstone who is known as a talented lyricist set about writing lyrics to the instrumental melodies. Once she had written the lyrics, Norma Winstone headed into the studio to record what became Descansado: Songs For Films.
Joining Norma Winstone when the recording of Descansado: Songs For Films began was pianist Glauco Venier, percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken, Mario Brunelli on violoncello and Klaus Gesing on soprano saxophonist and bass clarinet. Producing Descansado: Songs For Films was Manfred Eicher the founder of ECM Records. They recently released Descansado: Songs For Films, which is the first album from Norma Winstone in nearly four years.
Opening Descansado: Songs For Films is His Eyes, Her Eyes, which is the theme to The Thomas Crown Affair and features lyrics penned by Marilyn and Alan Bergman. The minimalist arrangement features just a lone piano, as Norma Winstone delivers a halting and emotionally charged vocal before the soprano saxophone adds the finishing touches to a beautiful cover of a familiar song.
What Is A Youth? is the love theme to Romeo And Juliet which was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and released fifty years ago in 1968. Initially, just the piano, ushers in Norma Winston’s tender, deliberate vocal, before the cello, percussion and clarinet, provide a backdrop which later, is rich in imagery as it skips along. In doing so, it provides the perfect and realistic accompaniment as Norma Winstone delivers a ruminative and haunting vocal.
Norma Winstone penned the lyrics to Armando Trovajoli’s Descansado (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow) and delivers a rueful, emotive vocal as a piano, percussion, clarinet and cello accompany her. It’s a song that may not work as well for a younger singer. However, it’s perfectly suited to Norma Winstone uses all her musical and life experience to good use, as she breaths meaning and emotion into the lyrics.
Vivre sa vie was the title-track to Jon-Luc Goddard’s 1962 film, which was written by Michael Legrand. The arrangement is understated with the piano and saxophone creating a wistful backdrop for Norma Winstone’s occasional trademark tender wordless vocals. They flit in and out of this beautiful, haunting and poignant cinematic track as where Norma Winstone combines jazz and pop.
Madredeus’ wrote Lisbon Story, which was the title-track to Wim Wenders’ 1994 film. Once again, Norma Winstone adds ethereal wordless vocals which combine with the piano, soprano saxophone and percussion which latterly add an element of dram as this familiar theme is reinvented.
When the film Malena was released in 2000, it featured a score by the legendary composer Ennio Morricone. Against a backdrop that features piano, percussion, cello and later a clarinet, Norma Winstone is delivers one of her finest vocals on Descansado: Songs For Films. It’s wistful and full of sadness as she lives the lyrics.
Norma Winstone wrote the lyrics to Il Postino which was the title-track to Michael Radford’s 1984 film. Against an arrangement which features subtle piano and occasional interjections from the clarinet, Norma Winstone delivers another emotive vocal where her lyrics deals with everything from tragedy to pleasure, regret, loneliness and a sense of hopeless that is impossible to shift. It’s a powerful and poignant song that is truly memorable.
One of the great European directors of his generation was Federico Fellini, who directed Amarcord which was released in 1973. Norma Winstone wrote beautiful lyrics to Amarcord (I Remember) where she showcases her talent as a singer and lyricist.
Meryton Townhall featured in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, where the violincello, deliberate piano and galloping percussion join the saxophone set the scene for Norma Winstone’s ethereal wordless vocal. It soars above the arrangement, before skipping along, as it becomes part of what could be realistic cinematic backdrop that paints pictures in the mind’s eye
Henry V was directed by Laurence Olivier, and released in 1944. Norma Winstone adds lyrics to William Walton’s music, and the song becomes Touch Her Soft Lips And Part. Its lyrics are full of sadness, but also feature beauty which is omnipresent while the arrangement features wistful strings and a thoughtful piano. Together, they provide the perfect backdrop to one of the most beautiful songs on Descansado: Songs For Films.
Theme (So Close To Me Blues) featured in Martin Scorcese’s 1976 classic film Taxi Driver, and was written by Bernard Herrmann. Norma Winstone wrote the lyrics which she delivers against an arrangement that is moody, broody and dramatic. Sometimes, though, it’s almost understated which allows Norma Winstone’s vocal to centre-stage as she documents the grim reality and dangers of city life, where it seems everyone is out to outdo everyone else make a quick buck. It’s a poignant song which still rings true forty-two years later.
Closing Descansado: Songs For Films is the piano version of Vivre sa vie. Although it lasts just a minute, its melancholy beauty leaves a lasting impression, and closes the album on a high.
Over fifty years after seventy-six year old Norma Winstone’s singing career began, the veteran singer and lyricist recently returned with Descansado: Songs For Films which was released by ECM Records. It features twelve tracks, with Norma Winstone reinventing familiar songs, and adding her trademark wordless vocals to other tracks. However, on six tracks Norma Winstone puts her songwriting skills to good use, when she writes lyrics to the instrumental melodies. They’re a reminder if any was needed that Norma Winstone is much more than just a talented singer, and is also a gifted lyricist. Many people will find this ironic, as Norma Winstone is best known for her wordless improvisations. That has been the case for nearly fifty years, but Descansado: Songs For Films shows the different sides to Norma Winstone.
The different sides of Norma Winstone play their part in the sound and success of Descansado: Songs For Films, which features music that is beautiful, emotive, ethereal, haunting, hopeful, melancholy, poignant powerful, rueful, ruminative, thought-provoking and wistful. Other times, the songs are full of hurt, regret and sadness as Descansado: Songs For Films becomes an emotional roller coaster.
That is because of Norma Winstone’s ability to breath life, meaning and emotion into the songs on Descansado: Songs For Films. However, her small, but tight and versatile band do their part, and provide the perfect backdrop on each the twelve songs. They’re part of Descansado: Songs For Films which is a cinematic opus from one of the greatest British jazz vocalists of her generation, Norma Winstone.
Norma Winstone-Descansado: Songs For Films.