CULT CLASSIC: DON ELLIS-SHOCK TREATMENT.

Cult Classic: Don Ellis-Shock Treatment.

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

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

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

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

Just over forty-two years after his death and sadly , Don Ellis’ music is often overlooked by the majority of jazz fans, and only a small but appreciative audience remember a man who was one of the great jazz trumpeters. His career began  in 1956 and over the next twenty-two years his raison d’être was to innovate and take jazz in a new and different direction. A reminder of this truly talented bandleader, composer and trumpeter is his 1976 album Shock Treatment which nowadays is regarded as a cult classic. However, the story began ten years earlier.

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

Electric Bath.

In 1967, Don Ellis left Pacific Jazz after releasing three albums, and signed to Columbia which would be his musical home for the next five years. During that time, he would release six albums including his Columbia debut, Electric Bath.

Having signed to Columbia, Don Ellis was paired with jazz producer John Hammond and on the ‘19th’ of September 1967 he and his big band entered Columbia Recording Studios, in Hollywood, California to record what became Electric Bath. It took two days to record five tracks and by the end of the ‘20th’ of September 1967 Don Ellis had recorded his eighth album. It was a stylistic departure for the thirty-three year old trumpeter.

When Electric Bath was released later in 1967 it was to widespread critical acclaim. Critics and cultural commentators were won over by what was a groundbreaking album of fusion. Don Ellis  had been heavily influenced by rock and  incorporated electronics during the recording. The result was a breathtaking and exhilarating album of fusion that nowadays, is regarded as a genre classic. It was nominated for a Grammy Award and won the Down Beat Reader’s Poll. It was the perfect way for Don Ellis to start his career at Columbia. 

Just like many artists who had released a groundbreaking, genre classic like Electric Bath, Don Ellis knew the difficult thing was following it up. He had set the bar high and knew this wasn’t going to be easy. However, he as keen to build on the success of Electric Bath, and began work on his ninth album Shock Treatment. 

Shock Treatment. 

For his ninth album, Don Ellis wrote five new tracks Homecoming, Star Children, Beat Me Daddy, Seven To The Bar, Milo’s Theme and The Tihai. He also joined forces with Kelly MacFadden to write Night City. John Magruder who played baritone saxophone, clarinet and flute in Don Ellis’ band wrote Zim. These tracks were joined by four cover versions.

This included Hank Levy’s A New Kind Of Country and Mercy Maybe Mercy. The other two tracks were covers of Howlett Smith’s Opus 5 and Seven Up. These eleven tracks would eventually became Shock Treatment.

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

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

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

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

While Don Ellis was a popular live draw his albums never sold in vast quantities. That was the case with Electric Bath in 1967 and Shock Treatment when it was released in 1968. Sadly, it failed to trouble the US Billboard 200. That was despite Shock Treatment being another ambitious and innovative album and Don Ellis being one of the top jazz trumpeters. After nine albums, Don Ellis had still to make a commercial breakthrough. It must have been hugely frustrating for him.

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

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

So is Don Ellis’ 1968 cult classic  Shock Treatment which feature Don Ellis at the peak of his powers as a bandleader, composer and trumpeter. It’s the perfect introduced to Don Ellis whose music is oft-overlooked and sadly never reached the wider audience that it so richly deserved.

That is a great shame as Don Ellis was a talented, imaginative, inventive and innovative compeer and musician, but never enjoyed the success his talent deserved. Incredibly, even winning a Grammy Award didn’t transform Don Ellis’ fortunes, and although he was a popular live draw, cult classics like Shock Treatment and Autumn weren’t huge sellers and sadly slipped under the radar. Maybe one day that will change and Don Ellis will no longer be described as one of jazz music’s best kept secrets? 

Cult Classic: Don Ellis-Shock Treatment.

 

MARIANNE FAITHFUL: THE DECCA YEARS.

Marianne Faithful: The Decca Years.

By March 1964, it was apparent that pop music wasn’t just a passing fad. The Beatles were a global phenomenon and the British Invasion of the American charts had just begun. Britain was a musical powerhouse ,that the world envied. Despite this, many labels weren’t resting on their laurels.

Record companies in Britain were constantly on the search for ‘the next big thing.’ Surely they reasoned, there was another Fab Four somewhere in Britain. It was all a matter of finding them. Some labels put more effort into this than others.

Decca Records had an enviable network of A&R executives and talent scouts across Britain who had their finger was on the pulse of the local music scene. Night after night, these talent scouts headed out to local pubs and clubs where they listened to new bands and singers. Promising artists were signed to contracts before other labels even had a chance to hear them. Helping Decca Records add to their already enviable roster were various producers and music ‘impresarios.’

They were the trusted ears of some record companies. This included the Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham. He was by 1964, was managing the second biggest band in the world. The Rolling Stones only rivals were The Beatles. So when Andrew Loog Oldham recommended a new, unknown artist to Decca Records, they took notice.

The artist Andrew Loog Oldham was unlike any he had come across. Even her background was unlike that of any artist he had encountered. The eighteen year old former convent girl was the daughter of an Austrian aristocrat and a former British Army officer who was now a professor of psychology and Italian literature at Bedford College of London University. They had met in Vienna, and were living in Hampstead when Marianne Faithful was born on 29th December 1946. However, this would soon change.

The Faithful family had to move to Ormskirk in Lancashire, while her father finished his doctorate at Liverpool University. Later, the Faithful family lived at the commune and institution for social research in Braziers Park, a Grade II listed building at Ipsden, Oxfordshire. This must have seemed an idyllic place to grow up. However, when Marianne was six, her parents divorced.

For Marianne Faithful the Reading years weren’t exactly happy ones. She lived with her mother in Milman Road, Reading, which she later referred to as the “Reading Gaol.” No wonder as it was a far cry from the early years of her life.

By then, money was tight and Marianne and her mother were reduced to living in suburbia. To make matters worse, Marianne suffered from tuberculosis; and she had to become a subsidised pupil at St Joseph’s Convent School where she was a weekly boarder. It was at school, that Marianne Faithful first took to the stage.

It wasn’t as a singer though. Instead, she was part of the school’s Progress Theatre group. Little did anyone realise, that when Marianne Faithful left St Joseph’s Convent School, she spend much of her life on the stage. Before that, she escaped the drudgery and boredom of suburban Reading.

Very different was London’s social scene, which Marianne Faithful threw herself into. It was as if she was making up for the Reading years. London was different from small-town Reading and she enjoyed the constant round of parties, record launches and gallery openings. She even travelled to Cambridge to attend a University ball, where she met her future husband John Dunbar. By then, Marianne Faithful was regular in London’s folk circuit.

For some time,  she had been playing coffee shops including Cafe Au Lait and Shades. Her career was in its infancy but through John Dunbar, Marianne Faithful met Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon. They were already enjoying a successful career. However, not as successful as the two men Peter Asher introduced Marianne Faithful to at a party in March 1964.

She went along to a party with John Dunbar in March 1964 which was where she was introduced to the leaders of the two biggest groups in the world. First Marianne Faithful met Paul McCartney, and then she was introduced to Mick Jagger. Little did she realise the effect this meeting would have on her career.

Through Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful was introduced to Andrew Loog Oldham. Straight away, he signed Marianne Faithful to Decca Records. Soon, work began on her debut single.

 As Tears Go By which was penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards was chosen as For Marianne Faithful’s debut single. It was produced by Mike Leander, and released in the summer of 1964. It reached number nine in Britain; twenty-two in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-five in Australia. The eighteen year old had enjoyed a hit single on three continents. However, the followup single wasn’t as successful.

Having chosen to cover a Jagger-Richards song for her debut single, Marianne Faithful decided to cover Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind for her sophomore single. When it was released later in 1965, it failed to chart on both sides of the Atlantic. Surely Marianne Faithful wasn’t a one hit wonder?

Decca Records didn’t think so, and decided that Marianne Faithful should begin work on not just one album, but two albums.

Come My Way.
It was a case of striking while the iron was hot as many artists weren’t didn’t enjoy a long shelf life. So as soon as they had a single under their belt, they were sent into the studio to record an album. Decca Records decided that Marianne Faithful should record two quite different albums, Come My Way and Marianne Faithful. Of the two albums, Come My Way would only be released in Britain.

For Come My Way, Marianne Faithful chose fourteen tracks. Many of the tracks were traditional songs. This included Come My Way, Jaberwoc and Spanish Is The Loving Tongue, Fare Thee Well, Down In The Salley Garden, Full Fathom Five and Bells Of Freedom. Other tracks included Lee Hayes’ Lonesome Traveller and Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds. These songs were recorded at IBC Studio, London with producer Tony Calder.

On Come My Way, Marianne Faithful concentrated purely on folk music. This was what Marianne had been singing up until then. She sang and played her acoustic guitar against John Mark’s spartan arrangements. This would prove successful when Come My Way was released.

It wasn’t until 15th April 1965 that Marianne Faithful released Come My Way. The album was well received by critics, and reached number twelve in Britain. However, Come My Way wasn’t released in America. Instead, Marianne Faithful’s eponymous sophomore was released on both sides of the Atlantic the same day as Come My Way.

Marianne Faithful.
Marianne Faithful was recorded at the same time as Come My Way, and would be released in America and Britain. However, it was a very different album to Come My Way. Gone was the folk sound which was replaced by pop, chanson and ye-ye. Already, Marianne For Marianne Faithful was showing that she was a versatile singer.

For Marianne Faithful, fourteen pop covers had been chosen. This included Jackie DeShannon’s Come and Stay With Me; Bacharach and David’s If I Never Get to Love You; Tony Hatch’s Downtown; Jagger and Richards’ As Tears Go By; Jackie DeShannon and Jimmy Page’s In My Time of Sorrow; and Lennon and MCartney’s I’m A Loser. Marianne Faithful also made her songwriting debut, cowriting Time Takes Time with Barry Fantoni. These songs were recorded in two London studios.

At Lansdowne Studios and Decca No. 2 Studio, London, Marianne Faithful recorded another fourteen songs with producer Tony Calder. This time, she was accompanied by a band who flitted between musical genres. This included Plaisir D’Amour the first songs that Marianne Faithful recorded in French. The London born chanteuse was about to become one of the ye-ye girls, and also  enjoyed commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic.

Just like Come My Way, Marianne Faithful was released on 15th April 1965. Reviews of the album were positive, with critics remarking that some of the song’s were perfectly suited to Marianne Faithful. She brought life and meaning to the songs and  it wasn’t a surprise when the album reached fifteen in Britain and twelve in the US Billboard 200. This wasn’t the end to the success.

Come And Stay With Me was released as the lead single and reached number four in Britain and twenty-six in the US Billboard 100. Then This Little Bird was released later in 1965, and reached number six in Britain and thirty-two in the US Billboard 100. Just a year after signing to Decca Records and Marianne Faithful was a star on both sides of the Atlantic.

Less than a month after the release of Come My Way and Marianne Faithful, she married John Dunbar on the 6th of May 1965, in Cambridge. After the wedding, the pair lived in a flat in Belgravia, in London. What looked like a fairytale continued.

Go Away From My World.
Although newly married, and expecting her first child, Marianne Faithful had to record a new American album. It featured twelve tracks which were a mixture of traditional songs and cover versions.

Among the traditional songs were Come My Way, Mary Ann, Scarborough Fair and North Country Maid. Cover versions included Lennon and McCartney’s Yesterday and Tom Paxton’s The Last Thing On My Mind. Marianne also decided to cover Francis McPeake’s Wild Mountain Thyme and Cyril Tawney’s Sally Free and Easy. These songs were produced by Mike Leader, and scheduled for release in November 1965.

Reviews of Go Away From My World were mainly positive. However, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, it’s an album that’s appealing to everyone. There’s songs for people who like folk and pop music; while Marianne Faithful had been a much more pop oriented album. Maybe Go Away From My World fell between two stools?

After the success of Marianne Faithful in America, Go Away From My World reached a disappointing eighty-one on the US Billboard 200. The only crumb of comfort was that when Summer Nights was released as a single and reached number ten in Britain and number twenty-four in the US Billboard 100. Then Marianne’s cover of Yesterday reached number thirty-six in Britain. Her last single from Go Away From My World was the title-track which reached a lowly eighty-nine in the US Billboard 100. Little did Marianne Faithful realise that Go Away From My World would be her last American hit. Sadly, that would’ve been the least of her worries.

In December 1965, Marianne Faithful left her husband of seventh months and went to live with the Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger. Little did she realise this decision would change her life and people’s perception of her forevermore. That was still to come. Before that, Marianne Faithful began work on her next album North Country Maid.

North Country Maid.
As 1966 got underway, Marianne Faithful and Mick Jagger through themselves headfirst into swinging London’s social scene. They epitomised swinging London and were seen at the smartest parties. However, Marianne Faithful had an album to record.

This was her third British album North Country Maid. However, six of the songs had already featured on the now ironically titled American album Go Away From My World. This included traditional songs like Scarborough Fair; How Should I Your True Love and North Country Maid. The other tracks included Cyril Tawney’s Sally Free and Easy; Jon Mark’s Lullabye and Francis McPeake’s Wild Mountain Thyme. This left Marianne to record six new songs.

They were a mixture of traditional song and cover versions. The traditional songs included Cockleshells; She Moved Through The Fair and How Should I Your True Love Know. Other tracks included covers of Tom Paxton’s Last Thing On My Mind; Ewan McColl’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Donavon’s Sunny Goodge Street. These tracks were recorded with producer Mike Leander.

When the recording the six songs began, Marianne Faithful was joined by guitarists Big Jim Sullivan and Jon Marks. He had worked on all of her albums arranging the tracks. Joining them in the studio was an up-and-coming engineer, Gus Dudgeon. Soon, the six songs took shape, and the release of North Country Maid was scheduled for spring 1966.

Before the release of North Country Maid on 1st of April 1966, critics had their say on Marianne Faithful’s third album. The consensus was, that North Country Maid was the finest album of her nascent career. That however, was no surprise.

Great care had gone into choosing the twelve songs that became North Country Maid. These songs seem tailor made for Marianne, as she flits seamlessly between musical genres. Although primarily an album of folk music, blues, country, acid folk and even pop can be heard on North Country Maid. It’s the perfect showcase for Marianne’s versatility as a singer.

Playing an important part in the success of North Country Maid, were Mick Taylor and Jon Mark’s arrangements. Jon Mark and Big Jim Sullivan accompany Marianne on arrangements that although they’re mostly understated and spartan, allow Marianne’s vocal to take centre-stage; She’s equally comfortable singing traditional songs and cover versions on North Country Maid, which was by far, the best album of Marianne Faithful’s career.

Despite that, North Country Maid failed to chart on its release on 1st April 1966. For Marianne Faithful this was a huge blow. Her two previous albums had sold well in Britain, and she had enjoyed several hit singles. However, the warning signs were there when Go Away From My World failed to chart. This made Marianne Faithful’s next album a crucial one.

Love In A Mist.
For her fourth British studio album, Love In A Mist, Marianne Faithful decided to change tack. It was a case of needs must. Not only had her career stalled but acoustic folk music was no longer as popular. Even Bob Dylan had plugged in and gone electric in 1966. So Marianne decided to reinvent herself on Love In A Mist.

She had already started to reinvent herself on her American album, Faithful Forever which  was released in September 1966, but failed to chart. Despite this, half of the tracks that featured on Faithful Forever found their way onto Love In A Mist. Along with the other seven songs, a total of fourteen tracks found their way onto Love In The Mist.

Among the tracks on Love In The Mist were a trio of tracks from Donovan, In the Night Time, Young Girl Blues and Good Guy. Marianne covered Jackie DeShannon’s You Can’t Go Where the Roses Go and With You In Mind. She also covered Tim Hardin’s Don’t Make Promises and Reason To Believe. Other tracks included Lennon and McCartney’s Yesterday; John D. Loudermilk’s; This Little Bird; Bob Lind’s Counting and Bernstein and Sondheim’s I Have A Love. Ne Me Quitte Pas and Coquillages allowed Marianne to show her versatility on a couple chanson songs. Love In The Mist was shaping up to be her most eclectic album.

With seven tracks to record, Marianne entered the studio with a band. This was a first. They played on Love In The Mist, but took care not to overpower Marianne’s vocal. It veers between elegiac and ethereal, to melancholy and wistful. Sometimes it’s hopeful, but often it sounds worldweary. Marianne it seemed, had lived some of the lyrics. On several tracks, there’s a return to the understated sound of previous albums. However, Mike Leander decided to orchestrate parts of Love In The Mist. He even added subtle horns on several tracks. They work well, and should’ve played an important part in the reinvention of Marianne Faithful.

Sadly, by the time Love In The Mist was released, Marianne Faithful had been embroiled in scandal. Her decision to befriend the Rolling Stones had backfired on her badly. This could be traced back to 1965, when she left husband John Dunbar in December, and moved in with Mick Jagger not long after this. By 1965, Marianne had befriended another member of the Rolling Stones’ inner circle…Anita Pallenberg.

Marianne Faithful and Anita Pallenberg became friends in 1965 and soon, they were smoking marijuana together. Then in 1966, Marianne Faithful decided to take her son to stay with Anita Pallenberg and Rolling Stone Brian Jones. By then, Marianne Faithful was a familiar face with Mick Jagger at swinging London’s smartest and wildest parties. However, when she had   some free time she spent it with her friends.

This included Anita Pallenberg and Brian Jones. The time they spent together passed off without incident. If only the same could be said of the events of 12th February 1967.

By then, it was less than a month before Marianne Faithful would release her fourth album. On Sunday the ‘12th’ of February 1967, she was relaxing with members of the Rolling Stones’ inner circle at  Keith Richards country estate Redlands. That night, Sussex police raided Redlands looking for drugs. They claimed to have been tipped off that a drug were being consumed on the premises  When they entered Redlands, they discovered MarianneFaithful covered by just a fur rug. This would come back to haunt her.

After a search of Redlands, various tablets and substances including amphetamine and cannabis were discovered. This lead to the arrest of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. They were charged, and were facing imprisonment. However, as the story became front page news, so did the details of how the police discovered Marianne Faithful. This shocked many little Englanders, who viewed not just Mick Jagger and Keith Richards with distaste, but Marianne Faithful too.

Suddenly, the press were raking over her private life and serving up every salacious piece of petty gossip for the titillation of the little people in their two up, two downs. They stood in judgment of Marianne Faithful who was about to release a new album.

Just over three weeks later, Marianne Faithful released her fourth album, Love In A Mist on the 2nd of March 1967. Despite the quality of the music on Love In A Mist, the album never came close to troubling the charts. Whether the unwanted publicity affected sales of Love In A Mist is a matter of speculation? Following the release of Love In A Mist, Decca Records and Marianne Faithful parted company. Marianne’s Decca Records ‘ swan-song was her most underrated albums.

Love In A Mist is a genre hopping album were Marianne Faithful flits between folk, chanson and pop to country, acid folk and baroque pop. It’s a captivating roller coaster of emotion. However, sadness, melancholy and hurt feature throughout Love In A Mist. Sadly, very few people heard Love In A Mist, which makerked the end of Marianne Faithful’s career at Decca Records. It would be a long time before she reached these heights again.

Indeed, it wasn’t until 1975 that Marianne Faithful released another album Dreamin’ My Dreams. By then, Marianne Faithful had been to hell and was still on the way back. The last eight years had taken their toll.

By 1968, Marianne Faithful was pregnant but sadly, suffered a miscarriage. This must have been a devastating blow for her. At the time, the twenty-two year old singer was struggling to battling cocaine addiction. The last year of her life had been the toughest. However, she was a survivor and would be back.

In 1970, her relationship with Mick Jagger was over, and she lost custody of her son. This lead to Marianne Faithful trying to commit suicide. Over the next few years, she battled anorexia nervosa and heroin addiction. Things got so bad that for two years she was homeless in London. Mike Leander found Marianne Faithful  living on the streets of London and tried to revive her career. However, her addictions and problems made recording an album impossible.

During the early-to-mid seventies, Marianne Faithful made just a few public appearances. Many critics thought that her career was over and some feared the worst. It was a far cry from 1964, when her star was in the ascendancy and she was the brightest star in the London music scene. However, in 1975. she returned with a new album.

Dreamin’ My Dreams was released in 1975 and reached number one in Ireland. It was a start, and a step in the right direction.

When Broken English was released in 1979. the comeback of Marianne Faithful was complete. The album featured her now husky voice. Drink and drugs had taken their toll but this didn’t stop Broken English being released to critical acclaim, and selling over a million copies worldwide.

Since then, Marianne Faithful has rebuilt her life and today one of music’s true survivors celebrates her seventy-fourth birthday.  She’s written two biographies, forged a career as an actress and in 2018 released her twenty-first album Negative Capability. However, Marianne Faithful’s Decca years are regarded as the highlight of what been a long and eventful life and career.

Marianne Faithful: The Decca Years.

THE RISE OF THE DOORS.

The Rise Of The Doors.

By 1972, The Doors  had decided to call the upon their career  after the tragic death of their charismatic frontman Jim Morrison, who had died on the 3rd July 1971. The Lizard King became the latest entrant into the twenty-seven club, where he joined Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Alan Wilson and Jimi Hendrix. This meant that The Doors’ career ended at the top and their fans memories of them were never tarnished.

The Doors were never going to grow old together and they would forever be the band that featured on their final album L.A. Woman. Never would they age and nor would they make a series of ill-advised comebacks or reunions that resulted in the release of third-rate albums. That would never happen as The Doors career ended whilst they were at the top and had just released another classic album. What saddened their fans is that The Doors’ career ended in tragic circumstances. However, their many fans  still have their musical memories and can enjoy the group’s rich musical legacy.

These memories included a sextet of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums. Between 1967s The Doors and 1971s L.A. Woman, The Doors only ever released six albums. Their debut album, The Doors was certified platinum five times over. After that, four of the next five albums were certified platinum and one double platinum. That wasn’t all.

1970 saw The Doors’ release Absolutely Live which was certified gold. The same year, they released their first compilation, 13 in January 1970, and it was certified platinum. Then six months of the tragic loss of Jim Morrison, a second Doors’ compilation was released, Weird Scenes From Inside The Gold Mine. It was  a fitting tribute to one of rock’s greatest ever groups, The Doors. Their career began in LA in late-1965.

The Doors were formed in Los Angeles in 1965 and took their name from Aldous Huxley’s seminal book The Doors Of Perception. The nascent quartet was led by the charismatic vocalist Jim Morrison. 

Jim Morrison was more than a singer and was also a lyricist and poet. He was a free spirit, charismatic, enigmatic and wildly unpredictable. Life was for living and Jim Morrison lived a thousand lives in twenty-seven years. However, The Doors weren’t a one man band.

The Doors’ success was down to the four band members and this included drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzarek. Together, they were about to enjoy the kind of commercial success and critical acclaim that they could  only have dreamed of. 

The Doors got their break in 1966 when they signed to Elektra Records. It was the first label to spot the potential in psychedelic rock and before long it started signing up a whole host of psychedelic rock bands. Among the most successful were Love and The Doors who recorded their debut album in the summer and autumn of 1966.

The Doors.

By then, classic lineup of The Doors had been together since late-1965 and Bobby Krieger had only been  playing the guitar for six months. During that time, they were a familiar face on the LA live scene where they honed their sound and the songs the group had written.

By the time The Doors arrived at Sunset Sound Recorders, in Hollywood, Los Angeles,  they had already written eight of the ten tracks that would eventually feature on the album. This included Break On Through (To The Other Side), Soul Kitchen, The Crystal Ship and The End. They were joined by covers of Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) and Back Door Man  on The Doors. It was recorded between the August the ‘29th’ to September the ‘23rd’ 1966 and was produced by Paul A. Rothchild. 

Six months later, on 4th January 1967, The Doors was released to mostly positive reviews. It opened with Break On Through (To The Other Side) which invited listeners to expand their consciousness and was bookended with The End an example of Jim Morrison’s rock poetry. The Doors was hailed by some critics as a future classic and would become one of the group’s most influential album.

Break On Through (To the Other Side) was released as the lead single in January 1967 but stalled at 126 in the US Billboard 100. This was an inauspicious result for The Doors’ debut single.

Gradually, The Doors reached number two in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum five times over. Meanwhile the album was was certified platinum in Germany, certified platinum twice in the UK; three times platinum in France and four times platinum in Canada. This was helped by the commercial success of Light My Fire.

 Light My Fire was released in April 1967 and reached number one on the US Billboard 100 charts. It became a Doors’ classic and so would several songs from the group’s sophomore album, Strange Days.

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Strange Days.

The Doors returned to Sunset Sound Recorders, in Hollywood, LA, in May 1967 and during breaks in their touring schedule recorded what become their sophomore album Strange Days. It featured ten tracks written by The Doors which were produced by Paul A. Rothchild and completed in August 1956.

Eight months later, on the The Doors released their sophomore album Strange Days on the on the ‘25th’ of September 1967. It was released to the same widespread critical acclaim as The Doors and hailed a heavy, psychedelic classic. Strange Days featured some of the most psychedelic songs The Doors ever released. Among them were Strange Days, Love Me Two Times, When The Music’s Over and the moody, haunting People Are Strange. 

When Strange Days was released it reached number three in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in another platinum disc for The Doors. The lead single People Are Strange reached twelve in the US Billboard 100 whole the followup Love Me Two Times reached just twenty-five. This was just part of the story.

Elsewhere, Strange Days was certified gold in Germany and Britain; two times gold in France and platinum in Canada. Eventually, nine million copies of The Doors’ sophomore album were sold worldwide. That’s no surprise given the psychedelic delights of Strange Days which later became The Doors’ second classic album.

However, by the time The Doors released Strange Days they were already one of the heaviest, psychedelic rock bands of the sixties. The chameleon-like band were led by the charismatic Lizard King and critics wondered what direction their music would head? 

 

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Waiting For The Sun.

In January 1968 The Doors headed to TTG studio to record their third album with producer Paul A. Rothchild. Just like Strange Days, many of the songs had been written before The Doors signed their recording contract with Elektra. The Doors had matured early as songwriters and had enough material for several albums of material. This included Waiting For The Sun. However, the album which  was completed in May 1968 and would be released two months later has almost exhausted the band’s stock of songs.

On the ‘3rd’ of July 1968 The Doors release their much-anticipated third album Waiting For The Sun. Although it was generally well received many critics believed the album lacked the quality of The Doors and Strange Days.

Despite that, Waiting For The Sun became The Doors’ first number one album. The album also gave the The Doors’ their second platinum album. Just like their two previous albums, Waiting For The Sun was a huge success worldwide and eventually sold seven million copies worldwide.

When it was released, Waiting For The Sun was certified gold in Britain and Germany; double gold in France and platinum in Canada. Whether it was Britain, Europe or North America,The Doors were providing the soundtrack to a generation’s life

This included the two singles which were released from Waiting For The Sun. The lead single was The Unknown Soldier which stalled at thirty-nine in the US Billboard 100. It was Jim Morrison’s reaction to the Vietnam War and was a poignant, dramatic anti-war song that gave voice to the frustration and anger a generation felt. Instantly, The Doors became the voice of a generation and this showed another side to their music.

Very different was the second single from Waiting For The Sun, Hello I Love You which is a two minute, timeless pop anthem that topped the US Billboard 100. On the B-Side was Love Street which started life as a poem and became a baroque pop song. It’s another example of Jim Morrison’s talents as a poet and lyricist. 

Despite some disappointing reviews, The Doors were celebrating they first number one album and their first number one single. The big question was how would The Doors top Waiting For The Sun?

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The Soft Parade.

After the commercial success of Waiting For The Sun The Doors were being offered vast sums of money to play live. They embarked upon a gruelling touring schedule and it was a case of fitting recording sessions in when they could. This wasn’t ideal and there was very little time to write and develop new songs. 

To complicate matters, Jim Morrison the “acid-evangelist of rock,” was behaving erratically, drinking heavily and suffering from anxiety. At one point he thought that  he was about to have a nervous breakdown. Things were becoming increasingly difficult for The Doors’ charismatic frontman who was struggling to cope with his newfound fame. So much so, that he considered leaving the band but Ray Manzarek convinced him to complete the album.

Jim Morrison was also spending more time writing poetry and was less involved with the songwriting process. This meant that the Lizard King and Robby Krieger had to divide songwriting duties. They each wrote four songs each and joined forces to write Do It. The nine new songs were recorded at Elektra Sound West with Paul A. Rothchild who encouraged the band to change and develop their sound.

On The Soft Parade The Doors dispensed with the stripped down, understated sound of their first three albums. Instead, Paul Harris who was an arranger for the Los Angeles Philharmonic was brought onboard to arrange the strings and horns which were played by local jazz musicians. They were joined by session musicians Doug Lubahn and Harvey Brooks who were both bassists and were drafted in by producer Paul A. Rothschild who was also going through a difficult time.

By then, Paul A. Rothschild was addicted to cocaine and took control of the sessions. The Doors hadn’t any readymade songs and what they had was work in progress. This resulted in numerous takes of each song being recorded. It didn’t help that the Lizard King lacked enthusiasm during the sessions.  Engineer Bruce Botnick later remarked that: “It was like pulling teeth to get Jim into it.”  The Soft Machine wasn’t an easy album to record and it took until early 1969 to complete and cost $80,000 to record.

The Doors flitted between art rock, blues rock, fusion and psychedelic rock on The Soft Parade where producer Paul A. Rothschild tried to get the band to reinvent their original sound. Music was evolving and he knew that The Doors music had to evolve. 

This genre-melting The Soft Parade had the potential to become the most ambitious release of their career. It was a good idea in theory but with the Lizard King seemingly uninterested in writing and recording the album it wasn’t up to the standards of their first two albums. 

The Soft Parade was released on the ‘21st’ of July 1969. Never before had a year passed before The Doors’ released an album. That was  until they released The Soft Parade which showcased their new sound. However, some fans and critics didn’t welcome this change of sound and  also had a problem with the lyrics.

Some critics and fans felt that The Soft Parade was the group’s weakest album. They also felt that the lyrics on the album were formulaic. The accusation was that the group were now following a formula when it came to writing lyrics. This was disappointing given that when The Doors released Waiting For The Sun they were regarded as the voice of a generation. Something had to change if The Doors were to make up the ground that they had lost. Despite this, The Soft Parade and the singles were a  commercial success.

In December 1968, The Doors released Who Scared You as a single. Although it didn’t feature on The Soft Parade it  reached number three in the US Billboard 100.  This augured well for the release of The Doors’ fourth album.

When The Soft Parade was released it reached number six in the US Billboard 200 charts and was The Doors’ least successful album. Despite that, it still was certified platinum in America and across the border in Canada. Elsewhere, The Soft Parade  didn’t sell in the same quantities as their three previous albums and it was only certified silver in Britain. This was disappointment and so was the performance of the singles. 

Wishful Sinful reached forty-four in the US Billboard 100 while Tell All The People stalled at fifty-seven. Then Runnin’ Blue reached a lowly sixty-four in the US Billboard 100. The commercial failure of the three singles released from The Soft Parade was a disappointment for  The Doors. By then, critics were wondering what was next for The Doors?

Especially after the events of the ‘1st’ of March 1969 when a drunken Jim Morrison took to the stage in front of an audience of 12,000 at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Coconut Grove, Florida. That night, it’s alleged that he exposed himself during the concert. This resulted in him being charged with indecent exposure on the ‘4th’ of April 1969 and resulted in  a March For Decency” at the Miami Orange Bowl. 

The rest of The Doors’ tour was cancelled and their records were blacklisted by radio stations. To add to their woes, twenty-five concerts on their next tour were cancelled. Drummer John Densmore estimated that the cancellation of the concerts cost the band one million dollars. It was a disaster for The Doors.

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Morrison Hotel.

Eight months after that fateful night in Florida that proved so controversial and costly for The Doors started  recording their fifth album. By then, Jim Morrison was trying to shed his Lizard King image and had got rid of his stage leathers and had grown a beard. Worryingly his weight had ballooned, his alcoholism was worsening and he was becoming increasingly unpredictable.

Having just stared recording the new album, Jim Morrison decided to fly to Phoenix to see the Rolling Stones in concert. During the flight the drunken Lizard King caused a disturbance and was charged under a recently introduced skyjacking law. He could be sentenced to  ten years in jail or fined up to $10,000.  The Doors could’ve been looking for a new frontman.

The Doors entered Elektra Sound Recorders in November 1969.  This time around, Jim Morrison had written four new songs, cowrote five with Robby Krieger and two with the rest of The Doors. These songs would become Morrison Hotel.

Joining The Doors in the studio was John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful who played harmonica on Roadhouse Blues. Just like on The Soft Parade two bassists were used. This included session musician Ray Neapolitan and blues rock pioneer Lonnie Mack. His addition made sense as The Doors flitted between psychedelic rock and blues rock on Morrison Hotel. It was completed in January 1970.

Just a month later, Morrison Hotel was released on the ‘9th’ of February 1970. The first side was entitled Hard Rock Cafe and featured classic tracks like Roadhouse Blues,  Waiting For The Sun and Peace Frog.  Amongst highlights of the second side which is entitled Morrison Hotel are The Spy and Indian summer. 

When Morrison Hotel was released it was billed as The Doors’ comeback album. Critical acclaim accompanied an album that an album of blues rock, hard rock and psychedelic rock which reached number four in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. The Doors were back with their best album since Strange Days. However, the only disappointment was when the single You Make Me Real stalled at fifty in the US Billboard 100..

Elsewhere, Morrison Hotel was certified gold in Austria, Britain and Switzerland. In Canada, France, Poland and Spain The Doors’ comeback album was certified platinum and became their most successful album since Strange Days. The Doors were back with one of their finest albums and a future classic.

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Absolutely Live.

Just five months after the release of Morrison Hotel, The Doors released their first live album, Absolutely Live. It was a double album that had been compiled from concerts that took place between July the ‘21st’ 1969  to May the ‘8th’. 1970.  Producer Paul A. Rothchild claimed that he had edited different versions of songs to create: “the ultimate concert…I couldn’t get complete takes of a lot of songs, so sometimes I’d cut from Detroit to Philadelphia in mid-song. There must be 2,000 edits on that album”

When Absolutely Live was released on the ‘20th’ of July 1970 the reviews were mixed. Some critics, including Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote favourable reviews, while other were highly critical of the Lizard King’s performances. This included Gloria Vanjak in Rolling Stone magazine. It seemed that even 2,000 edits couldn’t salvage Absolutely Live.

On its release Absolutely Live sold just 225,000 copes and reached number eight in the US Billboard 200. Eventually  The Doors’ first live album was certified gold. The same year, they released their first compilation, 13 and the commercial success kept on coming.

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13.

Released in November 1970, 13 featured some of greatest music The Doors released between 1967 and 1967. So, it’s no surprise that it reached number twenty-five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in 13 being certified platinum. It seemed The Doors could do no wrong.

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L.A. Woman.

L.A. Woman was recorded between December 1970 and January 1971 at The Doors’ Workshop, Los Angeles. This time there was no sign of longtime Doors’ producer Paul A. Rothchild. He had been replaced by Bruce Botnick who coproduced L.A. Woman with The Doors.

L.A. Woman featured nine songs penned by The Doors and a cover of John Lee Hooker’s Crawling King Snake. At this point in his life, Jim Morrison was heavily Influenced by legendary blues singers like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. This influence began on Morrison Hotel, and continued on L.A. Woman. Little did The Doors know when they completed what was their sixth studio album that it wold be the last to be released during Jim Morrison’s lifetime.

When L.A. Woman was released on 19th April 1971 it was to mostly positive reviews. Just like Morrison Hotel, L.A. Woman saw The Doors combine blues rock and psychedelic rock.  This had been a successful formula for The Doors over the last few years.

Prior to the release of L.A. Woman Love Her Madly was released as a single and reached twenty in the US Billboard 100. Then when L.A. Woman was released it reached number eight in the US Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum. When  Riders On The Storm was released it reached fourteen in the US Billboard 100 and gave The Doors another hit single. 

Meanwhile, across the world, L.A. Woman was selling in vast quantities. In Australia, L.A. Woman  was certified four times platinum; three times platinum in Canada; two times platinum in France and platinum in Spain. L.A. Woman was also certified gold in Austria, Britain, Germany and Switzerland. It was the most successful album of The Doors’ career. Their decision to return to their blues rock roots had worked. 

Just three months after the release of  L.A. Woman The Doors’ charismatic frontman Jim Morrison died on the ‘3rd’ of July 1971. Music  was in mourning at the death of the man they called The Lizard King. He was only twenty-seven and had achieved a lot in the six years The Doors were together. However, who knows what they might have gone on to achieve? 

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Other Voices.

One can only speculate the direction that The Doors’ music might have headed? They did release one further album, Other Voices. It was released in October 1971 and reached just number thirty-one in the US Billboard 200. Without the charismatic Lizard King’s vocals The Doors weren’t the same band. Despite that, they continued their career.

Weird Scenes From Inside The Gold Mine.

In January 1972, the second compilation of The Doors music was released. This was Weird Scenes From Inside The Gold Mine which reached number fifty-five in the US Billboard 200. It was certified gold and is a captivating compilation of one of the greatest bands in musical history. One of the reasons for this, is the choice of music on Weird Scenes From Inside The Gold Mine, which was a double album.

Rather than just make Weird Scenes From Inside The Gold Mine a greatest hits album it features B-Sides, rarities and album tracks. The result is a fascinating overview of one of the most innovative and pioneering bands in musical history. It’s also a fitting tribute to The Lizard King who had played a huge part in the rise of The Doors.

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Full Circle.

On August the ‘15th’ 1972, the three remaining members of The Doors returned with their second album as a trio, Full Circle. Bruce Botnick who produced L.A. Woman and their previous album declined to produce Full Circle. Instead, The Doors produced the nine tracks they recorded at A&M Studio. Joining them were some top session players which allowed the group to take their  music in new and different directions.

The result was an album where The Doors flitted between funk-rock, fusion and rock. Critics weren’t won over by the album which wasn’t the group’s finest hour. It was an unremarkable and  unfocused album that very occasionally hinted at The Doors’ past glories.  

When Full Circle was released it reached sixty-eight in the US Billboard 200. Just like Other Voices there was no gold or platinum disc. The Doors without their charismatic frontman  just weren’t the same band. Critics and the band’s fans wondered what the future held for The Doors?

In January 1973 The Doors disbanded. There was no point limping on as a trio and releasing mediocre albums. It was best to call time on their career rather than damage the band’s reputation. This looked like the end of the road for The Doors.

An American Prayer.

Five years later,  The Doors released An American Prayer on November the ‘17th’ 1978. This was an album of Jim Morrison’s poetry and also featured pieces of music and spoken word during the audio collage. Excerpts from the short film HWY: An American Pastoral, snippets from jam sessions and a composite version of Roadhouse Blues recorded in New York and Detroit were included on An American Prayer.

When An American Prayer the reviews were mixed. It was an album that divided the opinion of critics. Despite that, it reached fifty-four in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum.  An album that divided the opinion of critics and continues to do so had sold over a million copies.

The classic lineup of The Doors was formed in late-1965 and they released their eponymous debut album on the ‘4th’ of January 1967. They were at the peak of their powers between the release of The Doors in January 1967 and the release of L.A. Woman in April 1971. By then, they had released six studio albums, one live album and a compilation and in America alone, The Doors had sold over 12.5 million albums. 

Across the world, The Doors were one of the biggest selling bands of the late-sixties and early seventies. That’s no surprise as The Doors’ music was ambitious and innovative and led by the charismatic Lizard King they released a quartet of classic albums during a four year period.

This began with their 1967 debut album The Doors which they followed with Strange Days later that year. The Doors’ fifth album Morrison Hotel marked a return to form and their swansong L.A. Woman is regarded as one of their finest albums. However, their  most underrated album is The Soft Parade which is the most experimental and ambitious album of their career. Just like their quartet of classics it’s a reminder of  one of the greatest groups of the late-sixties and early seventies.

Sadly, The Doors’ career was tragically short after releasing just six studio albums. L.A. Woman was the original lineup’s swansong and  never again would they set foot in a recording studio. The original lineup of The Doors’ final album L.A. Woman was a classic and one of their most successful albums. 

After the death of Jim Morrison  the three remaining members of The Doors decided to continue and released two more albums, 1971s Other Voices and 1972s Full Circle.. Without the charismatic Lizard King at the helm  The Doors were a pale shadow of the group they once were and it was no surprise when they disbanded in 1973. Many of the group’s fans thought that they should’ve called time on their career after the death of Jim Morrison rather than limping on as a trio. 

The Doors briefly reunited in 1978 to release their ninth album An American Prayer. It was another album divided the opinion and the group soon disbanded. It was the last album the band released.  By then, seven years had passed since the death of Jim Morrison.

Despite the three remaining members releasing three decidedly average albums this hadn’t tarnished memories of The Doors. Instead, their legion of fans remembered the group in their prime. In their eyes, The Doors were forever young and would always remember the band that featured on their swansong L.A. Woman.

It brought to an end of what had be a roller coaster ride that lasted four years. During that period, The Doors had enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim but controversy was never far away. Despite that, The Doors will forever remain one of the most important, innovative, influential and successful groups in musical history whose contribution to musical history is the is six albums they released between 1967 and 1971 including a quartet of classics.

The Rise Of The Doors.

CULT CLASSIC: BEN JAGGA-HOLD ON PRETTY WOMAN.

Cult Classic: Ben Jagga-Hold On Pretty Woman.

Nowadays, every third rate, regional bar band has delusions of becoming the next Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple or Black Sabbath and spend their days dreaming of fame and fortune. Alas, these poor deluded fools shouldn’t give up their day job and should stick to pumping gas and parking cars because they usually lack one important thing…talent.  

Meanwhile,  many talented artists have released albums that through no fault of their own, never found the wider audience that they deserved. This includes Shuggie Otis, Nick Drake, Linda Perhacs and even the likes of John Martyn,  Tom Waits, Andy Bey and Jon Lucien. To these names add Nigerian singer, songwriter and arranger Ben Jagga, who released the West African boogie classic Hold On Pretty Woman.

The story begins when Nigerian singer, songwriter and arranger Ben Jagga wrote the eight tracks that would eventually become his debut album Hold On Pretty Woman. It was the only album that he would release as a solo artist, although he was a member of  Cloud 7 and The Ice Cream. However, nowadays, Ben Jagga’s is best known for his debit album Hold On Pretty Woman.

It was recorded and produced by Ephraim Nzeka of Brother To Brother at Tabansi Recording Studios. Joining Ben Jagga was a band who are responsible for tight, understated arrangements. It consisted of just drums, bass, guitar and keyboards. Adding backing vocalists was a who’s who of artists signed to the of Tabansi label. This included Bummy Olajubu, Judith Ezekoka, Zak Roberts, Eric Kol and Nkem Njoku. They were part of the all-star band that featured on Hold On Pretty Woman.

Once the album was recorded, Martin Ikebuaku,  who worked for all of the major Nigerian record labels, and is regarded as one of the architects of the West African boogie sound. This included several classics including Hold On Pretty Woman which was released by Tabansi and marks the debut of Ben Jagga.

Sadly, when Ben Jagga’s debut album Hold On Pretty Woman was released  it wasn’t a huge commercial success. It was a familiar story, in that it wasn’t until much later when DJs and record collectors picked up copies of Hold On Pretty Woman did they realise that this hidden gem was in fact a West African boogie classic. 

Opening with the title-track Hold On Pretty Woman which is a joyous, funky slice of boogie and sets the bar high.  You’re The Light Of My Life is a heartfelt soulful ballad which gives way to the heartachingly beautiful Let’s Vow We’ll Never Part where gospel and soul melt into one. You’re My Reason For Living is a gorgeous paean, while Aliyenju is a fusion of the boogie and roots reggae of Aliyenju. Just Forgive and Forget has an understated arrangement that allows the vocal to take centrestage, while It’s You Forever is another irresistible slice of West African boogie. Closing Hold On Pretty Woman is an adaptation of the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill  which is given a musical makeover and heads in the direction of what’s best described as Brit Pop. It brings to a close this West African boogie classic.

Sadly, Ben Jagga never released a followup to Hold On Pretty Woman which nowadays, is much prized amongst collectors of boogie. That comes as no surprise as it’s an album that oozes quality. Ben Jagga was companied by a tight, talented and versatile band on Hold On Pretty Woman features eight tracks that are funky, soulful and dancefloor friendly. Despite the quality of music music on Hold On Pretty Woman commercial success eluded Ben Jagga’s debut album.

It was only much later that crate digging DJs and discerning record collectors rediscovered Hold On Pretty Woman. By then, it was almost impossible to find a copy of Ben Jagga’s debut album, and especially one that was in good condition. They’re rarities and much-prized amongst DJs and collectors. That’s no surprise as Hold On Pretty Woman is an oft-overlooked hidden gem and a West African boogie classic from the multitalented Ben Jagga who should’ve reached greater heights and gone on to enjoy a successful solo career. Sadly, though, the Ben Jagga story is yet another case of what might have been? 

Cult Classic: Ben Jagga-Hold On Pretty Woman.

CULT CLASSIC: RALPH THOMAS-EASTERN STANDARD TIME.

Cult Classic: Ralph Thomas-Eastern Standard Time.

Back in 1980, saxophonist and flautist Ralph Thomas released his debut album Eastern Standard Time  on the obscure Zebra Jazz imprint. Sadly, when this future spiritual jazz cult classic failed to find  the audience it deserved until much later. 

By then, copies of Eastern Standard Time  were almost impossible to find, and when a copy came up for sale the prices were prohibitively high for most jazz fans. The majority were unable to afford a copy of Ralph Thomas ’s oft-overlooked hidden gem Eastern Standard Time which nowadays, cost in excess of $350. It’s a reminder of a Ralph Thomas cult classic which sadly, was the only solo album he released.

Ralph Thomas was born into musical family in the Windy City of Chicago in 1950. Growing up, Ralph Thomas’ principal instrument was the saxophone, but he was able to play a variety of different instruments. It was no surprise when Ralph Thomas decided to study music at one of Chicago’s most venerable institutions.

In 1969, nineteen year old Ralph Thomas nerved at the Chicago Conservatory of Music which was his  home for the next few years. During this period, he became a member of the Chicago A.A.C.M, and studied alongside  master musicians Phil Cohran and Richard Muhal Abrams. By then, Ralph Thomas was keen  to put what he had learnt into practise.

Soon, Ralph Thomas was recording with blues legend, Howlin’ Wolf and Mighty Joe Young for the Cadet imprint of Chess records. Although this was just the start of his career he was already working with some big names,

Five years later, this continued when Ralph Thomas moved to LA and continued to work as a session player ‘20th’  Century Fox and Motown. Ralph Thomas recorded with Marvin Gaye, Jermaine Jackson, Smokey Robinson and Rick James. A talented and versatile reedman, Ralph Thomas was never short of offers of work.

As the eighties dawned, Ralph Thomas was keen to embark upon a solo career.  Although Ralph Thomas enjoyed session work, he felt the time had come to record and release his debut solo album. It would be a reflection  of the music that had influenced him as a musician.

Later, Ralph Thomas described himself as a practicing ethnomusicologist and said that his musical vision had evolved during the sixties. However, by the time he came to record Eastern Standard Time his multifaceted, global approach gave the music a captivating and unique sound. “My music has always been open to different cultures and sounds Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, Mexican, Peruvian, American, Hebrew, Turkish, African, Indian and Japanese.” Ralph Thomas was inspired by different types of music from all over the world. These would influence him as a musician when  he began work on his debut album  Eastern Standard Time

For his debut album the thirty year old wrote Cafe Phillipp, E.S.T. and Spellbound and cowrote Muscavado and Venice with Lawrence Dixon. Ralph Thomas and Thierry Sharfe joined forces to write Doloreso which was joined by Joel Ector’s Big Spliff. These seven tracks were recorded by Ralph Thomas and his band and became Eastern Standard Time,

Ralph Thomas arranged and produced Eastern Standard Time, alto, tenor, soprano and baritone saxophone and flute. His rhythm section featured  drummer and percussionist Joel Vierset, Joel Ector who switched between acoustic and electric bass plus guitarist Thierry Sharfe. They were joined by flautist Joann Leauanthal, percussionist Warren Thomas and keyboardist Lawrence Dixon.

One the ‘9th’ of January 1980, Eastern Standard Time was released on Zebra Jazz, but sadly failed to find the audience it deserved. With tracks of the quality of  Cafe Phillipp, EST, Spellbound, Muscavado and Venice, Eastern Standard Time where Ralph Thomas and his talented band  combined hard bop, modal, post bop and spiritual jazz. The result was Eastern Standard Time, which was an ambitious and innovative debut album from Ralph Thomas. It passed record buyers by like so many albums released on small labels.

The problem was many small independent record labels didn’t have the financial muscle or expertise to promote an album properly. Some didn’t even have a distribution deal which meant the label was unable to get the album into shops in different towns and cities. Instead,  the album was  sold locally and often labels went round record shops trying to get them to take a one or two boxes of albums and sometimes were willing to risk a sale or return agreement. It’s no wonder that many albums released on small independent labels weren’t a commercial success. 

It wasn’t until much later that this Ralph Thomas’ spiritual jazz cult classic started to receive the recognition it deserved. By them, copies of Eastern Standard Time  were almost impossible to find, and on the rare occasion when a copy came up for sale the prices were prohibitively high for most jazz fans. Nowadays, original copies of Ralph Thomas’s Eastern Standard Time change hands for in excess of $350. That’s despite a reissue a couple of years ago. 

Forty years after Ralph Thomas’ oft-overlooked hidden gem Eastern Standard Time was released by Zebra Jazz in February 1980 and somewhat belatedly it’s starting to find the wider audience it so richly deserves. Eastern Standard Time is a reminder of a talented and versatile saxophonist and flautist at the peak of his powers  on his spiritual jazz cult classic which sadly, was also Ralph Thomas’ only solo album. 

Cult Classic: Ralph Thomas-Eastern Standard Time.

CLASSIC ALBUM: OSCAR PETERSON-MOTIONS AND EMOTIONS.

Classic Album: Oscar Peterson-Motions and Emotions.

By 1969, forty-four year old Oscar Peterson was signed to the MPS label and was well on his way to becoming one of the greatest pianists in jazz history. The man who Duke Ellington called the Maharaja of the keyboard eventually won eight Grammy awards and released over 200 recordings. This included Motions and Emotions which was released in 1969 and is a reminder of Oscar Peterson at the peak of his considerable powers.

Just a year earlier, in 1968, Oscar Peterson had signed to MPS, and began a new chapter in a recording career that began in 1945. Since then,  he had already recorded over 100 albums.

Although Oscar Peterson had only signed to MPS in 1968, he had already released four albums. This included The Way I Really Play, My Favorite Instrument, Mellow Mood and Travelin’ On. They were all released to critical acclaim and were a  commercial success. These four albums set the bar high and Oscar Peterson was keen to begin work on a new album for MPS.

This was Motions and Emotions which was arranged and conducted by the vastly experienced Claus Ogerman. He had already worked with Billie Holliday, Frank Sinatra, Antônio Carlos Jobim and now Oscar Peterson on his new album Motions and Emotions.

Before recording of Motions and Emotions began, Oscar Peterson chose ten tracks including Henry Mancini’s Sally’s Tomato, Bobby Hebb’s Sunny, Jimmy Webb’s By the Time I Get To Phoenix, Gayle Caldwell’s Wandering and Bacharach and David’s This Guy’s In Love With You. They were joined by Antônio Carlos Jobim’s Wave, Ray Evans, Jay Livingston and Mancini’s Dreamsville, Lennon and McCartney’s Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby and Bobbie Gentry’s Ode To Billie Joe. These tracks eventually became Oscar Peterson’s album Motions and Emotions.

Joining pianist Oscar Peterson were the other two members of his trio drummer Bobby Durham and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. They were joined by arranger Claus Ogerman who conducted the orchestra, was  responsible for the orchestral arrangements and co-produced Motions and Emotions with Matthias Kunnecke. When these ten familiar tracks were recorded by Oscar Peterson they became Motions and Emotions.

Sally’s Tomato opens Motions and Emotions with Oscar Peterson’s fingers gliding across the keyboard as Claus Ogerman’s orchestral arrangement provides the perfect accompaniment. It’s a similar case on Sonny, which features another flawless performance from Oscar Peterson as he plays with speed and accuracy whilst transforming this familiar song. The tempo drops on a slow, sometimes spacious and wistful rendition of By The Time I Get To Phoenix, with strings augmenting the sense of longing and yearning in the Jimmy Webb’s lyrics. Wandering is akin to musical journey, while the cover of This Guy’s In Love With You is one of the finest recorded and is the perfect homage to Bacharach and David.

Strings add a wistful cinematic sound on Wave before Oscar Peterson’s piano enters. It takes centre stage and soon, the orchestra provide the perfect accompaniment to Oscar Peterson as he gives a virtuoso performance playing with speed and flamboyance. He then reinvents Dreamsville and then Yesterday with the addition of lush strings. Then Oscar Peterson toys with the introduction of Eleanor Rigby before a walking bass and cinematic strings accompany his brisk probing piano. Ode To Billie Joe closes Motions and Emotions and features rasping, growling horns as the tempo quickens and Oscar Peterson plays with speed, confidence and fluidity before the album closes on a dramatic high.

For anyone yet to discover the delights of Oscar Peterson and unsure where to begin Motions and Emotions is the perfect place to start. It was released in 1969 in the middle of a period where Oscar Peterson could do no wrong. By then, he had released just over a 100 albums and was regarded by critics as one of the greatest jazz pianists ever. Proof of that can be found on Motions and Emotions.

It features a series of virtuoso performances by Oscar Peterson that are variously cinematic, emotive, melancholy, uplifting and full of honesty. The music on Motions and Emotions is sure to stir the emotions, and tug at the heartstrings as Oscar Peterson and Claus Ogerman’s orchestral arrangement provide the perfect accompaniment. By then, Oscar Peterson was at the peak of his considerable powers as Motions and Emotions shows, as he interprets and reinterprets a mixture of classics and familiar songs. One flawless performance follows another on Motions and Emotions which is a reminder of one, if not the greatest jazz pianists at his very best, Oscar Peterson.

Classic Album: Oscar Peterson-Motions and Emotions.

MILLIE JACKSON-21 OF THE BEST 1971-1983.

Millie Jackson-21 Of The Best 1971-1983.

Label: Westbound.

Format: CD.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Millie Jackson was one of the most talented and charismatic female vocalists of the seventies and early-eighties. She spent twelve years signed to Spring Records and released sixteen studio albums between 1972 and 1983. Three of these albums, 1974s Caught Up, 1977s Feelin’ Bitchy and 1978s Get It Out’cha System were certified gold and are a reminder of a truly versatile vocalist. So is 21 Of The Best 1971-1983 which is new Millie Jackson compilation that was recently released by Westbound, an imprint of Ace Records. 

Mildred Virginia Jackson was born on July the ’15th 1944 in Thomson, Georgia, where her father was a sharecropper. Sadly, her mother died when she young and Millie Jackson and her father moving to Newark, New Jersey with her father. By the, time she was a teenager she moved to Brooklyn to live with an aunt and by the late-fifties was working as a model for magazines like Jive and Sepia.

It wasn’t until 1964 that Millie Jackson’s musical career began. And this was only when a friend dared her to enter a talent contest in Harlem nightclub which she won. This was just the start for the twenty year old reluctant singer.

Not long after this, she made the first a string of appearances in New York clubs. This was the start of her career as a professional singer. However, it was another five years before she signed her first recording contract.

Millie Jackson signed with MGM Records in early 1969 and in April of that year released her debut single A Little Bit Of Something. The Ronnie Savoy production failed to trouble the charts and it was the only single that Millie Jackson released on MGM Records.

In 1971, Jules and Malcolm Rifkind signed Millie Jackson to their label Spring Records. Little did they realise that she would become one of their most successful signings.

Millie Jackson recorded A Child Of God (It’s Hard To Believe) with the label’s in-house producer Raeford Gerald and Don French. By then, she had honed the song’s bleak narrative and delivers a vocal that’s a mixture of frustration and anger as she rails at people’s double standards and hypocrisy. The single was  released in October 1970, and although it stalled at number 102 in the US Billboard 100 it reached twenty-two in the US R&B charts. This was the first hit of Millie Jackson’s career and was the start of the most successful period of her long career.

Four months later in February 1972, she returned with the mid-tempo dancer Ask Me What You Want. It was another Raeford Gerald and Don French production and this time it reached number seven in the US Billboard 100. This was the first o three singles that featured on Millie Jackson’s eponymous debut album which reached 166 in the US Billboard 200.

The followup was the hook-laden dancefloor filler My Man, A Sweet Man which has a strong sixties influence. When it was released in July 1972 it reached number forty-two in the US Billboard 100 it reached seven in the US R&B charts. Millie Jackson was on a roll.

In 1973, she returned with her sophomore album It Hurts So Good which was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound. When the album was released it reached 175 in the US Billboard 200 and  thirteen in the US R&B charts. The lead single  Breakaway was released in May 1973 but stalled at 110 in the US Billboard 100. However, when the sensual sounding Hurts So Good was released in August 1973 it reached twenty-four in the US Billboard 100 and three in the US R&B charts. This was the most successful single of Millie Jackson’s career. Her visit to Muscle Shoals Sound was a successful one.

Millie Jackson  third album I Got To Try It One Time was released in 1974 but failed to trouble the charts. Then when How Do You Feel The Morning After was released in May 1974 it stalled at seventy-seven in the US Billboard 100. This was a  small crumb of comfort for Millie Jackson. However, her career was transformed by her next album.

This was Caught Up was released later in 1974 and reached number twenty-one in the US Billboard 200 and number four in the US R&B Charts. It was certified gold and became the most successful album of Millie Jackson’s career. It featured a cover of (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right where Millie Jackson’s interpretation of Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson’s classic is peerless. She delivers the lyrics with meaning, feeling and a sense of hurt that seems almost real. It’s a deeply powerful and moving song that reached forty-two in the US Billboard 100 when it was released as  a single in December 1974.

Millie Jackson returned in 1975 with Still Caught Up which revisited the love triangle of Caught Up. Her fifth album  reached just number 112 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts. The lead single featured Leftovers and a cover of Tom Jans’ Loving Arms which features on the compilation. It was released in September 1975 and features an impassioned and emotive vocal. Despite the undeniable quality of the song the single failed to chart. This was another disappointment for Millie Jackson.

In 1976, she returned with Free and In Love which reached seventeen in the US R&B charts. It featured the soulful, funky dancer Bad Risk which was released as a single in June 1976. However, it also failed to chart. For Millie Jackson this was becoming a habit.

Later in 1976, she released Lovingly Yours which reached 175 in the US Billboard 200 and forty-four in the US R&B Charts. It featured the You Can’t Turn Me Off (In The Middle Of Turning Me On) which features a needy vocal from Millie Jackson. It’s one of the hidden gems on the album.

Millie Jackson’s luck changed with the released of Feelin’ Bitchy in August 1977. It reached thirty-four in the US Billboard 200 and four in the US R&B Charts. The album was recorded in Muscle Shoals and featured a Feeling Side and A Bitchy Side. When the beautiful, heartwrenching ballad If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday was released as a single in August 1977 it stalled at forty-three in the US Billboard 100. For the followup, the Southern Soul ballad All The Way Lover was released in February 1978 but missed out on the US Billboard 100 when it peaked at 102. Despite that, Millie Jackson’s career was back on track. 

When she returned in 1978 with Get It Out’cha System it reached fifty-five in the US Billboard 200 and fourteen in the US R&B Charts. This resulted in the third gold disc of Millie Jackson’s career. When Sweet Music Man was released as a single in September 1978 it reached thirty-three in the US R&B charts. It’s the B-Side side Go Out and Get Some (Get It Out’cha System) which Millie Jackson wrote with Randolph Klein that features on the compilation. So does the Benny Latimore penned single Keep The Home Fire Burnin’ which was released in December 1978 but stalled at eighty-three in the US Billboard 100. With two hit singles and the another gold disc, Millie Jackson’s career was going from strength-to-strength.

By 1979, Millie Jackson like many artists had jumped on the disco bandwagon when the released A Moment’s Pleasure. She hadn’t turned her back on soul though, and the album reached 144 in the US Billboard 200 and forty-seven in the US R&B Charts. It featured Never Change Lovers In The Middle Of The Night which was released in January 1979 and reached thirty-three in US R&B charts and saw Millie Jackson transformed into a disco diva. The album also featured a cover of Kiss You All Over which was released as a single in Britain. It’s reinvented and takes on a dancefloor friendly sound that shows another side to this familiar song.

Apart from her solo album, Millie Jackson and Isaac Hayes released Royal Rappin’s in 1979. It reached eighty in the US Billboard 200 and seventeen in the US R&B Charts. The album featured Do You Wanna Make Love which is one of the highlights of this collaboration between two giants of soul music.

During 1980, Millie Jackson released two albums including For Men Only. It featured This Is It  which was released as a single in October 1980 but failed to chart. On the B-Side was the soulful ballad This Is It Part 2 which features on the compilation and is an underrated track.

The other album Millie Jackson released in 1980 was I Had To Say It, which reached 137 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-five in the US R&B Charts. By then, Millie Jackson had honed her rap and was able to do so convincingly on the album. However, It’s Gonna Take Some Time This Time is another beautiful ballad which features a vocal that’s mixture of sadness, sensuality and emotion. It’s one of the album’s highlights.

Two years later, in 1982, Millie Jackson released Hard Times which stalled at 201 in the US Billboard 200 but reached twenty-nine in the US R&B Charts. It featured a cover William Davidson’s The Blues Don’t Get Tired Of Me which was the B-Side of Special Occasion when it was released in September 1982. However, the single failed to chart and Millie Jackson’s search for a hit continued.

In 1983, she returned with a new album E.S.P. (Extra Sexual Persuasion) which found Millie Jackson heading in the direction of funk and Hi-NRG. It reached forty in the US R&B charts. Then when I Feel Like Walkin’ In The Rain was released as a single in October 1983 the wistful sounding ballad failed to chart. It’s the one that got away for Millie Jackson.

21 Of The Best 1971-1983 features classics, hits, misses, B-sides and album tracks. There’s some of Millie Jackson’s best known songs and some oft-overlooked hidden gems from her Spring Records’ years which ended in 1983. 

The period between 1971 and 1983 was the most successful period of Millie Jackson’s career. She released a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums and singles. Three of her albums were certified gold and transformed Millie Jackson into one of the biggest names in soul music.

Sadly, by 1980 her singles were no longer as successful and by the time Millie Jackson parted company with Spring Records in 1983 even her albums were no longer selling in the same quantities. The most successful period of her career was behind her and the Spring Records years which are celebrated on 21 Of The Best 1971-1983 are a reminder Millie Jackson a truly versatile vocalist at the peak of her  powers.

Millie Jackson-21 Of The Best 1971-1983.

CAFE EXIL-NEW ADVENTURES IN EUROPEAN MUSIC 1972-1980.

Cafe Exil-New Adventures In European Music 1972-1980.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

At the end of David Bowie’s Station To Station tour in July 1976, he journeyed to Château d’Hérouville to start recording a new album.This wasn’t the followup to his critically acclaimed tenth album Station To Station. Instead, it was his friend Iggy Pop’s debut solo album, The Idiot which he was about to produce.

David Bowie had written seven of the eight songs that featured on The Idiot with Iggy Pop. The sessions began at Château d’Hérouville and later in July 1976 continued at Musicland Studios, in Munich. However, to complete the album everyone headed to another German city, Berlin.

Their destination was Hansa Studio 1, in Berlin, where they Iggy Pop and David Bowie were joined by his regular rhythm section. They took part in overdubbing and then Tony Visconti was drafted in to mix the album. He was handed tapes that were almost demo quality and described his task as: “more of a salvage job than creative mixing.” 

The Idiot was well received upon it release on March the ‘18th’ 1977 and nowadays, is regarded as a classic. So was the followup album, Lust For Life.

Just like The Idiot, Iggy Pop’s sophomore album Lust For Life was recorded in Hansa Studio 1, in Berlin, with was David Bowie taking charge of production. When Lust For Life was released by Iggy Pop on August the ’29th’ 1977 it was to critical acclaim. By then, he and David Bowie had made Berlin their home, and a new era had just begun.

This was David Bowie’s Berlin Era which began in 1976 and lasted until 1979. During this three year period, he released the Berlin Trilogy. It began with Low which was released on the ‘14th’ of January 1977 and continued nine months later with Heroes. 

It was released to critical acclaim on the ‘14th’ of October 1977 and Heroes is regarded as the finest album in David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy.

The Lodger was released on the ‘25th’ May 1970 and was the thirteenth studio album of David Bowie’s career. Although it reached number four in Britain it wasn’t as successful as previous albums. However, the final instalment in the Berlin Trilogy is now regarded as one of the most underrated of David Bowie’s career.

Originally, David Bowie travelled to Berlin to complete Iggy Pop’s debut solo album The Idiot but ended up staying three years. By then, his marriage was all but over, his finances weren’t in great shape and he was heavily addicted to cocaine. It was time for a fresh start.

He moved into a flat in Schöneberg a largely working-class district in West Berlin, which was also home to many of the city’s gay clubs. For the next three years David Bowie enjoyed living anonymously and cheaply away from the trappings of fame and the media spotlight. He also enjoyed the Kosmische Musik which was part of the soundtrack to life in West Berlin and the rest of Germany between the late-sixties and 1979.

When David Bowie went out in West Berlin, especially with Iggy Pop one of his favourite haunts was Kreuzberg’s Cafe Exil. It was where everyone from beats to the city’s intellectuals hung out. David Bowie fitted right in and it soon became one of the places he gravitated towards and felt at home. Soon, he and Iggy Pop were regular visitors to Cafe Exil which for three years was a home-from-home where they met friends and listened to the latest music.

Just like David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Bob Stanley and Jason Wood of Saint Etienne are both fans of Kosmische music, and often spend a Sunday afternoon listening to records. They pull out some of their favourite LPs and listen to them from start-to-finish. One rain soaked afternoon, every album the pair played featured European electronic music. This got them thinking about the music that was played in Kreuzberg’s Cafe Exil? 

They didn’t just restrict themselves to 1976 to 1979 when David Bowie frequented Cafe Exil. Instead, the music spans the period between 1972 to 1980 and features much more than Kosmische music.

The sixteen tracks on Cafe Exil-New Adventures In European Music 1972-1980 includes everything from Italian folk fusion and library music to motorik and progressive rock. That’s just part of the story of what’s a truly eclectic compilation.

Rubba open Cafe Exil-New Adventures In European Music 1972-1980 Way Star with the atmospheric sounding Way Star, which is taken from In Motion, their second and final album of library music they recorded for Music De Wolfe. It was produced by Albert Skinner and featured French library music legend Jacky Giordiano plus Karl Jenkins and Mike Ratledge of Soft Machine. This all-star band set the bar high for the rest of the compilation with Way Star.

The Dutch progressive rock band Focus were formed in mid-1969 and by 1971 had released their sophomore album Focus II (Making Waves). It reached number four in Holland, two in Britain and eight in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in their first gold disc in America. Buoyed by this success, Focus released Tommy as a single. It was part of an ambitious twenty-three minute instrumental piece that had fifteen parts. They were part of a hard rock adaption of Orpheus and Euridice and an updated version of Jacopo Peri’s opera Euridice. Tommy features some stunning guitar work from Jan Akkerman on who played a huge part in the sound and success of Focus. 

Amon Düül II were one of the pioneers of Kosmische Musik and released their debut album Phallus Dei in 1969. Four years later, in 1973, they released their seventh album Vive La Trance which featured A Morning Excuse. It’s one of the highlights of the this genre classic which epitomises everything that’s good about Kosmische Musik.

Steve Hillage was a student in Canterbury and became part of the city’s now legendary music scene. He worked with Gong, Egg, Kevin Ayers and Mike Oldfield before releasing his debut solo album Fish Rising in 1977. Two years later he released his third album Motivation Radio which reached number twenty-eight in the UK. One of the highlights was Octave Doctors a trippy progressive sounding track. 

Michael Rother is one of the very few musicians to have played in three of the biggest bands in the history of.  He was part of Kraftwerk, Neu! and then the supergroup Harmonia with the two members of Cluster. However, in 1976 he released his debut solo album Flammende Herzen on Sky Records. It’s also one of his finest albums and one of its highlights is the atmospheric and cinematic soundscape Feuerland.

Brian Eno spent three years recording what was one of his finest albums, Before and After Science. It was released in 1977 the year after he collaborated with German supergroup Harmonia on the album Tracks and Traces. Sadly, it disappeared in somewhat mysterious circumstance and was belatedly released in 1997. By then, Before and After Science was regarded as a classic and No One Receiving was seen as one the highlights of what’s one of sonic scientist Brian Eno’s finest hours.

By the time Popol Vuh released their third album Hosianna Mantra in 1972 their music had evolved and they embraced Kosmische Musik which they pioneered. They also released a number of soundtrack albums including Herz Aus Glas on Brain in 1977. However, the original title was Singet, Denn Der Gesang Vertreibt Die Wölfe. When Werner Herzog used some of the music in his latest film  Herz Aus Glas the film received top billing on the album cover. It featured Hüter Der Schwelle which is a mesmeric and cinematic track that’s a reminder of Kosmische pioneers Popol Vuh during one of the most fruitful periods of their long career.

After the demise of the Canterbury-based band Wilde Flowers Soft Machine were formed in Canterbury, England. They were one of the first ever British psychedelic bands and made their recording debut in 1967. Six years later, Soft Machine were signed to CBS and released one of their finest albums, Seven. By then, their lineup and sound had changed and moved in the direction of instrumental fusion. Proof of this wasPenny Hitch an atmospheric sounding track that was one of the finest moments on the album.

After studying at the Prague Academy of Musical Arts Jan Hammer moved to Boston to complete his studies at Berklee School of Music in Boston. After graduating, he toured with Sarah Vaughan and in 1976 formed the Jan Hammer Group. A year later they released their sophomore album Melodies. It featured Don’t You Know which is a soulful slice of fusion that was also released as a single in the US and Germany. 

By 1976, Cluster were about to release their fourth album Sowiesoso on Sky Records. The title-track finds Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius combining experimental and ambient music. It’s a tantalising taste of a groundbreaking album which nowadays is considered one of Cluster’s finest. It’s not just a welcome addition to Cafe Ixil-New Adventures In European Music 1972-1980 but the perfect way to close the compilation.

For anyone who likes a compilations to feature an eclectic selection of esoteric music then Cafe Ixil-New Adventures In European Music 1972-1980 will be of interest to them. Bob Stanley and Jason wood have dug deep and chosen a number of Kosmische Musik and added everything from ambient, electronic and experimental music to Italian folk fusion, library music and progressive rock. There’s contributions from a number of familiar faces as well as some new names. 

They’re feature on Cafe Ixil-New Adventures In European Music 1972-1980 which was recently released by Ace Records and is one of the best compilations released during 2020. It’s a lovingly compiled and eclectic selection that David Bowie and Iggy Pop would’ve enjoyed and approved of as they watched the world go by in Berlin’s Cafe Ixil. Forty years later and the timeless music on Cafe Ixil-New Adventures In European Music 1972-1980 is the perfect soundtrack to on a lazy Sunday afternoon whether in Bolton, Boston or Berlin. 

Cafe Ixil-New Adventures In European Music 1972-1980.

CULT CLASSIC: TIM MAIA 1970.

Cult Classic: Tim Maia 1970.

For many musicians, choosing the title for an album can prove problematic. Especially, for a debut album. As a result, many of new artists and bands have released eponymous albums.This includes everyone from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and The Allman Brothers Band to Art In America and Ash Ra Tempel. Then there’s Cluster, Dire Straits and 10CC, The Band, The Beta Band and The Doors. Eponymous debut albums it seems, have always been popular over with new artists. This included Tim Maia.

When he released his debut album in 1970 it was entitled Tim Maia.  It seemed he was following in the footsteps of many other artists. Following the success of his debut album, Tim Maia returned in 1971 with his sophomore album. It too was entitled Tim Maia. So were his third and fourth albums. This was guaranteed to cause confusion.

Nowadays, Tim Maia’s debut album  is known as Tim Maia 1970. It was the start of of a three year period when he released some of the best music of his long and illustrious career. 

Tim Maia was a hugely talented, charismatic and larger life singer  who lived life on the edge and was determined to do things his way. Early on, he realised he was only here for a visit and was going to live life to the full. It was as if he was determined that he would have no regrets. He  packed a lot of living into fifty-years but still left behind a rich musical legacy. The Tim Maia story began in Brazil in 1942

On September ‘28th’ 1942, Tim Maia born in Rio De Janeiro and was the eighteenth of nineteen children. Aged just six, he earned a living delivering homemade food which his mother cooked. This would be the nearest he got to an ordinary job. After that, he devoted himself to music.

At the age of eight, Tim Maia had already written his first song and by the time he was fourteen  had learnt to play the drums and formed his first group Os Tijucanos do Ritmo. They were a short-lived group who were only together for a year. During that period, he took guitar lessons and was soon a proficient guitarist and was able to teach his friends. With some of his friends, Tim Maia formed a new group in 1957. 

This time, it was the vocal harmony group The Sputniks. Not longer after the nascent group was formed in 1957 they made a television appearance on Carlos Eduardo Imperial’s Clube do Rock. Again the group was a short-lived affair and this resulted in Tim Maia embarking upon a solo career. This lasted until 1959 when the seventeen year old singer made the decision to emigrate.

Tim Maia decided to head to America which he believed he was heading for the land of opportunity. With just twelve dollars in his pocket and unable to speak English he arrived in America and called himself Jimmy at customs. Somehow, he managed to bluff his way into the country by saying he was a student.

He lived with his extended family in Tarrytown, New York and worked various casual jobs and augmented his meagre earnings by allegedly committing petty crimes. Soon, he learnt to speak and sing English and this lead to him forming a vocal group The Ideals.

During his time with The Ideals, they recorded a demo of New Love, which Tim Maia had written the lyrics to. Making a guest appearance on the demo was percussionist Milton Banana. Nothing came of the demo and he later resurrected the song for his album Tim Maia 1973. However, by the time Tim Maia recorded New Love with The Ideals he planned on never returning home to Brazil. America was now his home. That was until things went awry for him.

Confusion surrounds why Tim Maia left America and returned home to his native Brazil. There’s two conflicting accounts. The first was that he was arrested on possession of cannabis in 1963, and deported shortly thereafter. That seems unlikely as there were punitive penalties for possession of even a small quantity of cannabis in the sixties. This meant it was unlikely he would’ve been just deported, without serving a jail sentence. 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. He got and lost several jobs, and was arrested several times. It was around this time that he decided to move to São Paulo where he hoped he could get his career back on track.

Having moved to São Paulo, Tim Maia hoped that he would be reunited with one of the former members of The Sputniks. He was hoping to meet Carlos who he hoped could kickstart his musical career. This was ironic as Tim Maia had insulted Carlos before he left the group. It’s no surprise his former bandmate proved inaccessible and he had to make his own way in the São Paulo music scene.

Tim Maia made an appearance on Wilson Simonal’s radio show and then appeared with Os Mutantes on local television. Still, though, he was determined to contact Carlos and sent a homemade demo. Eventually, his persistence paid off.

Carlos on hearing the demo, recommended Tim Maia to CBS. When they heard the demo they offered him a recording deal for a single, and an appearance on the Jovem Guarda television program. His first single was Meu País which was released in 1968 but failed commercially. So did the followup These Are the Songs which he recorded in English. By then, things weren’t looking good for Tim Maia.

His luck changed when Tim wrote These Are the Songs for Carlos. It gave his friend a hit single. At last, things were looking up for Tim Maia.

Things continued to improve when Elis Regina became entranced by  These Are the Songs. Elis Regina asked Tim Maia to duet with her on the song. They recorded the song in English and Portuguese and the song featured on Elis’ 1970 album Em Pieno Veroa. This gave Tim Maia’s career a huge boost. Recording with such a famous Brazilian singer lead to him signing a recording contract with Polydor. 

1970.

Having signed to Polydor, Tim Maia somewhat belatedly began to work on his eponymous debut album.  Tim Maia was fast approaching his twenty-eighth birthday, and musically, had a lot of catching up to do.

Soon, work began on Tim Maia’s debut album. He began writing new songs and choosing cover versions for his what became Tim Maia 1970. Eventually, he had twelve songs he planned to record.

Tim Maia wrote three songs himself and cowrote three others. He wrote Jurema, Flamengo and Azul Da Cor Do Mar and cowrote  Cristina and Cristina Nº 2 with Carlos Imperial. Then Tim Maia penned Padre Cícero with his friend Cassiano.

He then wrote Você Fingiu before Cassiano joined forces with  Silvio Rochael to write Eu Amo Você and Primavera (Vai Chuva) with Silvio Rochael. They were joined by João Do Vale and Luiz Wanderley’s Coroné Antônio Bento, Fabio and Paulo Imperial’s Risos and Claudio Roditi’s Tributo À Booker Pittman. These songs were  recorded with producers Arnaldo Saccomani and Jairo Pires.

Accompanying Tim Maia was a relatively small but tight and talented band. The rhythm section provided the heartbeat and were augmented by keyboards, piano percussion and vibes. Meanwhile, Tim laid down his vocals and added acoustic guitar. Later, strings were overdubbed on six tracks. Only then was Tim Maia 1970 complete. Little did any of the musicians realise that they know that they were about to make musical history. 

When Tim Maia 1970 was released later in 1970, the album was hailed a groundbreaking, genre-melting classic by critics. The album was a successful and seamless marriage disparate genres. Soul, funk, samba and Baião rubbed shoulders with hints of easy listening and soul jazz on an album that featured three future Tim Maia classics. They show different sides to Tim Maia.

This includes the album opener Coroné Antonio Bento which is a stomping fusion of soul and funk where Tim Maia’s vocal becomes a vamp.

The ballads are where Tim Maia comes into his own. This includes Cristina and Padre Cícero are soul-baring ballads. So are Você Fingiu and Eu Amo Você where the lushest strings prove the perfect accompaniment to the vocal. However, there’s more to Tim Maia 1970 than ballads.

Jurema sounds as if was recorded in Memphis as stabs of brassy horns and soaring harmonies accompany Ti mMaia as his soulful vocal becomes a vamp. It’s a similar case on Cristina Nº 2, where soul meets funk as his vocal becomes a swaggering vamp.

Risos is a mid-tempo track that floats along and constantly captivates. Then Tributo À Booker Pittman which closes Tim Maia 1970 has a jazz-tinged, soulful sound. This shows Tim Maia’s versatility as seamlessly he switches between and combines musical genres. This he’s been doing throughout Tim Maia 1970.

When Tim Maia 1970 was released this marriage of soul and funk with samba and Baião was a first. No Brazilian artist had attempted this before. It was unheard of. However, it  proved popular amongst record buyers. 

Tim Maia was released in 1970, and spent twenty-four weeks in the upper reaches of the Brazilian charts. It had been a long, hard struggle ever since he was deported from America. Since then, he had been struggling to make a breakthrough. With his twenty-eighth birthday approaching Tim Maia’s star was in the ascendancy.  This should’ve been the start of a long and glittering career.

Instead, Tim Maia’s career was a mixture of genius, farce and tragedy where the hugely talented, charismatic and larger life singer proved to  fundamentally  flawed. Thing went well for Tim Maia initially.

The following year 1971, he released his much-anticipated sophomore album, Tim Maia 1971. Just like its predecessor it was hailed as another groundbreaking album. Critics were won over by an imaginative fusion of soul, funk, samba and Baião which even featured hints of jazz, psychedelia and rock. It was an ambitious and innovative album of genre-melting music that won over critics and was released to critical acclaim. 

Tim Maia 1971 sold well and again entered the higher reaches of the Brazilian charts . It also featured two hit singles, Não Quero Dinheiro (Só Quero Amar) and Preciso Aprender a Ser Só. Tim Maia’s star was still in the ascendancy and it looked as if he was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest stars in Brazilian music. That should’ve been the case given the quality of music on Tim Maia 1971.

After the success of his sophomore album Tim Maia headed to London to celebrate. He had  just enjoyed two successful albums after six years of struggling to make a breakthrough. Now it was time to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of his labour. However, it was during this trip to London, that Tim first discovered his love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle which would later derail his career. 

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

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

Over the next two years, Tim Maia’s released two further albums,  Tim Maia 1972 and Tim Maia 1973. Both albums were released to critical acclaim and he enjoyed commercial further commerial  success in Brazil. The only problem was after Tim Maia 1973, he became unhappy at the royalty rate he was receiving from his publisher. Not long after this, Tim Maia founded his own publishing company Seroma. This coincided with Tim signing to RCA Victor.

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

Seeking inspiration for the lyrics Tim Maia decided to visit Tibério Gaspar as  the pair had previously written songs together. That was where he found a book that would change his life and sadly,  not for the better.

That book was the Universo em Desencanto (Universe in Disenchantment) which revolved around the cult of Rational Culture. They didn’t believe in eating red meat or using drugs. Considering Tim Maia had a voracious appetite for drink and drugs it seemed unlikely that he would join the cult. However, he did.

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

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

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

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

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

 Tim Maia quit the cult after the release of Racional Volume 2 after falling out with its leader. He felt duped and wanted Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2 destroyed. That was the past and now he wanted to move forward.

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

From 1976 right through to 1998, Tim Maia continued to release albums. He released another twenty-five albums between 1977 and 1998. By then, he had released around thirty-four albums. 

Just like his live shows, the albums were hit and miss affairs. Sometimes Tim Maia would turn up, play an outstanding set while other times he would play a mediocre or shambling set. On many occasions, he failed to turn up. He had returned to the rock and roll lifestyle and was living life to the fullest. 

The last album Tim Maia released was Nova Era Glacial in 1995. While other albums were released bearing his name right up until 1998 Nova Era Glacial is regarded as his swan-song.

Tim Maia passed away on March 15th 1998 aged just fifty-five. Sadly, by then his shows and behaviour had become unpredictable. 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 Culture.

It’s fair to say that the four album Tim Maia released prior to joining the cult were the highlights of a career that spanned three decades and thirty-four albums. The album that introduced Brazilian record buyers to one of their most talented sons, was Tim Maia 1970, the genre-melting epic that was one the highlight of his scareer.

After Tim Maia 1970,  Tim returned with his second classic album album, Tim Maia 1971. He followed this up with Tim Maia 1972 and Tim Maia 1973. They complete a quartet of albums that feature Tim Maia at his very best. Between 1970 and 1973, his star shawn the brightest.

Sadly, since his death in 1998, Tim Maia’s music has been a well-kept secret outside of his native Brazil. Even within Brazil, many record buyers haven’t heard Tim Maia’s music. Those that have, speak about his music with reverence and in hushed tones. 

Like many maverick musicians, Tim Maia’s story sees myth and reality become intertwined. Truth and reality become one,  just like his music was fusion of influences and musical genres. However, over the past few years, Tim Maia’s music has started to find a wider audience. They will embrace the reissue of Tim Maia 1970, which offers further insight into his music. 

Just like many maverick singer-songwriters, Tim Maia was touched by genius but fundamentally flawed. He could’ve, and should’ve, been a huge star. Sadly, something held him back, and stopped him from enjoying the widespread commercial success and critical acclaim his music richly deserved. This was music shaped by a multiplicity of musical influences, genres and of course, his lifestyle. His music is a compelling, captivating fusion influences and musical genres. 

Everything from soul, funk, jazz, rock, samba, bossa nova and baiao thrown into Tim Maia’s mystical and psychedelic musical melting pot. Similarly, Tim’s lifestyle including  drink, drugs, multiple-marriages and imprisonment all shaped and influenced Tim Maia’s music. It’s then given a stir by one of music’s true maverick’s, who on the verge of critical acclaim and commercial success, made a couple of decisions he would later come to regret.

The first of these was discovering L.S.D. in 1971 during a trip to London. However, it was his decision to join a cult that derailed his career. Despite eventually freeing himself from the shackles of the cult only some of his albums came close to reaching his first four. This included Tim Maia and Disco Club. Other albums were hit or miss affairs while his live shows were either outstanding, mediocre or didn’t happen. All this fuelled the mythology that surrounds Tim Maia. 

In a cruel and tragic twist of fate Tim Maia like many maverick musician died young. He was just fifty-five when he died in 1998. Since then, the mythology and rumours surrounding Tim have increased, as has his popularity.  

Tim Maia 1970 is a reminder of one of music’s larger than life characters, Tim Maia. He realised that he was only here for  a visit and embraced the excesses of the rock and roll lifestyle and lived life in the fast lane.  

Maybe without living his life in this way Tim Maia’s music wouldn’t have been as memorable, magical, eclectic and timeless? Tim Maia 1970 is all these things and more. It’s also a classic album  that influence and inspired several generations of songwriters. So did the followup Tim Maia 1971  and nowadays  both albums are regarded as classic albums in Brazil and  among the highlights of his three decade recording career.  However, the album that launched his career was Tim Maia 1970 which is the work of a charismatic singer-songwriter career who was touched by genius but fundamentally flawed.

Cult Classic: Tim Maia 1970.

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CULT CLASSIC: ALICE CLARK-ALICE CLARK.

Alice Clark-Alice Clark.

Sadly, all too often, hype and image has triumphed over talent, while commercial success and critical acclaim eludes truly talented artists. Chastened by the experience, many of these artists turn their back on the music industry. They’re content to return to civvy street, free from a world populated by A&R executives, PR companies and radio pluggers. At least the artist knows that they gave it their best shot. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Now they begin the first day of the rest of their life.

This is what happened to Brooklyn born soul singer Alice Clark. Her career began in 1968, and was over by 1972. During that four-year period, Alice Clark recorded just fifteen songs during three recording session. This includes two singles, and her 1972 album Alice Clark which nowadays is regarded as a cult classic.  

Sadly, after commercial success eluded her, Alice Clark career turned her back on music. Since then, Alice Clark has remained  one of the soul music’s best kept secrets.  She’s also one of music’s music enigmatic figures.

Very little is known about Alice Clark. Indeed, her story is almost shrouded in mystery. All that’s known, is that Alice Clark was born in Brooklyn, and shared the same manager as The Crystals. It was her manager that introduced Alice to singer-songwriter Billy Vera. 

The meeting took place at  Billy Vera’s publishers, April-Blackwood Music. That afternoon, Billy spent time teaching her some songs that he had written. These songs would be recorded in 1969.

By the time the recording session took place, Alice Clark had taken to occasionally phoning Billy Vera. However, Alice who seems to have been a private person, only ever made small talk. Despite this, Billy remembers: “I got the impression her home life wasn’t that great.” He remembers that Alice: “had kids and belonged to a religious order.” These are the only thing Billy can remember about Alice. However, what nobody who heard Alice as she made her recording debut will forget is…her voice.

For the 1969 session, Jubliee’s studio was chosen. Billy Vera who wrote and would produce the three tracks put together a tight and talented band. The rhythm section featured drummer Earl Williams, bassist Tyrell and guitarists Butch Mann and Billy Vera. They were augmented by trumpeter Money Johnson and backing vocalist Tasha Thomas. This was the band that accompanied Alice Clark on You Got A Deal, Say You’ll Never Leave Me and Before Her Time. Alice Clark delivered confident and assured performances. Two of these songs became Alice’s debut single.

With the three songs recorded, the Rainy Day label decided to release You Got A Deal in January 1968. It was a driving slice of soul, with a feisty, vocal from Alice. Horns and harmonies accompany Alice as she’s transformed into a self-assured soul singer. The flip side was Say You’ll Never, a quite beautiful ballad. A number of radio stations began playing the song. Despite this, Alice Clark’s first single wasn’t a commercial success. It was an inauspicious start to Alice’s career.

Nothing was heard off Alice Clark until March 1969. By then, Alice had recorded her sophomore single. This was the George Kerr, Michael Valvano and Sylvia Moy penned You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me). On the flip-side was Arthur Mitchell and Eddie Jones’ Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed). The two songs were produced by George and Napoleon Kerr. This GWP Production was released on Warner Bros. Alice Clark was going up in the world.

Alas commercial success continued to elude Alice Clark. When You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) was released as a single, it failed to trouble the charts. That was despite featuring impassioned, hurt-filled vocal.  Tucked away on the B-Side was another ballad, Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed). It  features a heartfelt vocal from Alice Clark where the secular and spiritual collide. Both sides of Alice Clark’s sophomore single showcased a truly talented singer. Sadly, very few people heard the single. Alice Clark was still one of music’s best kept secrets. 

For the next couple of years, Alice Clark was cast out into the musical wilderness. Then Bob Shad at Mainstream Records decided to take a chance on Alice Clark. Mainstream Records were moving into the soul market, are were signing artists. He decided that Alice Clark fitted the bill, and signed her to Mainstream Records.

Soon, work began on Alice Clark’s debut album. A total of ten tracks were chosen. This included a trio of Bobby Hebb songs, Charms Of The Arms Of Love, Don’t You Care and Hard, Hard Promises. Among the other songs were Jimmy Webb’s I Keep It Hid; Petula Clark and John Bromley’s Looking At Life; Leonard Caston’s Don’t Wonder Why; Juanita Fleming’s Never Did I Stop Loving You and Earl DeRouen’s Hey Girl. The other songs chosen were John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Maybe This Time and Leon Carr and Robert Allen’s It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone. These songs became Alice Clark.

With the material chosen, producer Bob Shad set about putting a band together. Apart from guitarist Ted Dubar, the identity of the rest of the band are unknown. However, Ernie Wilkins was drafted in to arrange the songs on Alice Clark. When it was recorded, the release was scheduled for later in 1972.

By then, three years had passed since a record bearing Alice Clark’s name had been released. You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) had disappeared without trace upon its release in March 1969. Everyone must have been hoping that history wouldn’t repeat itself. Alas, it did. 

I Keep It Hid was chosen as the lead single, with Don’t Wonder Why featuring on the B-Side. On its release, I Keep It Hid sunk without trace. Worse was to come. When Alice Clark was released, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. Very few copies of Alice Clark sold. That was a great shame.  

During the three years that Alice Clark had been away, she grown and matured as a singer. Despite this, there was to be no followup album. After Alice Clark failed commercially, Alice turned her back on music. Never again did this talented and versatile vocalist return to the studio. Alice Clark was lost to music.

During her four-year career, Alice Clark had recorded just fifteen tracks. They’re a mixture of beautiful ballads and uptempo songs. On each and every song, Alice breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Her delivers veers between heartfelt, impassioned and soul-baring, to assured, hopeful and joyous. It seems when Alice Clark stepped into a recording studio, she was transformed. 

No longer was Alice Clark the quietly spoken young mother that Billy Vera remembers. Suddenly, the God-fearing Alice Clark disappeared, and was replaced by one that wore her heart on her sleeve. She was comfortable sings songs about love and love lost, and could breathe life and meaning into songs about hope, hurt, heartbreak and betrayal. Despite her ability and versatility, Alice Clark commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Alice Clark.

Chastened by the experience, Alice Clark turned her back on the music industry. Nobody seems to know what happened to Alice Clark? Mystery surrounds this hugely talented singer, who should’ve gone on to enjoy a long and successful career. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

By 1973, You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) became a favourite on the UK Northern Soul scene. Apart from that, very few people had heard of Alice Clark or her music. It would be a  while before this changed.

As the years passed by, a few copies of Alice Clark found their way into bargain bins. Curious record collectors who chanced upon a copy of Alice Clark decided to take a chance on this little known album. Having paid their money, they discovered one of soul music’s best kept secrets,..Alice Clark. They were the lucky ones. 

Since then, Alice Clark has become a real rarity. Anyone wanting an original 1972 copy of Alice Clark on Mainstream, will need to search long and hard. If they can find a copy, it will take at least $500 to prise it out of the hands of its owner. It feature a truly talented  singer who could’ve and should’ve enjoyed widespread commercial success and critical acclaim. Sadly, for Alice Clark that wasn’t to be.

Instead, commercial success eluded Alice Clark, and in 1972, she turned her back on music. Since then, nothing has been heard of Alice Clark. Mystery surrounds Alice Clark’s life after she turned her back on music. She seems almost to have vanished into thin air. That’s a great shame. Especially given there’s been a resurgence in interest in her music and belatedly, Alice Clark’s music is finding the wider audience that it so richly deserves. What her newfound fans would like to know is whatever happened to Alice Clark?

Cult Classic: Alice Clark-Alice Clark.

CULT CLASSIC: ZACH AND GEEBAH-FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY.

Cult Classic: Zack and Geebah– For The Love Of Money.

Tabansi Records was founded in Nigeria in 1950, and filled a void when major labels like Decca and then  Philips closed the doors on their Nigerian operations. Chief (Dr) G.A.D. Tabansi who lent his name to what would become Nigeria’s most important label, recorded artists and then pressed the records at The United African Company’s pressing plant. After that, record vans promoted the latest releases in Nigerian villages. This was just the start for Tabansi Records.

In the sixties, The United African Company decided to concentrate on importing American and European music. With very little competition, Tabansi Records was able to concentrate on local  music, which The United African Company had turned its back on. This was a big mistake.

During the seventies, Tabansi Records was the most successful Nigerian label, and its founder  Chief (Dr) G.A.D. Tabansi was one of the leading light’s of country’s thriving and vibrant music scene. He had invested in the company he had founded in Onitsha, Lagos, alll these years ago, which now  had its own studios and pressing plant. The company was going from strength-to-strength.

By the eighties, Chief (Dr) G.A.D. Tabansi was joined in the company by his son Godwin. He helped with promotion and developing the artists on the Tabansi roster. This included many of Nigeria’s young and up-and coming musicians plus some of its biggest names including reggae star Majek Fashek and Felix ‘Lover Boy’ Liberty. There were many more artists who released albums on Tabansi, including Zack and Geebah, who released the album For The Love Of Money. 

For those who have yet to discover the delights of For The Love Of Money, it’s an album that features elements of Afrobeat, boogie, disco and reggae from the Liberian duo Zack and Geebah who  met in the mid-seventies.

That was when Zack Roberts and Geebah Swaray, who were both born and brought up in Liberia, but first met in Monrovia. This was after businessman Tonia Williams founded the band Liberian Dreams who released a couple of singles. After that, the group moved to Abidjan seeking further musical opportunities.

Back  home in Liberia, there was a coup in 1980, and rather than risk heading home, Zack and Geebah made their way to Nigeria where they worked as session musicians. These sessions led to their debut album For The Love Of Money, which was released on Tabansi in 1980, and straight away, was a huge commercial success across West Africa. 

Despite its success in 1980, For The Love Of Money is now a rarity which nowadays, changes hands for large sums of  money. Collectors want to hear an album where the six tracks on For The Love Of Money feature elements of Afrobeat, boogie, disco and reggae. Its a heady and tantalising brew.

Opening the album is  No Peace No Love, the first or two slices of classic boogie. The other is the title-track For The Love Of Money. They’re joined by the soulful sounding My Luck Will Shine and Home Is Home, a carefully crafted fusion of funk and reggae that hints at Toots and The Maytals. It gives way to one of the album’s highlights, Take It Easy which has an island funk influence. Then Rock To The Music which sounds like an instruction closes the album on  a resounding high. 

Zack and Geebah’s 1980 debut For The Love Of Money is a dancefloor friendly, funky and soulful and literarily oozes quality. It’s also album that is a reminder of the quality of music that Tabansi released during their eighties’ heyday. During the eighties, Tabansi with Chief (Dr) G.A.D. Tabansi was Nigeria’s premier label. The label had the uncanny knack of being able to spot and develop talent like Zack and Geebah whose 1980 debut album For The Love Of Money was one of the finest albums released on Tabansi in the early eighties and nowadays, is regarded as a cult classic. 

Cult Classic: Zack and Geebah– For The Love Of Money.

TERJE RYPDAL-CONSPIRACY.

Terje Rypdal-Conspiracy.

Label: ECM.

Format: CD.

Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal was twenty-one when he released his debut album Bleak House on Polydor in 1968. This was the start of a recording career that has spanned six decades and saw the him become one of Norway’s most successful musical exports.

Three years later, in 1971, Terje Rypdal signed to ECM which had been founded in Munich in 1969 by by Karl Egger, Manfred Eicher and Manfred Scheffner and released his eponymous sophomore album. Since then, Terje Rypdal has spent most of his career released twenty-five albums on the label including studio and live albums as well as collaborations and the albums he’s released with The Chasers. 

The most recent album that Terje Rypdal has released on ECM is Conspiracy which is his first studio album in twenty years. Conspiracy marks the welcome return of the seventy-tree year old  virtuoso guitarist and his trusty Fender Stratocaster. 

This is fitting given the guitarists that have influenced Terje Rypdal. Among them are former Shadow Hank Marvin, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. However, the music they made and continue to make is very different to Terje Rypdal’s atmospheric and evocative soundscapes that often paint pictures of his native Norway and the Norwegian landscapes. This is something that’s been missed by his legion of fans.

The return of Terje Rypdal is also perfectly timed as recently there’s been a resurgence of interest in jazz guitarists. This includes by David Torn and young British jazz guitarists like Ant Law and Rob Luft. They’ll learn from Terje Rypdal’s guitar playing on Conspiracy.

Joining guitarist Terje Rypdal on Conspiracy are drummer Pål Thowsen who has been playing on ECM releases since the seventies. So has keyboardist Ståle Storløkken. However, the youngest member of the band is Endre Hareide Hallre on Fender Precision and fretless bass. He plays an important part in the sound and success of the album and sometimes, his bass takes centrestage.

Opening Conspiracy is As If The Ghost… Was Me!? Initially the arrangement is understated with cymbals combining with the Fender Stratocaster before the rhythm section enter as the intensity grows and drums add a degree of drama. What follows is a wistful, haunting soundscape that sets the bar high for the rest of the album.

What Was I Thinking is a quite beautiful track that finds the album heading in the direction of Scandi jazz. Washes of keyboards and Endre Hareide Hallre’s bass provide the backdrop for Terje Rypdal’s guitar on what’s a quite beautiful but intense sounding track from one of the giants of Scandi jazz. 

Quite different is Conspiracy which from the get-go has a heavier, rockier and funkier sound. It shows another side to the quartet as drums pound and combines with a rolling bass as Terje Rypdal unleashes a blistering, rocky solo. Effects are added while keyboards interject as a machine gun guitar solo is sprayed across the arrangement. By then, this stunning genre-melting soundscape which is slow, dramatic and sometimes heads in the direction of fusion.

By His Lonesome is a cinematic soundscape where Endre Hareide Hallre’s bass plays a leading role. It’s atmospheric and sometimes wistful as the quartet paint pictures with music.

Baby Beautiful is an eight minute sweeping soundscape. It’s beautiful and has ruminative sound that aides and encourages the listener to reflect and contemplate as Terje Rypdal unleashes one of finest performances on Conspiracy.

Dawn closes Conspiracy and is a captivating cinematic sounding track. It’s easy to imagine the dawn breaking and in the as the rain lashes down and the wind howls on a cold winter’s day just like the one on the album cover.

Conspiracy is the first solo album from the Norwegian virtuoso guitarist Terje Rypdal. He’s enjoyed a career that’s spanned six decades and released twenty-five albums on ECM. This includes his most recent album Conspiracy where the music is atmospheric, evocative, haunting, ruminative and wistful. The soundscapes  also have a cinematic sound on this carefully crafted album which feature the welcome return of musical master craftsman Terje Rypdal, who is one of the finest purveyors of Scandi jazz.

Terje Rypdal-Conspiracy.

ODED TZUR-HERE BE DRAGONS.

Oded Tzur-Here Be Dragons.

Label: ECM.

Format: CD.

In 2015, thirty-one year old Israeli tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur released his much-anticipated debut solo album Like A Great River on Enja Records. It was released to plaudits and praise with critics heaping praise on a pioneering musician who had developed his own saxophone technique which he called Middle Path. It was truly groundbreaking technique that transformed the sound of the saxophone.

On hearing Oded Tzur play, his onetime musical mentor Hariprasad Chaurasia said: “If a curtain were to be drawn in front of him, no one could tell which instrument was being played.” Oded Tzur would use and continue to develop his new technique on his sophomore album.

Two years later, in 2017, he released Translator’s Note on  Enja Records, and just like his debut album it won over critics. Oded Tzur was two for two having just released another critically acclaimed album. Great things were forecast for one of jazz’s rising stars. Oded Tzur had come a long way since he started studying the saxophone.

Oded Tzur was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1984, and studied jazz and classical music in the Thelma Yellin High School For The Arts and then at Jerusalem Academy. Then in 2007, he enrolled at what is regarded as one of Holland’s most prestigious musical institutions.

This was the Rotterdam World Music Academy, where Oded Tzur was accepted as a disciple of Indian musical director and classical flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia. He plays the Bansuri, a side blown Indian flute, which is played in the Hindustani classical tradition. The time Oded Tzur spent studying Indian classical music was a crucial period and one that shaped him as a musician.

During this period Oded Tzur developed a new technique that extended the saxophone’s microtonal capacity. This was inspired by the way Hariprasad Chaurasia played the Bansuri and various other Indian instruments. The new technique Oded Tzur called Middle Path.

The newly named Middle Path technique allowed the saxophone to move between the notes and highlight specific microtones. It’s very different to the traditional method of saxophone playing. Oded Tzur’s mentor Hariprasad Chaurasia described the Middle Path technique: “If a curtain were to be drawn in front of him, no one could tell which instrument was being played.” This offered up all sorts of possibilities for Oded Tzur.

In 2011, Oded Tzur presented the Middle Path concept at the 2011 British Saxophone Congress which was being held at Trinity College of Music. He then made presentations at the Amsterdam Conservatory, Copenhagen Conservatory and the Juilliard School. This introduced this new gamechanger of a technique to a wider audience. 

Having established himself on the Israeli jazz scene, Oded Tzur moved to New York in 2011 and founded his first quartet with Shai Maestro, Petros Klampanis and Ziv Ravitz. It was soon attracting the attention of crisis and the Japanese jazz magazine CD Journal went as far as to call it The Coltrane Quartet Of The ‘21st’ Century. It was official, Oded Tzur was one of jazz’s rising stars.

By 2015, Oded Tzur had signed to Enja Records and later that year released the first of two critically acclaimed albums for the label. Both featured his original quartet which he founded when he arrived in New York in 2011. This included his debut album Like A Great River which launched his solo career. 

Two years later, came Translator’s Note in 2017 which was another groundbreaking album of jazz. By then, Oded Tzur had established a fanbase worldwide who had been won over by his very personal music. This also included the owner of one of jazz’s premier labels.

This was Manfred Eicher’s ECM Records who signed Oded Tzur to his label. By then, he had formed a new band which featured American drummer Johnathan Blake, Greek double bassist Petros Klampanis, Israeli pianist Nitai Hershkovitz and bandleader, composer and tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur. They began recording his third album and first for ECM, Here Be Dragons.

It was recently released by ECM and showcases the unique and inimitable sound that Oded Tzur developed after studying in Rotterdam with Hariprasad Chaurasia who had previously worked with John McLaughlin, saxophonist Jan Garbarek, percussionist Zakir Hussain and even a pop combo called The Beatles. The flautist influenced Oded Tzur and helped him develop his own sound.

“Growing up in Israel as a jazz musician I was looking for something that could be my native language, as it were. It was a tough thing to figure out at first, looking across this world of many traditions for the music that spoke to me more than anything else. What I found in Indian classical music is a laboratory of sounds. A methodical, scientific approach to pitches and notes. While it is, on the one hand, a local music, full of ornaments and elements specifically tied to its geographical and cultural point of origin, there is also something that is very universal in the ways it speaks to sound and colour and melody and rhythm.”

Oded Tzur remembers Hariprasad Chaurasia encouraging him to use a similar approach on the tenor saxophone as he did on the Bansuri. This meant deploying slurs, slides and microtonal shadings to transform the sound of the tenor saxophone. It was revolutionary, and soon Oded Tzur was able to play melodic phrases. It took time to develop what was akin to a new vocabulary for his tenor saxophone and this he called the Middle Path. It’s resulted in comparisons with John Coltrane’s innovative spiritual jazz of the sixties transformed Oded Tzur’s life.

Since then, Oded Tzur has written and lectured on the subject of the Middle Path. The thirty-six year old tenor saxophonist has written his name into jazz history and showcases his unique sound on Here Be Dragons. However, he continues to hone the Middle Path on Here Be Dragons and still sees this innovative sound as work in progress. 

While the Middle Path was influenced by Indian classical music, so are the four major original compositions on Here Be Dragons. They all try to develop what are essentially miniature ragas. Three were composed by Oded Tzur, while Charukesi is based upon the traditional Indian scale. These four tracks are part of an album that has been influenced by various cultures and musical genres. And just like his 2017 sophomore album Translator’s Note, the music is very personal and features Oded Tzur’s inimitable sound.

The album opener Here Be Dragons has an understated, calming and melodic sound with space left in the arrangement. Later, Nitai Hershkovits’ twinkling, shimmering piano adds some urgency before leaving space for the beautiful, wistful sound of Oded Tzur’s tenor saxophone. It plays a starring role and in this eight minute epic that whets the appetite for the rest of the album.

To Hold Your Hand is based on the Charukesi scale and reveals a meditative sound that encourages reflection. Drummer Johnathon Blake adds some swing and is responsible for a a much more traditional sound while Oded Tzur’s tenor saxophone sounds more like a soprano. This is a perfect example of his innovative Middle Path technique which he continues to hone.

20 Years is incredibly personal track which Oded Tzur wrote on the twentieth anniversary of his father’s death. His band reserve one of their of finest performances on this raga, which has a spiritual homage and is a beautiful tribute to his father.

The three Miniatures allow the rest of the quartet to take centrestage. Miniature 1 features just a lone piano and encourages the listener to reflect and ruminate on a composition that sounds as if it’s been inspired by Debussy. Then double bassist Petros Klampanis takes centrestage on Miniature 2. He plays slowly and carefully leaving space as if encouraging the listener to continue reflecting. When it comes to Miniature 3,  Oded Tzur’s tenor saxophone sounds like a flute as he deploys different and innovative techniques to create a series of distinctive sounds. His playing is slow, deliberate and understated and the raga wistful and ruminative. It’s quite the best of three Miniatures

It’s all change on the uptempo and joyous sounding The Dream. The quartet sound as if they’re enjoying themselves and play with a mixture of energy and enthusiasm.

To close Here Be Dragons Oded Tzur and the band don white jumpsuits as they cover Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love. It’s not the most obvious choice for a cover versions and they slow the song down and pare the arrangement back. Despite the  understated sound that familiar melody shines through as the quartet reinvent a classic track.

For anyone yet to discover Oded Tzur’s music, his recently released third album Here Be Dragons is the perfect starting place. He’s accompanied by a new band as he continues to hone his innovative and trademark Middle Path sound. 

Sometimes, nothing is as it seems as Oded Tzur uses musical sleight of hand to make his tenor saxophone sound like a soprano saxophone or a flute. To do this, takes years of practice and dedication as Oded Tzur has discovered. He’s the founding father of the revolutionary Middle Path sound and writes and lectures about it. It also transformed his music and makes  standout from the crowd.

That has been the case on the three albums he’s released between 2015 and 2020.  Oded Tzur’s  most recent is Here Be Dragons which is his debut for ECM. Here Be Dragons is a future jazz classic which was recorded in Italy by the Israeli tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur who studied Indian classical music in Rotterdam and nowadays, calls New York his home.

Oded Tzur-Here Be Dragons.

ART BLAKEY AND THE JAZZ MESSENGERS-ROOTS AND HERBS.

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers-Roots and Herbs.

Label: Blue Note Records (Tone Poet Series).

Format: LP.

Nowadays, many music historians believe that The Jazz Messengers made their live debut in 1954 and a year later recorded At the Cafe Bohemia, Volumes 1 and 2 on November the ‘23rd’ 1955. It featured the original lineup of drummer Art Blakey, bassist Doug Watkins, pianist Horace Silver and a front line of trumpeter Kenny Dorham and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley. However, this lineup would evolve over the next six years.

On February the ‘18th’ 1961, Art Blakey and the latest lineup of The Jazz Messengers journeyed to the original Van Gelder Studio, in Hackensack, New Jersey. It featured  none of the original lineup. The Jazz Messengers’ lineup had been fluid since then and would continued to be right through until 1990.

One of the new recruits was tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter who had written six new compositions for the Roots and Herbs’ sessions. This included Ping Pong, Roots and Herbs, The Back Sliders, United, Look At The Birdie and Master Mind. They would be recorded by Art Blakey and the incarnation of The Jazz Messengers.

Joining drummer Art Blakey in the rhythm section was double bassist Jymie Merritt. Two pianists were used Bobby Timmons and Walter Davis Jr and the front line featured trumpeter Lee Morgan and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter. They were about to record two albums The Freedom Rider and Roots and Herbs and were joined by engineer Rudy Van Gelder and producer Alfred Lion. Soon, the Roots and Herbs’ sessions were underway.

Five tracks that showcased Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers’ unique brand of hard bop were recorded that day. Bobby Timmons played piano on two tracks, Ping Pong and Look At The Birdie. Then Walter Davis Jr played on Roots and Herbs, United and Master Mind. By the end of the day Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers’ had nearly finished the album.

There was just one track to be recorded, so on May the ‘27th’ 1961 so Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers made the return journey to Van Gelder Studio in Hackensack, New Jersey. That day, they recorded The Back Sliders with Bobby Timmons on piano. Roots and Herbs was completed and bandleader Art Blakey must have been hoping that Blue Note Records would release the album later in 1961.

Sadly, lightning struck twice for Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers when Blue Note Records decided to shelve the release of The Freedom Rider and Roots and Herbs. This was not uncommon at Blue Note Records where releases were often postponed or shelved. However, it was frustrating for artists. Especially when this happened several times.

It had happened to the same lineup of Art Blakey and the same lineup of The Jazz Messengers the previous year. They had entered Van Gelder Studio on the ‘7th’ of August 1960 to record two albums, The Freedom Rider and Like Someone In Love. They were completed on August the ‘14th’ 1960, and bandleader Art Blakey was looking forward to their release.

The classic album A Night In Tunisia was released in 1961. However, Like Someone In Love was shelved and wasn’t released until 1964. Now it was happening all over again.

When an album was shelved for a number of years artists often worried that the music wouldn’t be relevant. Music was constantly changing and jazz was no different. 

By the late-sixties jazz was no longer was popular as it had been a decade earlier. Comparisons were being drawn with the blues which was no longer as popular and was struggling to stay relevant. Many clubs that had once hosted blues musicians now promoted concerts by rock bands. Meanwhile, a number of well known blues musicians were struggling to make a living and some had even gone back to the 9 to 5 grind. Jazz needed a saviour.

It found it in fusion. The genre was developed in the late-sixties when mucicians experimented with jazz harmony and improvisation with rock music, funk, and R&B. Soon, electric guitars, banks of keyboards and later, synths were used by the pioneers of fusion. By 1970, fusion had grown in and transformed jazz and may well have saved the genre from becoming irrelevant.

Despite the transformation of jazz since 1967, and fusion continuing to grow in popularity, Blue Note Records decided to release Roots and Herbs in October 1970. This was an album of hard bop that had been recorded nine years earlier in 1961. It was a snapshot in time and a reminder of how jazz used to sound.

When Roots and Herbs was released in October 1970, the album wasn’t the commercial success that Blue Note Records had hoped. It seemed to slip under the musical radar. However, the critics that reviewed the album realised that Roots and Herbs was one of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers’ finest album and a reminder of his inimitable brand of hard bop circa 1961.

That’s no surprise given the quality of the personnel that features on Roots and Herbs. Each member of this all-star band seamlessly unleash stunning solos and deliver a series of energetic performances. Meanwhile, bandleader Art Blakey’s playing was fluid and powerful as his swing beat provides the heartbeat throughout Roots and Herbs. 

There’s no ballads on the album which is bristling with energy as Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers work their way through the six Wayne Shorter compositions. They’re a tantalising taste of what was to come from this talented composer and a reminder of one of the best lineups of The Messengers. 

It’s ironic that Roots and Herbs was shelved by Blue Note Records and never surfaced until October 1970 as the album features a series of peerless performances. So much so, that choosing the highlights isn’t easy. However, Ping Pong, Roots and Herbs, Look At Birdie and Master Mind feature Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers at their very best. 

By the time Roots and Herbs was released, the lineup of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers had changed a number of times. Bandleader and cofounder Art Blakey wanted to play alongside the best up-and-coming jazz musicians and new names joined the band and others left. This included the five musicians that featured on Roots and Herbs who were hugely talented and all went on to enjoy successful careers. 

There’s no doubt that their time as members of The Jazz Messenger was an important part of their career and they improved as musicians. Art Blakey had high standards and wouldn’t settle for second best. That’s apparent through on Roots and Herbs where they constantly reach new heights. 

Sadly, though, Blue Note Records waited too long to release Roots and Herbs, which was recently reissued as part of their Tone Poet Series. If it had been released in 1960 or 1961 when hard bop was much more popular it might have been a bigger success than it was when it was released in October 1970. By then, fusion was King and hard bop was seen by many jazz fans as yesterday’s sound. As a result, Roots and Herbs passed many record buyers by and it never found the wider audience it deserved. 

Fifty years later and that’s starting to change. Roots and Herbs was until relatively recently one of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers’ least well known albums, but this oft-overlooked and lost hard bop classic is belatedly starting to find a wider a wider and appreciative audience . 

 Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers-Roots and Herbs.

OCEAN MOON-CRYSTAL HARMONICS.

Ocean Moon-Crystal Harmonics.

Label: Be With.

Format: LP.

2020 has been a busy year for Jon Tye of Seahawks. Earlier this year, Seahawks released a new album Island Visions, which featured a collection of library music they had recorded for KPM. The music on the album focused on the deeper, more spatial side of music. This was something that fascinated Jon Tye and he decided to explore it further on his next album.

This wasn’t another Seahawks album. Instead, he donned his Ocean Moon moniker and recorded another album of library music for KPM, Crystal Harmonics. It’s best described as an album that combines elements of ambient, new age music and  modern classical into a suite of library music. To do this, Jon Tye brought onboard some of his musical friends.

They are some of the brightest musical minds and are regarded as innovators and visionaries. This includes the master of the melody Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle and Ghostbox; vocalist Seaming To of Graham Massey’s Toolshed and Steve Moore of Zombi whose complex and innovative rhythms are a feature of Crystal Harmonics. Finally, there’s The Grid’s Richard Norris whose plays an important part in the album’s ambient sound. These musicians made their way from Derbyshire, London and America and headed to Cornwall.

When recording of Crystal Harmonics began, Ocean Moon and friends headed to The Centre Of Sound in Cornwall. They were about to record an album that would be released on KPM and it was fitting that four albums from the label’s golden era had influenced Jon Tye. The earliest was Adrian Wagner’s 1975 album The Electronic Light Orchestra. Then there was a triumvirate of albums of modern classical and new age library music from  the mid-eighties. This included Temple Of The Stars, Breath Of Life and Keith Mansfield’s Circles. These classic library music albums influenced Ocean Moon when they recorded Crystal Harmonics.

Side One.

Just like on previous projects, Jon Tye explores the sounds of spaciousness on Crystal Harmonics. The album opener meanders into being with electronic flute and bells being deployed by Ocean Moon. They play their part in a spacious, ethereal and ruminative soundscape that encourages reflection.

The arrangement to Rainbow Ripples sweeps in slowly before arpeggiated synths rise and fall as subtle beats pitter patter in the background. By now, the influence of ambient music and the Berlin School is apparent on this beautiful, dreamy and almost mesmeric soundscape. 

As And Breathe unfolds, vocalist Seaming To’s instructs the listener to “breathe.” Almost hungrily she draws air deep into her lungs as a synth drones and a subtle Fender Rhodes accompanies the vocal. The result is a track inspired by classic new age library music but that wouldn’t sound out of place on a nineties chill out compilation.

Quite different is the cinematic sounding Lost Oceans where Ocean Mean take the listener on a journey to a distant galaxy. Later, the soundscape becomes futuristic and dramatic and sounds like part of the soundtrack to a short sci-fi film.

There’s a degree of tension as New Infinity unfolds and sci-fi synths combine with sweeping pads and crisp beats. Together they create a dramatic backdrop. As the melody repeats pads sweep in and out as beeps and squeaks interject and the drama continues to build and grow before reaching a crescendo.

Closing side one of Crystal Harmonics is the celestial, ethereal  and lysergic sounding White Mirror. It floats lazily along painting pictures in the mind’s eye.

Side Two.

Spiritual sounding with an Eastern influence describes Peace Bells. It’s a beautiful, meditative soundscape that’s one of the album’s highlights. 

Revolving and Evolving meanders gently along. Synths and the sounds of a babbling brook and birds combine to create a laidback and pastoral soundscape. It sounds as if it’s been influenced not just by mid-eighties new age library music but Kominische pioneers Harmonia. 

Mountain Dreaming finds Ocean Moon combining rhythmic synths, a deliberate bursts of zither and birdsong. It’s an unusual, unlikely and imaginative combination of instruments and sounds but one that works and works well.

Playing a leading role in Forest Motion are undulating synth arpeggios, dreamy strings that float along and combine with  percussive electronics as the arrangement reveals its secrets. Later, a curveball is thrown and the tension and drama builds during this cinematic soundscape. It’s as if Ocean Moon are setting the scene. Then it’s all change as the arrangement becomes understated as a myriad of subtle sounds are added and the drama dissipates. 

Sleep Golden is very different to previous tracks and has a much more experimental sound. A piano is played slowly and hesitantly and is combined with Cantonese whispers. Meanwhile, vocals soar elegantly above the arrangement as various sounds sweep in and out during this captivating soundscape. The more one listens the more one is enchanted by it.  

The Long Path closes Crystal Harmonics. It’s a quite beautiful musical journey where bells, drones and chants combine to create a meditative and spiritual sounding soundscape.  

For anyone who is interested in library music, then Ocean Moon’s Crystal Harmonics is an album that will be of interest to them. This is an album of modern library music that has been inspired by the genre’s golden age in two ways.

The first is the album cover which is akin to a homage to KPM’s classic albums from the mid-eighties. Anyone who collects albums of library music from this period will realise that Jon Tye is tipping his hat to KPM’s house style from that period. 

During the recording of Crystal Harmonics Jon Tye has also been inspired by four albums that were released by KPM between 1975 and the mid-eighties. The earliest was Adrian Wagner’s The Electronic Light Orchestra which was released in 1975. Then in the mid-eighties Temple Of The Stars, Breath Of Life and Keith Mansfield’s Circles were released and combined elements of ambient, new age music and modern classical. The influence of these albums shines through on Crystal Harmonics, However that’s not all.

There’s also elements of avant-garde, the Berlin School, experimental and Kominische music. Listen carefully and the influence of Harmonia and Kraftwerk can also be heard. Add to this the sound of birdsong, chants, pastoral, sci-fi sounds,  synth strings and temple bells and the result is a captivating and enchanting album of modern library music where Ocean Moon set out to sooth the listener’s weary soul and succeed in doing so during what’s an antidote to these troubled times.

Ocean Moon-Crystal Harmonics.

NEIL YOUNG AFTER THE GOLD RUSH (50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION).

Neil Young-After The Gold Rush (50th Anniversary Edition).

Label: Warner.

Format: CD.

During the winter of 1970, Neil Young and his backing band Crazy Horse embarked upon a short winter tour that included a concert at Filmore East, New York, where the twenty-four year old Canadian folk rocker shared a bill with Steve Miller and Miles Davis. At the end of what was a successful tour Neil Young and Crazy Horse headed to LA and Sunset Sound Studios to begin work on his third album After The Gold Rush.

By the time the sessions began, the health of rhythm guitarist Danny Whitten was already deteriorating. He had bravely battled rheumatoid arthritis and to dull the pain he started using heroin. Soon, he was addicted and this started to affect his performance. However, he played on the sessions at Sunset Sound Studios which yielded two tracks the Neil Young composition I Believe In You and a cover of Don Gibson’s Oh, Lonesome Me.

Sadly, Danny Whitten didn’t play on all of the sessions for After The Gold Rush. After the LA sessions, Neil Young decided to record the album in a makeshift studio in the basement of his home in Topanga Canyon. This he named Redwood Studios and was where he hoped he would complete his third solo album.

This was no ordinary album. Some of songs that Neil Young had written for the album were inspired by Dean Stockwell-Herb Bermann‘s screenplay for the film After The Gold Rush. When Neil Young read the screenplay he had asked Dean Stockwell if he could produce the soundtrack? This resulted in him writing After the Gold Rush and Cripple Creek Ferry.

In the early stages of the sessions Danny Whitten and the rest of Crazy Horse were sacked partly because of the rhythm guitarist’s heavy drug use. By then, he had he had played guitar and added vocals on I Believe In You, Oh, Lonesome Me and When You Dance I Can Really Love. When Danny Whitten left the sessions it looked like his time as a member of Crazy Horse was at an end.

Having dismissed Crazy Horse, Neil Young needed to put together new backing band. He decided to bring back Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina who was joined in the rhythm section by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young bassist Greg Reeves. A surprise addition was the prodigiously talented eighteen year old Nils Lofgren of Washington DC-based band Grit who played guitar, piano and added vocals. The final member of the new backing band was pianist Jack Nitzsche. 

Other musicians were drafted in to augment the new band. This included Bill Peterson who played flugelhorn. Then when Only Love Can Break Your Heart was recorded Steven Stills joined the session and added backing vocals. Later, another familiar face would make a return.

Towards the end of recording of After The Gold Rush Danny Whitten was brought in to provide harmony vocals on Tell Me Why, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Cripple Creek Ferry, Southern Man and Till The Morning Comes. 

By June 1970, the album was complete and Neil Young and has two bands had recorded eleven songs at three studios. The first sessions took place in the winter of 1970 Sunset Sound with further sessions taking place in Sound City Studios in LA and Redwood Studio. The album became After The Gold Rush which was co-produced by Neil Young, David Briggs and Kendall Pacios.  

Just three months after completing After The Gold Rush, Reprise released Neil Young’s much-anticipated third album. When It released on the ‘19th’ of September 1970, it wasn’t well received by critics who were far from impressed. This included Langdon Winner who reviewed the album for Rolling Stone. However, Robert Christgau was more enthusiastic in his review in Village Voice. Mostly, though, critics weren’t won over by After The Gold Rush.

Despite this, Neil Young’s third solo album sold well and After The Gold Rush reached number eight on the US Billboard 200. It went on to sell over two million copies in America and was certified double platinum. In Britain,  After The Gold Rush sold over 600,000 copies and was also certified double platinum.

When it came to choose a lead single, Only Love Can Break Your Heart was chosen and released on the ’19th’ of October 1970 it reached number thirty-three in the US Billboard 100, and gave Neil Young his first top forty hit.

When You Dance I Can Really Love was released as the followup in March 1971 it stalled at a disappointing ninety-three in the US Billboard 100. 

Five years after the release of After The Gold Rush, critics were starting to change their mind about Neil Young’s third album. Some had gone as far as to call the album a masterpiece. It was and still is.

When Neil Young released After The Gold Rush in 1970, it was without doubt the finest album of his solo career. It also set the bar high for the albums that followed during a career that has now spanned six decades. Fifty years later and After The Gold Rush is now regarded as a classic album. 

Nowadays, Neil Young is regarded as a musical chameleon who constantly reinvented his music. That’s apparent on After The Gold Rush which was ostensibly an album of country folk music. It opens with the ballad Tell Me Why where he move from the hard rocking sound of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere towards folk and country sound. His heartfelt pleading vocal is accompanied by two acoustic guitars which is an effective accompaniment on this beautiful ballad.

The title-track After The Gold Rush is best described as a mystical, cinematic ballad. It was written for the end-of-the-world film that never was. 

Very different is the heartwrenching ballad Only Love Can Break Your Heart which features backing vocals from Stephen Stills. Graham Nash later claimed that Neil Young wrote the song for him and that it documents the pain and hurt he experienced after splitting up with Joni Mitchell. It’s an oft-covered classic track and one of the highlights of the album.

So is the rocky sounding protest song Southern Man. It features powerful and vivid lyrics where Neil Young sings of the racism towards African-Americans in the Southern states. He tells the story of a white man who mistreated his slaves and poses the questions when will South make amends for the fortunes made through slavery. His lyrics are poignant and powerful as he sings and wonders: I saw cotton and I saw black, tall white mansions and little shacks, Southern Man, when will you pay them back?”  

The piano led Till The Morning Comes closed the first side of After The Gold Rush. It’s melancholy and became melodic and rousing as backing vocals enter and transform this short track.   

Oh, Lonesome Me is another ballad that epitomises the country folk sound on the album. It features a hurt-filled vocal from Neil Young who sounds as if he’s experienced the heartache and loneliness he’s singing about.

Don’t Let It Bring You Down has a dramatic introduction  which is partly down to Neil Young playing his guitar in double drop C tuning. His impassioned vocal then delivers the emotive and filmic lyrics to another oft-covered ballad from After The Gold Rush.

Nils Lofgren’s piano plays an important part in the sound and success of the album and opens Birds. It’s another heartwrenching ballad about a relationship that’s gone wrong. There’s regret in Neil Young’s voice as he sings “when you see me fly away without you.” Then as the song draws to a close his vocal is tinged with emotion and sadness as he sings: “it’s over, it’s over” as if remembering what they once had.

The tempo rises on the country rocker When You Dance I Can Really Love. It shows another side to Neil Young and his band as they plug in during this optimistic sounding and anthemic love song.

I Believe In You is the most personal song on the album and benefits from an understated arrangement. This allows Neil Young’s impassioned vocal to take centrestage as he reflects. He tries to make sense of the women he’s left and even suggests that he’s unsure if he’ll be able to love and there’s even a reluctance that he will be to enter the new relationship during this powerful, confessional ballad.

Cripple Creek Ferry closes After The Gold Rush and is another short song that was written for the film that never was. Just an acoustic guitar and piano are joined by Neil Young and backing vocals on a song that sounded as if was recorded late at night as the session was drawing to a close. It’s not the most polished  performance on the album but the band sound as if they’re enjoying themselves.

Fifty years have passed since Neil Young released After The Gold Rush which nowadays, is regarded as one of his finest albums and a classic album. It features on all lists of the best albums of all time and belongs in every record collection. That comes as no surprise.

There are no weak tracks on After The Gold Rush which showcases Neil Young’s skills as a songwriter. He wrote ten of the eleven tracks including country folk love songs and his rocky protest song Southern Man. There’s even the two tracks he wrote for the soundtrack to After The Gold Rush. This includes the mystical title track and Cripple Creek Ferry. 

However, Neil Young is at his best on the ballads on the album. They’re beautiful sometimes autobiographical or cinematic and are heartwrenching and  tug at the heartstrings. One of the finest ballads was I Believe In You which was the nearest that he came to writing an MOR ballad. Just like Only Love Can Break Your Heart it’s a timeless and oft-covered track.  

For newcomers to Neil Young, his classic album After The Gold The Rush which was released fifty years ago in 1970 is the perfect place to start. After this, albums like Harvest, Tonight’s The Night, On The Beach, Rust Never Sleeps, Freedom and Harvest Moon are among the finest of the forty albums that Neil Young has released so far, during a career that has already spanned six sparkling decades.

Neil Young-After The Gold Rush (50th Anniversary Edition).

THE BRIEF RECORDING CAREER OF AMARA TOURE: 1973-1980.

The Brief Recording Career Of Amara Touré: 1973-1980. 

Amara Touré’s recording career spanned just seven years and saw him record just ten tracks. His recording career began in 1973 and was over by 1980. By then, he had recorded three singles and the four tracks that featured his 1980 album Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako. These ten tracks comprise Amara Touré’s discography.

While that might not seem like much, but for seven years, Amara Touré consistently released groundbreaking music and forty years after he called the on his record career is remembered as one of the most influential and inventive artists of his generation. His career began back in 1958.

Back then, Senegal had been won over by Son Montuno and Patchanga music. That had been the case since the early forties, when Cuba sailors first brought Son Montuno and Patchanga home from their travels. It quickly found an audience within the local music scene. Soon, Caribbean music was providing the soundtrack to many clubs in Senegal. Before long, the locals had embraced this vibrant, exotic sound. The next stop was to combine Son Montuno and Patchanga with their own music.

Soon, Caribbean music was being combined with West African and Latin music. The result was unique and unlike any other musical genre, as the music of three continents combined. This new sound was quickly embraced by local musicians and producers.

This included Ibra Kassé who also owned the Miami nightclub in Dakar. His club would at the heart of this new scene as it exploded into life. Across Dakar, bands were being formed and ballroom parties were being thrown. There were hardly enough local musicians to fulfil the demand and musicians were coming from much further afield. This included Amara Touré, a percussionist and singer from Guinea-Conakry.

Amara Touré was discovered by Ibra Kassé when he was accompanying Dexter Johnson. When Ibra Kassé first heard Amara Touré he realised the young percussionist and singer had potential and was destined for greater things.

Ibra Kassé asked Amara Touré of he wanted to become part of a new band he was putting together in Dakar. It didn’t take him long to agree. What he didn’t realise was that this new band would change Senegalese music forever.

Having agreed to move to Dakar, Amara Touré  packed his belongings and said goodbye to Guinea-Conakry. His destination was Dakar, where he was about to become a member of Le Star Band de Dakar. Little did Amara Touré know, that Le Star Band de Dakar would become one of the most important bands in the history of modern Senegalese music. 

The leader of Le Star Band de Dakar was Mady Konaté. He would mentor many up-and-coming musicians so that eventually, would be able to go on and become bandleaders in their own right. Just like many other musicians, Amara Touré severed his musical apprenticeship in Le Star Band de Dakar. From the day he was brought onboard by Ibra Kassé, Mady Konaté realised that the young percussionist was destined for greater things. 

As Mady Konaté oversaw rehearsals, he realised that Le Star Band de Dakar latest recruit was something special. Not only was Amara Touré a gifted percussionist, but he had a voice that mixed power, passion and emotion. Watching on, Mady Konaté was captivated as Amara Touré brought the songs to life, breathing meaning and emotion into the Cuban songs. Straight away, Mady Konaté saw what Ibra Kassé saw in Amara Touré. With him onboard, Mady Konaté realised that Le Star Band de Dakar were about to change Senegalese music forever.

Having joined Le Star Band de Dakar in 1958, they continued their residency at Ibra Kassé’s Miami nightclub. Soon, Le Star Band de Dakar’s star was soon in the ascendancy. They swept aside all-comers, and quickly became Dakar’s top orchestra. No other orchestra came close. This meant that patrons flocked to Ibra Kassé’s Miami nightclub. It became the only place in town and each night, was packed to the rafters. This lasted for the ten years that Amara Touré was a member of Le Star Band de Dakar. He left Le Star Band de Dakar in 1968, and a new chapter in his career began.  

While Amara Touré was enjoying his time with Le Star Band de Dakar, by 1968, he was thinking about returning home, and forming his own band. However, then he received an offer that he couldn’t turn down when he was contacted by Assane Dieye, about joining L’Ensemble Black and White.

For some time, there had been tension between members of Lynx Tall and the other members of the L’Ensemble Black and White. They thought that Lynx Tall was a “big head,” and that he was more important than the other band members. So Assane Dieye was dispatched to ask Amara Touré whether he wanted to join L’Ensemble Black and White as their new lead singer.

With Amara Touré looking for a new challenge, it made sense to accept this new offer. Especially since he would be playing with some of the top musicians in Senegal. So, Amara Touré agreed to join ’Ensemble Black and White, and journeyed to Cameroon, where they become L’Ensemble Black and White were playing. 

For five years,  the Black and White ensemble toured Cameroon relentlessly. Night after night, week after week, month after month they played live. One year became two, became three, four and five. During that period, L’Ensemble Black and White played the top venues. They were seen as the top band in Cameroon. So much so, that they were regarded as Cameroon’s presidential band. However, despite their undoubtable popularity, L’Ensemble Black and White had never recorded a single. That changed in 1973 when they entered the studio for the first time,

For their first singles, Amara Touré  and the rest of L’Ensemble Black and White headed to the studio. L’Ensemble Black and White’s lineup features Amara Touré on tenor vocal and percussion, with Ahanda on second vocal. Many members of L’Ensemble Black and White were from Cameroon, including bassist Jean-Claude N’Jo, rhythm guitarist Lucien, lead guitarist Charles and keyboardist Tina Brown. Drummer Mosquito and alto saxophonist Fete are from the Congo, while clarinet player Peter was from Nigeria. This musical league of nations entered the studio for the first time in 1973.

In total, L’Ensemble Black and White recorded just three singles with Amara Touré as lead singer. The first of these singles was N’Niyo, which featured Cuando Llegare on the B-Side. They were released on the French label Sonafric, which was an imprint of Sondisc. Despite their popularity, L’Ensemble Black and White’s debut single wasn’t a commercial success. However, at least Amara Touré had fulfilled what he set out to do.

Before he set foot in a recording studio, Amara Touré knew exactly what he wanted to do. He wanted to put on record some of the most sensual, seductive music in the history of African music. This was how he described his music. Especially a song like N’Niyo, where he delivers a truly impassioned, pleading vocal. It’s accompanied by stabs of horns and a hypnotic, meandering arrangement. Sadly, this sensuous music never found the audience Amara Touré hoped when it was released. He wasn’t going to give up though.

The followup to  N’Niyo was Temedy, a song written by Amara Touré. He also penned the B-Side Fatou. It was released in 1974 and just like N’Niyo, it wasn’t a commercial success. Nowadays, copies are extremely rare changing hands for over £150. This genre-melting single is a real hidden gem and is a prized possession amongst collectors of African music.

No wonder given its undeniable quality. It features one of Amara Touré’s finest vocals and it soon becomes apparent what Ibra Kassé and Mady Konaté saw in Amara Touré. It’s a fusion of Amara Touré’s Mandingue roots and the Senegalese sound that he mastered with Le Star Band de Dakar. This was the platform for his impassioned Afro-Cuban interpretations of Temedy and Fatou and the third single Amara Touré recorded with  L’Ensemble Black and White.

The followup L’Ensemble Black and White recorded what would be the third and final single with Amara Touré. N’Ga Digne M’Be was chosen as the single, and Lamento Cubano as the flip side. Once the two songs were recorded, N’Ga Digne M’Be was released as a single in 1975. Sadly, it was a similar story to the other two singles released by L’Ensemble Black and White and commercial success eluded N’Ga Digne M’Be. It was a huge disappointment for the members of the Ensemble Black and White.

There was further disappointment when they realised that they wouldn’t record any further singles with Amara Touré. They continued to tour with but never again entered a recording studio together. 

Right up until Amara Touré left L’Ensemble Black and White in 1980, they were still one of the most popular bands in Cameroon. They continued to tour relentlessly, playing some of the most desirable venues in the country. However, by 1980, Amara Touré wanted to expand his musical repertoire and in 1980 crossed the Cameroonian border and headed to Libreville, Gabon, where he collaborated with the L’Orchestre Masco. 

The collaboration between Amara Touré and the L’Orchestre Massako resulted in what many connoisseurs of African music consider a stonewall classic album, Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako. 

While Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako may only feature four tracks but they’re part of what’s akin to lost musical treasure. Copies of Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako were incredibly rare and don’t change hands often. When they do it’s for in excess of £230 and that’s why very few people have heard the musical gold that is Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako.

Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako.

From the opening bars of Afalago, through Tela, Salamouti and right through to the closing bars of Africa, the collaboration between Amara Touré and L’Orchestre Massako is a meeting of musical giants. Accompanied by some of the most talented musicians in the Gabon, Amara Touré reaches previously unreached musical heights. Musical genres melt into one as L’Orchestre Massako prove the perfect foil to Amara Touré’s vocal prowess. His vocals are variously heartfelt, impassioned, powerful, pleading and hopeful as twenty-two years of experience shines through, on what was Amara Touré’s swan-song.

Following the release of Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako in 1980, Amara Touré disappeared. It’s thought that he stayed in Cameroon for a while. What’s not known, is whether he’s still alive and nobody has seen or heard from Amara Touré in forty years. That’s sad and also ironic.

Not long after the disappearance of Amara Touré, his music started to find the audience it so richly deserves. Since then, his music has grown in popularity and that’s still the case today. 

Amara Touré only recording career began in 1973 and was over by 1980. During that period, he recorded just ten tracks this includes six with L’Ensemble Black and White and four with L’Orchestre Massako. These songs showcase a musical pioneer at the peak of his powers as he fuses elements of African, Afro-Cuban and Latin music. Sometimes, he even adds elements of funk, jazz, soul and rock. This results in a tantalising musical fusion that continues to captivate and is truly timeless. It’s a reminder of Amara Touré, one of the most innovative and inventive African singers and percussionists of his generation, whose music is growing in popularity and belatedly starting find the wider audience it so richly deserves.

The Brief Recording Career Of Amara Touré: 1973-1980.

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THE KINKS-LOLA VERSUS POWERMAN AND THE MONEYGOROUND AND PERCY (50th ABBIVERSARY EDITION).

The Kinks-Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround (50th Anniversary Edition).

Label: Sanctuary.

Format: CD.

By 1970, The Kinks had been through the ringer and everything that could’ve gone wrong had gone wrong. They had lost of bassist Pete Quaife in 1969  after they released their sixth album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. It was released in November 1968 and failed to chart in Britain and American. For The Kinks this was a disaster as this was the first time one of their albums failed to chart. This was a first. Surely  this was a mere blip as they were one Britain’s most popular musical exports?

Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire).

Down but not out, Ray Davies returned with Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). This was a concept album which was meant to be the soundtrack to a television play based around a story written by novelist Julian Mitchell.

The album was recorded between May and July 1969 with new bassist John Alton making his Kinks debut. It was a lavish album and horns and strings adorned Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). It was as if The Kinks were determined to get their career back on track and what better way than providing the soundtrack to television play? After all, The Kinks’ music would be heard by a large part of the British population.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be as the television play was cancelled. This presented The Kinks with a problem as they has just written the soundtrack to a play that would never be made, never mind seen. Despite this, they released Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) in October 1969. 

On its release, the album failed to chart in the UK and stalled at number 105 in the US Billboard 200 charts. For The Kinks, this was an improvement in their previous album. The two singles also gave the group minor hits.

Plastic Man was the lead single and reached number twenty-eight in Britain. Then neither Drivin’ nor Shangri-La failed to chart. The final single Victoria then reached number thirty in Britain and number sixty-two in the US Billboard 100. Maybe The Kinks luck was changing?

It wasn’t and 1970 proved to be one of the most turbulent years in The Kinks’ career. Drummer Mick Avoy’s illness meant The Kinks had to cancel all booking for ten weeks. This resulted in The Kinks American tour being cancelled. Sadly, that wasn’t the end of their problems.

In the background, The Kinks were experiencing problems with their manager and bureaucrats. It would take time to free themselves of the contractual problems and the problems with bureaucrats really hampered the groups’s career.

The Kinks had been banned from entering and touring America and were unable to build on the early success they enjoyed. That had been the case since 1965. and for four years they hadn’t played live in America. Longterm, this cost The Kinks dearly and they never quite reached the heights they should’ve. 

Belatedly, the ban on The Kinks from playing in America had been lifted in 1969. For the first time in four  years, The Kinks were able play live in America. Sadly, the concerts weren’t as successful as The Kinks and promoters had hoped. To make matters worse, illness meant the remaining concerts were cancelled and The Kinks lost the chance to make up for lost time. 

As a new decade dawned, The Kinks hoped that their luck would change. Sadly, it proved to be one of the most turbulent years of their career 

Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround.

After the disappointment of 1968s The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society and 1969s Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), The Kinks hoped that a new decade would bring about a change in fortune. For their eight album, Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, Ray Davies decided to write another concept album. This was a concept album with a difference though, it was about the music industry.

For Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, Ray Davies wrote eleven of the thirteen tracks. Dave Davies penned Strangers and Rats. The Kinks concept album is best described as a satirical, tongue-in-cheek concept examination of the various aspects of the music industry.

During the thirteen tracks, The Kinks look at the various facets of the music industry. Everyone, from music publishers, the music press, accountants, managers and The Kinks’ bette noire, music unions. The American musician’s union had stopped The Kinks playing in America for five long years and now was The Kinks opportunity for payback.

Recording of Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, took place took place between at Morgan Studios, Willesden, London. The sessions began in April and lasted until May 1970. The Kinks Mk.II then took a break until August 1970. They then worked through to September 1970. 

The latest lineup of The Kinks featured drummer and percussionist Mike Avory, bassist and guitarist John Dalton,  Dave Davies on lead guitar, slide guitar and banjo. He also took charge of lead vocal on the two tracks he wrote, Rats and Strangers. John Gosling played piano and organ, while Ray Davies sang  lead vocals, played guitar, harmonica, keyboards and resonator guitar. After four months in the studio Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround was complete.

Before the release of Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, two singles were released. The lead single was Lola, which was released in Britain on the ’12th’ of June 197 and it reached number two in Britain, Germany and Canada, four in Australia and topped the charts in Holland and New Zealand. In America, Lola reached number nine in the US Billboard 100 and gave The Kinks one of their biggest hit singles.

Then Apeman was released as a single and just like Lola, gave the group another hit single. It reached number five in Britain, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, nine in Holland and nineteen in Canada. In America, the single stalled at forty-five in the US Billboard 100. However, with two hit singles worldwide it looked as if Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, would revive The Kinks’ fortunes.

When Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround was released in November 1970 it was well received by the British music press. The majority of other reviews were positive and Rolling Stone called it: “the best Kinks album yet.” This includes contrarian critic Robert Christgau. He was one of few dissenting voices. That isn’t the case now.

Since 1970, some critics have changed their opinion of Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround. Mostly, the album has been well received by critics. However, some recent reviews have been mixed. In the main, Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround is perceived as one of The Kinks’ finest album and it certainly revived their fortunes.

Just like their previous album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround fared better in American than Britain. It reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200 charts and failed to chart in Britain. It seemed that The Kinks were more popular in America than their home country. Maybe, America got better understood the group’s latest concept album which also reached twenty-four in Australia?

Just like so many of their previous albums, Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround was eclectic off. It veered between pop, power pop, hard rock and folk. There was even a homage to the British music hall which Ray Davies was a devotee of. The Kinks combined acerbic comment, wit, nostalgia, frustration and anger. After all, The Kinks hadn’t had an easy ride at the hand of the music industry. This was apparent when Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround.

Opening Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, is Contenders, a song about bands who dream about making it big. That’s until they have to negotiate with the music publishers in Denmark Street or the unions that feature in the ballad Get Back In Line. Then there’s Lola, the best known song on the album.

Whilst not directly about the music industry, Lola is a song about the  type of people who populate the fringes of the music industry. The song is about brief romantic encounter between a young man and a transvestite. Ray Davis’ voice gets across the confusion, panic and bewilderment the narrator encounters when he sings the lyric: “walked like a woman and talked like a man.” Although Lola is the best known track on Lola Versus The Powerman and The Underground, there’s much to the album than one track.

Ray Davis then directs his ire to the television show Top Of The Pops. It was merely an arbiter of popularity, not quality. This must have frustrated him as the music he wrote was much more cerebral and incisive than most of the music that appeared on Top Of The Pops. After Top Of The Pops, business managers and accountants incur the wrath of Ray on The Moneygoround. It’s as if he’s been waiting a while to unleash his ire.

Business managers and accountants incur the wrath of Ray Davis on The Moneygoround which is a homage to the English music hall. It’s as if he’s been waiting a while to unleash the anger and frustration that has been building up. 

This Time Tomorrow and the ballad A Long Way Home finds Ray Davis reflecting on the life on the road. Gruelling, tiring and boring, he admits that he misses his family and home. 

Dave Davis then tajes charge the lead vocal on the hard rocking song Rats. It features some of the best guitar playing on the album. It’s also reminder of his talent as a singer and songwriter. The hard rocking sound continues on Powerman where The Kinks cut loose on this impressive sounding song.

Closing Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, is the poignant, wistful Got to Be Free. It’s a mixture of country and bluegrass and the way Ray Davis delivers the lyrics, it’s as if Ray feels enslaved by the contract he’s tied to. It’s as if all he longs for is to be free of the recording  contract.

Never before had anyone written a concept album about the music industry until The Kinks  released their eighth album Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround in 1970. It found the Davies brothers unleashing their acerbic comment, wit, nostalgia, frustration and anger. They turn their guns on the music industry which they felt had treated them badly. 

The only way they had of telling people about this was through their music. It proved an eye opener for music fans. Many of them had no idea how the music industry worked. Ironically, having exposed the inner workings of the music industry this proved profitable for The Kinks.

After the commercial success of Lola, The Kinks were offered a new contract by RCA Records. The Kinks negotiated hard. As a result, they were able to build their own recording studio. This made life much easier and cheaper for The Kinks. Now whenever they wanted to record new music, they could head to their own studio. All this was the result of The Kinks best known singles, Lola. 

The last few years had been tough for The Kinks in Britain as  neither Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall of The British Empire) nor Lola Versus The Powerman and The Underground had charted in Britain. At least the single Lola had given The Kinks a top ten hit single. However, mostly, times had been tough for The Kinks. 

There had been illness, managerial problems and tours cancelled. They’ had lost their original bassist Pete Quaife and been banned from playing in America for four years. Despite that, The Kinks returned with one of their biggest hit singles and Lola, and their most successful American album since The Kinks in 1969. Maybe the Davis’ brothers’ luck was changing.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case and their next seven albums failed to match the success of Lola Versus The Powerman and Moneygoround. Then their sixteenth album Sleepwalker became their most successful American album when it reached twenty-one in the US Billboard 100. It surpassed the success of their Lola Versus The Powerman and Moneygoround and became their most successful album.

Fifty years ago in 1970, The Kinks released Lola Versus The Powerman and Moneygoround, which was a concept album about the music industry that explored and exposed its practices and allowed the Davis brothers to vent their frustration and tell the record buying public how badly they had been treated and how difficult it was for them to make a living. Nowadays, Lola Versus The Powerman and Moneygoround is regarded as a minor classic and was one of the finest The Kinks released during the late-sixties and early seventies.

The Kinks-Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround (50th Anniversary Edition).

 

TOO SLOW TO DISCO NEO: THE SUNSET MANIFESTO.

Too Slow To Disco NEO: The Sunset Manifesto.

Label: How Do You Are?

Format: CD.

 As 2020 draws to a close the How Do You Are? label have just released the latest instalment in their long-running, critically acclaimed and successful compilation series, Too Slow To Disco. This is Too Slow To Disco NEO: The Sunset Manifesto which takes the series in a new and different direction.

Still the music on Too Slow To Disco NEO: The Sunset Manifesto is dancefloor friendly and features sixteen previously unreleased and exclusive floorfillers handpicked by DJ Supermarkt. Normally, they’re guaranteed to entice even the most reluctant dancer onto the dancefloor. However, with the world in the grip of a global pandemic clubs across the world have been shut and dancefloors are gathering dust. Even the glitter ball has lost its sparkle and dancers like The Three Degree are asking “when will I see you again?”

Some desperate dancers needing their weekly fix are recreating Saturday Night Fever in their kitchen or lounge. Alas, it’s a sad sight as a masked lone dancer takes to the floor so not to upset Bungle, Shifty, Hapless, Notso or the Brothers Doom who resemble two Kraftwerk dummies albeit without the personality. 

Across the border, Nasty Nic,  the Nutty Nat’s and the Nodding Dentist have outlawed dancing or any form of enjoyment. Couples aren’t even allowed to enjoy a socially distanced smooch on the dancefloor anymore. Those living in Northern Britain can only dream of dancing to the sixteen unreleased tracks on Too Slow To Disco NEO: The Sunset Manifesto.

These tracks were recorded by musicians from all over the world. This includes LA and other part of the Westcoast of America where the Too Slow To Disco sound was born. This time around there’s also contributions from musicians from England, Germany, Holland, Norway and Sweden. Add to this Balearic sounds and Brazilian lounge influences and the music on Too Slow To Disco NEO: The Sunset Manifesto is an eclectic offering from tastemaker DJ Supermarkt or Lidl as he’s know his cratedigging friends.

Opening the compilation is the Dutch duo Kraak and Smaak who contribute the cinematic sounding Hotel Sorriso. It  sounds like the theme to a modern day detective series.

Poolside’s I Feel High is given a Vibes4yoursoul Remix. The result is joyous sounding dancefloor filler that brings back memories of long lazy summer days on the white island before dancing to dawn. 

Moods are from Rotterdam and contribute a baroque reinvention of Vulfpeck’s Backpocket. The hooks haven’t been spared as funk, soul and disco strings combine with house on a genre-melting dancer.

In the best name stakes Glamour Hammer are the course and distance winner. Is It True is a slick, carefully crafted anthemic track that should be filling dancefloors. 

The extended mix of Love Breaks Down by London-based PREP is a mid tempo dancer that fuses elements of eighties synth pop, electro, funk and house. It’s a welcome addition to the compilation.

From the get-go it’s apparent Turbotito’s Heart and Soul is a special track. It’s a laidback, dreamy and smokey Balearic track with sci-fi synths and a soulful vocal that one of the compilation’s highlights.

When Satin Jackets recorded Think About It (Jack Tennis 80s Disco Dub Remix) they sought inspiration from the music of the past. This includes disco and especially Chic, boogie, funk, house, soul and even Kraftwerk. Seamlessly they combine these  musical influences on this rueful dancefloor filler. It’s one of the highlights of Too Slow To Disco NEO: The Sunset Manifesto. 

LA-based Luxxury’s contribution is At Any Moment (Doctorsoul Need To Survive Dub Retherapy) It’s a smooth, slinky, funky and percussive mix with shimmering disco strings and a soulful vocal with a Balearic sound.  

Roosevelt’s Take Me Back (Falcon Punch Remix) epitomises what the Too Slow To Disco and Neo sounds are about. It meanders along revealing an airy, Balearic sound that’s another of the compilation’s highlights.

Private Agenda’s 4 Step is a carefully crafted cinematic track where the hooks haven’t been spared. This a real find that has been unearthed by  DJ Supermarkt.

English producer James Alexander Bright closes Too Slow To Disco NEO: The Sunset Manifesto with Under The Sun. It’s the perfect track for chill out DJs to drop as they close their sets and the sunsets above the golden beaches.

The tracks on Too Slow To Disco NEO: The Sunset Manifesto have never been released before and make their debut on the compilation. Sadly, these tracks won’t be heard in a club anytime soon. That’s a great shame as these hidden gems deserve to be heard by a much wider audience in clubs across Britain, Europe and North America. They’re a perfect reminder of the Too Slow To Disco sound and are a welcome addition to this long-running and successful series. 

With music this good, maybe even Bungle, Shifty, Hapless, Notso, the Brothers Doom, Nasty Nic and the Nodding Dentist could be tempted onto the dancefloor and would enjoy the anthems and floorfillers that can be found on Too Slow To Disco NEO: The Sunset Manifesto?

Too Slow To Disco NEO: The Sunset Manifesto.