Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Freddie Hubbard - Red Clay (1970) (mp3, 320kbps)

Freddie Hubbard was undoubtedly one of the all-time greats. His trumpet playing went in a different direction from Miles, though he did not sacrifice commercial success. His sound was so string and confident. I saw him one in the '90's at a concert on Penn's Landing. It was a hot sunny day and the outdoor event included a special dual (duel) performance by the always natty Wynton Marsalis, and the (then) slightly full-figured Hubbard who wore comfortable slacks or jeans and a JVC Jazz Fest t-shirt from some untold number of years ago. It didn't fit him very well. The duel featured Wynton first, and he was measured yet sublime. For Hubbard's solo, he first played all of the notes from Wynton's solo, then elevated the jam to a whole new direction.

Hubbard's involvement with the CTI label yielded some extraordinary work. He was a confident and purposeful band-leader who knew how to get the most out of a session. In my opinion, Red Clay is his best solo album, but his work with Coltrane, Art Blakey, Eric Dolphy and Herbie Hancock all stand out. He was a giant and he will be missed. Freddie Hubbard: 7 April 1938 – 29 December 2008.

"Red Clay" (Hubbard) - 12:11
"Delphia" (Hubbard) - 7:23
"Suite Sioux" (Hubbard) - 8:38
"The Intrepid Fox" (Hubbard) - 10:45
"Cold Turkey" (John Lennon) - 10:27
"Red Clay" (Hubbard) (alt take) - 18:46

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fish - Vigil In The Wilderness Of Mirrors (1989) (mp3, 320kbps)

Looks like Fish may be taking some very-well deserved time off. The worry is that he may have a much bigger problem as a result of being on the road so long, performing so many shows, living the rock-star life, and always giving so much of himself to the audience during studio sessions and live performances. One forum has used the term 'cancer-scare', but Fish's own recent statements paint a picture that is much less bleak.

This is his first solo record after leaving Marillion and it's a real killer. He was still young and hungry. These could have all been great Marillion songs. They don't have that extra-Fish-y quality of his later writing, but this transition period represents an exciting time for the artist and some great music.

  1. "Vigil" (Dick/Simmonds) - 8:43
  2. "Big Wedge" (Dick/Simmonds) - 5:19
  3. "State Of Mind" (Dick/Lindes/Simmonds) - 4:42
  4. "The Company" (Dick/Simmonds) - 4:04
  5. "A Gentleman's Excuse Me" (Dick/Simmonds) - 4:15
  6. "The Voyeur (I Like To Watch)" (Dick/Simmonds) - 4:42
  7. "Family Business" (Dick/Lindes/Simmonds) - 5:14
  8. "View From The Hill" (Dick/Gers) - 6:38
  9. "Cliché" (Dick/Lindes/Simmonds) - 7:01

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Robert Fripp String Quintet - Soundscape (Tokyo '92) (mp3 160kbps)

Back in 1992 I was a sophomore in college and starting to discover and develop my musical personality. This period in my life helped to define the kind of music I would want to play and listen to for the rest of my life (so far).

On a whim, a friend and I went to the TLA on South Street to see a Fripp solo show. We knew and liked King Crimson, but there was no King Crimson back then, so this was the best we could do. I knew what Frippertronics were and liked ‘No Pussyfooting’ and ‘Evening Star’. I had never heard of Soundscapes, but I could sort of figure out what that meant. The California Guitar Trio, which I thought was an opening act was a band that may have had one album at most.

So there we were, having no real idea what to expect. Although the attached post is from Tokyo, it is the most reliable indicator of what we heard on South Street that night. Alternating ‘soundscapes’ that traveled the emotional depths of new age and avant garde, to the surf-inflected classical lockstep of the trio, banging through three minute arrangements with ferocity, wit and extreme dexterity.

So there they were, five musicians on stage: a plucky trio conjuring the spirit of Leo Kottke from three acoustic guitars, a tall and swaying touch bass player and the old master himself, with computers, racks, pedals, effects, synths and his guitar. They would watch each other with measured silence when not performing, and then push each other to new heights when all combined. It had a holy air and I said, at the time, I don’t what any of this is, but I know that I really like it.

There is an ‘official’ release from this tour called The Bridge Between. That’s a good name considering that this project takes the listener from a quieter period in Fripp’s career to the reemergence of King Crimson in ’96. That record always sounded too thin to me and lacked the organic beauty – the woody-ness, if you will – of this bootleg I got on Bleeker Street so many years ago. Though not an official release, this is one of the best and most accessible Fripp releases out there. Listen with joy to the performance and sound quality!

Recorded live at TFM Hall, Tokyo, Japan, 11 November 1992.

1. Soundscape
2. Yamanashi Blues
3. Melrose Avenue
4. Kan-On-Power
5. Firescape
6. An Easy way
7. Moving Force
8. Asturias
9. Walk don't run
10. Chromatic fantasy
11. Contrapunctus
12. Eye of the needle
13. Blockhead
14. Hope
15. Urban scape
16. Pipeline
17. Kan-On-Power

Robert Fripp (guitar)
Trey Gunn (stick)
Bert Lams (guitar)
Paul Richards (guitar)
Hedeyo Moriya (guitar)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Brand X - Rated X (Bottom Line, NYC, 1978) (AAC 128kbps)

Sorry about the cover. I couldn't find a larger jpg online. I'll have to scan mine for a better image that you can all download and enjoy. It's raunchy.

Brand X was the British fusion outfit that grew out of Phil Collins' need to go outside the confines of Genesis, starting in the mid-'70's. They made three great records with Phil, but he soon became too busy to keep up with both Genesis and Brand X. While Phil's star power (such as it was back then) may have helped get Brand X on the map, it was the stellar ability of the other musicians in the band that made it more than just another fusion band from the 70's.

When I first started listening to this band, I was absolutely knocked out by the 'unorthodox' bass playing of Percy Jones. His approach on fretless is pretty avant garde compared to Jaco and some other fretless bass giants. Percy uses a stuttering, sliding, gliding technique that goes in and out of the melody and rhythm. It is amazing and complements the percussion of Morris Pert so perfectly, at times they sound like one instrument on this set.

Percy is absolutely fierce, but often took a back seat to the McLaughlin-inflected guitar pyrotechnics of John Goodsal. On this particular night, Goodsal was under the weather and guitarist Mike Miller came in with a very understated style that, instead of taking up lots of space with showcasing licks and solos, he keeps back and lets the band regulars, especially Percy, go to town on this Halloween show.

One other thing. Phil had moved on by this date, but the drummer on this particular night was the incomparable Mike Clark of 'Headhunters' fame. This band burned righteously.

Brand X - live at the Bottom Line, NYC
October 31, 1978

B/Percy Jones
G/Mike Miller
Key/Peter Robinson
D/Mike Clarke
Per/Morris Pert

1.The Ghost Of Mayfield Lodge (18:05)
2.Earth Dance (14:07)
3.Black Moon (8:46)
4.Nuclear Burn (12:07)
5.Deadly Nightshade (19:53)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Frank Zappa - Piquantique (1973) (aac/m4a 128kbps)

There is something that fascinates me about the short time Zappa spent working with Jean-luc Ponty. I don't know if he had ever had such a talented musician in his band up to that point. Ian Underwood, who appears on these recordings comes to mind, but more for the number of things he could do well, as opposed to his extraordinary talent on any one instrument. George Duke may be in the same class as Ponty, but he really comes into his own as a bandmember in the next two or three years.

Ponty was not the crazed lunatic that often appeared in The Mothers. he wore an argyle sweater vest. His entry in Waka Jawiki states hat he and Frank did not part as friends, but that it's clear they both benefited from the relationship. Obviously, Ponty went on to huge success as a fusion guy who incorporated a lot of Frank's progressive ideas. But what did Frank get?

There is so much confidence in Ponty's soloing, that I imagine I can almost hear Zappa trying to chase him down. The short solos on RDNZL are a great example.

But it's on Father O'blivion that things really go to another planet. There's plenty of room for fantastic jams and it's clear that Jean-Luc relishes taking the spotlight away from the flamboyant band leader for a soaring melodic journey that finally envelopes the whole band. This whole joyful process begins around the 2:00 minute mark.

The 'march thet eats my starch' takes up a good chuck of the next few minutes after the solo and gives the band a chance to space out. This eventually resolves into nice little boogie with the aid of a few echo units. Again, and almost without warning, Ponty comes out with another face-melter. This insanity starts around the 10:00 minute mark.

Ponty eventually gives way and he and Zappa go back and forth in a twisted tribute to the band that Ponty would soon join. The result, however, sounds nothing like Jerry Goodman or John McLaughlin. Zappa has to wrestle the band back from his 'guest star', but proceeds to put his thing down for only a few measures, at which point it's time to explore the percussion part of the piece. First vibes, then acrobatics from the whole band and then a fine drum solo by Ralph Humphries - one of Frank's most underrated drummers.

The finale is a beautiful statement of the melody, incorporating bits from Gregory Pecry and other stuff floating around the master's head. He's so proud of it, he makes the band play it twice.

This is a transitional moment for Zappa, and it is extremely well-documented in compact, and listenable form. It sounds like a 35 year old bootleg because that's what it is. But it's also a document of some of the finest playing by two renowned musicians who clearly shared a great respect.

1. Kung Fu (02:14)
2. Redunzl (04:25)
3. Dupree's Paradise (11:26)
4. T'Mershi Duween (01:56)
5. Father O'Blivion (20:41)

Live recording from Solliden, Skansen, Stockholm August 21 1973 with the exception of T'Mershi Duween, the location and date of which are unknown.

Frank Zappa (guitar, vocals)
George Duke (keyboards)
Bruce Fowler (trombone)
Tom Fowler (bass)
Ralph Humphrey (drums)
Jean-Luc Ponty (violin)
Ian Underwood (woodwinds)
Ruth Underwood (percussion)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Pink Floyd - In A Neutral Land (12/9/72) - m4a/AAC 128kbps

Pink Floyd bootlegs were a real onramp for my music collecting. they were readily available and the music was a little different each night. Plus, they worked out new material extensively on the road before going into the studio. There is no better example of this than Dark Side of The Moon. The record is released on March 17, 1973, but the music was performed countless times all during 1972. This was without extra musicians of vocalists (which would come on the '74-'75 tour), so The Great Gig In The Sky was obviously very different. There was also more extended improvisation during On The Run and Any Colour You Like. this was a band either at its peak or very close.

This recording is from the audience, but the quality, while a bit rough around the edges, is still very good to excellent. Everything is clear and the speed (a common affliction among some older recordings) sounds pretty spot-on.

So you've got all of Dark Side, in it's pre-release version; you've got all of Echoes, and a great version at that; and you've got Childhood's End, which was played pretty rarely. There are A LOT of Pink Floyd boots out there and this might be one of the best from their most exciting era.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Trilok Gurtu - Arkeology (2007) (mp3 320kbps)

You've gotta love Trilok.  Born in 1951, the son of professional musicians in Bombay.  He is trained by one of the foremost tabla masters and appears to have a promising career as a music professional when he veers off and starts playing jazz.  He listened to western fusion and world music, but had no multi-track recorder, so he started playing everything at the same time.  This man could play a western drum kit in any style and sound completely convincing.  That single instrument however, restrains the pure experience of bringing music into being.

On this record he's challenging himself and the listener yet again, but the context is pastoral, the strings playing a soft portrayal of inner peace.  And then there are times when the fury of Gurtu's talent spills over to his band mates and the whole thing starts to elevate a bit.  One reviewer accurately states:
While the chamber music resonances are clear enough, there is a fascinating composite vocabulary that emerges with many pieces steeped in a Mediterranean, quasi-folkish sound that is both rousingly danceable and emotively lyrical
Another review describes the outcome in the context of other influences:
Crossing strings and tablas with the Arke String Quartet, their stirring tunes imply Indian, Balkan and Celtic rhythms, in asymmetric time signatures that suit Gurtu right down to the last demisemiquaver.
Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to see him do his magic act, which included a metal pail of water, assorted gongs, beads, necklaces, drums of every size, including western style drumheads closely mic'd for a walloping effect. His instrumentation often includes his own voice in sacred chants of counting and rhythm.

The Arke String Quartet and Trilok have gone their separate ways, but the Italian group's MySpace proudly indicates its recent association with the restless boy from Bombay, who is already seeking new challenges and breaking new ground.  This quiet stop on his musical journey is one of the best so far.

  1. Balahto
  2. Nanda (To My Mother)
  3. Kermansah
  4. Dea
  5. Fes
  6. Taranta Suite
  7. Yoragathupaga
  8. Folded Hands
  9. Skopje
  10. Sveva

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Grand National - Kicking The National Habit (2004) (mp3 128kbps)

This is a band I first heard on Pandora. I don't know what song I used to start my 'station' on Pandora that day, but somehow, it lead me to this. This was a classic example of the single ("Talk Amongst Yourselves") sounding nothing like the rest of the record. I was attracted by the single's arpegiated riff and the smooth vocal line. The vocals are great throughout, but the heavy synth sound gives way to something a bit different. The influence of the Police is celebrated throughout, but mixed with a strong dose of electronica and 21st century. So while the rest of the record is quite different, it's also quite good.  I especially like 'Playing In The Distance", "Cherry Tree" and "Daylight Goes".

1.  Drink to Moving On - 3:23
2.  Talk Amongst Yourselves" - 4:29
3. Playing in the Distance" - 4:04
4. Boner - 4:24
5. Peanut Dreams - 3:19
6. Cherry Tree - 3:16
7. Coming Round - 4:24
8. Daylight Goes - 4:06
9. North Sound Off - 3:56
10. Litter Bin - 3:59

Friday, December 05, 2008

Arcana - The Last Wave (1996) (mp3 160kbps)

When I first heard this record, at the age of 24, it scared the bejebus out of me. I'm still not entirely sure that this is music.

Bill Laswell is a bit troubling to me because he's an artist, but also a big fan. His technichal ability is not really on par with the prowess of Tony Williams. Laswell is a puzzle. He can certainly play, and god knows his heart is in the right place, but he's more of a facilitator, whether as producer or as (here) jam-mate.

Which brings me to Tony Williams - the reason I got this record in the first place. Tony Williams: child podigy, Miles Davis alum, founder of Lifetime (featuring John McLaughlin). He had pretty much done it all leading up to this session. A first ballot hall of famer - no question. And what comes out here is a clear evolution of everything from the bop, the cool, the fusion, the rock, the smooth jazz - it's all played on the same drum kit by the same man - only here, in the last year of his life, Williams is now at the outermost edge of sanity. This is the avant garde.

Derek Bailey appears to have been a man of ferocious vision and ability. His free-jazz approach conjures such a cacophonous mess, that it's hard to tell which end is up. He takes what the other two musicians are doing and he absolutely obliterates the groove. There seems to be no rhyme or reason - just noise. But when I mustered enough criosity to explore the chaos, I saw that there is pattern and melody, albeit twisted unside out. Despite the first impression, these are not the noodlings of a madman. Bailey knew exactly what he was doing.

This record has been known to make some people very uncomfortable. It is atonal throughout. But the ability to inspire such discomfort is exactly what makes it so good. There is poerty and genius, to be sure, but the absolute irreverence, the nauseating, frustraing, unresolved mess followed so close to the date of Williams fatal heart attack that it has a very dark and foreboding feel. Chaotic, tragic, overwrought, and close to death. Proceed with caution.

Oh yeah, Bailey died in London on Christmas Day, 2005. He had been suffering from motor neurone disease.

1. Broken Circle 11:04
2. Cold Blast 8:17
3. The Rattle of Bones 7:57
4. Pearls and Transformation 16:27
5. Tears of Astral Rain 8:06
6. Transplant Wasteland 8:32

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Goblin - Suspiria (Soundtrack) (1977) (mp3 256kbps)

Italian prog by Goblin and classic slasher/horror from genius Dario Argento. Great combination! This is not the remaster and does not have the 'bonus tracks'.

Suspiria – 6:01
Witch – 3:12
Opening To The Sighs – 0:32
Sighs – 5:16
Markos – 4:05
Black Forest – 6:08
Blind Concert – 6:16
Death Valzer – 1:51

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

S.B.B. - Memento Z Banalnym Tryptykiem (1980) (mp3, vbr)

This is one of the great all-time prog records. If you don't know the instrumental prowess of S.B.B. (with occasional vocals), you should start here right now. Think of the subtle stylings of Tony Banks on keys with a jazz fusion sensibility that is somewhere between Steely Dan and Mahavishnu. I love this band and I love this record. Here's the info:

1. Moja ziemio wyśniona (My Land Of Dreams) (8:39)
2. Trójkąt radości (The Triangle Of Joy) (7:48)
3. Strategia pulsu (Strategy Of Pulse) (3:29)
4. Memento z banalnym tryptykiem (Memento With A Banal Tryptych) (20:56)

Bonus track (CD):
5. Z których krwi krew moja (10:40)

Total time without bonus: 40:52
Total time with bonus: 51:32

- Jozef Skrzek / bass, piano, moog, vocals
- Apostolis Antymos / guitar
- Jerzy Piotrowski / percussion

- Slawomir Piwowar / guitar, bass, clavinet, Fender piano, Handclapping
- Jan Skrzek / Mouth-organ, Handclapping
- Alicja Piwowar & Renata Szybka / Handclapping