Monthly Archives: September 2010

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Playing the Piano/Out of Noise

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Decca)

 

www.decca.com

 

The
titles of these two discs suggest a stronger contrast than their music actually
provides. Both CDs collect spare, hushed etudes by Ryuichi Sakamoto, a veteran
Japanese art-rocker best known in the West as a film composer; the distinction
is that Playing the Piano is all
keyboards, while bonus disc Out of Noise adds a few other instruments and some moderately rowdy drones and samples.

 

Each
set reveals the influence of American minimalism, French impressionism and
piano-bar jazz; the slower, hazier Noise sometimes burbles toward Eno’s ambient music. Piano features reworkings of Sakamoto’s themes from such movies as The Last Emperor, as well as the vivid,
insistent “Thousand Knives.” The more adventuresome Noise includes the lovely, strings-only
“Hwit” and the sweetly spooky “In the Red,” which resembles
a blissed-out take on Steve Reich’s apocalyptic “It’s Gonna Rain.”

 

Film-score
buffs may gravitate to the first disc, but this is one instance where the bonus
CD is the main attraction.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Thousand Knives,”
“In the Red” MARK JENKINS

 

Film School – Fission

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Hi-Speed Soul)

www.hispeedsoul.com

 

Film School takes a blurry approach
to their music, one which challenges the listener to somehow get a grasp on
their sound. Their high-pitched harmonies betray a hint of wistful yearning,
but their aggressive rhythms and claustrophobic arrangements contradict any
hint of quiet deliberation. Truth is, the best offerings on their new album –
their fourth to date — are those that find them letting loose and displaying
their more effusive tendencies, as reflected in the rousing tenacity of songs
such as “Distant Life,” “Sunny Day,” and Bones.” They sweep the listener along on
a tide of enthusiasm and provide a connection lacking in noisier romps like
“Nothing’s Mine” and “Waited,” in which the sonic extremes overpower any more
melodic attributes.

 

Ultimately, Film
School isn’t quite as
cinematic as their handle would suggest. Opening track “Heart Full of
Pentagons” seems to aspire to an over-reach comparable to U2, but for the most
part this San Francisco
collective appear content to let their busy arrangements and cluttered effects take
the helm. Fission might have been
better titled Fusion for the fact
that they toss so much weirdness into the mix, but ultimately Film School
reveals more ambition than invention.

 

DOWNLOADS: “Distant Life,” “Sunny Day” LEE ZIMMERMAN

Bad Religion – The Dissent of Man

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Epitaph)

 

www.epitaph.com

 

Thirty years into one of the greatest punk rock careers, Bad
Religion proves yet again that the way to create a stellar record is to write
for themselves. For decades now, Bad Religion has stuck to a strict formula of
smart lyrics, tight guitars/drums and harmonies that would make the Beach Boys
jealous.

 

And The Dissent of Man,
the band’s fifteenth full length, keeps the tradition going. It ranks up there with
1990’s Against the Grain as one of
their best – which is saying a lot when you consider the impressive canon
they’ve already amassed. Thanks to greedy Wall Streeters, amoral religious
leaders and hypocritical politicians, there’s plenty of material out there and Thank
God (or maybe not) Bad Religion is there to chronicle it.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Cyanide,”
“The Devil in Stitches” JOHN B. MOORE

The Acorn – No Ghost

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Bella
Union)

 

www.bellaunion.com

 

After
two years spent on the road, Canadian folk act the Acorn sequestered themselves
in an remote northern Quebec
cottage to work on their third full-length No
Ghost.
Shaped by isolation, extemporization, first lights, and
sleeplessness, the Acorn’s latest bestowal is an album of stripped-down, agrarian
canticles that sleep with languid strings and pensive avowals-there’s the sway
and twinkle of the totemic title track, the
plucky guitars of “Slippery When Wet,” the muted horns and terra firma vibe of
“Bobcat Goldwraith,” the earthy sweetness of opener “One the Line,” and the
dusty, dirt-road desert chorale of closer “I Made the Law.”

 

The
only place where No Ghost falls
short, if only slightly, is with Rolf Klausener’s hushed intones. While the
frontman’s dove-like voice seems to soar at points, it’s often detached from the seraphic expression of their newest
record. But such a shortcoming is not enough to disregard No Ghost’s lithesome folk – it’s just too enduring to ignore.

 

DOWNLOAD: “No
Ghost,” “Misplaced” ANNAMARYA SCACCIA

Half-Handed Cloud – Stowaways

January 01, 1970

 

(Asthmatic Kitty)

 

www.asthmatickitty.com

 

Nestled comfortably between the grand ambitions of Brian
Wilson’s Smile, the cinematic
offerings of Sufjan Stevens and the weird and wacky outpour of Frank Zappa,
Half-Handed Cloud stakes its own quirky claim. The brainchild of the
ever-prolific John Ringhofer, this fifth album under his unlikely guise follows
a formula established early on, one that finds snippets of songs strung
together herky-jerky via odd meters and sudden shifts.

 

Clearly, Ringhofer and company delight in keeping their
listeners guessing, and, oftentimes, bewildered as well, employing an
instrumental arsenal that includes trumpets, trombones, clarinet, violins,
cello, glockenspiel, whistles, loops and all manner of impromptu, off-kilter
home-grown effects. Yet by layering in choir-like harmonies and conjuring a
generally amiable tug, Ringhofer also creates a pop pastiche that’s captivating
as well as confounding. Squeezing 25 songs into a single CD is no small feat, but
given Half-Handed Cloud’s irrepressible blend of wit and whimsy, his sprawling
epics seemingly know no bounds.

 

DOWNLOAD: “You Flagged
Us Down With a Wave,” “Source of the Watercourse” LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

Les Savy Fav – Root for Ruin

January 01, 1970

 

(French Kiss)

 

www.frenchkissrecords.com

 

“We still got our appetite! We still got our appetite!” Tim
Harrington scream-sings on the first track on Root for Ruin, as if to remind you that Les Savy Fav are still
hungry, still striving, still not taking your cheers and applause for granted.
This is the group’s fifth full-length, and it extends a period of such
sustained quality and critical esteem that they’re liable to be taken for
granted even by their most ardent fans.

 

The band doesn’t accept that fate lightly, deploying eleven
full-throttle art-punk songs marked by Harrington’s smart(-ass) lyrics and
shaped by the spidery interplay between Seth Jabour and Andrew Reuland’s
guitars. Sure, “Appetites” and epic closer “Clear Spirits” probably sound
better live, with a crowd singing and fists pumping along to their shouted
choruses, but on record, Les Savy Fav generates a frenzied energy that pushes
things along at a breakneck speed. Even when they slow down, the band still
packs a punch: “Sleepless in Silver Lake” waxes sentimental about a night in L.A., striking a peculiar
balance between sincerity and irony.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Appetites,” “Sleepless in Silver
Lake” STEPHEN M. DEUSNER

Oval – O

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Thrill Jockey)

 

www.thrilljockey.com

 

The sound of error in pop music is
hardly new: feedback and distortion are as old as rock itself. With Oval,
however, Markus Popp constructed an entire aesthetic out of digital error,
assembling electronica from clicks, chirps and skips culled from damaged CDs.
Despite Oval’s austere ingredients, hermetic experimental processes and
resolutely theoretical framework, their music has displayed surprising melodic warmth and textured beauty-characteristics
also central to the double-disc O,
Oval’s first release in nine years.

 

This time, intriguingly, Popp’s
raw materials emphasize the sounds of identifiable instrumentation (such as
guitar), albeit manipulated and arranged to suggest deconstructed music-box
minimalism; on disc one, untreated drumming even adds a jazz element, but this
remains recognizably Oval. Most
striking is Popp’s fusion of opposites. He melds apparently structureless flow
with precise detail (including throughout the second disc’s 50 miniatures) and
establishes a seamless interface of synthetic and organic: a string’s tactile
rasp, for example, is simultaneously an electronic texture. Popp might no
longer be forging new genres, but he’s certainly created a sublime, absorbing
album.

 

DOWNLOAD: “I
Heart Muzik,” “Pastell” WILSON NEATE

Live – The Early Years

January 01, 1970

 

(Eagle Records; 110 minutes)

 

 www.eagle-rock.com

 

BY MARY LEARY

 

It’s hard to believe the gawky cat with the halo of unruly curls sold more
than 50 million albums with this outfit alone. Or that George Harrison, Brian
Wilson, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty have been among the bright lights eager to
collaborate with or be produced by him. The other players are mostly skinny,
geeky-looking guys with cellos or violins. The motley crew lays into “King of
the Universe” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King” with the stagy ferocity usually
associated with Roxy Music or David Bowie. Then the weird-looking cat with the
halo of unruly curls opens his mouth, and that sound – the one that’s made so
many women say “Yes” to improbable propositions; that keeps fingers from nixing
classic album format stations that were getting boring until that ELO song came
on – pierces the air.

 

Jeff Lynne’s odd, Pop/Classical/Rock/Theatrics mash could have been jettisoned
by his restless imagination. Instead, watching his career has been a bit like
holding one’s breath as a tightrope walker tiptoes over the wire at the center
of the ring. Ever since collaborating on the Move albums that were sought by
collectors back in the day before everything went viral or digital, most
everything has worked out. From the beginning, ELO performances packed a
combination of splendid musicianship with ringmaster tricks that drew widening
crowds. It didn’t hurt that Lynne grabbed some of the vibe given off by The
Beatles at their most stately, circa Magical
Mystery Tour
or Sergeant Pepper’s.

 

If that’s all a bit much to take in, here’s what happened when the band
tackled “Great Balls of Fire” at Brunel
University in 1973.
Lynne’s clarion shout of “You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain” calls
the troops to arms. The others kick in, with the rhythm section (Mike de
Albuquerque/bass and Bev Bevan/drums) throwing a heavy bottom onto a backbeat
that never falters. Richard Tandy nails Jerry Lee Lewis’s piano part. Lynne
tosses off some perfectly unobtrusive lead bits. Trailing a long black cape (Why? Why not?), Mik Kaminski answers
these with light-speed violin bowing. Then the camera cuts to 21-year-old Hugh
McDowell, who can’t seem to decide between playing his electric cello in a
stand-up or suspended position – when in the latter, he’s slicing furiously at
it in a Guinness World Record, Chuck Berry imitative way.  Lynne glances over at a widely-grinning
Kaminski before diving into the last verse with an expression that says he
might be on the verge of cracking up. Instead, he meets the band’s rising fire.
ELO’s highly irregular take ends up meeting or exceeding Lewis at his most
frenetic while mixing in some richness and more nuanced musicality. It’s like
one of those dreaded awards show super-jams with too much talent crowding the
stage – except here, it (just) works.

 

For anyone who thinks that sounds good, Live
– The Early Years
captures a good helping of ELO’s sonic hijinx, although
the domestic edition omits fan favorites “Roll Over, Beethoven” and “Daytripper,”
along with personal guilty pleasures like “Telephone Line.” Some songs appear
more than once. There’s footage of four songs from Brunel
U., six from a wild ’74 Rockpalast (German TV) appearance, and
12 from a ’76 Fusion Tour stop at The New Victoria Theatre in London. For anyone who only knows the band
from radio or soundtrack bites, the DVD shows that, rather than being
embellished by studio orchestras and tracks, ELO was making all this sound itself. It’s a pretty complex stew, held
together by group proficiency and Lynne’s talent for infusing dramatic starts
and stops.

 

The ’76 show best showcases his merging of delectable Pop with sometimes
dense, sometimes near-dissonant Rock and Classical elements. Favorites include “Showdown”
(in both the Rockpalast and Fusion segments)
and “Poker” (from Fusion, it would be classic Power Pop if it didn’t have a
couple too many changes and instrumental elements for the genre). Other Fusion
standouts include “Nightrider,” “Evil Woman” (ELO at its guilty-pleasure
cheesiest), and one of the most moodily hypnotic Pop songs I know, “Strange
Magic.” Only The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “Jackie Blue” and some Bob
Welch-era Fleetwood Mac rival its compelling spookiness. Well, there are others,
like Heart’s “Crazy on You,” especially as realized via The Virgin Suicides… but this is getting too weird…

 

These guys always looked like they were having a good time – nice work if you could do it, eh?

 

There’s a perfectly theatrical (as in slapstick), tragic-comic postscript:
Mike Edwards, ELO’s other wild cellist (from ’72-75; known for playing the
strings with citrus fruit and for the “Dying Swan” solo that culminated in his
cello “exploding”), died on September 3, after a huge bale of hay hit his van,
causing a collision on a highway in Devan, England. No, it’s not really funny.
I just have a feeling that if there’s another life (Edwards quit the band in
’75 to dedicate himself to Buddhism), the guy may be having a chuckle at giving
others one with his last performance.     

 

Special Features:

Rockpalast Interview

Jen Wood – Finds You In Love

January 01, 1970

 

 

(New Granada)

 

www.newgranada.com

 

It
would have been easy to forget about Jen Wood. After being all up in it in the
rockin’ ‘90s with her band Tattle Tale and then a string of solo releases she
sort of …vanished. Her last solo record was 2002’s Traveling Through
Roots
(and during that same year she appeared on the debut record by The
Postal Service).  Apparently she has had some darks days as she said of
this record, “The album is about finding the light inside the darkest places of
my mind and past.” It sounds like a record of healing and on it are some of
Wood’s best songs ever.

 

Each
of these 10 songs take a slow, careful tempo imbued with Woods’ delicate,
emotive voice and usually spare, but at times soaring, arrangements. The lovely
opener “Pills” unfolds before your very eyes while “Let Me Down” opens with
Wood’s coo before it blooms like a flower and “Red Sun” is the here and there
and back again epic that it seems like she had to write. If there’s
anything questionable about the record at all is that at times it gets a bit
samey, like you’re listening to one long song (which wouldn’t be so bad,
really) but overall it is an intricate work of beauty.

 

Finds
You In Love
sounds like the work of a songwriter in transition and has laid
it all out for the world to see in these heartfelt numbers.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Zeppelin”, “Red Sun” TIM HINELY

 

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends – On Tour with Eric Clapton: Deluxe Edition

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Rhino
Handmade)

 

www.rhino.com

 

Looking
back, it’s shocking to think of just how many cookie jars Eric Clapton had his
hands inside immediately following the dissolution of Cream in 1968. The man
was like the Lil’ Wayne
of the era, for chrissakes!

 

One
can’t begin to list EC’s many collaborative endeavors without first mentioning
his pivotal role in the seminal supergroup Blind Faith with former bandmate
Ginger Baker, Traffic’s Steve Winwood and Family’s Rick Grech, a band of egos
that was over before it could even begin. Then you have the English guitar
god’s time competing with Klaus Voormann and Billy Preston for the role of the
“fifth Beatle”. Beyond having played that legendary slide solo on The White Album highlight “While My
Guitar Gently Weeps”, Clapton continued to collaborate heavily with members of
the Fab Four on their various solo endeavors during the late sixties, most
notably his major role in the recording of George Harrison’s experimental Hindu
masterpiece Wonderwall Music  and performing as a member of John Lennon and
Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band at the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival festival,
which was released as the essential live album Live Peace in Toronto 1969.  

 

This
period also saw Clapton undertaking a role in the mind-boggling supergroup backing
up Mr. Preston on the late organ soul great’s Apple Records debut That’s The Way God Planned It, playing
alongside Harrison, Ginger, Keith Richards and “Mama Soul”, Apple Records
recording artist Doris Troy. And if that wasn’t enough, there was his stint in
the Music from Free Creek super
sessions with the likes of Jeff Beck, Linda Ronstadt, Keith Emerson, Mitch
Mitchell and Dr. John (which is in dire need of a proper unearthing because not
too many people can afford the hefty price tag of the rare vinyl copies
available on Amazon and its damn near impossible to find a decent Mediafire or
Rapidshare link to it online). And we dare not leave out mention of The Dirty
Mac, the band comprising Clapton, the Lennons, Mitchell and Richards so
prominently featured during the Rolling Stones’ whirlwind Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus TV special in late ’68.

 

However,
when you think about Clapton and his roundtable of pals as the 1960s drew to a
close, perhaps the most robust of all these newly minted unions was the one he
forged with Delaney Bramlett and his then-wife Bonnie, the first white act
signed to Memphis soul label Stax Records – she a sweet, sexy blooze belter who
performed with Albert King and Ike and Tina Turner in her teens; and he a
former member of the house band for ABC’s music variety series Shindig!. Clapton was so enraptured upon
meeting the couple that he hired the Bramletts to open for Blind Faith on their
short-lived summer tour and, by the fall, he ditched Winwood and Co. to join
their band. By the time the Bramlett Family made it to Europe in late ’69, they
had acquired an un-fuck-with-able ensemble of musicians that included EC, Leon
Russell, former Traffic guitarist Dave Mason, Rolling Stones horn section Jim
Price and Bobby Keys, singer Rita Coolidge and 
future Derek and the Dominos members Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock and Jim
Gordon (the very collective primarily responsible for three of the greatest
rock albums ever created in Layla and
Other Assorted Love Songs
, Eric Clapton’s eponymous debut and George
Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, all
of which were released mere months following these shows).

 

Originally
released in 1970, the Bramletts’ debut on the Atco label (and third LP
overall), Delaney & Bonnie &
Friends On Tour with Eric Clapton,
was a 42-minute live document of that
tour culled primarily from the group’s pair of shows at Fairfield Halls in the
Croydon district of London, noteworthy due to the fact that George Harrison – a
huge fan of D&B’s uncanny compound of rock, soul and country and the one who
suggested them to Clapton as the opening act for the Blind Faith tour – sat in
with the band , although he was billed as “L’Angelo Misterioso” in
the original album credits to avoid any label drama a la John Lennon’s moonlighting moniker “Winston O’Boogie”. (Speaking
of guests in disguise: the LP cover photo depicting a car with someone sticking
their feet out the side window, was shot by D&B manager Barry Feinstein,
and it’s long been rumored that the feet belonged to none other than… Bob
Dylan.)

 

 

However, as stellar as this concert album may be, for years many fans
have chided On Tour with Eric Clapton for
its brevity and hoped that it would one day be released as an expanded edition.

 

Well,
for those of you who have been waiting 40 years for more material from these
epic concerts, your ship has finally arrived in the form of this gorgeous
Deluxe Edition, which inflates the original track listing of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends On Tour
with Eric Clapton
to a massive four-disc box set containing four complete
performances from the Bramletts’ trek through England.  Inside the confines of this mock road crate,
you will find complete performances of the two Croydon shows cherry-picked for
the original album release along with a composite of the group’s early and late
shows at Colston Hall on December 2 and their complete 12/1 performance at
Royal Albert Hall. And in addition to some great unreleased versions of all
eight songs from the original, within these gigs you will find a wealth of
previously unreleased songs left off the 1970 LP, including ripping takes on
“My Baby Specializes” and “Everybody Loves A Winner” from Delaney & Bonnie’s
debut album Home, a cover of the
traditional country anthem “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and a Whitlock-sung
rendition of the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’,” not to mention a
trio of quality opening set jams from D&B’s all-star backing band, including
the driving “Pigmy” from the second Fairfield Halls show.

 

This
deluxe edition of Delaney & Bonnie
& Friends On Tour with Eric Clapton
is an essential get for anyone who
considers 1968-1970 the golden age of Eric Clapton’s storied career, which continues
to gain steam nearly 50 years in given the greatness of his outstanding new
album, Clapton.  

 

DOWNLOAD: “I Don’t Know Why”
(Royal Albert Hall), “Everybody Loves A Winner” (Royal Albert Hall), “Opening
Jam” (Colston Hall), “Things Get Better” (Colston Hall), “Coming Home”
(Fairfield Halls, 1st show), “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”
(Fairfield Halls, 2nd show), “Little Richard Medley” (Fairfield
Halls, 2nd show) RON HART