Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wyatt Earth

I've been looking forward to this one for a couple of weeks because this is one of my top 5 musical heroes right here.
Yes, and it's his 70th birthday today!!!! And what better way to celebrate this momentous occasion than with a tribute post to a man who has lived a thousand lifetimes in one. One, as in there will only ever be one Robert Wyatt.
Communist. 1960s Canterbury Scene stalwart. Soft Machine founder and drummer. One of Jimi Hendrix's best friends when he was alive. Matching Mole founder and drummer. Most memorable kickoff to a solo career ever: fall out of a window at a party, break your back and never walk again. 
He's been doing this stuff a real, real long time. The Wilde Flowers (Canterbury's proto-Soft Machine lineup) began in 1965, so we're talking 50 years now. I've met a million musical heavyweights but he is #1 among those I haven't but would die to. A bucket-list kinda guy. I hope he lives to 170.
His first post-paralysis record, tongue-in-cheekily titled Rock Bottom, is considered one of the all-time greatest albums ever made by anyone, inhabiting the upper reaches of many a poll on that sort of thing. For me, it's the most emotionally honest rendering of what it would be like to lose almost everything you had in life, and yet still have to go on. It is the very highest and most real that Art and human expression have to offer, and it will be played in 1000 years and more.
I love Robert Wyatt and his songs (and Soft Machine -- only one of the premier pioneering jazz-rock groups of all time -- and Matching Mole and every Michael Mantler record he's ever guested on) as much as any other artist I can name, so it's an honor to get to tribute him this way. And what better way to tribute someone than with a concert from a tribute band dedicated exclusively to him?
This was a project begun in 1999 for a tribute album entitled Soupsongs: The Music of Robert Wyatt. The CD was released and a tour was organized... a tour which evolved into another, and another until it was 2001 and they were still going! This features an absolute all-star cast of British jazz luminaries from Julie Tippetts (check out her solo at the end of Alliance... O-M-G) to sax supremo Lol Coxhill, who'd make a fine post subject himself someday on this here page. It's taken from a master FM broadcast (not an over-the-air one, but a cable capture, I think) and it's as proper a tribute as any for such an amazing musician.
The Music of Robert Wyatt
30th Moers Festival
Zirkuszelt, Freizeitpark
Moers, Germany

01 Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road - Alifib/Alifie
02 Sea Song
03 Alliance
04 Team Spirit
05 Sight of the Wind
06 Left On Man
07 Gharbzadegi
08 Heaps of Sheeps

Total time: 1:11:23

Julie Tippetts - vocals
Ian Maidman - vocals, guitar
Annie Whitehead - trombone, vocals
Harry Beckett - trumpet
Larry Stabbins - tenor saxophone
Lol Coxhill - soprano saxophone
Janette Mason - keyboards, piano
Steve Lamb - bass
Liam Genockey - drums, percussion

Arrangements by Annie Whitehead

master FM cable capture to digital
Yes, he's even been married to the same woman for over 40 years... that's her (childrens' illustrator Alfreda Benge) on the right, keeping him honest. So what are you waiting for? Pull down this stellar jamboree in his honor and get your Wyatt Wednesday underway in all the right ways. And of course we wish a million more birthdays to Robert Wyatt, lion of modern music, born this day in 1945!--J.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Saint Stupid

I've been meaning to post this for a few days, but I've been so busy. Today I'm finally going to put it up.
About 10 days ago one of the founders of the ridiculously awesome "culture-jammer" ensemble Negativland passed away much too young at the age of 56. His name was Ian Allen.
It'd be impossible to lend words for the uninitiated that would explain what Negativland do and have done for over three decades. The only way to give any kind of accurate impression would be to describe the genesis of the music in this concert I am posting, and exactly what brand of wool these guys were able to pull over the eyes of the world in one of the greatest musical hoaxes ever performed.
It happened like this: In 1987 the band released one of their greatest albums, entitled Escape from Noise. It contained what was to become, for reasons that will become clear, their most famous song, a hilarious little mashup containing some doomy drum & bass thumping and a crazy tape of an even crazier preacher from the 1960s they dug up. The man on the tape was describing, in a particularly apocalyptic sermon, a dystopic future in which Communism had eradicated Christianity and the rebellious holdouts were imprisoned in scary re-education camps where they were indoctrinated with an intoning voice from a loudspeaker -- "from 5 o'clock in the morning til 10 o'clock at night!" -- with a diabolical message that "Communism is good!" and that they should "GIVE UP!!!" because "Christianity Is Stupid!!!"
There was just one small problem: they didn't have enough money to fund a tour behind the album. What to do? They came up with the ludicrous idea of planting a story in the media that a then-recent case in Minnesota -- where a teenage boy had murdered his family with an axe -- had happened because the kid had been listening to that aforementioned song of theirs. 
It was totally false, but as you might imagine the "if it bleeds, it leads" mass media picked it up whole hog, with huge, hypefest stories in Rolling Stone, a million newspapers and magazines, and a full weeklong series on San Francisco TV news entitled "Music and Murder"! The band recorded every single tidbit related to their planted story and proceeded to make it all into another record! This one -- released 18 months later in 1989 -- was called, fittingly, Helter Stupid.
And what a record it was. Never have those major mass media brainwashing bastards been so skewered, with their pants pulled down 'round their ankles exposing their lack of factual endowment. Negativland finally got the money for their tour, and thank the God I never believed in they did, because if they hadn't done what they did we would not have this brilliant document of the proceedings.
This was captured by someone affiliated with the band off the mixing desk at a college gig in Massachusetts and was originally posted as two master cassette sides with no track markers. I set about remastering it, beginning by placing track markers at (what I thought were) appropriate points and tagging the files. Despite the original taper's protestations about how out of it they were to have managed to tape record any of this hilarious set, this really is a tremendous and nearly complete capture... only a small section of "The Playboy Channel" is missing due to the tape flip (I repaired this to sound fairly seamless and continuous). Besides that I beefed up the sound to a commanding perch using some Sound Forge 9 Graphic Dynamics experimentations. I think it really cuts through the air with a more emphatic slice after my slight-but-tight alterations.
Hampshire College
Amherst, MA
EN remaster

01 Christianity Is Stupid
02 Helter Stupid
03 Escape from Noise
04 Time
05 Another Perfect Cut
06 Free TV or Pay TV?
07 The Playboy Channel*
08 Why Don't They Blow Us Up?
09 I'd Like a Piece of Meat/Michael Jackson
10 The Letter U and the Numeral 2/These Guys Are from England and Who Gives a Shit?
11 Car Bomb

*tape flip cut at 0:42 repaired for continuity by EN

Total time: 1:31:29

disc break can be after track 06 or 07

Mark Hosler - tape, electronics, guitar, bass, vocals, effects, turntable, drum machine, keyboards, sampler, noise, percussion, CD player
Richard Lyons - tape, electronics, organ, guitar, vocals
David Wills - synthesizer, vocals, tape, effects, noise, radio transmitter, VCR
Chris Grigg - guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, effects, vocals, computer
Don Joyce - tapes, vocals, synthesizer, effects, sampler, radio, noise, CD player

soundboard master cassette of legend, remastered by me
It's very sad that Ian Allen passed away so young... he is not on this tape because he had a history of health issues and had to leave Negativland after their Escape from Noise opus in 1987. Nonetheless, his imprimatur and influence is all over this recording and I urge you to pull it down like an anchorman's pants, crank it up and celebrate Ian's life and legacy as a multimedia conceptualist and pivotal artistic figure in this most unique and sublime of groups, captured here at the height of their powers.--J.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Froese Friday: Dreams Don't Die

I woke up today intending to present another sad memorial post for a pioneer gone too young, but -- even more sadly -- another death has momentarily overshadowed that intention.
This morning we learned of the untimely, sudden passing of one of the founders of modern electronic music. Edgar Froese was 70 when he left us this past Tuesday, but his shadow casts long, enveloping shade across the last 50 years of synthesizers and sequencers.
To begin with, he started one of the bedrock groups of all time: Tangerine Dream. If you've ever seen the film Risky Business -- that scene where Tom Cruise is boffing Rebecca DeMornay on the train especially -- and you are well aware of that most legendary and formative group.
In the mid-1970s, TD created the template for all subsequent sequencer-driven music... in fact, the story goes that the very first primitive arpeggiating sequencers were themselves built by German technicians at the request of Edgar Froese and his bandmates. Wow, they sure didn't catch on, did they? Good thing no one picked up on using them since then.
In 1974 Edgar began a solo career apart from Tangerine Dream, releasing a plethora of classic LPs over the decades. Today, in honor of this seminal figure, I am going to post one of those albums that's been out-of-print -- really it's never been officially released on CD -- for 20 years. When Edgar began remixing his albums in the early 2000s in order to regain his copyrights, many people were disappointed that the original mixes were vastly unavailable. This was mostly fixed by the Virgin Years set that came out recently, which comprised all of his 1970s records but one. This is that one, posted here from the Manakin Records unofficial CD direct from the masters.
Edgar Froese
Macula Transfer
original mix

01 OS 452
02 AF 765
03 PA 701
04 Quantas 611
05 IF 810

Total time: 36:15

Edgar Froese - synthesizers, Mellotron, keyboards, guitars, electronics

Manakin Records unofficial CD of the original mix, from master tapes
So it's farewell to the Mellotron master and electronic pioneer Edgar Froese... not the best news to arise to, but we do what we can. I'll be back tomorrow with yet another lament, but for now make this a Froese Friday and take a moment to remember an absolute genius of modern music.--J.
6.6.1944 - 1.20.2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Much Adu

Today is, in addition to being Friday, the birthday of the phenomenal singer Sade Adu, who was born this day in 1959 in Ibadan, Nigeria. So pardon me if I slide by and drop off a deep hour and four minutes of what makes her the superstar she is and has been for 30+ years now.
I remember the first time I heard Sade, on MTV with the "Smooth Operator" smash just as that channel -- which was still all music videos! -- was lifting its unofficially official embargo on Black artists, thanks to Michael Jackson's Thriller making it impo$$ible for those clowns to discriminate any longer.
There isn't any way to describe this woman's singular, in-one-note-identifiable voice if you've been living on a desert island since before 1984, when her first record -- documented at its peak with this post -- dropped and she exploded across the world.
A talent too monumental to disappear after one splashy album, she has continued ever since to make records (now less frequently) and sell out huge venues (consistently) for thirty years and counting now. I remember when she debuted so clearly... gosh I feel old.
She's still just 56, only 8 years older than me! OK, now I feel better. Did I mention how I love all these songs since forever? I love the grooves her band gets into... having her embroidering her definitively sultry and intensely urbane voice over the top of their thick slinky thing (wow that sounded really naughty) makes it close to ecstasy (where else could that sentence end but with ecstasy?). This stuff packed dance floors 30 years ago like Tommy Chong packs bowls... and speaking of activities that connote (some would say unfortunately) naughtiness, I bet a lot of people turning 30 & 31 this year were conceived to this music.
The week's finally done, so pull down this luscious FM capture of Sade's debut tour at its apex and then keep pulling down (think clothing and blinds) and make some more babies, that's what I say. It is, after all, the weekend.
Veronica's Rocknight

01 Why Can't We Live Together
02 Your Love Is King
03 Hang On to Your Love
04 Frankie's First Affair
05 Spirit
06 Sally
07 Red Eye
08 Cherry Pie
09 Is It a Crime
10 Smooth Operator
11 Snake Bite
12 Love Affair with Life
13 When Am I Going to Make a Living

Total time: 1:04:01

Sade Adu – vocals
Stuart Matthewman – guitar, saxophone
Paul Spencer Denman – bass
Andrew Hale – keyboards
Dave Early - drums
Martin Ditcham - percussion
Terry Bailey - trumpet
Gordon Matthewman- trombone

FM master cassette, with opening of Smooth Operator seamlessly (OK, smoothly) patched from another tape
I need Sade pointing at the start of all my paragraphs... I think more people would read my blog. Anyway have a great weekend even if you don't create any children, and do enjoy this incredible concert from when I was 18 and Sade was the hugest thing this side of velour shirts and Cabbage Patch Kids! Of course we wish the beautiful Sade Adu the finest of birthdays today, that goes without saying, right?--J.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy Beefday

Happy Thursday and welcome to a commemorative birthday post that's sure to booglarize your bottom.
Of course it is Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, it's a national holiday. But in addition to the equality King, there's also a Captain born on this day.
His given name was Don Van Vliet and he would have been 74 today. He is one of the most revered artists of our lifetime. He is who else but Captain Beefheart.
A childhood friend of Frank Zappa, the Captain built quite a following beginning in the mid-'60s with his unique brand of balls-deep sonic mayhem and carnage. Like a cross between Howlin' Wolf and your crazy, perverted uncle with the revealing bathrobe, there will never be another one like him and you wonder if that's not kind of a good thing sometimes.
In the Spring of 1974, the Captain found himself in a bit of a quandary. He had just fired his Magic Band (the wild avant garde one with Drumbo and Zoot Horn Rollo) and was staring at an American tour set to begin in mere weeks. His answer? Go commercial! He hired a band of studio session musicians that had never even heard of him and after weeks of rehearsals, out onto the road they ambled.
The audiences sure seemed to like it... other than the Beefheart purists who, mortified, christened this band "The Tragic Band" in contempt of their smoothing of Don's rough edges on this tour. The Captain even sang a ballad!! Even if it does sound like the authorities might come at any moment and take him away while he's doing it.
Anyway I fixed this set in honor of the Captain's woulda-been 74th birthday. It's a classic FM broadcast of the "Tragic" edition of the Magic Band -- I'm a devout Beefheart heretic in that I LOVE the versions of these songs performed by these emergency replacements -- from the infamous Spring tour of '74. There were 2-second gaps between the tracks that I excised, as well as applying some Graphic Dynamics sonic goofa dust in Sound Forge 9 to make it pop and scrape like it oughta. I'd rate it a 10 out of 10 ABBA Zabas now!
Captain Beefheart
Cowtown Ballroom
Kansas City, Missouri

01 Mirror Man
02 Upon The My-O-My
03 Crazy Little Things
04 Full Moon, Hot Sun
05 Sugar Bowl
06 This Is the Day
07 Keep On Rubbing
08 Be Your Dog
09 Sweet Georgia Brown
10 Abba Zaba
11 Peaches
12 Peaches II

Total time: 1:04:50

Don Van Vliet - vocals, harmonica, saxophone
Fuzzy Fuscaldo – guitar
Ty Grimes – drums
Dean Smith – guitar
Michael ‘Bucky’ Smotherman – keyboards, vocals
Del Simmons – saxophone, flute
Paul Uhrig – bass

FM broadcast master cassette remastered by me
I hope you'll enjoy this slice of Beefheart mania from back in the day... I'll be back tomorrow with more birthday cake for sound's sake. And of course we remember the good Captain Mr. Don Van Vliet, born this day in 1941!--J.
1.15.1941 - 12.17.2010

Monday, January 12, 2015

Duke's Travels

Let's get the week funkin' properly with a special birthday tribute to a recently departed monster musician.
He left this world only about 18 months ago, but the shadow he casts -- particularly over modern, synth-driven soul and R&B -- is monumental.
I was first exposed to the music of George Duke via the seminal 1973-74 bands of Frank Zappa... later on I figured out that he had come from Jean-Luc Ponty's band and had made all manner of records -- spanning from straight-ahead jazz to fusion to R&B -- on his own.
To honor this master of every possible sort of keyboard instrument, I will post this utterly brain-smashing fusion set of George's collaboration with drum lord Billy Cobham, bass giant Alphonso Johnson and guitar guru John Scofield, filmed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1976. I think you'll find it worthy of such a tremendous figure in this kind of music.
Billy Cobham/George Duke Band
Montreux Jazz Festival
Montreux, Switzerland

01 Panhandler
02 Juicy
03 Red Baron
04 Al-Mustafa the Beloved
05 Ivory Tattoo
06 Some Day
07 Hip Pockets
08 Sweet Wine
09 Life & Time
10 Stratus
11 That's What She Said

Total time: 1:19:12

Billy Cobham - drums
George Duke - keyboards, vocals
John Scofield - guitar
Alphonso Johnson - bass, Chapman stick, vocals

NTSC DVD of a Japanese satellite broadcast from the 1990s
This one is a classic and a great looking/sounding capture as well, and a fitting tribute to one of my favorites. I hope you feel the same way and will take a moment of gratitude for George Duke, a keyboard maestro of our lifetimes, born this day in 1946.--J.
1.12.1946 - 8.5.2013

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The January Lamb

OK, it's Sunday and time for the second of our two weekend posts, which almost couldn't be any more different than yesterday's.
While yesterday was concerned with a legendary musician, today we have one of the more legendary concert tours ever undertaken, from a group so revered that there are no less than four tribute bands packing venues all over the world doing nothing but rehashing their old stage shows, gesture for gesture and lighting cue for lighting cue.
This one dates from back in the distant days when bands would cut epic, double-LP concept records and then bludgeon unsuspecting audiences with the whole opus at once. This tour is so mythical, music fans worldwide have been pleading for this lineup of this group to reunite for decades, just to play the whole damn thing live again.
That's unlikely to happen, but thankfully it was minimally documented when it was going on. Lucky for us, the drummer -- eventually to be one of the most famous and top-selling musicians on Earth -- had the sound guy record a whole bunch of it onto a cassette deck by the mixer, night after night across a mere 102 global dates.
When Genesis embarked on the tour for The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway in November of 1974, they were a band just beginning to make commercial inroads beyond their core Progressive Rock audience and into the mainstream of touring rock acts. Roughly two weeks into the tour, they were a band in crisis, with theatrical madman lead singer (and eventual global superstar) Peter Gabriel having announced to them in Cleveland that when the shows ended, he'd be quitting for good. In his words, this was "a bit like telling someone you had decided to kill their child."
The expressions of Tony Banks and Steve Hackett in the above picture kind of say it all, if you read between the forced smiles. Obviously they couldn't have known that the attritions of Gabriel and later Steve himself would only serve to catapult the streamlined and commercialized Genesis into status as one of the top-selling and most popular groups in music history, whilst providing healthy solo success to most of its members, past and present.
But back to the tour, yeah. The biggest source of conflict in this band, at the time of these concerts, was that the theatrical costumes of Peter Gabriel were completely overwhelming the music onstage, to the chagrin of the other four guys. This tour, being PG's swan song, did not disappoint in the visual department, which is I suppose one reason so many people who missed it 40 years ago are so hyped to see what it was all about now.
So to that end, we have here what's sometimes considered the definitive recording of a Lamb performance. This was taped exactly 40 years ago this evening in Florida, about two months into the American leg of the tour, and features seamless patches (even I can't tell where they are) from a couple of other shows where the Lakeland tape had run out. I even took the liberty of subbing the introductory story for The Musical Box (the encore) back in from another show, just so's it'd be a complete representation of just what this brand of English prog mayhem was all about at its apex.
Lakeland Theater
Lakeland, FL

01 The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
02 Fly On a Windshield
03 Broadway Melody of 1974
04 Cuckoo Cocoon
05 In the Cage
06 The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
07 Rael's Story Part 1
08 Back In NYC
09 Hairless Heart
10 Counting Out Time
11 Carpet Crawlers
12 The Chamber of 32 Doors

Total Time: 49:19

01 Rael's Story Part 2
02 Lilywhite Lilith
03 The Waiting Room
04 Anyway
05 Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist
06 Interlude
07 The Lamia
08 Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats
09 The Colony of Slippermen
10 Ravine
11 The Light Dies Down On Broadway
12 Riding the Scree
13 In the Rapids
14 IT
15 The Musical Box

Total time: 1:08:22

Tony Banks - keyboards, 12-string guitar & backing vocals
Phil Collins - drums, percussion & backing vocals
Peter Gabriel - lead vocals, flute & percussion
Steve Hackett - lead guitars & effects
Mike Rutherford - bass guitars, guitars & backing vocals

Definitive Edition by the Progressive Rock Remaster Project, with TMB intro subbed in by me
This is a stomping gig, with the G men successfully providing the properly grandiose, symphonically proggy backdrop for Gabriel's high energy antics without once giving into their impulse -- by the time of this show, I'm sure fever-pitched -- to just rend the guy limb from limb right there in front of the crowd. Do enjoy this time travel trip back forty years ago, to a time when you could go see your favorite band and not recognize one single song they played until the encore... and a blessed 40th anniversary to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, of course. I'd say that despite what they might have felt back then, things ended up working out fairly well for these five guys.--J.