A total of 12 items for this CD section covers various genres and combines extended news items and longer-form reviews, including mastering comments and…a surprise
RYLAND ANGEL & DAVE MERRILL
Title: Chant Electronique
Using the text from The Book of Pslams, yes the Book of Psalms, this is a monkish chant, a counter tenor vocal from the aptly named Angel laid over a soothing bed of electronica provide by Merrill.
The pair dedicated this CD to, “…all who have passed”. It is with this tone that the tracks flow forth.
In effect, this is a meditation CD with a Gregorian plainsong tone at its centre. And its aim to is soothe and to comfort those who have been in anyway affected. Either directly or indirectly. Those are are worried, stressed, upset or just discomfited in some way by what’s been going on in the world for what, over a year and a half now?
The 10 pieces were developed remotely and all 10 encourage you to enter the music itself. To lose yourself in the peace. To abandon your concerns and allow yourself to float among the ambience.
And being Chesky, it’s nicely produced too.
USA – https://amzn.to/3CUiQjP
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/3k0AEBh
Title: Free, The Columbia/ARC Recordings 1976-1988
Label: Soul Music
And bless the lady’s cotton socks. Who can fail not to smile when Williams smile-inducing funky soul wafts across your hi-fi’s soundstage, eh?
This is an 8CD collection contained within a clamshell box set but it features 11 albums plus bonus tracks on the albums: This is Niecy, Song Bird, That’s What Friends Are For (with Johnny Mathis), When Love Comes Calling, My Melody, Niecy, I’m So Proud, Let’s Hear It For The Boy, Hot On The Trail, Water Under The Bridge, As Good As It Gets and a 15-track bonus disc featuring single versions of album tracks, promo and long versions, 12” cuts and more.
This set features some intriguing collaborations. There’s little nuggets to be found everywhere. For example, on her debut album This is Niecy, the track Watching Over included work from Earth, Wind & Fire’s guitarist Al McKay, drummer Fred White and bassist Verdine White. Earth, Wind & Fire members would also be dotted throughout Williams career either directly or indirectly.
All the hits are here of course, That’s What Friends Are For, Free (watch your tweeters on this one), Let’s Hear it For the Boy and others.
This is gentle soul, funky soul, groovy hip swaying soul. Some of it sways towards middle of the road smaltz (especially when Mathis gets involved, listen to the terrible Mathis/Williams pop-glitz, finger-clicking, medallion-wearing teeth glinting rendition of Free – this version should be buried under three tons of Monster Munch and left to rot) but apart left to her own devices, her music always oozes quality, and a soothing melodicism. Williams always raises the bar.
USA – https://amzn.to/3AJiomo
Title: Homebrew 7
Howe has had a storming career and I’ve been fortunate to be able to track most of it on vinyl and CD.
While I’ve yet to fully grasp his early work with the R&B outfit, the Syndicats, I enjoyed his stint with the UK psyche band, Tomorrow (formerly the In Crowd), then Bodast (a surprisingly good band, I recommend a listen) and then his 1970 entry into Yes, then Asia, ABWH and GTR.
What I like about Howe as a guitarist is his touch. He knows how to weave a narrative. He knows how and when to pull back, he can infuse a guitar solo with delicacy and fragility. He doesn’t need testosterone and strut to affect his audience. He uses his brain. He is, on that basis, one of the most intelligent guitarists I’ve ever heard. He also stands out. Put him in any band and you’ll still hear his guitar’s personality, emerging from the crowd.
This Homebrew series is, in many respects, a distillation of the above. Part seven takes a variety of gems from Howe’s home archive of demos and tracks from Yes, Asia, ABWH and GTR. On Homebrew 7 though, none of the tracks have previously been released in any form.
There’s mostly acoustic and electric instrumental solos here (plus the odd vocal) but sons, Dylan and Virgil Howe on drums with Phil Spalding on bass guitar appear occasionally. The songs emerge from the 70s to 2016. While many songs here have the ‘notes in a scrapbook’ quality there’s much to admire and like. This single disc is a great resource for fans.
Mastering does vary (it’s a compilation, after all) but generally presents a full, rich presentation. There’s a touch of upper mid compression here but certainly nothing aggressive.
USA – https://amzn.to/3xUQrpS
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/3AQfoVC
ON OUR OWN CLOCK
Title: On Our Own Clock
Label: Mushroom Hour Half Hour/Total Refreshment Centre
Created, as is common at the moment, remotely combines South Africa jazz and Senegalese instrumental music with smatterings of London-infused spice.
There’s a total of 14 artists on this one, all listed – with photos, titles and country of origin – on the rear of this nicely produced CD cover.
The music here is a blending of cultures. Senegalese instrumentation, brass (Listen out for that tuba!), piano, electric bass, kora, sax plus synths and emcee rapping from Grandmaster CAP.
This music blends tones from dark cultural corners, jazz, beats, electronica with a gay abandon. As if 14 people walked into a room, picked up whatever they could find, laying around and say, “Yea, they’ll do. OK, let’s make an album.”
In short? I loved it. It’s fresh, oozes positivity, has space and air and newly-minted energies.
USA – https://amzn.to/37Q9uau
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/3D49WR1
Herskadal plays both bass trumpet and tuba on this 10-tracker. He’s accompanied by Helge Norbakken on drums and marimba and Eyolf Dale on piano and celeste.
And Harbour? Yes. Absolutely. Track one The Mariner’s Cross, has a driving beat with a sense of space. It sounds like the beginning of a long journey. A time when possibilities are endless and exciting.
Ice Free has a sense, largely due to its complex percussion, of machines hard at work. Either at sea or in that hard-wiring, titular harbour. There is a sense of clanking metal. The creation of a story through engineering. Either the or we’re breaking through ice flows, of course.
The Lighthouse on the Horizon continues the musical imagery. This is music from a long way away. The music is the light from that lighthouse. A warning but also a reminder of home and stability.
You could write a book, just by listening to this CD. It’s a work of literature via tones.
USA – https://amzn.to/3CTMNjZ
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/3kicrGP
Title: Pink Purple Yellow and Red: The Complete Sorrows
All the way from Coventry emerged the first incarnation of this 60s band: guitarist Philip “Pip” Whitcher, rhythm guitarist Terry Jukes, bassist Philip Packham and lead singer Don Fardon plus Bruce Finlay on drums.
Like many contemporaries, the band learned their trade by touring Germany and then recorded with cult producer, Joe Meek.
They then signed to UK label, Pye’s subsidiary Piccadilly. A place some media observers have seen as a graveyard for bands.
In 1965, The Sorrows released a single and undertook TV appearances toting beat, garage pop, psyche, R&B and freakbeat vibes.
It wasn’t until their third single, Take a Heart that they hit some success. An album of the same name hit the stores in 1965. It bounced back.
Two more singles followed and then band members started to leave. Band member rotation because a regular occurrence for a while.
Then they hit it big in Italy, on tour, recorded songs for a movie, issued an Italy-only single and eventually signing with an Italian label.
Ultimately, the fractious nature of the band’s career and the turnover of band members (some were homesick and departed because of that) wore down the remaining group culminating in the band splitting in early 1970.
This excellent 4CD collection, present in a clamshell box, features the mid-60s singles, the entire Take A Heart album in both mono and stereo, the Old Songs, New Songs LP and an earlier acetate-only demo album that was scrapped when two members of the band left, collaborations with Ennio Morricone, their title song to the Italian spy movie Ypotron, acetate-only early 1968 single, spin-off singles by The Eggy and Renegade, a 1980 live show from the reformed band and four previously unissued 1964 recordings with Joe Meek. Phew!
USA – https://amzn.to/3iTKbe4
Title: Kiss Me Quick Squeeze Me Slow: The Collection
Mickey Jupp? A lost or, at best, little-known British rock talent. A man who wrote hundreds or songs, had a great voice and was described, more than once, as the British Chuck Berry.
His first band was the rocking outfit, The Black Diamonds in the early 60s, then The Orioles then The Rockerfellas. Lots of songs from the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins were sung. Then Legend emerged in 1969 with a single produced by Procol Harum friend, Robin Trower. The early prog rock album was produced by producer legend Tony Visconti and released on Vertigo although they were more Creedence Clearwater Revival really. This album was plundered by pub rock bands later in the 70s. In fact, in 1978, Mickeu Jupp’s Legend, a compilation, was released by the punk label Stiff.
This resulted in the LP Juppanse featuring Nick Lowe, members of the band Rockpile and the guitars Chris Spedding. It was produced by Procol Harum man, Gary Brooker.
Later albums were produced by The Sutherland Brothers, ex-10cc men Godley & Creme and even Status Quo man, Francis Rossi. Then he spent time in Nashville writing songs over there. He even worked with Ry Cooder.
And yet fame never bothered him. There’s a host of reasons for that. Partly, Jupp never played the fame game, Jupp wasn’t really interested, he enjoyed his own space, doing what he wanted to do and when. Others said that he could be angry and difficult to work with. That he has his own demons, as if something happened to him in the past and he couldn’t out run it.
Fans include Dr Feelgood’s Wilko Johnson who took part in a documentary on Jupp in the mid 90s, fortunately included on a DVD disc within this set.
Jupp is a talent you have to seek out. His is an old fashioned rock and roll sound. Pub rock, blues rock, classic rock, good time rock, call it what you want. That man has both vocal and guitar chops though. The work here is rollicking, full of energy. It plugs into the heart of the genre. There’s no messing around here. This rock plugs directly into your hip bone.
This jewel case, in a card sleeve features that DVD disc and three CDs of music, 70 tracks in all covering the man’s career with lots of bonus rarities thrown in for good measure.
USA – https://amzn.to/3AQnkGc
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/3k1zrcL
Title: The Reunion Albums 2007-2012
You could call this band a supergroup. Although the term was a little outmoded when this band got together.
Nevertheless, when Asia hit the road in the 80s, it did so occupied by four legendary musical talents: John Wetton (King Crimson, lead vocal/bass), Steve Howe (Yes, guitars), Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, drums) and Geoff Downes (The Buggles, Yes, keyboards).
These bedraggled, aged and moth-eaten legends, deities in tight trousers, wrinkled yet splendoured icons, staggered (after a bit of a cough) together again for 2006 and 2007, as part of the group’s 25th anniversary, with a world tour.
A live document over two CDs, Fantasia, Live In Tokyo (2007) was proof that they actually did it and didn’t pretend to do it while actually sipping Pina Coladas on a Miami beach. That album includes work from the band’s first two albums, Asia (1982) and Alpha (1983) plus Heat Of The Moment and Don’t Cry.
Studio albums followed: Phoenix (2008), Omega (2010) together with XXX (2012) as that 25th anniversary suddenly turned into a 30th anniversary.
All of the above is included in this clamshell box, five CD discs in all.
The boxset cover image was previously unused by artist, Roger Dean and the Fantasia sleeve design has been updated by the man himself.
The music here is big, bold and gloriously glossy. Asia fans will have a ball with Palmer’s tight, impactful percussion and Wetton’s strong and forceful lead vocal. Howe and Downes provide a full and perfectly overblown filler for that sandwich.
It’s like MTV never left us. In my head, every single track had its own video.
Mastering adds compression to the mids, tightening the detail and adding an edge to the treble. The effects are not wholly destructive or aggressive but they are noticeable.
USA – https://amzn.to/3xYB8wy
Title: The Lost Tapes Vol 3
Label: Sleepy Night
Don Ellis was a talented trumpet player who leads host of big bands from 1965-1975, also looks part in a variety of quartets and trios and played with many of the greats including Maynard Ferguson, Charles Mingus and Ray McKinley. His interests were broad from improv to classical. He loved to experiment with time signatures, playing with sound while using three bassists and three drummers in his orchestras and loved humour – witness his cheeky false endings in some of his work. He also experimented with technology, attaching ring modulators amongst other gadgets to his trumpet. For jazz fans, he’s worth spending time getting to know.
This is the final disc in a Lost trilogy of CD releases, the source of which has ben grabbed from Ellis’ own personal archive recorded by the man himself or family and friends.
Spanning time from his earliest recordings to his later orchestra works it covers around 13 years.
As you might expect, the sound quality varies widely from the decent bootleg level to quality live soundboard standard. This is a fascinating collection that completes a worth suite of rarities that any jazz fan should check out.
USA – https://amzn.to/2XoiHET
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/2VUN3yI
Title: Special X
Label: Pink Dolphin
And now an apology to 1i2c who seemed to send me this CD about 80 years ago and I’ve only just got around to listening to it. But look, believe me, it’s worth it.
1i2c is obviously heavily influenced by the legendary krautock band, Tangerine Dream, this is dense, complex, sometimes dark but always melodic electronica. It blends static-charged bass beats with cinematic drama and sparkling elements of fragility that offers more musical layers than a Black Forest Gateaux.
And then you get the nostalgic track Cutthroat that celebrates Kraftwerk’s basic electronic instrumentation and looped beats, building, forever building.
The entire album, Special X does this. It’s architectural in form. Adding, never subtracting (to mutiliate a Kraftwerk lyric). It’s celebratory, uplifting and adds a bass thump that will shake a few windows, let me tell ya!
USA – https://amzn.to/2VTnhuF
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/3mi1uau
Title: Scruffy Duffy
There was a time when ‘Duffy’ didn’t mean a blonde soul singer from Wales. It meant a 70s-era rock band.
A five piece, from Guildford, they made it big. In Switzerland. They once played on a TV show which died a death because the power shut down. In Portugal. They were surrounded by tear gas-toting police, in a restaurant. In Germany. Then they were driving to Munich, Germany when they were stopped by a policeman with a machine gun because who said that they were no longer in Germany, they were… In Poland. Behind the Iron Curtain of the time. That was Duffy.
Actually, Stuart Reffold (vocals and ex-Switch), Joe Nanson (keys), Barry Coote (guitar) and, both ex-Mr Lucifer, Patrick Sarjeant and Will Wright (drums). No-one can remember why the name Duffy was chosen. But they went with it, anyway.
Switzerland was were their first album, Just in Case You’re Interested was created but it wasn’t a success. Especially financially. Despite the Swiss loving them to bits.
Before the second LP (Scruffy Duffy), they were signed by Chapter One. Hardly a rock roster. Other ‘rockers’ on the band included talent show winner, Lena Zavaroni and Jackie Pallo, a wrestler.
No-one remembers why this second album name was chosen either. But they went with that, too.
Nor why the album title was on the cover but not the band name. Everyone thought the band had changed its name.
“I haven’t a clue why our name isn’t there,” said Reffold.
The music perfectly reflects the seventies rock idiom. There’s a bit of Free here, a bit of The Faces? Plus a host of others. Argent perhaps? Perfect 70s noises.
Mastering is excellent, low in noise, perfectly balanced, rich in tone and broad over the soundstage.
Ah, Duffy. What’s not to love?
USA – https://amzn.to/37WusEt
EUROPE – https://amzn.to/3srr3qF
THE REAL TUESDAY WELD
Title: Tape Dust Memories
Before I begin I also want to apologise to this band (it’s becoming a habit) for the horrible delay in get around to this one. Unforgivable, I know. But, you know. Life.
Tape Dust Memories is part of multimedia collection called Blood that’s described as “a set of songs for Noir movies, 10 tales of romantic revenge, heartbreak, dreams and urban psychodrama”.
Also called ‘Cabaret Noir’ it includes a range of collaborators such as Oriana Curls and GG McKewen.
This is either late-night smoky 30s Parisian nightclub music. Heartfelt vocals, lamenting violin, tear-stained piano and dazed percussion pour out sadness and loss.
Or it’s Cotton Club energy full or whimsy and living life in the moment and to hell with tomorrow. Which, of course, triggers a sadness all of its own.
It’s lilting clarinets and breathy lyrics.
And it’s wrapped up in a medical blood bag with a fold-away paper lyric sheet.
There’s also a vinyl 10 song song collection out there.
Whether you can still even buy the tape or vinyl is a moot point, digital copies are available I know. Physical copies may very well have gone by now but I wanted to tell you about the artists at the very least – I’ll supply contact details. Maybe you can sed them begging letters in case there’s a copy that’s fallen down the back of the filing cabinet.