Monday, November 26, 2012

Miles Davis' "Porgy and Bess" Vinyl (Mono)

The second of the three albums by Miles Davis and Gil Evans.  Regarding the big band, it melts under the direction of Evans, and Miles sort of pulls the orchestra with him, not against him.  Based on the opera by George Gershwin, this is an reflective piece of work, that grooves but also gives room for introspection.  A beautiful multi-textured layered work that in parts reminds me of Miles great score to Louis Malle's film "Ascenseur Pour L'échafaud."  Did Miles Davis ever, like, failed?

French 45rpm record cover

Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain"

An amazing beautiful piece of record-making. I just purchased this the other day, and its in Mono, and the sound is so fantastic.  But then again, the music is incredible on many fronts.  The Gil Evans arrangements are superb, knows when to be quiet, and knows how to raise the temperature in a room. 

Miles just glides over the melody - goes in and goes out like a wave hitting the beach.  In essence its being on the sand and letting the water hit you and one can feel the pull into the ocean, and it will bring you back in place and time.  "Sketches of Spain" does that to me.  Overly romantic, but the mood is a combination of dark and plain reflective. 

I remember this album when I went off with my parents as a child to visit other people.  They were architects, and I always think of architecture when I hear this album.   Very mid-century type of sound - more geared towards the professional than say the bopster in a coffee house or club.  I imagine this album had a huge affect on people like Bryan Ferry - due to its orchestration and effortless perfection.  

Also this album is very hard to categorize.  I think it belongs to another world that only exists in one's head.   Which is my favorite type of album.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Walker Brothers "After The Lights Go Out" the best of 1965-1967" (Vinyl)

The roots of the avant-garde art pop songwriter Scott Walker.  And probably the greatest living figure in contemporary music.  A strong statement, but he's still a consistently remarkable figure who is still doing music.  But first let's go back a bit... into the Myst that's time.

A really good collection to get is "After The Lights Go Out" because it covers all the great Walker Brothers hits.  They came back in the 70's, but that's another narrative.  My favorite (among favorites) is "Deadlier Than The Male" which sounds so much like a James Bond song, but it belongs to another film with that title.   But its classy, and so classic and the orchestration just cuts with the silky melody.  And if you do close your eyes while listening to this song, one does see a Saul Bass title being projected in your brain.

Also I would argue that Walker Brothers clearly leads to the 'new' Scott.  This is pop that's majestic,  with overtures to the great Phil Spector (Jack Nitzsche arranged "Love Her") but there is a hint that The Walker Brothers will go beyond this type of music.  The great thing about Scott, John, and Gary is that they really didn't look back.  It is no coincidence that there is a song called "Orpheus" on this collection.  Don't look back and go ahead.  And basically Scott Walker just did that.

Miles Davis' "Miles Ahead" (vinyl, mono)

A very beautiful album that's not perfect, but has touches of genius on it.  Miles Davis and 19 other players are under the spell of Gil Evans, and he makes this trip into a smooth sailing.   It never sounds busy or brassy, but every sound is put in place  Besides the brass, there's bass and drums (of course) but no piano.  In some ways there are hints of "Sketches of Spain" in the mix - a future that's bright.  Its an interesting album because I think for Miles, this was a goodbye to a certain era or sound.  And his solos are so sweet, but not sugary, just a right combination of sweet with a tad ounce of sour. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Velvet Underground - Scepter Studios Sessions

A record store day release and a great one at that.  What we have here is the acetate cut of the first Velvet Underground recordings.  Basically all these songs show up on the first album, but this is sort of like a mirror-image of that album.  Different arrangements, different guitar solos, rhythms are different as well.  One cannot destroy what's perfect and what's perfect is the band themselves.  They mend into one force, and with such great songs they could never lose.    What i have is the limited numbered edition on vinyl, but the recordings are also part of the brand new box set focusing on the first Velvets album.  I have this, and now considering getting the box set as well.  Might as well swim in the waters of the first album, because its such an iconic and fantastic adventure. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Boris Vian - La complainte du progrés (1956)

"Design for Dreaming Futuristic Dream Cars and the Kitchen of the Future (1956)"

Boris Vian Wiki Article via YouTube

"Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red" by Lydia Davis

A chapbook that is beautifully designed and elegant.  Very much like the author Lydia Davis, who is known for her short stories but also for her English translations of rather difficult works in French.   in other words, I adore her.   The Cahiers Series is a collection of chapbooks all concerning the nature of translations or translating literature.   A subject matter close to my heart, due that my press TamTam Books is pretty much focused on works from the French language  translated into English.

As an editor and publisher I really appreciate Davis' take on the role of the translator, especially when it concerns the works of Marcel Proust, Maurice Blanchot, and my personal fave, Michel Leiris.  Only 44 pages long, but as they say, size doesn't matter.   Its the contents that is important, and Davis tearing apart the prose of Proust and comparing it with other translators of the same work (Swann)  is a fascinating procedure in looking into language -especially from such a stylish writer like Proust.

The other two chapters focus on the work of Blanchot and Leiris.  Fleeting thoughts on those two authors, but what is fleeting to the average, is somewhat an essential aspect of Davis' style and thinking.   This whole series looks great, and going into the world of Lydia Davis is not a bad thing at all.

For more information on Sylph Editions:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"In Search of a Concrete Music" by Pierre Schaeffer

Pierre Schaeffer, one of the great music theorists as well as composer, and the inventor of musique concréte (concrete music) is a remarkable force.   I just recently purchased and read his collection of essays and diary called "In Search of a Concrete Music" that is totally focused on this particular type of music.  Its music that comes from natural or everyday sounds.  Schaeffer, with the instrument of his choice, either a turntable or tape made some real great 'noise.'

When I first picked up the book I was concerned because it had diagrams and music notes - which to an idiot like me is kind of scary.  But more then half of the book is a diary that focuses totally on his trial and error of making music in the recording studio.  First of all his recordings are absolutely great.  Dramatic with a side dish of humor, it is a collection of remarkable sounds.  

Schaeffer's book is an important document on what I think is a serious form of music.  And I write that with a sense of joy, because what I hear is a sense of discovery, joy, and angst all in the same package. Also for you Beatle fans, Schaeffer is basically the root to Revolution No 9 on the Beatles' White Album.   And what would DJ culture be without Schaeffer's thought or skill.  Genius.

The Beatles "Revolution No 9"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Belles Chansons" by Antoine (Vogue Records, France, Vinyl 1967)

Antonine, to my ears is the French Donovan.  Both were making music around the same time, and like the Scottish pop/folk singer, there is a tinge of quietness but with a great deal of spunk and style.  Very tastefully arranged, Antonine draws me into his world, which seems reflective but youthful.  There is even a version of "Hey Joe" (Jeremie et L'existence de dieu) that is up there with The Leaves/Love.   The album has a bigger production on the first side -with baroque like string arrangements with a tad of garage rock, and the flip side is very much acoustic guitar and voice, and maybe a stand-up bass.  Very 1967 like, quiet, and really fits the mood for those who are into the Psych-folk thing.  But I sense that Antonine has a bite, and this is a very cool album.  In other words I love it.

"Dive Dark Dream Slow" by Melissa Catanese

"Dive Dark Dream Slow" as a title is truth in advertising.  A beautiful meditation (of sorts) on jumping into a void.  Photographer Melissa Catanese edited this book by using images owned and collected by Peter J. Cohen.   All are what is called 'found images' - mostly from flea markets, e-bay and so forth.  The images themselves stands alone, but in this artist's book it gets into another dream-like narrative.   Poetry, but without words, and images that speaks poetry.  This book is very sensual, seductive, and its like the moment when you are still awake but you are about to fall asleep.   This is the book that will fit perfectly in that place.  Beautifully printed and published by The Ice Plant, and distributed by D.A.P.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Shinichi Mori 森 進

I found this album by Shinichi Mori (森 進) at a local record store.   The cover is great and so is the music inside.  Hardcore Enka that takes no prisoners.  Mori Shinichi is a major singer in Japan, and is known for his downbeat songs about Tokyo bar life.  The romance of the whiskey mizu/water or that glass of sake too many.  

Perhaps Shinichi Mori's masterpiece?  I found this vinyl yesterday.  It's his blues album or is it a blue album?  Nevertheless one gently goes into Shinjuku, with no hope of getting back.

Jacques Tati's "Mon Oncle" soundtrack with liner notes by Boris Vian

The Phillips original issue to the soundtrack to Jacques Tati's masterpiece "mon Oncle."  The composers are Frank Barcellini and Alain Romans.  Both film and soundtrack EP came out in 1958.  And...

And on the back we have liner notes by Boris Vian!  Too much genius in one package!

"Charlie is my Darling, Ireland 1965 by Peter Whitehead (DVD)

A beautiful series of moments when the Rolling Stones were kickin' and really happening. Shot in beautiful black n' white, Brian Jones still comes off as a technicolor force in the gray world of The Stones.  One could see that this was not going to last forever.  And I think even then, Jones knew the score.

Nevertheless classic stage performances, and even a songwriting session between Mick and Keith is a fantastic thing to see and hear.  So yeah, moments that are frozen in time, but still gives one a kick in the gut and head.  Also a nice touch to have the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra as part of the soundtrack.  I love that!

"Last Night a DJ Saved My Life" by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton

A super interesting history of the DJ and his record collection.  This book basically covers the time when a man or woman played a record in front of an audience.   From the 1920's to Disco era to the obsessive codes of Northern Soul record collecting.

I thought I wasn't into dance music or DJ culture, but  "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life" is an essential history of the importance of playing music (yes records) in front of an audience or another listener.   Truly a fascinating history of records and the role it plays in individuals' lives as well as the great mix of social groups of all sorts.  The Northern Soul cult is beyond fascinating.  DJ's locating old Motown, Stax recordings that WERE NOT HITS.  Yet are beautiful records.   The DJ's would protect their source with their lives.  Also the connection between Gay sub-culture and disco clubs is one fascinating read.  Really this is truly a great book.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Morrissey The Pageant of his Bleeding Heart" by Gavin Hopps

The first academic literary criticism book on the works of Morrissey. And much needed I want to add. There is only a handful of really great songwriters working right now, and without a doubt Morrissey is one of them. And on a genius level as well. So yes, as you can gather I like his work a lot. But the beauty of Morrissey's work is the ability to show a certain amount of cultural history in his work. When you listen or look (I feel pop music is important as a visual medium as well as an aural experience) at Morrissey you are not only getting his music, but also a whole culture of post-war England with a tad touch of Europe as well. Morrissey is a magnet for critical or cultural studies attention, and its nice to see this book focus on that aspect of this musical giant

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pete Townshend's memoir "Who I Am"

Without a doubt The Who was a major band in their time and place.   Also Pete Townshend surrounded himself with great eccentric figures - Keith Moon, Kit Lambert,  Nic Cohn, Chris Stamp, John Entwistle,and the first Who manager and visionary Pete Meaden.  How I would love to hear stories about these guys from Townsend, but what we get instead is (very) basic tales of insecurity, doubt, "woo me being a star," etc from the mouth and brains of Pete Townshend.

There is nothing wrong with that, for he is very much the engine of The Who, but what made the band great are the characters surrounding The Who.  Through Townshend's writing I don't get a clear picture of the individuals around him.  He touches on it, but its totally reflects on his own ego or thoughts about his role in the mess of being in The Who.   On paper this sounds like an ideal book, but reading it, I find it very normal, plain, and basically not exciting. Without a doubt Townshend is a superbly talented songwriter, who in the end thinks too much about his work.  It is interesting that he admires Ray Davies of The Kinks, who I think is not only a better writer, but also a much more intense individual than Pete.

Reading this book right after the Neil Young memoir is interesting.  Both are legendary without a doubt, and both are egotistical to the max.  I think Townshend is much more of a charmer, but still he comes from a stock where he sees the world from only his pain, pleasure, and of course the doubt that is always there.   Both Neil and Pete think a lot about their role in their lives, which is perfectly normal for any man in their mid-60's.  But unlike someone like Bob Dylan or Patti Smith (both books by these artists are more superior than Pete or Neil's) are basically unique figures who rock because it is in their instinct to rock.

Pete praises John Entwistle, but I feel he doesn't give him credit for the great songs he wrote for The Who.  "Boris the Spider" is a great classic Who song, and maybe my favorite Who song after the High Numbers material "I am the Face" and "Zoot Suit" two brilliant (and early) Who songs.  And to be honest, to me, they were a great unstoppable band from The High Numbers to The Who Sell Out album.  After that, "Tommy" and so forth -not that interesting to me.   Classic rock albums yes, but essential Who... No not to me.

The book is an enjoyable read, but I wished it went further into the world with the guys he worked with as well as the Mod world.  There is material in this book, but not enough of it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Magical World of The Shadows and Cliff Richard (on vinyl of course)

"Listen To Cliff" is Cliff Richard's fourth solo album.  16 songs.  8 with the Shadows and the other 8 with a full orchestra.  Overall I think this maybe Cliff's best album.  It showed the present (with The Shadows) and the future.  Although the album was recorded in 1961, Cliff was looking ahead and thinking about painting on a bigger canvas.  Most people would probably feel that he should have stayed with The Shadows, but this young man at that time saw a world to conquer (well, at least the UK) and what we have here is a mixture of standards and original Shadows material.  They all work, they are all fantastic.   And the album cover I feel conveys "Listen To Cliff" - its dreamy, a tad surreal, and there is some killer guitar solos by Hank Melvin, which of course gives the aural dream, but again, Cliff's vision is what makes this album unique.  Listening to this album is like drinking a whole bottle of red wine in one sitting.

What we have here is The Shadows first album and the first Shadows album in Italy that is recently re-issued by the Doxy Records, who do a series of amazing releases.   The beauty of The Shadows is the splendid and clear headed arrangements that allows one to dream.  The Shadows for me, work right between falling asleep and being asleep.  The images that their sound conveys to the ears ia world of remarkable choreography and beautiful guitar sounds.  Hank Marvin's number one fan is Neil Young, and when Young lets it rip on the electric guitar I think he's thinking of Hank.  Actually for any British guitarist circ 1960's owns their aesthetic to Hank Marvin and The Shadows.   For those who want an introduction, do get "Meeting With The Shadows."  The vinyl is in mono, and the CD that comes with it is in stereo and both, are fantastic.  If you love it like I love it, then surely track down a vinyl version of The Shadows. You'll be sharing some songs with the other, but who cares.  Each album is an album by itself.  All hail to the beauty of The Shadows!

Cliff and The Shadows "Move It"

The Shadows doing "Wonderful Land"

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Richard Henderson's "Song Cycle" A book about Van Dyke Parks' masterpiece album

For years i have purchased and sold back my various copies of Van Dyke Parks' "Song Cycle."   There are albums one gets right away, and then there are others that are a total head scratcher.   And for me, "Song Cycles" is an album to this day I don't have an understanding of it.  Yet I keep downloading/buying this album.   Mostly due to friends who swear to this album, but also there are sounds on this record that doesn't leave me.   It is so eccentric, and believe me I own and love a lot of 'strange' recordings.  But "Song Cycle" is like listening to someone's inner thoughts that are not connected to other thoughts.

Richard Henderson's short book (part of the great 33 1/3 series) on "Song Cycle"  and its making is an essential text to this weirdo album.  One of the great things about the book is that it doesn't expose the mystery - because this is a recording that you are going to get or not get.  And with frustration I have been stuck on the fork on the road where I don't know which avenue to take.  

So in a nutshell for reasons I don't fully understand this album is quite remarkable, and its nice to have Henderson's text exploring "Song Cycle's" themes and early Americana, which to me, makes the U.S. a foreign world.  Also it is great that something that was recorded 40 years ago is still a puzzle to the ears.  I sense many future listenings to this particular sound known as "Song Cycle."

Van Dyke Parks' "Song Cycle"

Interview with Van Dyke Parks