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Saturday, February 28, 2009

XTC


XTC
SKYLARKING (1986)
REMASTER
320 KBPS


Working with producer Todd Rundgren didn't necessarily bring XTC a sense of sonic cohesion — after all, every record since English Settlement followed its own interior logic — but it did help the group sharpen its focus, making Skylarking its tightest record since Drums and Wires. Ironically, Skylarking had little to do with new wave and everything to do with the lush, post-psychedelic pop of the Beatles and Beach Boys. Combining the charming pastoral feel of Mummer with the classicist English pop of The Big Express, XTC expand their signature sound by enhancing their intelligently melodic pop with graceful, lyrical arrangements and sweeping, detailed instrumentation. Rundgren may have devised the sequencing, helping the record feel like a song cycle even if it doesn't play like one, but what really impresses is the consistency and depth of Andy Partridge's and Colin Moulding's songs. Each song is a small gem, marrying sweet, catchy melodies to decidedly adult lyrical themes, from celebrations of love ("Grass") and marriage ("Big Day") to skepticism about maturation ("Earn Enough for Us") and religion ("Dear God"). Moulding's songs complement Partridge's songs better than before, and each writer is at a melodic and lyrical peak, which Rundgren helps convey with his supple production. The result is a pop masterpiece — an album that has great ambitions and fulfills them with ease. [The initial release of Skylarking didn't feature "Dear God," which was originally the B-side of "Grass." After "Dear God" became an unexpected hit, "Mermaid Smile" was pulled from the album so the hit single could be added. Lucky us, the remastered version gives us the whole set.]


1. Summer's Cauldron
2. Grass
3. The Meeting Place
4. That's Really Super, Supergirl
5. Ballet for a Rainy Day
6. 1000 Umbrellas
7. Season Cycle
8. Earn Enough for Us
9. Big Day
10. Another Satellite
11. Man Who Sailed Around His Soul
12. Dear God
13. Dying
14. Sacrificial Bonfire
15. Mermaid Smiled

THE SPECIALS


SPECIALS
SPECIALS (1979)
REMASTER
320 KBPS


A perfect moment in time captured on vinyl forever, such is the Specials' eponymous debut album; it arrived in shops in the middle of October 1979 and soared into the U.K. Top Five. It was an utter revelation — except for anyone who had seen the band on-stage, for the album was at its core a studio recording of their live set, and at times even masquerades as a gig. There were some notable omissions: "Gangsters," for one, but that had already spun on 45, as well as the quartet of covers that would appear on their live Too Much Too Young EP in the new year. But the rest are all here, 14 songs' strong, mostly originals with a few covers of classics thrown in for good measure. That includes their fabulous take on Dandy Livingstone's "A Message to You Rudy," an equally stellar version of the Maytals' "Monkey Man," and the sizzling take on Prince Buster's "Too Hot." If those were fabulous, their own compositions were magnificent. The Specials managed to distill all the anger, disenchantment, and bitterness of the day straight into their music. The vicious "Nite Klub" — with its unforgettable line, "All the girls are slags and the beer tastes just like piss" — perfectly skewered every bad night the members had ever spent out on the town; "Blank Expression" extended the misery into unwelcoming pubs, while "Concrete Jungle" moved the action onto the streets, capturing the fear and violence that stalked the inner cities. And then it gets personal. "It's Up to You" throws down the gauntlets to those who disliked the group, its music, and its stance, while simultaneously acting as a rallying cry for supporters. "Too Much Too Young" shows the Specials' disdain for teen pregnancy and marriage; "Stupid Marriage" drags two such offenders before a Judge Dread-esque magistrate, with Terry Hall playing the outraged and sniping prosecutor; while "Little Bitch" is downright nasty. Those were polemics; "It Doesn't Make It Alright" reaches a hand out to listeners and, with conviction, delivers up a heartfelt plea against racism, but even this number contains a sharp sting in its tail. It's a bitter brew, aggressively delivered, with even the slower numbers sharply edged, and therefore the band wisely scattered sparkling covers across the album to help lift its mood. The set appropriately ends with the rocksteady-esque yearning of "You're Wondering Now," the song that invariably closed their live shows. Even though producer Elvis Costello gave the record a bright sound, it doesn't lighten the dark currents that run through the group's songs; if anything, his production heightens them. It's left to guests Rico Rodriguez and Dick Cuthell to provide a little Caribbean sun to the Specials' sound, their brass sweetening the flashes of anger and disaffection that sweep across the record. And so, this was Britain in late 1979, an unhappy island about to explode.

1. A Message To You Rudy
2. Do The Dog
3. It's Up To You
4. Nite Klub
5. Doesn't Make It Alright
6. Concrete Jungle
7. Too Hot
8. Monkey Man
9. (Dawning Of A) New Era
10. Blank Expression
11. Stupid Marriage
12. Too Much Too Young
13. Little Bitch
14. You're Wondering Now

STACEY KENT


STACEY KENT
BREAKFAST ON THE MORNING TRAM (2007)
320 KBPS


Kent is what men used to call a classy broad. Her elegant fashion sense and understated vocal style make her sound like a woman from another time, a unflappable, sophisticate with a warm, slightly world-weary persona. She was born in the United Sates, but after a trip to France decided to become a jazz singer. In the early 90s she landed in Oxford where she met her husband and musical director sax player Jim Tomlinson. Tomlinson also produces Kent's albums, and this time, composed several charming tunes that sound like potential standards, collaborations with lyricist Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Remains of the Day. Original tunes like "The Ice Hotel" and "I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again" are full of wry humor and Kent delivers them with her usual effortless grace. "The Ice Hotel" is a samba that talks of forsaking the tropics for a room that keeps the temperature at a "steady five degrees." The ambivalent lyric is perfectly suited for Kent's unassuming style. Is she chiding a lover for his detached demeanor or promising a passionate night that will raise the temperature and put a sizzle in the air? It's hard to tell, and with the music is as warm as the lyric is cool, the tune has a delicious tension. "I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again" sounds like the kind of tune Noel Coward used to write, full of urbane humor and references to "overpriced hotels devoid of charm". Its melancholy meditation on lost love is enhanced by John Parricelli's rippling guitar and Graham Harvey's subtle bluesy piano. Kent slows down "What a Wonderful World" making it sound more blue than celebratory. Her wistful phrasing imbues the song with a painful melancholy. On "Hard Hearted Hanna" Tomlinson supplies a brief, breezy solo while Kent sounds sly and impudent, playing up the lyric's over the top humor. "Ces Petits Reins", a Serge Gainsbourg tune, benefits from a percussive arrangement featuring bongos, muted guitar notes and drummer Matt Skelton's brush work; Kent drops in brief faux trumpet accents. Kent's band provides subtle support throughout. Each player steps out for brief impressive solos, but mainly they lay back and support their boss's unobtrusive style.


1. The Ice Hotel
2. Landslide
3. Ces Petits Riens
4. I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again
5. So Many Stars
6. Ssamba Saravah
7. Breakfast on the Morning Tram
8. Never Let Me Go
9. So Romantic
10. Hard-Hearted Hannah
11. La Saison des Pluies
12. What a Wonderful World

CYNIC


CYNIC
TRACED IN AIR (2008)
320 KBPS



As liberally and recklessly as the term "progressive" is regularly applied to any sort of rock music that breaks with conventional genre templates, there are certain bands and albums for which it still feels not only necessary, for lack of better definitions, but actually appropriate. Cynic and their 1993 watershed, Focus, are a perfect case in point. Even when compared to contemporary releases by other proponents of so-called "progressive" heavy metal that emerged from Florida's teeming death metal scene in the early '90s (most notably original architects Death and jazz-fueled visionaries Atheist), Focus — with its robotic vocals and synth-guitars — sounded positively otherworldly in its singularity and, why not, sheer oddity. The rarity of its attributes was only reinforced by Cynic's breakup a short time later, and subsequent disinterest in ever following up their lone masterpiece...until now, with the release of their belated and largely unexpected sophomore album, Traced in Air. And since only guitarist Jason Gobel declined to join fellow original members Paul Masvidal (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Sean Malone (bass), and Sean Reinert (drums) for this reunion (being replaced by newcomer Tymon Kruidenier), Traced in Air's legitimacy is difficult to question — even as the questions about what in blazes it would sound like start coming fast and furious. The short answer is "not quite like Focus," but there's still an essentially peculiar weirdness present that marks it as the work of Cynic — even if the group's already tenuous links to the death metal movement survive only in the understated gravelly vocals that occasionally mirror Masvidal's now predominant clean singing and occasional falsettos (an acquired taste are those, by the way). Furthermore, though the hybrid death/jazz rhythmic foundation laid down by Reinert is as busy and aggressive as ever, when called for, Traced in Air's songs are more often than not built around melodic lines instead of heavy metal's basic currency: guitar riffs — with such numbers as "Integral Birth" and "Adam's Murmur" among the few exceptions. This quality may prove particularly disorienting to unprepared metal-heads, but then it drives home the realization that the reborn Cynic are less a heavy metal band than a progressive rock band and, as mentioned earlier, they wear the term especially well. In short, those expecting a mere sequel to Focus will be mildly disappointed (but should have known better), and those worried about Traced in Air's altogether brief, 35-minute length should rest assured that it is easily offset by the sheer density of strange and beautiful musical nuances layered within, and the time required to absorb them all. And ultimately, the album does Cynic's legacy justice precisely because it challenges the listener to comprehend, by opening more doors than it closes and posing more questions than obvious answers — and what could be more "progressive" than that?


1. Nunc Fluens
2. The Space For This
3. Evolutionary Sleeper
4. Integral Birth
5. The Unknown Guest
6. Adam's Murmur
7. King Of Those Who Know
8. Nunc Stans

JONI MITCHELL


JONI MITCHELL
THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS (1975)
320 KBPS


Joni Mitchell evolved from the smooth jazz-pop of Court and Spark to the radical Hissing of Summer Lawns, an adventurous work that remains among her most difficult records. After opening with the graceful "In France They Kiss on Main Street," the album veers sharply into "The Jungle Line," an odd, Moog-driven piece backed by the rhythms of the warrior drums of Burundi — a move into multiculturalism that beat the likes of Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, and Sting to the punch by a decade. While not as prescient, songs like "Edith and the Kingpin" and "Harry's House — Centerpiece" are no less complex or idiosyncratic, employing minor-key melodies and richly detailed lyrics to arrive at a strange and beautiful fusion of jazz and shimmering avant pop.


1. In France They Kiss On Main Street
2. The Jungle Line
3. Edith And The Kingpin
4. Don't Interrupt The Sorrow
5. Shades Of Scarlett Conquering
6. The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
7. The Boho Dance
8. Harry's House-Centerpiece
9. Sweet Bird
10. Shadows And Light

Thursday, February 26, 2009

KINGS OF CONVENIENCE


KINGS OF CONVENIENCE
VERSUS (2001)
320 KBPS


It is quite rare for a remix album to better the source material. Versus by Kings of Convenience is one of those select few. Their album Quiet Is the New Loud is a very pleasant disc, but the songs all begin to sound the same halfway through. That's not a problem here, as the various remixers take varying approaches to the Kings' hushed and nocturnal sound. They also keep enough of the band's essence so it sounds like a real record by Kings of Convenience and not some cobbled-together mess. (Only once are Erik Glambek Bøe's lovely vocals omitted, and that is on the very last track.) Some of the remixers take the electronic route: Röyksopp keeps the acoustic guitars and whispered vocal of "I Don't Know What I Can Save You From" and adds a perky bassline and loping looped beat; Four Tet alters the acoustic guitars into a blurred symphony of noise and adds a head-bobbing hip-hop beat to "The Weight of My Words," but keeps the melancholy gloom of the song intact. Some of the remixers take an organic route: Riton turns "The Girl From Back Then" into a smoky jazz tune complete with a Milesian muted trumpet solo; Alfie adds sawing cellos and huge, reverbed drums to "Failure"; David Whitaker doesn't alter anything, but adds a full orchestral string arrangement. The most successful remixes are those that throw the listener for a loop and do something unexpected: Erot actually makes "Gold for the Price of Silver" downright funky, adding a little '70s funk guitar strumming, heavy breathing female vocals in the background, and a groove that will have you up shaking it in no time. Evil Toredivel's mix of "Leaning Against the Wall" turns the song into a horn-driven, almost new wave stomper that wouldn't sound out of place on a Madness record. Ladytron adds a sense of urgent doom to their mix of "Little Kids," with the stuttering beat and sinister synths. They even throw in some tubular bells, and that is never a bad idea. If you liked the Kings of Convenience album, you'll find much to like here. If you a fan of remix albums, you'll be hard pressed to find a better one than this.


1. I Don't Know What I Can Save You From (Röyksopp Remix)
2. The Weight Of My Words (Four Tet Remix)
3. The Girl From Back Then (Riton's Über Jazz Mix)
4. Gold For The Price Of Silver (Erot Vs Kings Of Convenience Version)
5. Winning A Battle, Losing The War (Andy Votel Mix)
6. Leaning Against The Wall (Evil Tordivel Upbeat Remake)
7. Toxic Girl (Monte Carlo 1963 Version)
8. Failure (Alfie Version)
9. Little Kids (Ladytron Fruits Of The Forest Mix)
10. Failure (Radio Edit)
11. Leaning Against The Wall (Bamboo Soul Mix)
12. The Weight Of My Words (Four Tet Instrumental)

DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN


DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
IRE WORKS (2007)
320 KBPS


After Miss Machine, Dillinger Escape Plan fans were divided. Many of the folks who were attached to the screaming mathematical metal of Calculating Infinity bailed on the band, disapproving of the experimental musical direction and the meathead appearance of new singer/screamer Greg Puciato. Open-minded listeners were excited about the progressive journey they were taking and many critics hailed the group as a true innovator of metalcore. Ire Works succeeds in many of the same ways that their previous album did, while branching out creatively. They continue to toy with technical metal, blistering hardcore, jazz breaks, and post-punk, but here they evolve again by adding more twists and turns with additional electronic elements. While the merging of too many styles in hardcore can make for a convoluted result (see Avenged Sevenfold's self-titled release), the added instruments and genre changeups enhance the result rather than acting as ornamental distractions. Edgy Aphex Twin-style drill'n'bass drum breaks and stretched and squeezed electro blips feel strangely at home next to the psychotic time-signature changes and manic riffs, especially on the tracks "Sick on Sunday," "Dead as History," and "When Acting as a Wave." Violins, pianos, and trumpets sit nicely in the mix, and the group's willingness to take chances leads to stunning artistic endeavors rather than stale attempts at crossing genres just for the sake of being clever. Original vocalist Dimitri Minakakis makes an appearance, as does Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds, but the most notable inclusion is drummer Gil Sharone, who proves himself an expert at picking up the slack after the departure of founding member Chris Pennie to play in Coheed and Cambria. Undoubtedly, this act added anger to fuel the fire of their heavier numbers. "82588," "Fix Your Face," and "Party Smasher" are as wicked and manic as their most difficult earlier stuff; conversely, the melodic hooks and falsetto of "Black Bubblegum" and the watery ambience of "Mouth of Ghosts" balance out the album nicely. It can be inaccessible and terrifying all at once, but in a genre overly saturated with formulaic groups, Ire Works is a true standout. If DEP aren't careful and continue down this innovative path, they could easily be labeled the Radiohead of metalcore. A visceral metal album that pushes the envelope? Who would have thInk it?


1. Fix Your Face
2. Lurch
3. Black Bubblegum
4. Sick On Sunday
5. Whan Acting As A Particle
6. Nong Eye Gong
7. When Acting As A Wave
8. 82588
9. Milk Lizard
10. Party Smasher
11. Dead As History
12. Horse Hunter
13. Mouth Of Ghosts

BATTLES


BATTLES
MIRRORED (2007)
320 KBPS


In these hype-machine times we live in, there's a lot of wolf cries on the "next big thing" in music. Because of this, its easy to let some of the real good things pass by when everything is the next, whatever. Not the case for BATTLES. This album, already garnering plenty of attention, is so vital right now, its making a case for the actual "next big thing", but you've heard that before haven't you. What you might not have heard, all this year anyways, is an album this original.
Following a string of well-received EP's, Battles have survived the hype machine and have come out swinging. Calling their newest full length (on Warp Records), Mirrored, an experimental tour de force, or "math rock", would be selling it far short. Its more than the percussive noodling, and vocal effects set to rhythmic beats. Its how a band can use technology and talent to their best advantage. Battles are really trying to stretch their tech savvy arms here and I don't think they realize just how far they can reach. The idea of creating these wonderful, and catchy sound textures is nothing new, they just have found a new way of presenting it. Think of it as music in the age of ipods and wires without abandoning traditional musicianship and talent. The first single, Atlas, is 70's glam stomper, packaged like T-Rex soundtracking a remake of Logan's Run. Fun, exciting and sometimes head scratching odd, all the parts of Atlas somehow add up with amazing results. Sure the tune and the entire album get major help from former Helmet drummer, John Stanier, but this is far removed from anything from that band. The members all seem to meld with the technology, becoming one with the music itself and less concerned about featuring a standout "player" in the band. Mirrored succeeds in the idea of effortless layering of synths, drums, samples, and the latest in computer production wizardry. The percussive theme continues through each track on what is surely going to be one of my albums of the summer, if not the year. This is one of those records that screams cool, yet fails to even approach pretentious, its just too good for that.


1. Race : In
2. Atlas
3. Ddiamondd
4. Tonto
5. Leyendecker
6. Rainbow
7. Bad Trails
8. Prismism
9. Snare Hangar
10. Tij
11. Race : Out

ALI FARKA TOURE


ALI FARKA TOURE
THE SOURCE (1991)
256/320 KBSPS


African guitarist Ali Farka Toure's previous releases were wonderful mixes of traditional language and rhythms being supported by contemporary concerns, instrumentalists, and producers. Source features his working band backing Toure in a series of impassioned, animated tunes that are done in both his native tongue and English. The similarity between Toure's sparse playing and percussive writing and early blues songs has been noted. What also deserves mention is the cohesive qualities his band have and the way his electric and acoustic playing, with its light, frilly air, fills in the spaces underneath his vocals easily.


1. Goye Kur
2. Inchana Massina
3. Roucky
4. Dofana
5. Karaw
6. Hawa Dolo
7. Cinquante Six
8. I Go Ka
9. Yenna
10. Mahini Me

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

MARK FELDMAN/URI CAINE/GREG COHEN/JOEY BARON


MARK FELDMAN/URI CAINE/
GREG COHEN/JOEY BARON

SECRETS (2009)
320 KBPS


Violinist Feldman, bassist Cohen, pianist Caine and drummer Baron have been involved on a number of Tzadik projects throughout the years, and this is another genuinely enjoyable one. Touching on the gentle chamber jazz swing of projects like the Masada String Trio and BarKokhba, the music improvises on music with a Middle Eastern feel, led by Feldman's violin which achieves a sweet aching and longing on several of the tracks here. Caine's acoustic piano isn't often featured, but here he gets a bit of space and uses it to excellent effect, with some swinging and thoughtful improvisations and solid support for the other musicians. Highlights of this disc include the exciting "Kel Adon" which starts out with an ominous piano trio playing in a free-ish manner before Feldman enters and turns the performance into a mournful lullaby that gradually intensifies into a swinging quasi-classical performance. This track really demonstrates thebredth of the music these men are capable of. "Chabad Nigun" Is an uptempo performance that is a great feature for violin - sweeping and swooping, the music is swift and sure. Caine gets a fine feature in "Z'Chor Hashem", a fast Middle Eastern flavored swinger that includes a rapid interlude of McCoy Tyner like piano and a short drum solo. I liked this one quite a bit, and think that anyone who has been impressed by the chamber jazz works that have been released onTzadik previously will enjoy this, as well as listeners interested in the intersection of classical music and jazz.


1. Lubavitcher Nigun
2. Avinu Malkenu
3. Chabad Nigun
4. Z'Chor Dovon
5. Satmar Rikud
6. Bobover Nigun
7. Kel Adon
8. Z'Chor Hashem
9. Moditzer Nigun

MOTÖRHEAD


MOTÖRHEAD
ACE OF SPADES (1980)
REMASTER
320 KBPS


With the 1980 release of Ace of Spaces, Motörhead had their anthem of anthems — that is, the title track — the one trademark song that would summarize everything that made this early incarnation of the band so legendary, a song that would be blasted by legions of metalheads for generations on end. It's a legendary song, for sure, all two minutes and 49 bracing seconds of it. And the album of the same name is legendary as well, among Motörhead's all-time best, often considered their single best, in fact, along with Overkill. Ace of Spades was Motörhead's third great album in a row, following the 1979 releases of Overkill and Bomber, respectively. Those two albums have a lot in common with Ace of Spaces. The classic lineup — Lemmy (bass and vocals), "Fast" Eddie Clarke (guitar), and "Philthy Animal" Taylor (drums) — is still in place and sounding as alive and crazed as ever. The album is still rock-solid, boasting several superlative standouts. Actually, besides the especially high number of standouts on Ace of Spades — at least relative to Bomber, which wasn't quite as strong overall as Overkill had been — the only key difference between this 1980 album and its two 1979 predecessors is the producer, in this case Vic Maile. The result of his work isn't all that different from that of Jimmy Miller, the longtime Rolling Stones producer who had worked on Overkill and Bomber, but it's enough to give Ace of Spaces a feeling distinct from its two very similar-sounding predecessors. This singular sound (still loud and in your face, rest assured), along with the exceptionally strong songwriting and the legendary stature of the title track, makes Ace of Spades the ideal Motörhead album if one were to choose one and only one studio album. It's highly debatable whether Ace of Spaces is tops over the breakthrough Overkill, as the latter is more landmark because of its earlier release, and is somewhat rougher around the edges, too. Either way, Ace of Spades rightly deserves its legacy as a classic. There's no debating that.


1. Ace Of Spades
2. Love Me Like A Reptile
3. Shoot You In The Back
4. Live To Win
5. Fast And Loose
6. (We Are) The Roadcrew
7. Fire Fire
8. Jailbait
9. Dance
10. Bite The Bullet
11. The Chase Is Better Than The Catch
12. The Hammer
Bonus tracks
13. Dirty Love
14. Please Don't Touch
15. Emergency

WALL OF VOODOO


WALL OF VOODOO
THE INDEX MASTERS (1991)
256 KBPS


The Index Masters chronicles the early years of Wall of Voodoo, digitizing the group's debut self-titled EP, The Morricone Themes (appearing here under a different title), from their Ring of Fire 12", and nine live tracks from the same concert at which The Morricone Themes was recorded. The live recordings from 1979 include songs that later appeared on Dark Continent, as well as a very early performance of "Tomorrow" from Call of the West. The package includes lyrics to the first six tracks, an early concert review, and a thorough reproduction of the EP's original artwork. A couple of the live tracks ("End of an Era" and "Invisible Man") are particularly interesting because they are compositions that have not otherwise been released. The Index Masters is a collector's dream, but a little uneven despite the presence of their classic version of "Ring of Fire."


1. Longarm
2. The Passenger
3. Can't Make Love
4. Struggle
5. Ring of Fire
6. Granma's House
7. Enf of an Era (Live)
8. Tomorrow (Live)
9. Animal Day (Live)
10. Longarm (Live)
11. Invisible Man (Live)
12. Red Light (Live)
13. The Good, the Bad & the Ugly/Hang 'em High (Live)
14. Back in Flesh (Live)
15. Call Box (Live)
16. The Passenger (Live)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

JOHN ZORN


JOHN ZORN
ASTRONOME (2007)
320 KBPS


John Zorn's utter fascination with and envelopment in the mystical occult and outsider art of the 19th and 20th centuries continues on Astronome. Dedicated to the same three figures who informed Moonchild (also released in 2006): magician and philosopher Aleister Crowley, poet and dramatic Antonin Artaud, and composer Edgard Varèse. Drummer Joey Baron, bassist Trevor Dunn and vocalist Mike Patton take on three lengthy compositions by Zorn, all of which were inspired by the success of the original song cycle. Zorn not only wrote, but arranged and conducted what essentially comes off as an aural three-act play, or "pocket opera" covering seven scenes. In his liner notes, Zorn speaks of his title as the imagined continuation of a collaboration that actually took place between Varèse and Artaud. It was titled "Astronome," but was never finished. Zorn using his methodology of "combining the hypnotic intensity of ritual (composition) the spontaneity of magick (improvisation) and in a modern musical format (rock)," and with it actually transcends rock, classical, jazz and free improv. What is woven together here is a tight piece of work. It sprawls through mood, style, dynamic, and texture, but ultimately is revealed to be a work of intense musicality, physicality that comes out of noise and some free improvisation. The second scene that bridges the work reveals all of these elements and makes sense of their order. It uses thematic material from the previous scene and extends it all the way to scene three. This music is violent, spacious, full of shocks and surprises and an intensity beyond what one is used to listening to, even from this composer. It is possible that what appears on this disc will be regarded one day as actually quite beautiful and moving, especially when Patton seems to be incanting in the lower registers of his voice. Packaged like a fetish object, Astronome is contained in a two-part, glossy white box with four full-color -- yet minimal -- panels of the art of the Zodiac circle. There is printing on all sides of the box. There are also two glossies within the set loaded with photographs of the three spiritual guides who hover throughout this gorgeous monstrosity of a work; scenic sepia-toned plates, the occasional quotation, and text by Zorn. The sound on this baby -- thanks to engineer Robert Musso and the mixing sensitivity of Bill Laswell -- is simply amazing. Astronome cannot be explained or even commented upon with conventional written-language technology; that said, each true fan of Zorn should make the effort to try and take this work in. It's a masterpiece.


- I -
A Secluded Clearing in The Woods
A Single Bed in a Small Room
The Innermost Chapel of a Secret Temple
- II -
A Mediaeval Laboratory
In The Magick Circle
- III -
A Barren Plain at Midnight
An Unnamed Location

PET SHOP BOYS


PET SHOP BOYS
INTROSPECTIVE (1988)
REMASTER
320 KBPS


This is an album including 6 songs but feeling an eternity of pure joy and enthuasism. Opening track Left To My Open Devices should be an anthem in showing how everything in the kitchen sink may work so fittingly...from party animals to Debussy to nasal, rap-like singing to high-backvocals to strings to drum programming. It is a joyful dazzling experience of 6-minute pop indulgence.
The rest is not so different but things go suberp again in their own rendition of "I'm not Scared" in which Neil renders one of his most heart wrenching inquiries into a lying, non-faithful, elusive love, to whom he challenges and invites her/ him to fight against those "dogs"...but as usual with PSB, relations are not that eternally happy moments.
The house club version of Always On My Mind strikes a different chord with a nice interpretation, fully swelling into the majestic and piercing high energy progress of the wonderful single version.
Another hidden gem is a former B side, I want a Dog which is specially remixed by Knuckle for the album, which harbours joyful piano moments.
Introspective is the ultimate commercial-pop combination in Pet Shop Boys' oeuvre, closing the circle that started with Please and peaked in Actually, which showcases Boys' brilliance how pop is done, before the duo sadly moved into more experimental waters.
One of the most glorious pop albums of all time, Introspective is ten times the price its tag bears...more accurately, it is priceless.


1. Left to My Own Devices
2. I Want a Dog
3. Domino Dancing
4. I'm Not Scared
5. Always on My Mind/In My House
6. It's Alright

MORPHINE


MORPHINE
CURE FOR PAIN (1993)
320 KBPS


With their cult following growing, Morphine expanded their audience even further with their exceptional 1994 sophomore effort, Cure for Pain. Whereas their debut, Good, was intriguing yet not entirely consistent, Cure for Pain more than delivered. The songwriting was stronger and more succinct this time around, while new drummer Billy Conway made his recording debut with the trio (replacing Jerome Deupree). Like the debut, most of the material shifts between depressed and upbeat, with a few cacophonic rockers thrown in between. Such selections as "Buena," "I'm Free Now," "All Wrong," "Candy," "Thursday," "In Spite of Me" (one of the few tracks to contain six-string guitar), "Let's Take a Trip Together," "Sheila," and the title track are all certifiable Morphine classics. And again, Mark Sandman's two-string slide bass and Dana Colley's sax work help create impressive atmospherics throughout the album. Cure for Pain was unquestionably one of the best and most cutting-edge rock releases of the '90s.


1. Dawn
2. Buena
3. I'm Free Now
4. All Wrong
5. Candy
6. A Head With Wings
7. In Spite Of Me
8. Thursday
9. Cure For Pain
10. Mary Won't You Call My Name?
11. Let's Take A Trip Together
12. Sheila
13. Miles Davis' Funeral

Monday, February 23, 2009

JAMIE SAFT


JAMIE SAFT
BLACK SHABBIS (2009)
320 KBPS


Before his two piano trio recordings for Tzadik, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and conceptualist Jamie Saft was well known for his wide-ranging musical vision on that label and others, where he has quite liberally utilized hard dub, heavy metal, and electronic music in contexts that sometimes combined these genres with vanguard jazz. On his fifth offering for John Zorn's imprint, Saft returns to one of his earliest loves on Black Shabbis, part of the imprint's Radical Jewish Culture Series. Saft has composed a series of visceral, musically challenging songs about anti-Semitism in history and popular culture with at least one meditation ("Army Girl") on the tolerance Semetic peoples must practice toward one another in this dangerous time. But, it seems, Saft seems to be saying -- quite rightly -- that all times have been dangerous for Jews. Saft plays guitars, bass, organs, Mellotron, and synthesizer, and gets help from bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Mike Pride on five tracks with Dmitriy Shnaydman and Bobby Previte on skins on two others. Vanessa Saft and Mr. Dorgon (Gordon Knauer) offer vocals on a couple of cuts as well. To say that Saft "gets" metal would be an absurdity. There is no irony on this set, intentional or otherwise: it is as much a part of his musical identity as jazz and his formal improv studies with Joe Maneri. The set begins with the title cut, a soft "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky"- style melody that's actually a resonant take on a Jewish folk song, with lots of reverbed guitars and rubbery basslines and some organ and synth lines painting a warm dubby atmosphere. The album roars to life with "Blood," a death metal offering that reflects the libelous -- and false -- history of the Jews as the killers of young boys to be used in the sacred Passover ritual. With its guttural, growling vocals, it would be great to be able to hear the lyrics as well as read Saft's summation of the track in the liner booklet. The guitars here are simply over the edge into the red; the interplay between Dunn and Pride is stunning. The overdrive continues on "Serpent Seed," an indictment of the anti-Semitism of Pastor Arnold Murray. The track is slow, crunchy bluesed-out metal. One power riff slowly articulates itself with a near funk backbeat to drive home its message as a bevy of keyboards speak from the fabric of the track. The blues makes a return appearance on "Army Girl," with a propulsive organ sharing the space with the guitars in the middle and layers of echo chamber demonic-sounding vocals adding weight and depth. "Remember," the second from last cut on the set, is the most disturbing thing here. An exhortation that to forget the pogroms, the Holocaust, and other violence and indignities against the Jewish people would be a crime, it is doom metal drenched in feedback, drone, and long distorted sounds and goes on for over 13 minutes. Black Shabbis is not for everybody, not even some Saft fans necessarily, but it is a powerful, excellent work that uses the metal genre well -- expertly even -- and will convince headbangers of its essential importance as one of the voices out there that stands tall and defiant in the face of much of the anti-Semitism that is promoted by some black and death metal bands. For everyone else, it is an angry howl of both pain and resistance whose anger is carried beautifully as the artist's ultimate weapon: his imagination and creativity to provoke, to give pause and reflection.


1. Black Shabbis -- The Trail of Libels
2. Blood
3. Serpent Seed
4. Der Judenstein (The Jewry Stone)
5. Army Girl
6. King of King of Kings
7. Kielce
8. Remember
9. Ballad of Leo Frank

TRULS MØRK


TRULS MØRK
BENJAMIN BRITTEN:
CELLO SUITES (2000)

320 KBPS


The Cello Suites are the most intimate, introspective, and, for many listeners, resistible of all the major Britten scores, and so it takes a special interpretive talent to make manifest their worth, vitality, and genius. For works of genius they surely are: austere in form but rich in thought, in much the manner of Bach's unaccompanied cello suites, which lay the ground rules for this kind of repertory. They were originally written for Rostropovich, who remains their champion of choice. But for reasons best known to himself, Rostropovich has only ever recorded the first two, leaving the field open for younger cellists to set down the complete series. Truls Mork makes his contribution with readings of stature that scrutinize the material and project it with a big, warm resonance. His playing is perhaps less energized than Rostropovich's but more elegiac, and it has all the technical accomplishment you'd expect from someone who by now must rank among the top five cellists in the world. Enormously impressive.


Suite No. 1 in G for Solo Cello Op.72
1. Canto Primo: Sostenuto e largamente
2. I Fuga: Andante moderato
3. II Lamento: Lento rubato
4. Canto Secondo: Sostenuto
5. III Serenata: Allegretto (pizzicato)
6. IV Marcia: Alla marcia moderato
7. Canto Terzo: Sostenuto
8. V Bordone: Moderato quasi recitativo
9. VI Moto perpetuo e Canto quarto: Presto
Suite No. 2 in D for Solo Cello Op.80
10. I Declamato: Largo
11. II Fuga: Andante
12. III Scherzo: Allegro molto
13. IV Andante lento
14. V Ciaccona: Allegro
Suite No. 3 for Solo Cello Op. 87
15. I Introduzione: Lento
16. II Marcia: Allegro
17. III Canto: Con moto
18. IV Barcarola: Lento
19. V Dialogo: Allgretto
20. VI Fuga: Andante espressivo
21. VII Recitativo: Fantastico
22. VIII Moto Perpetuo: Presto
23. IX Passacaglia: Lento solenne

WILLY DEVILLE


WILLY DE VILLE
LOUP GAROU (1996)
320 KBPS


With Loup Garou, Willie Deville explored new rhythmic and melodic territory, experimenting with cajun and mariachi music. Not all of the songs work — frequently, Deville sounds too nervous and studied to really break free and have fun with the material — but it nevertheless is enjoyable, with enough strong songs (especially "You'll Never Know," a duet with Brenda Lee) to make it worthwhile for longtime Deville followers.


1. No Such Pain As Love
2. Runnin' Through The Jungle (Shootin' The Blues)
3. When You'Re Away From Me
4. Angels Don'T Lie
5. Still (I Love You Still)
6. White Trash Girl
7. You'Ll Never Know
8. Ballad Of The Hoodlum Priest
9. Heart Of A Fool
10. Asi Te Amo
11. Loup Garou "Bal Goula"
12. Time Has Come Today
13. My One Desire (Vampir's Lullaby)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

DANNY ELFMAN


DANNY ELFMAN
NIGHTMARE REVISITED (2008)
320 KBPS

With “The Nightmare Before Christmas” franchise growing each year, Walt Disney Records is releasing a brand new cover album, “Nightmare Revisited.” The album features unique, ALL NEW RECORDINGS on the eccentric cult classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” soundtrack, covered by a diverse group of artists across different music genres. Artists such as Amy Lee from Evanesence, Korn, Rise Against, Shiny Toy Guns, Flyleaf, Polyphonic Spree, and more! Take a spin with these great songs and show us there is still plenty of nightmare to revisit. The cd itself has a wide variety of sounds. This cd sports an impressive rang of artists, from the ones you'd first think of to do do a cd like this.. to ones you maybe wouldn't. An example would be Marilyn Manson, who does the same song he had from the original soundtrack Special cd, a very impressive version of 'This is Halloween' to Rodrigo y Gabriela's version of 'Oogie Boogie's Song' with a very enjoyable Latin twist.
Also featured are the well known artists Korn, All American Rejects, Plain White T's, Rjd2, and perhaps my favorite, Amy Lee who does a wonderful version of 'Sally's Song'. Danny Elfman also does some voice work in the opening and closing
The highlight of the album certainly is the very much altered cover of Town Meeting Song by the Poliphonic Spree, this one alone makes this album a must try but the overall quality is quite high.

1. Overture - DeVotchKa
2. Opening - Danny Elfman
3. This Is Halloween - Marilyn Manson
4. Jack's Lament - The All-American Rejects
5. Doctor Finkelstein/In the Forest - Amiina
6. What's This? - Flyleaf
7. Town Meeting Song - The Polyphonic Spree
8. Jack and Sally Montage - The Vitamin String Quartet
9. Jack's Obsession - Sparklehorse
10. Kidnap the Sandy - Claws Koßn
11. Making Christmas - Rise Against
12. Nabbed - Yoshida Brothers
13. Oogie Boogie's Song - Rodrigo y Gabriela
14. Sally's Song - Amy Lee
15. Christmas Eve Montage - Rjd2
16. Poor Jack - Plain White T's
17. To the Rescue - Datarock
18. Finale/Reprise - Shiny Toy Guns
19. Closing - Danny Elfman
20. End Title - The Album Leaf
Bonus Track
21. Tiger Army - Oogie Boogie's Song

GALLIARD


GALLIARD
NEW DAWN (1970)
320 KBPS

Galliard’s second alum came out the following year of their debut’s release with a major line-up change, even if five of six original members remained: while sax player John Smith departed, he was replaced by a four-man wind section, not including Caswell’s trumpet. Also joining is keyboardist John Morton. While these are included as band members in a few reference books, some of the musicians play so few things, that most likely they were guest musicians (such as the well-known Harry Beckett playing on two tracks only). Again released on the Deram label, the album sports an all black cover and was recorded over the first seven months of 70 . While the album’s name would suggest a new start, the album remains fairly close to their debut effort (at least in half the tracks), although there are a few stranger twists, like Indian sitars, flutes and more. Again, the majority of the 8 tracks are penned by singer/guitarist Brown, but two off them are shared with newcomer keyboardist Morton, Caswell writing the remainder. Another slight difference is that bassist Abbott gets many vocal duties as well.
After the opening title track, which sounds much like what Galliard did on their debut album with an enhanced brass section, a sitar opens the 9-mins Ask For Nothing before an enchanting flute gets the track rolling in a very trippy direction. This superb track keeps the sitar (played by guitarist Pannell) going throughout the whole track, even while it has veered into a rock structure, but before long it morphed into an electric raga, which gives an exhilarating sound with the acoustic sitar and the brass replies close to orgasmic levels, and the track slowly dying in an organized chaos. Grandiose!! The 6- mins Winter-Spring-Summer starts as a lovely flute-laden folky tune, but soon diverts in a fantastic jazzy tune where Harry Beckett’s flugelhorn is simply divine, with Geoff Brown’s vocals sounding like Cressida’s Angus Cullen.
On the flipside, Open Up Your Mind returns to the quirky brass rock that they had developed in their debut album. The folky And Smile Again has Morton on accordion and somehow a Bert Jansch atmosphere escapes from the track, mostly due to Brown’s vocals, but the typical Jansch general song delivery also helps. Next up is Something Going On, much reminiscent of early Chicago (the start of 25 Or 6 To 4), often changing tempo and offers some real songwriting for brass, and in the second part, and after a slower middle section with a trombone, the track slips into a joyful faster section, where Brown sounds again like Cressida’s Cullen. Yet another highlight in this album that seem to collect them. The Caswell-penned Premonition is the best typical brass-rock track of the album, with Caswell’s trumpet and Jenkins’ sax pulling delightful solos. The closing 6-mins+ In Your Mind’s Eyes starts on spacey modulator, guitar feedbacks and organ guts wailings, then the brass section jumping out of the box on a wild drum rising from the dead, the track constantly evolving through singing, guitar solo answered by merciless brass replies, this tracks rocks immensely and intensely., before dying much like it was born, amid spacey throes.
While obviously a more eclectic affair New Dawn is the worthy successor of Strange Pleasure, which this sophomore effort gives much of as well and even more. M%uch more adventurous than its predecessor, New dawn has a schizophrenic quality as half the tracks are pure brass-rock, but the other half is completely eclectic, and thankfully so. This second album is much worth the proghead’s investigation and investment.

1. New Dawn Breaking
2. Ask for Nothing
3. Winter-Spring-Summer
4. Open Up Your Mind
5. And Smile Again
6. Something Going On
7. Premonition
8. In Your Minds Eyes

DAVE KOZ


DAVE KOZ
SAXOPHONIC (2003)
320 KBPS

This likeable, ultra funky, and melodic saxman is one of the few smooth jazz performers whose consistent gold sales status, and omnipresence in the genre (including DJ'ing a morning show at one of the country's top stations, and two annual tours) makes him a crossover superstar. But his breakneck multi-media schedule is only part of the reason he can get away with only recording a new studio album every three or four years; his discs are usually so deep in picture perfect potential hit singles that Capitol can milk the album for that long with constant radio play. He has a tough act to follow here after 1999's magnificent The Dance spawned no less than five Top Five contemporary jazz singles. He doesn't disappoint for a second, packing this sax-intensive collection with hook after hook amidst a mix of edgy funk, mid-tempo chill vibes, and some unique sonic experiments, including sampling old jazz tracks on the crazy-making, hip-hop scratcher "Sound of the Underground," featuring some nifty harmonies from trumpeter Chris Botti, and a colorful move into house music with "Only Tomorrow Knows," that may surprise those who always expect him to stay in the mainstream. Whereas The Dance was cover-happy, Saxophonic stands strong on all original tunes, broken up four at a time by Acts One, Two, and Three, which are defined by the overall vibe of the section. Act One is funkified, slickly produced (Jeff Lorber and Brian Culbertson had a hand), heavy on the horn doubling and soul, (represented by the irresistible opener "Honey-dipped"). Act Two has more ambience, and fresh, mid-tempo attitude, a balance of the feisty electronic hip-hop crackle of the title track, and the lush romance of "Definition of Beautiful," featuring vocals by labelmate Javier. Act Three offers the aforementioned experiments, plus a torchy ballad and a colorful thumping duet with Marc Antoine. The Curtain Call ballad, "One Last Thing," is a sweet, gospel-flavored sax-piano duet produced by Brian McKnight. One curious disappointment flutters amidst all the success here; the tracks that advertise contributions by McKnight and Bobby Caldwell only use them in a minor backing capacity. Yes, this makes things more "saxophonic," but why bring such talent on the journey if they're hardly present in the mix?

1. Honey-dipped
2. Love Changes Everything (featuring Brian McKnight)
3. All I See Is You
4. Just To Be Next To You
5. Let It Free
6. Undeniable (featuring Bobby Caldwell)
7. Saxophonic (Come On Up)
8. Definition Of Beautiful (featuring Javier)
9. Sound Of The Underground (featuring Chris Botti)
10. Only Tomorrow Knows
11. I Believe
12. View From Above (featuring Marc Antoine)
13. Curtain Call
14. One Last Thing

Saturday, February 21, 2009

SHAOLIN DEATH SQUAD


SHAOLIN DEATH SQUAD
INTELLIGENT DESIGN (2006)

192-320 KBPS


“When a Manchu conspiracy to overthrow the Ming dynasty is thwarted by a group of Shaolin disciples and patriots, a fierce battle to defend the life of the King ensues, with deadly results”

Shaolin Death Squad’s first album from 2006, Intelligent Design, is one of those unknown masterpieces that will stay with you forever. It’s very hard to cage this work of art in a musical genre or other, they define themselves “Theatrical Rock”. The music goes from the burlesque to the violent, from the atmospheric to the grotesque, from the cold mountains of China to the exaggerated joke of a circus; there's anger and insanity, there's laughter and even some light; we travel from the traditional to the modern, from progressive-metal to thrash metal to space-rock to avant-garde.

The musicianship is outstanding and without self indulgent show offs; the “White Swan”, the singer, has a stunning range and mastery of pretty much every genre you can think of, heavily influenced by Mike Patton, but definitely with a unique style of his own.

This was a self released album, please buy it after you try it so that hopefully the Squad will deliver another masterpiece. Yes, I am in love with this band.

1. A Terrible Way to Use a Sword
2. Catastrophic Obedience
3. Choreographer of Fate
4. Radio Feeler
5. Face Insecurity Killed
6. Escaping Absynthe
7. Fall, Rise, Laugh...fall
8. A Story Lives Forever
9. First Half of Yesterday

ELLA FITZGERALD


ELLA FITZGERALD
THE COLE PORTER SONGBOOK (1956)
320 KBPS

Long considered a jewel in Verve Records' very impressive crown, Fitzgerald's songbook collections of various composers--a series that was started by the success of this set--are all wonderful, but her natural wit and intelligence was at its most perfect with Cole Porter's erudite, urbane songs. While not as scat-oriented as her small group outings, these Porter sets offer her most realized pop performances. Also, the gold remastering does a fine job of bringing out the nuances in the arrangements, making this a treasure for the serious collector and the casual listener alike. A true American music gem.

Disc 1
1. All Through The Night
2. Anything Goes
3. Miss Otis Regrets (She's Unable To Lunch Today)
4. Too Darn Hot
5. In The Still Of The Night
6. I Get A Kick Out Of You
7. Do I Love You?
8. Always True To You In My Fashion
9. Let's Do It
10. Just One Of Those Things
11. Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
12. All Of You
13. Begin The Beguine
14. Get Out Of Town
15. I Am In Love
16. From This Moment On

Disc 2
1. I Love Paris
2. You Do Something To Me
3. Ridin' High
4. Easy To Love
5. It's All Right With Me
6. Why Can't You Behave?
7. What Is This Thing Called Love?
8. You're The Top
9. Love For Sale
10. It's DeLovely
11. Night And Day
12. Ace In The Hole
13. So In Love
14. I've Got You Under My Skin
15. I Concentrate On You
16. Don't Fence Me In
17. You're The Top
18. I Concentrate On You
19. Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)

KANSAS


KANSAS
MASQUE (1975)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

Kansas' third album, Masque, is a lyrically dark effort courtesy of guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren's brooding songwriting. Musically, Masque foreshadows the tight melodies and instrumental interplay on the next two albums, Leftoverture and Point of Know Return, which together serve as the peak of Kansas' vision. The band deserves more respect than it gets for incorporating British hard rock and progressive rock to become the only U.S. progressive rock band of note during the genre's 1970s heyday. Robbie Steinhardt's violin work certainly helped give Kansas a distinctive sound. The liner notes indicate Masque is a "concept album" thanks to the title's definition: "A disguise of reality created through a theatrical or musical performance." Vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh's "It Takes a Woman's Love (To Make a Man)" is the leadoff track, and it's atypical of the rest of the album. The song is a fairly basic yet groovy pop/rock tune about musicians' loneliness on the road, but it is spiced up with some saxophone lines. "Two Cents Worth" addresses guilt, misery, and spiritual longing — pretty heavy stuff for six guys who were only in their mid-twenties. In "Icarus—Borne on Wings of Steel," Kansas' prog rock ambitions show through the mythology-based lyrics and the densely arranged guitars and keyboards. Walsh and Steinhardt's "All the World" is largely a bleak examination of loneliness and death, although it does end with a glimmer of hope. "Child of Innocence" is a tough blast of hard rock with a soaring chorus. "Mysteries and Mayhem" rocks along, yet it's rich with haunting nightmare imagery and biblical references. The nine-and-a-half-minute epic "The Pinnacle" closes the album.

1. It takes a woman's love (to make a man)
2. Two cents worth
3. Icarus - Borne on the wings of steel
4. All over the world
5. Child of innocence
6. It's you
7. Mysteries and mayhem
8. The pinnacle
Bonus Tracks
9. Child of innocence (rehearsal recording)
10. It's you (demo)

POLKA MADRE


POLKA MADRE
CASA DONDE (2008)
256 KBPS

Polka Madre literally means “mother polka.” It’s also a pun on puta madre, one of the most vulgar Mexican curses, and a derivative of poca madre, an untranslatable and distinctly chilango phrase that can express utmost disgust or enthusiasm. It’s an apt name for a band that filters the world’s music through the world’s largest metropolis, sighing out elegant folk songs through the gritted teeth and biting grime of Mexico D.F., electrifying old sounds to make them heard again above the noise of the 24 million other chilangos that inhabit the megalopolis.
The story begins when Eric Bergman (vocals, guitar, mandolin), a Finn raised in America and schooled in England, met Marina de Ita (keyboards, accordion) while traveling through Mexico D.F. in early 2004. The two began performing minimal and melancholy music at the weekly Jueves de Kramer, an underground arts night in a warehouse space on the city’s nderdeveloped south side. A rotating cast of barflies and bohemians would join them on stage, and their music coalesced around something sinister, drunken, and Eastern European, elegantly stumbling between klezmer, polka, and circus music.
After a few months the police shut down the Jueves de Kramer, but Eric and Marina had built up a solid repertoire and recruited Enrique Perez (clarinet), a classically-trained virtuoso who was eager to push the boundaries of his training by delving into the occult underbellies of jazz and the avant-garde. Over the next year, Eric, Marina, and Enrique herded a rotating cast of musicians of varying levels of talent and sobriety across Mexico and Europe. After a year and a half of hard touring, Polka Madre became a steady quintet, with punk rock train-hopper Andrew Cameron (U.S.A., bass), and highly-trained percussionist Raymundo Vera filling out the rhythm section. The band members turned over their lives to music, quitting their day jobs and living on tortillas and onion soup from gig to gig.
Live shows grew increasingly theatrical, incorporating false moustaches, equal parts shirtlessness and dandyhood, and liberal dabs of alcohol-scented sweat. Their audience grew alongside their ambitions, and they regularly drew 500-strong crowds around Mexico. In spring 2006, Polka Madre recorded their debut full-length, Infausta Noticia, and took off on a 40-stop U.S. tour to promote the album, followed by multi-month jaunts around Mexico and Europe that kept the band busy well into 2007.
When Polka Madre weren’t touring, they were busy assimilating the wide array of influences that they had encountered during their travels. The band had spent three months mingling with members of New York’s gypsy-punk scene and toured Mexico with backbeat-heavy hillbilly revivalists the Can Kickers. Their rhythm section stepped up its tempos to take on a punk-rock furor, while Marina and Enrique crafted multi-faceted melodies that touched down all over Europe and Latin America, and Eric tied it all together with simple song structures and cryptic imagery. Their upcoming album, Casa Donde, is as timeless and out-of-time as the crowd of shantytown-dwelling nacos, glue-huffing punkeros, and fresa art-scenesters that walk the chilango streets.

1 Intro (Mexico City)
2 Niña, Olga, Vodka
3 Circo Del Siglo
4 Le Fin Du Monde
5 Triplets
6 Karjalainen Tanssi
7 Vida Propia
8 Sirenitas En El Espacio
9 Toca Mi Cuerpo
10 Funeral/Brahms
11 Herasin Kuoleena
12 Gitanas Mojadas
13 Riihikirkonhymni
14 Los Ciegos
15 Funeral De Marina

Friday, February 20, 2009

HOWLIN' WOLF


HOWLIN' WOLF
THE HOWLIN' WOLF ALBUM (1968)
320 KBPS

From Chris Goes Rock:
If the large black text on the album’s cover stating…

This is Howlin’ Wolf’s
new album.
He doesn’t like it.
He didn’t like his electric
guitar at first either.

…Isn’t enough of a clue, Cadet Concept’s studio head & co-producer Marshall Chess pretty much confirmed the fact The Wolf wasn’t thrilled with the album on Martin Scorsese’s PBS series entitled “The Blues”. Chess, the son & nephew of the co-founders of the label that bore his name, always tended to be forward thinking. Wolf, nearing 60 years old at the time the album was released, had no need to be as progressive. He’s alleged to have told Rolling Stone Magazine the album was “shit” - But also made his opinions known within the album itself.
On the introduction to “Tail Dragger”, the Wolf opens the song with: “Now I didn’t like it, you see. These queer sounds, you see. These electric guitars, they got them queer sounds. Most people still don’t understand it. You know. You know what I mean?” That sounds more like Newport Festival-type rant against plugging in than it does a criticism of this specific album.
On the introduction to the closing track on the album, “Back Door Man” it’s Wolf who says: “Now listen peoples, everybody say they don’t like the blues. But you wrong. See, the blues come from way back. And I’m gonna tell you somethin’ again. The thing that’s going on today is not the blues, it’s just a good beat that people just carry. But now when you come down to the blues, I’m gonna show you how to play the blues. Now you just sit here and watch me.” He may not have liked the finished product – but it doesn’t appear anyone was holding a gun to his head in the recording studio.
One should also bear in mind, the concept for this album was repeated just 2 years later, with Wolf fronting the British version of The Electric Mud Band, with members Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman & Charlie Watts. I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that if The Howlin Wolf Album was as shitty as claimed – he would’ve unplugged and refused to cut this (in my opinion, inferior) release.
Sorry, that’s the best I can do. Unless you parrot the artist’s description of this album as “shit”, there’s no one word you could use to describe what it is you’re hearing. From the opening drumbeat to the final note, the listener is presented a set of ten blues remakes with Wolf belting out his trademark gruff, course vocals; tons of late-sixties style, wah-wah guitar effects and a fairly tight (but sometimes tinny sounding) rhythm section. If you came here expecting a grainy, acoustic blues sound; you’ll either be thoroughly disappointed – or surprised.

1. Spoonful
2. Tail Dragger
3. Smokestack Lightning
4. Moanin’ At Midnight
5. Built For Comfort
6. The Red Rooster
7. Evil
8. Down In The Bottom
9. Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy
10. Back Door Man

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER


EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER
BRAIN SALAD SURGERY (1973)
35TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION
224-320 KBPS

With orchestral swells and symphonic arrangements, Emerson Lake & Palmer put the Prague in '70s progressive rock. There was something of that dark, European artistry in their compositions that always made their music more grandiose than their stateside counterparts. Brain Salad Surgery was a conductor's wet dream. Works like the "Impression" study in four movements were epic to the nth degree. Influenced by Mussorgsky and Stravinsky, ELP wreaked havoc with the conventions of what rock and classical music could and could not be. In typical fashion, the trio included one highly accessible cut, in this case the haunting "Still... You Turn Me On." The CD also contains the enigmatic favorite, "Karn Evil 9."
The version I'm giving you here is the 2008 35th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. In addition to the original album, you have quite a few things to explore. Let it be noted that acquirind this edition is worth just for the 5.1 mix that is not, obviously, included here.

CD1
1. Jerusalem
2. Toccata
3. Still...You Turn Me On
4. Benny The Bouncer
5. Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 1
6. Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2
7. Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression
8. Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression

CD2
1. When The Apple Blossoms Bloom In The Windmills Of Your Mind I'll Be Your Valentine
2. Brain Salad Surgery
3. Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression - Original Backing Track
4. Jerusalem - First Mix
5. Still...You Turn Me On - First Mix
6. Toccata - Alternate Version
7. Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 1 - Unreleased Until 35th Anniversary Version
8. Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2 - Unreleased Until 35th Anniversary Version
9. Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression - Unreleased Until 35th Anniversary Version
10. Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression - Unreleased Until 35th Anniversary Version
11. Brain Salad Surgery - From the NME Flexidisc 1973
12. Excerpts from Brain Salad Surgery - From the NME Flexidisc 1973

PSYKUP


PSYKUP
WE LOVE YOU ALL (2008)
320 KBPS

Psykup hails from Toulouse and consists of five men who play eclectic metal in a way you have never heard before. Behold, this CD might end up at the top of my year list. What music. What violence. What insanity.
How do you describe Psykup? Like Mr Bungle with ADHD? Like Gorerotted who try to play like The Mars Volta? Like Strapping Young Lad with a multiple personality disorder? The fact remains that ‘We Love You All’ is an album with a lot of surprises crammed in one song. And if you look at it that way, there is not very much: there are just six songs on this album, but with an average playing time of nine minutes. Only ‘The Choice Of Modern Men’ differs with 4:26 minutes. The raging opening-hurricane ‘Color Me Blood Red’ puts us in our place with fast drums, primus like fills and stepping up into other genres like funk and jazz. Almost ten minutes does this tornado last. We ain’t there yet. ‘Birdy’ hits us hard and leads us to the ecstatic orgasm of this cd: ‘My Toy My Satan’. With terrific samples from the movie ‘Dogma’ which gives Psykup bonus points. Constant quality with a sound ladies and gentlemen: to die for!
The only thing that stings me is that I read on their myspace page that the cd has another tracklisting and that ‘We Love You All’ is a double cd according to their information. The promo doesn’t give me the right impression! So guess that I give Psykup 90 points, I may sell them short because I haven’t heard the entire album. Dilemma’s, dilemmas.
If you even could imagine something from aforementioned descriptions, then Psykup is a band for you. For people who want their metal ‘pure’ and ‘true’, better leave this one and buy the new Judas Priest. This is for adventurers only. I will put it on another time!

CD1
1. Color Me Blood Red
2. Birdy
3. The Choice of Modern Men
4. En vivre libre ou mourir Part 1
5. En vivre libre ou mourir Part 2
6. Rétroaction

CD2
1. La vie dont vous êtes le héros - prologue
2. La vie dont vous êtes le héros - le choix
3. My Toy, My Satan
4. La vie dont vous êtes le héros - pile
5. Here Come the Waves
6. La vie dont vous êtes le héros - face

Thursday, February 19, 2009

NINO FERRER


NINO FERRER
CONCERT CHEZ HARRY (1997)
320 KBPS

Three years prior to his suicide, the king of French rythm'n'blues, Nino Ferrer -of Italian descent-, recorded his final and maybe his most flavoury live album. Better than any compilation, because of the energetic performances, Concert Chez Harry features most of Nino's hits. Accompanied by a terrific band, the artist displays his usual mix of charm, humour and great melodies. To sum things up: a great band, great songs, a very good sound. All of this make of Concert Chez Harry the perfect introduction for those who haven't heard Nino yet and an entertaining listen for the other.

1. Introduction 95
2. La Maison Près De La Fontaine
3. La Rua Madureira
4. L'Angleterre
5. La Danse De La Pluie
6. Les Cornichons
7. L'An 2000
8. Scopa
9. Notre Chère Russie
10. L'Arbre Noir
11. Trapèze Volant
12. Le Téléfon
13. Mirza
14. Un Homme A L'Espace
15. Blues En Fin Du Monde
16. Le Sud
17. Homlet

PETER BJORN AND JOHN


PETER BJORN AND JOHN
PETER BJORN AND JOHN (2003)
320 KBPS

Peter Bjorn and John's first album (2002's Peter Bjorn and John) is a rambunctious and thrilling blast of energy, promise, and well-crafted hooks. The trio took their time before releasing the album (they formed in 1999), and the time spent honing their craft paid off. The songs are memorable, the performances tight and nuanced, the production flawless. It sounds like the work of a band at the very top of their game (though later records show they were just getting going). The writing is split for the most part between Peter and Björn, with the former firmly following the Beatles/Costello path of frantic pop with a twist, the latter pulling songs from no discernible source, though some like "Falling and Passing" are loosely based in new wave. The best of the batch (like "I Don't Know What I Want Us to Do," "Matchmaker," "People They Know," and "100 Meters of Hurdles") will end up on their inevitable greatest-hits collection, while the rest are merely examples of the best indie rock/pop of the early 2000s. Peter Bjorn and John may have made a big splash in 2006/2007, but this record shows they were swimming with the big boys from the very beginning.

1. I Don't Know What I Want Us to Do
2. Failing and Passing
3. People They Know
4. A Mutual Misunderstanding
5. From Now On
6. Matchmaker
7. Collect, Select, Reflect
8. 100 M of Hurdles
9. Education Circle
10. Please, Go Home
Bonus Tracks
11. Firing Blanks
12. Don't Be Skew
13. Le Crique
14. The Fan
15. Saturday Night at the Parties

ALQUIN


ALQUIN
THE MOUNTAIN QUEEN (1973)
320 KBPS

The 2nd album by the Dutch band Alquin. This album is probably their best. It was produced by Derek Lawrence, and the sound was heavier and more guitar driven than on their first album. References to Camel and early Roxy Music can be found. When you are interested in the music of Alquin, you must purchase this album. It is released together with their first album on one CD. The album opens with the best track of their repertoire, and one of the best tracks that have come out of the Dutch progressive scene, The Dance. The intro has organ and some distorted guitar playing. It slows down so we can hear flute and vocals. After the verse the guitar is back. Halfway the track it changes drastically after another guitar solo, the track slows down again and it then sounds very loosely, jam-like with saxophone and electric piano. Soft-eyed woman is an instrumental track with mainly guitar. The next track is a strange but lovely track about the thoughts of a stewardess.
The title song is another long track, it is cheerful with some beautiful melodic passages. The short Don and Dewey is the only cover song they ever recorded, it perfectly transcends in the last track. This is the studio version of the same track of the first album.

1. The Dance
2. Soft-Eyed Woman
3. Convicts Of The Air
4. Mouintain Queen
5. Mr. Barnum's Jr.'s Magnificent And Fabulous City
6. Don And Dewey

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS


BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS
BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS (1969)
REMASTER
320 KBPS

At the beginning of 1969, the psychedelic movement was dying down. The social turmoil of the previous year was already seeming to hint that not all was fine and dandy with the situation at hand. While some bands took the time out to address the upheaval, a few barely bothered to acknowledge it and instead just made some great experimental music typical of the time. Blood, Sweat & Tears was one of these bands. After firing Al Kooper, who had virtually founded the band himself, the remaining members recruited vocalist David Clayton-Thomas, and a totally different dynamic was taken for their self-titled second album. Horns were used throughout CHILD IS FATHER TO THE MAN, no doubt, but they weren't the primary focus, that being Al Kooper's organ. This time around, the horn section is used almost on the level a lead guitar would be used in a regular rock band. And the material they use is equally mind-blowing. Not afraid to cover the most unusual sources, BS&T manage to take Traffic's "Smiling Phases", Billie Holliday's "God Bless The Child", Laura Nyro's "And When I Die" and Brenda Holloway's "You've Made Me So Very Happy" and turn the originals inside-out to the point that BS&T actually own the songs now. Kooper may not have agreed with the new music being made, but the omnipresent organ that was all throughout CHILD is still a big part of this album, which I guess explains why Kooper's version of the band is often overlooked as if it didn't even exist. Unlike CHILD, BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS was pretty much the THRILLER of 1969, topping the charts for weeks on end, spawning 3 #2 hits which should have been #1's, and going platinum before platinum was even an official designation. But like Kooper's BS&T, long-running success was not to be. With 8 members in the band, differences were bound to erupt, and while they did manage to hold out a little longer (for two more albums), this album was rather the beginning of the end for BS&T, rather than the beginning of a new era, which it damn well should have been. It still ranks as one of the most original and breathtaking statements popular music has ever made.

1. Variations On A Theme By Erik Satie (1st and 2nd Movements - Adapted From "Trois Gymnopedies')
2. Smiling Phases
3. Sometimes In Winter
4. More And More
5. And When I Die
6. God Bless The Child
7. Spinning Wheel
8. You've Made Me So Very Happy
9. Blues-Part II
10. Variation On A Theme By Erik Satie (1st Movement - Adapted From "Trois Gymnopedies")
Bonus Tracks
11. More And More (live)
12. Smiling Phases (live)

JUDAS PRIEST


JUDAS PRIEST



ROCKA ROLLA (1974)
REMASTER


A strange debut but a pretty good one.
Some of the songs on here are excellent, and the whole thing is a real barrel of fun. It's not Sad Wings of Destiny, but at times it really does hint at it. It's a strange one - the bastard son of Black Sabbath, and your average hippie-rock band. There are a few rockers that are just completely fun, Rocka Rolla (feline on the borderline!) and Cheater for example, along with the bouncing opener, One for the Road. Simple but effective riffage.
Then, there's the epic stuff. This is the 70s, where everyone had to be a bit prog and crazy, and this comes out pretty good. The second half of the album is where things really pick up. Run of the Mill is an amazing song (even if the shriek at the end is pitch-shifted) with its long middle soloing section over the hypnotic bass riff (yes, you can actually hear Ian on this LP!). Then, there's the absolute highlight of the album, Dying to Meet You, which is half Black Sabbath, half Genocide, and proto-heavy metal all the way!
This album is quite enjoyable, and never mind its historical importance. Hot on the heels of Black Sabbath, here comes the Next Big Thing!


1. One for the Road
2. Rocka Rolla
3. Winter
4. Deep Freeze
5. Winter Retreat
6. Cheater
7. Never Satisfied
8. Run of the Mill
9. Dying to Meet You
10. Caviar and Meths
Bonus Track
11. Diamonds and Rust



SAD WINGS OF DESTINY (1976)
REMASTER


Sad Wings of Destiny is one of those rare classic metal albums that is just as good as it is influential, and is rightfully praised by every metal fan who knows anything. What we have here is an album that pretty much set the standard for any metal release in the future, in terms of both quality and style. This album was the heaviest, darkest and most impressive thing ever released in its time, and while nowadays it sounds kind of dated, the quality of the music is still undeniable.
Anyone who hasn't heard this album yet needs to. Not because of its influence or importance, but because it's a damn good album.


1. Prelude
2. Tyrant
3. Genocide
4. Epitaph
5. Island of Domination
6. Victim of Changes
7. The Ripper
8. Dreamer Deceiver
9. Deceiver
Bonus
10-17. The Judas Priest Story as told by John Hinch

MIDNIGHT OIL


MIDNIGHT OIL
DIESEL AND DUST (1987)
320 KBPS

Few would claim that Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett is the world's greatest rock vocalist, but he clearly means what he sings. On Diesel and Dust, Garrett and company serve up a collection of solid pop-rock songs that follow the groundwork laid by their early albums. Intrinsic to their sound is a guitars-bass-drums attack spiced occasionally with horns and keyboards and capped with Garrett's throaty vocals. Garrett's lyrics on Deisel and Dust are noteworthy because they are not about love or personal relationships but instead address larger issues. "Beds Are Burning" is a call to return the land expropriated from Australia's aboriginal peoples, while "The Dead Heart" and "Bullroarer" celebrate their rich cultural heritage. Many bands and artists have made some sort of political or social concern apparent in their work, but few have done so as consistently, dedicatedly, and tunefully as Midnight Oil.

1. Beds Are Burning
2. Put Down That Weapon
3. Dreamworld
4. Arctic World
5. Warakurna
6. The Dead Heart
7. Whoah
8. Bullroarer
9. Sell My Soul
10. Sometimes

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN


EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN
THE JEWELS (2007)
320 KBPS

It's quite a surprise seeing this album listed as commercially available since the 'Jewels' were supposedly the exclusive reward for supporters whose subscriptions financed the latest EN album-tracks we received periodically throughout the 'Alles Wieder Offen' sessions. Don't get me wrong, I don't feel aggrieved or betrayed- I was happy to support the innovative business model EN have instituted over the last few years. Their subsequent realease makes no difference to me, and if it helps subsidise further EN activity then that's all to the good. As supporters we got more than 'The Jewels' anyway, we got to see the band at work and to discuss their creative process, vicariously participating in and facilitating production of the album that became 'Alles Wieder Offen'(an expanded version of which supporters received). I would perhaps rather the excellent supporter-only album from phase 2 ('Grundstueck') were made commercially available, but for the dedicated fan who has not participated in their label-less approach to music making and distribution, then 'The Jewels' is worth acquiring.
For a collection of tracks that EN were willing to dispense as subsidiary to the final work, the tracks are better realised than might be expected- all good material, just a little more modest than the album tracks they expect to be critically judged by. Mind you, there are definitely a few here which I consider on a par with tracks from 'Alles Wieder Offen', especially 'Epharisto','Magyar Energia' and 'Ansonsten Dostoyevsky'. Many of the tracks represent experiments with a singular musical and lyrical idea- there are no epic pieces with multiple passages or complex arrangements.
'The Jewels' makes for a great companion piece full of intriguing curios (like 'Am I Only Jesus' or 'Hawcubite'). Blixa Bargeld's enigmatic poetics on 'The Jewels', in both English and German, are particularly compelling. I just feel sorry for the fans who are missing the opportunity to purchase 'Grundstueck' from the previous creative phase.

1. Ich Komme Davon
2. Mei Ro
3. 26 Riesen
4. Hawcubite
5. Die Libellen
6. Jeder Satz Mit Ihr Hallt Nach
7. Epharisto
8. Robert Fuzzo
9. Magyar Energia
10. Vicky
11. Ansonsten Dostojewsky
12. Die Ebenen (Werden Nicht Vermischt)
13. Am I Only Jesus?
14. Bleib
15. I Kissed Glenn Gould