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PARLIAMENT Mothership Connection Album Cover Mothership Connection
PARLIAMENT
4.89 | 9 ratings
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FRANK ZAPPA The Grand Wazoo (The Mothers) Album Cover The Grand Wazoo (The Mothers)
FRANK ZAPPA
4.67 | 33 ratings
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SOFT MACHINE Third Album Cover Third
SOFT MACHINE
4.62 | 47 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Innervisions Album Cover Innervisions
STEVIE WONDER
4.77 | 11 ratings
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STEELY DAN Aja Album Cover Aja
STEELY DAN
4.68 | 20 ratings
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CURTIS MAYFIELD Superfly Album Cover Superfly
CURTIS MAYFIELD
4.99 | 5 ratings
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FRANK ZAPPA One Size Fits All (as Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention) Album Cover One Size Fits All (as Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention)
FRANK ZAPPA
4.61 | 31 ratings
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FRANK ZAPPA Over-Nite Sensation (The Mothers) Album Cover Over-Nite Sensation (The Mothers)
FRANK ZAPPA
4.61 | 25 ratings
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MARTIN DENNY Exotica Album Cover Exotica
MARTIN DENNY
4.94 | 5 ratings
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JOHN ZORN Magick Album Cover Magick
JOHN ZORN
4.86 | 6 ratings
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STEELY DAN Countdown to Ecstasy Album Cover Countdown to Ecstasy
STEELY DAN
4.64 | 16 ratings
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FRANK ZAPPA Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Album Cover Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar
FRANK ZAPPA
4.82 | 6 ratings
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SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE A Whole New Thing

Album · 1967 · Funk
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siLLy puPPy
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE weren't kidding around when they titled their debut album A WHOLE NEW THING which hit the market in 1967. The San Francisco band wasn't only a cutting-edge band musically by fusing soul, funk, rock and psychedelic music, but they were also one of the first successful bands to have a racially mixed lineup that had both girls and boys playing together like good little kids should. Despite all this groundbreaking effort though, the album went virtually unheard by the listening public at large but it was an immediate hit for musicians and those lucky enough to find it on their turntables. A likely story. The material wasn't “commercial” enough and because it was so different and didn't fit in with any radio formats thus receiving no airplay and despite being on a major record label, little was done in terms of promotion. Sly was urged to write more radio friendly tunes and soon after this release of this album, “Dance To The Music” was released which got the band recognized.

Musically this album is far from a throwaway. It shows a promising young act with a whole heap of strong tracks here. Although the songwriting isn't quite as strong as the following two albums for this first phase of S&TFS's career, it certainly has a few winners such as “Underdog,” “Turn Me Loose” and “Run, Run, Run.” In fact most of the album is quite pleasant with the exception of a couple out-of-place mediocre ballads that interfere with the flow. Certainly not the best album the FAMILY came up with but considering how revolutionary this sound was at the time and that there are plenty of interesting tracks to be had, this is required listening in my book.

NEIL ARDLEY A Symphony of Amaranths

Album · 1972 · Third Stream
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Sean Trane
Amongst the rare works of Neil Ardley that hadn’t received a reissue (CD or other), Symphony Of Amaranths was a major gap, and it finally found its way on Dusk ire in 2012 (much to my relief), though I didn’t find out until a few months ago. Along with its predecessor, Greek Variations, these two albums feature Ardley as a leader of Third Stream fusion (classic and jazz), and it is little wonder some draw comparison between Ardley and Gill Evans or Duke Ellington (as thought of with the previous Greek Variations). Retrospectively billed as the second staple of his “trilogy”, I find Amaranths much closer to Variations than to Kaleidoscope, but also less thrilling than the first. As for musicians, we’ll find the usual suspects, , from Lowther, Carr, Beckett, Barbara, Rendell, Heckstall-Smith, , Tracey,and Jenkins to Ricotti, Clyne, Hiseman, and many others. And in the string dept, you’ll find most of the names found on Variations as well.

The sidelong instrumental title track suite (dedicated to GE and DE) is the main course of the album, and is a good mix of classic music melted in a twirling happy big-band jazz music. The long piece goes through almost every mood, alternating between the string section and the horn section, but never afraid to cross-pollinate and present a hermaphrodite product that can either overjoy or repel the listener. Indeed, the barrier-breaking fusion can be seen as groundbreaking, but can also appear as a sell-out “Night Of The Prom” thing for those who don’t have the historical musical landmarks in mind.

The flipside opens with a big surprise with poems declaimed as narrative Dong And The Luminous Nose: I’m generally wary (if not even dismissive) of such musical cheesy exercise – even worse when rock music is involved: Tull’s Hare in Passion Play or Wakeman’s Journey or Round Table or Procol’s Something Magic - but in this case, we’re dealing with a very well written piece over texts from Edward Lear, James Joyce and Lewis Carroll that avoids cheesiness or ill-attempted humour and involves the spoken words (courtesy of Ivor Cutler) evolving to singing or almost rapping (ala Gill-Scott Heron), partly because the pace is gradually and dramatically increasing throughout, backed some tremendous instrumentation like Ricotti’s vibraphone. Ardley goes one further with Three more Poems, this time sung by the unavoidable Norma Winstone with a fun-time big band, though in this case, we’re closer to crooner singing, if it wasn’t for the advanced un-mainstream arrangements of the music behind her.

Of course, with the fad of bonus material added on to classic albums, they often don’t add up to much or are completely out of context and it is the case here, with the God Saves Tango version. Forgettable and best forgotten, really, as it kind of ruins the experience of the album.

Though SoA and GV are very audacious albums (if the present is a tad syrupy, because of the string section being too present), Ardley would go one step further (if not two) with Will Power (subtitled Shakespeare Birthday Celebration Music), but that is simply a step too far for yours truly. Thankfully enough, Ardley found the light and went back to safer grounds with the excellent Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows (76) and Harmony Of The Spheres (79), though both were quite unique and Ardley-esque in their own rights. In the meantime, Amaranths is a very solid (and unsettling) album that deserves to be heard by all Third Stream fans. And if you’re curious about the slogan of “Britain’s answer to Evans and Ellington”, you might want to check it out, to see if it isn’t usurped. Though Duke might seem a bit of a stretch (the recording technology and time lapsed is too big), comparisons with Gil are certainly valid. OK, Dusk Fire, bring on “Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe”, the last brick in Ardley’s wall.

ELLIOTT SHARP Terraplane

Album · 1994 · Jazz Related Blues
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siLLy puPPy
Although i'm not the hugest fan and hardly familiar with the vast discography of ELLIOTT SHARP, I am familiar with a handful of his recordings and actually liking a few. For anyone who has had even the tiniest of sampling of his music will know that his stuff is plain strange and otherworldly. He has been a major player in the avant-garde and experimental world of music for decades and has also dabbled in no wave, modern classical and free jazz. So what a surprise when I picked this up and threw it in just to familiarize myself with more of his music.

What came out of my speakers was simple blues songs. I had to check to see if the correct CD was in the jewel case because I had no idea ELLIOTT had done anything even remotely sounding like anything the public would recognize as music! Yep. It was he. On TERRAPLANE basically we have a whole bunch of covers from classic blues artists such as Otis Rush, Freddie King and Sleepy John Estes and a few originals that fit into the mix. Everything here is well played but I have never been a fan of cover albums and I would rather hear his avant-garde stuff. This is nice and all but I can't understand why he would want to play these songs so faithfully without putting his own weird stamp on them. Nice but safe and i'd rather hear the original artists when I go for classic blues.

Although this is under the ELLIIOTT SHARP name, this is actually the first album of the band that he would name TERRAPLANE who would put out a few more blues albums after this one, however one of these is enough for me and I don't think i'll be exploring this branch of his musical output.

BROWNOUT Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath

Album · 2014 · Latin Rock/Soul
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js
Brownout is a Latin RnB/rock/funk outfit from Austin Texas that was created when members of popular cumbia band Grupo Fantasana decided to play some covers by the likes of Santana, EW&F and the P-funk mob for the fun of it. Their first ep did so well that they decided to keep the group going and record more albums. Somewhere along the way they came up with the idea of doing whole shows made up of Black Sabbath cover tunes and that was the birth of Brown Sabbath. “Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath” is like one big party on record where heavy Black Sabbath riffs meet Latin percussion and funk grooves. It’s a good record, but I have a feeling this is something that hits its real peak in a live performance. Nothing too serious or subtle going on here, just good times where rock crunch is pushed with a big horn section and that steady Latin RnB groove.

Some of the Sabbath covers have singers and they play those tunes more or less like the originals, while others like “Iron Man” and “Black Sabbath” are instrumental and are rearranged so that riffs that work best with the RnB groove are kept, and the riffs that are not as pliable are tossed aside. Guest singer Alex Mannero is a dead ringer for Ozzy on “Wizard”, but oddly enough, he sounds a lot like Jack Bruce on N.I.B., which ends up making you realize how similar Sabbath was to Cream sometimes. As mentioned earlier, this is probably a band that is best experienced live, I’m sure their sound is powerful. I don’t know how long they will be able to keep this sort of schtick going, these sort of gimmicks can have a short shelf life, then again, Dread Zepplin, turned their reggae-Elvis-Zepplin wackiness into a career. To their credit though, Brownout is being more or less serious here and not near as absurd or silly as Dread Zep. Still, someday in the future, I would imagine Brownout’s songs are going to show up on odd cover song collections along side ska versions of Green Day and exotica covers of Nirvana.

If Black Sabbath covers played by an excellent modern funky Latin rock band sounds like a good time to you, go for it, these guys really smoke, excellent players all the way around.

SUSAN CLYNES Life Is...

Live album · 2014 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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kev rowland
Susan Clynes is a Belgian singer, pianist and songwriter who is forging her own path in music. After taking classical and jazz piano lessons and attending jazz workshops while in high school, Susan chose to follow her heart: shunning a more traditional course of university studies and career path in order to study music composition, and earning a Master’s Degree at the Ghent Conservatory. Her debut album was released in 2005, ‘Sugar For A Dream’, but this is her first full album since then. She is married to keyboardist Antoine Guenet (The Wrong Object, Sh.t.gn and Universe Zero) and Antoine encouraged her to perform as a guest vocalist on The Wrong Object’s ‘After The Exhibition’ and then suggested casually to Leonardo that Susan should join the label in her own right.

Leo also thought that it was a good idea, and this is the result. Unusually, this is actually a live album in the sense that these songs are taken from three different concerts, and while she is joined by Pierrre Mottet (bass) and Nico Chifki (drums) on two songs, there are another five where she is accompanied by cellist Simon Lenski (from RIO band Daau) and they obviously have a real connection. There are times when I am reminded of early Suzanne Vega or Tori Amos, but at others we are treated to Rio or avant-garde jazz, or torch, or any number of jazz styles. She has a wonderfully clear voice, combined with incredibly effective piano, and there is just the slight use of reverb on her microphone that assists in giving additional presence and the result is something that is immensely powerful. It really demonstrates that it doesn’t need crashing guitars or over the top dynamics to come across with something that grabs the listener and holds them enthralled to the very end. It is an absolutely stunning piece of work, and I for one would certainly be interested in hearing the debut now, I wonder if Leo is thinking of releasing that as well? (hint). Sheer beauty from the beginning to the very end. www.moonjune.com

jazz related movie reviews

KING CRIMSON Neal And Jack And Me

Movie · 2004 · Jazz Related Rock
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Sean Trane
This DVD will please many of the third Crimson phase fans combines two tours: the Beat tour and the Three Of A Perfect pair. Oddly enough, they are presented in a non- chronological order, but this is a very minor point. One of the things I was particularly uneasy about was Bruford's use of electronic percussions and drums and we get a load of those "things" and like all technology novelty, the risk is that it ages poorly and sadly here, it is the case. Another point I had not appreciated is the stage presence of Adrian Belew, which is clearly copied from David Byrne from his collaborations with The Talking Heads - I love the T Heads, but Belew's stage antics are too derivative and ill fitted for Crimson. There are a few tracks present twice and most notably the boring Mate Kusadai.

Strictly on the visual front, Crimson was clearly making efforts to look hip and appeal to a more new-wave-ish public. Those were the days! But I never said that they were good, either!

Among the bonuses, are a video clip and a few titbits, but sadly still missing is that mini- concert footage filmed for the Discipline release and them playing four tracks in front of a red curtain. I may be severe with my rating of this DVD but I am not a real fan of that era.

GONG Classic Rock Legends

Movie · 2000 · Jazz Related Rock
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seyo
This video contains live performances from 1990 Live on TV album. Four original members of GonG are present: Pip Pyle, Didier Malherbe, Gilli Smyth and an oddball-harlequin persona of the spiritus movens, Daevid Allen.

Performance is focused on their legendary Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, with 3 starters from Camembert Electrique. Since I have no idea what GonG looked like on scene back in the early 1970s (that is, before I took a peek at several Youtube clips recently), I guess this DVD makes up a lot for that, the age of the performers notwithstanding.

In fact, seeing these unique art-performers in their senior age can just assure you how the music and art in general can surpass generations, years and ages if you wish. Musicianship is great, movie direction very good with several cameras shooting from different angles, while only the engagement of the dancers to invoke the mystical gnomey creatures may be seen as too over-stressed.

The finale presents perhaps too long goodbye with the extended "I Am You" jam, but when Daevid jumps down into the audience you can actually see the highly emotional and spiritual connection between the band and the people, done in an almost religious-like chanting. This is excellent video and should be seen by all those who have at least some knowledge of the Planet GonG trilogy repertoire!

BILL BRUFORD Bbc Rock Goes To College: Live 1979

Movie · 2006 · Jazz Related Rock
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Dick Heath
I remember seeing this originally on BBC 2 a few weeks after it was recorded in one of the canteens of Oxford Poly, and getting a mix of intense pleasure. In particular pleasure from the tour de force that Holdsworth had developed into (and screamed out at me on Feels Good To Me)and the unknown bass-wiz Jeff Berlin. But there was disappointment over Annette's contribution to the set - when her husky voice breathed sex at me on the album.

Now here from the Beeb's archives is the original 70's video quality footage as originally shown on 625 lines. The pleasure points remain, with some details emphasised. However the disappointment is worse, in particular there is a promise of something special as Peacock flounces on part way through the set, dressed as the fashion queen,(thereby drawing the contrast with the blokes in the band). However,again the expectation of something special evaporates quickly - the diva can't 'deave' live in sympathy with the music, the band i.e. her vocals are poor. Fortunately we don't have to suffer this for long and thank goodness for the skip button.

Yes this is a short recording*, and isn't there a missed opportunity here? One DVD burn (of a copy of a copy, etc.) of this gig I saw some years ago and suffering horribly from colour dropout, had the addition of two extra numbers by Bruford recorded off from the Old Grey Whistle Test - here with I think Neil Murray deputing for Jeff Berlin. Surely the Beeb could had offered these as well?

*Interesting to see another Rock Goes To College recording of Herbie Hancock & the Headhunters recorded at the now defuncted Chelsea College, that had resurfaced on BBC 4 2 years ago, was an hour long.

STING Bring On The Night

Movie · 2005 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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Slartibartfast
The concept here is a documentary of a band forming, The Blue Turtles Band, rather than a band at their peak or breaking up. Fortunately it is heavier on the music than the documentary.

The first half takes place in a French countryside chateaux and consists of presentable songs from nine days of practice sessions for what was to be their first show. Everyone in the band seems to be having a good time. The chateaux provides nice a nice backdrop to the sessions. The second half is the show itself.

Since this was Sting's first post Police effort, there's a lot of reworked Police songs mixed in with tracks from the first album. It's sort of like the Police meets jazz with Andy Summers ejected so Sting could play guitar. The band line up is primarily younger jazz musicians that already had a good reputation for work they had done before hooking up with Sting.

There are interview excerpts between the songs. One of the more interesting ones was Miles Copeland, Sting's manager and Stewart's brother going on about negotiations with the rest of the band. He was extremely dismissive of the band in relation to Sting when it came to monetary compensation. I suspect that was more about himself getting a bigger piece of the pie than a reflection on Sting, although I do recall him guest appearing on a Saturday Night Live show with Steve Marting and Steve introducing him as Stin-gy.

I originally saw this one in a theater and was really pleased to see it released being reworked with "high definition digital anamorphic picture transfer and digitally remastered surround audio." It actually does look a little sharper than I recall and I think the orginal sound was just stereo.

BILL BRUFORD Bbc Rock Goes To College: Live 1979

Movie · 2006 · Jazz Related Rock
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Slartibartfast
This is incredible. I had the good fortune of seeing Bruford, unfortunately post Holdsworth, at the now defunct Atlanta Agora. I did get to catch Holdsworth touring for his I.O.U. album, but that's another story. My first pass through this concert really gave me the goosebumps.

It is unfortunate that this DVD is only 41 minutes, but the set list is excellent. Four tracks from Bruford's best album, One of a Kind. Annette Peacock even shows up for a couple of songs. I always thought that she didn't fit in well with this kind of music, but it's nice to see her all the same. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think there's any live video out there of Alan Holdsworth, so seeing him in action is a special treat. One of the things I remember most from seeing Bruford was that at times Jeff Berlin's picking fingers were a blur and seeing him again live, I know I wasn't imagining it. Dave Stewart, or as I like to call him, The Dave Stewart, not that Eurythmics guy, is also a lot of fun to see in action. I noticed he had a music stand with no sheet music, but a synthesizer diagram, interesting. And then of course there's Bill. Those of you who may dislike his electronic drum work, I'm not one, will be happy to him playing strictly acoustic. What can I say? He's really one of best drummers around. The audio quality is excellent and sometimes the camera man crop off Holdsworth's left hand when I'd like to see it, but other than that, this is really nice for a concert captured in 1979.

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