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Fifty Year Friday: Decca Panoramic Sound, Deram; Moody Blues “Days of Future Passed”

91e2plus49l-_sl1500_The listener of recorded music of the first six decades of the twentieth century will notice the leaps in improvement of recordings over those decades.  And though the sound improvements that took place in the sixties were not as dramatic as those before, progress did continue in creating more realistic and/or more engaging recordings.

Decca recording engineers experimented with ways of improving stereo recordings. They created a technique called “Decca Panoramic Sound” which created more depth and sound positioning.  Previously,  stereo recordings of jazz, folk and rock albums usually ended up with some music on the right channel, some on the left and some in the center (for example, the Beatles’ stereo version of Rubber Soul or Revolver.)  This not only made the music sound artificial but created a sense of detachment of parts from a natural whole.   With “Decca Panoramic Sound” or Deramic sound, for short, a more natural representation of a performance was possible, achieved primarily through a pairing of four-track tape recorders (later replaced by a true 8 track recording set-up) allowing engineering techniques that could place the content of any track at virtually any point of a left-to-right sound field.

Decca then launched Deram Records to realize this potential for rock, folk and easy-listening recordings.  In October 1967, six easy listening albums (“Strings in the Night, “Brass in the Night”, etc.)  were released using this new approach. Soon afterwards, as Deram continued to sign more interesting artists, in November 1967, Deram released the orchestra-backed, ambitious album Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues.

Originally, the story goes, the Deram’s intent was to have the Moody Blues record a version of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  Fortunately, the band had more interest in  their own original material and recorded what some people consider to be the first progressive rock album ever and others consider to be the first true rock concept album. (For those that read the post on Nirvana’s Simon Simopath’s concept album, although Nirvana’s album was released a month earlier, The Moody Blue’s album’s first session occurred in May 1967, two months before Nirvana’s recording session for “Simon.”  In terms of determining what is progressive rock, that is perhaps a topic for another post.)

Though basically an album of the psychedelic era, with its mellotron, tambura, sitar, spoken poetry,  pastoral, mellow musical elements, colorful lyrics, symbolic use of a single day to represent a higher abstraction, and psychotropically-flavored album cover, this is also album that blurs the boundaries between rock and classical music, which along with its use of a song cycle on the life of a given day, high quality music, and musical coherence creating a sense of a single work as opposed to a set of songs, establishes this is a work with more than just a commercial objective:  a work with an artistic purpose — a common characteristic found in these musically progressive albums of 1967.

Side 1: The Day Begins 5:45; Dawn: Dawn Is A Feeling 3:50; The Morning: Another Morning 3:40;  Lunch Break: Peak Hour 5:21

Side 2: The Afternoon: Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?) 8:25; Evening: The Sun Set: Twilight Time 6:39; The Night: Nights In White Satin 7:41

More complete track listing from Wikipedia

Musicians

The Moody Blues:

 

 

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Fifty Year Friday: The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour”

in 1968, I went, along with some other junior high school friends to another friend’s house where his dad greeted us by playing us Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture on, what to most junior high students at that time, was a pretty impressive stereo system.  I had had rather limited exposure to classical music at this point, never having been to a classical concert, and only having heard a few complete classical pieces like Ravel’s Bolero, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade on a limited-fidelity monophonic system. To hear this Tchaikovsky work not as a snippet in a television commerical, but from start to finish in full stereo, with horns and, ultimately, cannons, commandeering the empty air space around us, left a impregnable impression not just for that day, but the rest of my life.

An equally indelible impression was produced when we later went upstairs and our thirteen-year old host set the needle of his personal phonograph at the start of the first side of the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour.” Now I had heard this song on the radio a number of times, but this phonograph produced better fidelity, and it occurred to me as we got to the end of side one, listening to the incredible “I Am the Walrus”, with its striking string arrangement and Lennon’s unrelenting, upper-register vocal delivery, that this was as unusual, mysterious and as equally vital as the 1812 overture we had heard downstairs.  I couldn’t but make the comparison between these two supremely transcendental works, “I Am the Walrus” and “The 1812 Overture.” Nor was this effect reduced by our young host replaying the end of “I Am the Walrus” for us to clearly hear what sounded like “Smoke pot, smoke pot, everybody smoke pot.”

This album doesn’t have the cohesiveness of “Sgt. Peppers” or the second side of “Abbey Road,  but the presence of “Strawberry Fields” and “I am the Walrus”, perhaps the only two songs of 1967 that are on par with “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, is enough to make this album essential.  There is also the post-summer of love anthem, “All You Need is Love”, which extended the momentum of the love movement for at least an additional eighteen months. George Harrison contributes the psychedelic and eastern influenced “Blue Jay Way”, one of those amazing tracks that we see so often on 1967 albums (for example, see last week’s post on the Byrd’s song “Why”)  that solidly sound Indian influenced and yet does not contain a single sitar or other traditional Indian classical instruments.

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of “Magical Mystery Tour” on November 27, 1967 in the US, an album which sold a little under two million copies in the first 30 days of it’s release.

Track and personnel listing at Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Mystery_Tour#Track_listing

  	The Beatles perform 'I Am The Walrus' for the film Magical Mystery Tour.  West Malling Air Station, Kent, England. 20th September 1967. 	Images may be editorially reproduced only in conjunction with the 2012 DVD & Blu-ray / digital release of Magical Mystery Tour. 	Please credit © Apple Films Ltd. 	Promotional and review purposes only.

 

Fifty Year Friday: Byrds, Hollies and Buffalo Springfield

Formed in 1964, in Los Angeles California, the Byrds are generally, with the advantage of retrospect, considered one of the more essential and influential bands of the mid-sixties, primarily due to their blending the rock style of the British Invasion with elements of country and western music, folk, west coast rock and psychedelia.

The fourth album, opens robustly with the semi-ironic, partly humorous, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” Other strong songs include the jingly-jangly arranged Chris Hillman composition “Have You Seen Her Face”, Hillman’s “The Girl with No Name” (apparently inspired by a young lady with then real name of “Girl Freiberg”, one of the better known covers of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”, and the David Crosby tracks “”Renaissance Fair” , “Everybody’s Been Burned”, “Mind Gardens” and “Why.” Psychedelia and Indian musical influences are present on several tracks with an  electronic oscillator providing suitable effects and McGuinn’s guitar providing a suitable substitute for the sitar on “Why.”

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one

  1. So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (Jim McGuinnChris Hillman) – 2:05
  2. Have You Seen Her Face” (Chris Hillman) – 2:25
  3. “C.T.A.-102” (Jim McGuinn, Robert J. Hippard) – 2:28
  4. “Renaissance Fair” (David Crosby, Jim McGuinn) – 1:51
  5. “Time Between” (Chris Hillman) – 1:53
  6. “Everybody’s Been Burned” (David Crosby) – 3:05

Side two

  1. “Thoughts and Words” (Chris Hillman) – 2:56
  2. “Mind Gardens” (David Crosby) – 3:28
  3. My Back Pages” (Bob Dylan) – 3:08
  4. “The Girl with No Name” (Chris Hillman) – 1:50
  5. Why” (Jim McGuinn, David Crosby) – 2:45

Personnel

Sources for this section are as follows:[1][5][23][54][55]

The Byrds

 

The Hollies, released two albums in 1967, “Evolution” and “Butterfly”

Both  albums have their annoying, overly-commercial, teeny-bop elements (think of what you dislike about Herman’s Hermits) but this is compensated by the inclusion of several excellent tracks.  Lot of the credit for what is really good here goes to Graham Nash.

The best track on “Evolution” is the simply arranged and perfectly conceived “Stop Right There.”  Other worthwhile tracks include the hyper-vibrato-infused “”Lullaby to Tim”, the catchy, if outdated-sounding for 1967, “Have You Ever Loved Somebody?”, the wistful, and melancholic “Rain on the Window”, the early Beatles-era “Heading for a Fall”, and the AM radio hit “Carrie Anne.”

US/Canada track listing of “Evolution” [from Wikipedia]

Side 1

  1. Carrie Anne” (Clarke-Hicks-Nash) lead vocal: Clarke, Hicks and Nash
  2. “Stop Right There”
  3. “Rain on the Window”
  4. “Then the Heartaches Begin”
  5. “Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe”

Side 2

  1. “You Need Love”
  2. “Heading for a Fall”
  3. “The Games We Play”
  4. “Lullaby to Tim”
  5. “Have You Ever Loved Somebody”

Personnel

 

“Butterfly” (retitled “Dear Eloise / King Midas in Reverse” in the US)  has its moments also such as the introduction to “Eloise”,  the upbeat, yet also partly annoyingly cloying “Wishyouawish” and “Away Away Away”, Nash’s  simple and direct “Butterfly” (similar to “Stop Right There” on “Evolution”), and “Leave Me”, which was on the original twelve track UK “Evolution” album but not on the US ten track release of “Evolution.” Another notable track, not on the UK version, but only on the US version of the “Butterfly” LP, is the quirky,  “King Midas with a Curse.”

US/Canada track listing of “Butterfly” released as “Dear Eloise / King Midas in Reverse”  [from Wikipedia]

Side 1

  1. “Dear Eloise”
  2. “Wishyouawish”
  3. “Charlie and Fred”
  4. “Butterfly”
  5. “Leave Me” (Clarke-Hicks-Nash)
  6. “Postcard”

Side 2

  1. King Midas in Reverse
  2. “Would You Believe?”
  3. “Away Away Away”
  4. “Maker”
  5. “Step Inside”

Personnel

 

At this point the reader probably sees where I am going with this post — covering the Byrds, which had David Crosby writing some of their best songs, the Hollies, with Graham Nash writing some of their best tunes, and next, Buffalo Springfield, with Neil Young and Stephen Stills — these four guitarists/singers/composers forming Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Buffalo Springfield’s first album. simply titled after the band, was released in December 1966, but it qualifies as one of the first solidly 1967-sounding albums.  In January 1967, the most impressive song of the first half of 1967 hit the airwaves, a rare objective view of the widening political divide in the U.S.. “For What It’s Worth”.  I was eleven when I heard this, and it was, for me, clearly the coolest song on AM radio of all time.  It is worth re-examaning the lyrics so relevant to 1967, but also applicable to today:

What it is ain’t exactly clear:
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware.
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
There’s battle lines being drawn:
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.
Young people speaking their minds —
Getting so much resistance from behind.
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
What a field-day for the heat:
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say hooray for our side!
It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Paranoia strikes deep:
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you’re always afraid:
You step out of line, the man come and take you away.
We better stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Stop, now, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Stop, children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
This is clearly Stephen Still’s masterpiece of his career and was of such impact that ATCO, the album’s label, re-released this first Buffalo Springfield album in March 1967, including this track. For this reason, its fair game to consider this album belonging to 1967.

Track listing of “Buffalo Springfield”  [from Wikipedia]

 

March 1967 pressing side one
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. For What It’s Worth” (Dec. 5) Stephen Stills Steve with Richie & Dewey 2:40
2. “Go and Say Goodbye” (July 18) Stephen Stills Richie & Steve 2:20
3. “Sit Down, I Think I Love You” (August) Stephen Stills Richie and Steve 2:30
4. “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” (July 18) Neil Young Richie with Steve and Neil 3:24
5. “Hot Dusty Roads” (August) Stephen Stills Steve with Richie 2:47
6. “Everybody’s Wrong” (August) Stephen Stills Richie with Steve and Neil 2:25

 

 

March 1967 pressing side two
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong” (September 10) Neil Young Richie with Steve and Neil 2:40
2. “Burned” (August) Neil Young Neil with Richie and Steve 2:15
3. “Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It” (August) Neil Young Richie with Steve and Neil 3:04
4. “Leave” (August) Stephen Stills Steve with Richie 2:42
5. “Out of My Mind” (August) Neil Young Neil with Richie and Steve 3:06
6. “Pay the Price” (August) Stephen Stills Steve with Richie 2:36

Personnel

Buffalo Springfield

 

 .
As distinct and noteworthy as the first Buffalo Springfield album was, the second one is even better.  Neil Young’s driving, anthem-like “Mr. Soul” opens the album and Young’s surreal “Broken Arrow” closes it.  In between are additional songs by Young and Stephen Stills with three pretty good tracks authored by Richie Furay —  one of these, “Good Time Boy”, arranged to include excellent horn-work by the Louisiana group, “the American Soul Train”   This album is distinctly American, or more accurately, Canadian-American (Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer and Neil Young being Canadian-born musicians), combining rock, folk, country and psychedelic-rock elements.  One should also note David Crosby’s involvement in the Stephen Stills song, “Rock and Roll Woman”, which is predictive of Still’s later “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

 

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. Mr. Soul Neil Young Neil with Richie and Steve 2:49
2. “A Child’s Claim to Fame” Richie Furay Richie with Steve and Neil 2:09
3. “Everydays” Stephen Stills Steve with Richie 2:40
4. Expecting to Fly Neil Young Neil 3:43
5. “Bluebird” Stephen Stills Steve and Richie 4:28

 

Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. “Hung Upside Down” Stephen Stills Richie and Steve with Neil and Richie 3:27
2. “Sad Memory” Richie Furay Richie 3:01
3. “Good Time Boy” Richie Furay Dewey 2:14
4. “Rock and Roll Woman” Stephen Stills Steve with Richie and Neil 2:46
5. Broken Arrow Neil Young Neil and Richie 6:14

Personnel

Buffalo Springfield
Additional personnel
  • James Burton — dobro on “A Child’s Claim to Fame”
  • Chris Sarns — guitar on “Broken Arrow”
  • Charlie Chin — banjo on “Bluebird”
  • Jack Nitzsche — electric piano on “Expecting to Fly”
  • Don Randi — piano on “Expecting to Fly” and “Broken Arrow”
  • Jim Fielder — bass on “Everydays”
  • Bobby West — bass on “Bluebird”
  • The American Soul Train — horn section on “Good Time Boy”

Fifty Year Friday: Love “Forever Changes”

This is an album that was pretty much ignored in November of 1967 when released on the Elektra label.  This is the third and final album of a Los Angeles based group called “Love”, though this really is mostly the work of Arthur Lee, singer/songwriter/guitarist, with a couple of songs contributed by Bryan MacLean, another member of the group, the rhythm guitarist, who provides leads vocals on compositions.

From the start, with it’s acoustic opening, there is an intimacy to the album with its well-crafted and fresh-sounding arrangements.  There are elements of the west-coast rock sound of 1967, folk-rock, and interestingly, English rock:  it shares some characteristics found in the 1967 Moody Blue’s “Days of Future Passed”, Genesis’ 1969 album “Genesis to Revelation” as well as sharing some stylistic traits with The Who and The Kinks.  That said, this is an original, very much non-derivative album that holds up well under repeated playings.

Hailed by some as one of the great masterpieces of 1967, this is an album that anyone that loves late sixties rock or loves what is often called “proto-prog” should check out, even if it doesn’t end up being one of your top 10 or even top 40 albums of 1967.

Track listing[from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Arthur Lee, except “Alone Again Or” and “Old Man”, by Bryan MacLean.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. Alone Again Or 3:15
2. “A House Is Not a Motel” 3:25
3. “Andmoreagain” 3:15
4. “The Daily Planet” 3:25
5. “Old Man” 2:57
6. “The Red Telephone” 4:45

 

Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale” 3:30
2. “Live and Let Live” 5:24
3. “The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This” 3:00
4. “Bummer in the Summer” 2:20
5. “You Set the Scene” 6:49
Total length: 42:05

Personnel

Additional musicians

  • David Angel: arranger, orchestrations
  • Strings: Robert Barene, Arnold Belnick, James Getzoff, Marshall Sosson, Darrel Terwilliger (violins); Norman Botnick (viola); Jesse Ehrlich (cello); Chuck Berghofer(string bass)
  • Horns: Bud Brisbois, Roy Caton, Ollie Mitchell (trumpets); Richard Leith (trombone)

 

Fifty Year Friday: Far Out 1967, Part Two

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If one is looking to highlight the best representation of “Far Out” in jazz music, one may very well settle with placing the spotlight on musician and philosopher Sun Ra, more formally known as Le Sony’r Ra.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama in May 1914 with the more mundane name of “Herman Poole Blount”, and early on nicknamed “Sonny”, Sun Ra was a precocious and highly intelligent child soon writing his own compositions at the age of twelve as well as exhibiting good sight reading skills and piano technique.  Living in Birmingham,  he was able to hear many famous bands and jazz artists including Fletcher HendersonDuke Ellington, and Fats Waller.  It is said that Sun Ra, much like other gifted musicians like Wolfgang Mozart, had the ability to hear a single performance (in this case a big band performance) and then later accurately transcribe the music that had played.  He attended college for a year on a scholarship as a music education major, but dropped out: according to Sun Ra this being due to an extra-terrestrial  experience as initiated by aliens.

In Sun Ra’s own words: “They wanted me to go to outer space with them. They were looking for somebody who had that type of mind. They said it was quite dangerous because you had to have the perfect discipline. I’d have to go up with no part of my body touching outside of the beam….It looked like a giant spotlight shining down on me, and I call it ‘transmolecularization’ — my whole body was changed into something else…. I call that an energy transformation because I wasn’t in human form. I thought I was there, but I could see through myself.

“Then I landed on a planet I identified as Saturn. First thing I saw was something like … a long rail of a railroad track coming out of the sky, … then I  found myself in a huge stadium, and I was sitting up in the last row, in the dark… They called my name, and I didn’t move. They called me name again, and I still didn’t answer. Then all at once they teleported me, and I was down on that stage with them. They wanted to talk with me. They had one little antenna on each ear. A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me. They told me to stop [my college music teacher training] because there was going to be great trouble in schools. There was going to be trouble in every part of life….”

After leaving college, Sun Ra formed his own band, “The Sonny Blount Orchestra”, with intense rehearsals only surpassed by Sun Ra’s own committment to music. When drafted in 1942, Sun Ra declared himself a conscientious objector, ultimately ending up performing alternative civilian service, assigned to forestry work during the day and played the piano at night.

In 1945 he moved to Chicago, part of the wave of migration of American slave descendants from the south to the north and got a job arranging for Fletcher Henderson in 1946. He also had work accompanying Billie Holiday and played in a trio with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and violinist Stuff Smith.

In 1952, Sun Ra forms a “space trio” and changes his name to “Le Sony’r Ra” — the trio later becoming an orchestra, the Sun Ra Arkestra, as he starts to simply refers to himself as Sun Ra.  In 1957, he and his friend and business manager, Alton Abraham, establish the “Le Saturn Records” label, perhaps the first African-American record label. From 1957-1966, album after album is released, with well over one hundred albums recorded during Sun Ra’s career.  Sun Ra’s catalog displays a wide range of musical styles.  Some notable titles include the 1957 release, “Super-Sonic Jazz” with some particularly unusual albums in the mid-sixties, including not only his free-jazz or more exotic material, but even more accessible albums like  “Impressions Of a Patch Of Blue” with Walt Dickerson, and the Sun Ra Blues Project’s “Batman and Robin”, both from 1966.

Less accessible, and one of his furthest-out albums, is his LP, “Strange Strings”, recorded in 1966 and released in 1967.

The first track “Worlds Approaching”, is brilliant — one of those original works that defy categorization: structured, somewhat tonal, dramatic, and ablaze with intensity and energy. This is music that might have really come from Outer Space!

The second track of the first side “Strings Strage, and the entire second side, “Strange Strings”,  share common ground with some of the “concert hall” aleatoric music (music that incorporates elements of chance) of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Basically, after assembling the widest and wildest variety of string instruments  including UkulelesMandolinsKotosKoras, Pipas and any other string instruments that could be located, supplemented by a sheet of metal, and miked “sun columns” (golden metal tubes with rubber bottoms), Sun Ra assembled his orchestra, the Sun Ra Arkestra, distributed the instruments, and told his musicians: “You’re playing from ignorance–it’s an exercise in ignorance. We’re going to play what you don’t know and what you don’t know is huge”, both acknowledging their lack of training and experience in playing these instruments and instructing them to perform music representing their general metaphysical ignorance.

It’s clearly music that would be more interesting to experience live than on an LP or CD.  It’s noteworthy that these are talented musicians, experienced in free jazz expression, and guided during the performance by some direction from their leader. It’s also particularly interesting that no effort was made to tune these instruments and so the result is extreme microtonal free jazz.

From a historical perspective, it’s important to acknowledge Sun Ra’s role in Afrofuturism and in asserting his own and others’ civil rights.   Groundbreaking individuals like Sun Ra and George Russell extended the role of the African-American jazz musician from on-demand performers to innovators, thought leaders and philosophy- artists.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

12″ Vinyl

All songs by Sun Ra
Side A:

  1. “Worlds Approaching”
  2. “Strings Strange”

Side B:

  1. “Strange Strings”

Musicians

  • Sun Ra – electric piano, lightning drum, timpani, squeaky door, strings
  • Marshall Allen – oboe, alto saxophone, strings
  • John Gilmore – tenor saxophone, strings
  • Danny Davis – flute, alto saxophone, strings
  • Pat Patrick – flute, baritone saxophone, strings
  • Robert Cummings – bass clarinet, strings
  • Ali Hassan – trombone, strings
  • Ronnie Boykins: bass viol
  • Clifford Jarvis – timpani, percussion
  • James Jacson – log drums, strings
  • Carl Nimrod – strings
  • Art Jenkins – space voice, strings

One of the leading modern composers during the 1960s and 1970s, Karlheinz Stockhausen is one of the fifty-plus people displayed on the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s cover, and the only musician or composer on the landmark cover besides the Beatles and Bob Dylan.

One of his most notable works, is “Hymnen”, a nod to various national anthems (it is divided into four “Regions” each corresponding to a national anthem) and was first performed on November 30, 1967. It must be a challenging work to listen to live; it is long and comes across as somewhat random: it is particularly challenging to listen to a recorded version.  The work consists of a recorded backdrop (tape) which the musicians interact with by improvising and following scored cues provided by the composer.  It is claimed to be a masterpiece by some, but like many of the products of this period created by Stockhausen and his fellow composers, it relies heavily on what the listener brings to the experience.  In a concert hall, with one being part of a seated (captive) audience, one is much more likely to engage with the music than if one puts on an LP or CD of this work.  For me, it’s hard to listen to more than twenty or thirty minutes without feeling compelled to switch to something else, particularly when having a fairly large music library of more accessible music.

Hymnen

Hymnen Recordings

  • youtube (Hymnen Elektronische und Konkrete Musik. Deutsche Grammophon DG 2707039 (2LPs). Reissued on CD as part of Stockhausen Complete Edition 10)
  • BBC Broadcast 2009  and 2016
  • Ausstrahlungen: Andere Welten: 50 Jahre Neue Musik in NRW. Koch / Schwann 2-5037-0 (2 CDs). Includes Hymnen: Dritte Region mit Orchester Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Köln conducted by Peter Eötvös (recorded 1979)
  • Hymnen Elektronische und Konkrete Musik; Hymnen Elektronische und Konkrete Musik mit SolistenAloys Kontarsky (piano), Alfred Ailings and Rolf Gehlhaar (amplified tamtam), Johannes G. Fritsch (electric viola), Harald Bojé (electronium). Stockhausen Complete Edition: Compact Disc 10 A-B-C-D (4 CDs)
  • Hymnen Elektronische Musik mit Orchester. Gürzenich-Orchester der Stadt Köln, conducted by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen Complete Edition: Compact Disc 47.

01

There’s no shortage of far-out pop/rock albums in 1967.  In May 1967, Elektra records releases this narrative concept album (poems read over and integrated into a musical background) of twelve tracks — one for each of the signs of the Zodiac.  Like the the Sun Ra album and Stockhausen’s “Hymnen”, this work benefits from being played in a dark room or with one’s eye’s closed, however, in this case, the producers of this work made sure to include the instructions “Must be Played in the Dark” on the back of the album — and one is well advised to follow such instructions.

From its air-raid like opening to its tranquil conclusion, this album is exploration of 1967 psychedelia, far out, but within convenient reach of most listeners. Notable is the presence of the moog synthesizer, electronic keyboards, sitar, and jazz musician Bud Shank  on bass flute, all in support sixties-styled melodiously cool lyrics read in the most mellow delivery possible. The tracks vary in tone and style and are generally quite interesting  including the more progressive sections of music found in tracks like “Scorpio” with its heavy percussion, dark suspenseful bass line and mixed meter passages and the adventurous “Sagittarius” (also laden with interesting percussion work and a playful mixed meter riff.) One can make the case for this as being both the first rock concept album (it precedes Nirvana “The Story of Simon Simopath by a couple of months) and the first progressive rock album (coming out several months before “Days of Future Passed” and apparently a few days before “Sgt. Peppers.”)  To what degree this adventurous “Zodiac Cosmic Sounds” influences later concept albums, such as The Moody Blues’ “Days of Future Passed” which covers times of the day as opposed to Zodiac signs, is something I invite speculation on. Feel free to muse about this on your own time or in the comments section of this post.

Anyone who prides themselves on understanding the history of progressive rock should consider this album to be required listening. Lyrics are available here.  Album currently not in print, but available used from multiple sources and youtube.

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Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All lyrics written by Jacques Wilson

  1. “Aries – The Fire-Fighter” – 3:17
  2. “Taurus – The Voluptuary” – 3:38
  3. “Gemini – The Cool Eye” – 2:50
  4. “Cancer – The Moon Child” – 3:27
  5. “Leo – The Lord of Lights” – 2:30
  6. “Virgo – The Perpetual Perfectionist” – 3:05
  7. “Libra – The Flower Child” – 3:28
  8. “Scorpio – The Passionate Hero” – 2:51
  9. “Sagittarius – The Versatile Daredevil” – 2:06
  10. “Capricorn – The Uncapricious Climber” – 3:30
  11. “Aquarius – The Lover of Life” – 3:45
  12. “Pisces – The Peace Piper” – 3:19

Personnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When drafted

Fifty Year Friday: Far Out 1967, Part One

Silver Apples of the Moon.jpg

Morton Subotnick, “Silver Apples of the Moon”

Morton Subotnick, one of the founders of California Institute of the Arts, co-founded San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1962 , left his teaching post a Mills College and moved to New York City  and accepted an artist-in-residence position at the newly formed Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.  His previous works and performances attracted the attention of the New York City based Nonesuch  label, which provided Subotnick the opportunity to compose the very first electronic work commissioned by a record company.  “Silver Apples of the Moon” was the result and quickly became a best selling “classical music” album and a staple of most university music libraries.

Classical music of that time, and electronic music in particular, generally was inaccessible and avoided traditional use of melody, harmony and rhythms to produce works that seemed more composed by chance, process or mathematical rules than to be products of the heart and soul.  Subotnick breaks with this general trend, balancing the non-traditional sounds with an overall lightheartedness and whimsy, with the first side being more varied and the second side simpler, and somewhat less captivating, with use of rhythmic motifs and a less complex, varied texture and range of sound elements.

Track listing[from Wikipedia]

  1. “Part A” – 16:33
  2. “Part B” – 14:52

Personnel

  • Morton Subotnick – Buchla synthesizer, Liner Notes, Primary Artist
  • Bradford Ellis – Digital Restoration, Mastering, Remixing
  • Michael Hoenig – Mastering, Remixing
  • H.J. Kropp – Cover Design
  • Tony Martin – Illustrations

 

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The Mesmerizing Eye,  “Psychedelia, a Musical Light Show”

As often the case in the sixties (1960’s rather than a reference to my age), the music produced by the “established” academic artists was often less compelling and relevant than than what was being done elsewhere.   Here we have an album by the obscure band, The Mesmerizing Eye, that in my view has much more to say to the listener than Subotnick’s “Silver Apples of the Moon.”  This is the only album released by The Mesmerizing Eye, and not clear to me if this was really a band, or if this album was a work of one or two people.

Musique concrète is a classification applied to music constructed by mixing various recorded sounds, sometimes environmental and urban sounds, sometimes such sounds with instruments added, but generally with the intent of creating an auditory experience that is produced from a mixture of disparate sounds, that have disparate associations, and that we traditionally hear in various and disparate contexts.   This album draws heavily on that tradition, relying on the medium of tape for the assembly of the final product, yet unlike so many of these type of excursions layered onto tape, there is a general sense of order, meaning, and intent. The album is not only interesting and engaging, but the titles and back-cover liner notes provide additional context and clarity into the music’s relevance and purpose.  For example, from the notes for the third track on side two, “The War for My Mind”: “Too many commercials on TV, too much telling us what to do — go to school, wear a tie, cut our hair.  They want to control our mind.” Right on! This is classic 1967 anti-establishment philosophy!  And, in terms of too many commercials and conformity to the onslaught of commercial messages, more relevant to us today than ever.

The tracks dissolve into each other, with a variety of instruments that varies from track to track.  Instruments include church choir, church organ, church bells, piano, acoustic and electric guitar, trumpet, flute, bagpipes, calliope and additional instruments mixed with various background sounds (including the mandatory crying baby) on other tracks. Under twenty-five minutes, always moving forward with a sense of purpose, and making good use of it’s stereophonic capabilities, this little album leaves many of the works by established academia-blessed composers of the 1950’s and 1960’s in its dust. Difficult to find on LP, impossible to find on CD, this  album is available on YouTube for those that don’t require lossless audio quality:

 

Tracklist (from discogs.com)

A1 Birth Of A Nation 2:42
A2 Rain Of Terror 2:26
A3 Tempus Fugit 2:09
A4 Opus 71 2:24
A5 Twenty-First Century Express 2:32
B1 May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Flute 2:10
B2 Requiem For Suzy Creamcheese 2:15
B3 The War For My Mind 1:54
B4 Dear Mom, Send Money 2:08
B5 Exercise In Frustration 2:07

Companies, etc.

Credits

 

George Russell’s Othello Ballet Suite was recorded in Stockholm in one of the Radio Sweden studios on November 3rd and 4th 1967.  At a little under 30 minutes, this work for orchestra and jazz musicians is performed by 23 musicians including several noteworthy Swedish jazz musicians and the Norwegians Jon Christensen on drums and Jan Garbarek on tenor sax.  Sometimes majestic and beautiful, sometimes wild and exuberantly chaotic, sometimes showcasing individual soloing brilliance, sometimes a collective of orchestral anonymity, this work is adventurous, forward, and bordering on uncivilized, yet alluringly riveting, and mostly coherent.

Even further out is the companion work, “Electronic Organ Sonata No. 1” which was recorded in 1968.  The piece is full of interesting textures and includes many interesting moments, but for me, falls short of the appeal of the ballet suite.

A digital version of the material on this LP is available as part of a 9 CD set, “George Russell ‎– The Complete Remastered Recordings On Black Saint & Soul Note.”

Tracklist (from www.discogs.com)

1 Othello Ballet Suite (Part I)
2 Othello Ballet Suite (Part II)
3 Electronic Organ Sonata No. 1

Credits

Fifty Year Friday: Nirvana “The Story of Simon Simopath; The Kinks “Something Else”

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Recorded in July 1967 and released in October, before The Who’s “The Who Sell Out”, Van Park’s “Song Cycle”, or The Moody Blues “Days of Future Passed”, this album is more than just a collection of songs around a theme or concept; unlike many concept albums of 1967, this is a musical story — really the first such rock album to do this.

This is a story that mixes fantasy, allegory and science fiction.  It takes place in a psychedelic future, a six-dimensional city where Simon Simopath is a discontented little “citizen-boy” who more than anything wants to grow wings and fly.   Set before the turn of the 20th Century, his parents, like many parents of millennials, encourage Simon, telling him he can do anything he wants to do.  As one might guess, and as said to be the case with many millennials, Simon, on leaving school drifts from job to job, “unable to derive fulfillment from his work”, depressed for not having wings.  This results in a breakdown and Simon is hospitalized.  Unfortunately, mental therapy is not any more advanced in 1999 than it was in 1967, and Simon is released without results after six days.

Fortunately for Simon, he writes the Ministry of Dreams for the chance to take a supersonic space jockey test and passes, thus winning his wings, so to speak.  But note, we are still on side one with six more songs to go in this relatively short, approximately 25 1/2 minute album.

Not counting the studio musicians and the orchestra, Nirvana (this is the original group called Nirvana — not  Kurt Cobain‘s Nirvana that later settled out of court to pay for also using this name) is basically a singer-songwriter team of Irish musician Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Greek composer Alex Spyropoulos, who share vocal duties on this album. Campbell-Lyons also plays guitar and Spyropoulos is on keyboards.  Simon Simopath, overall, looks past the style typical the rock groups of 1967 towards that sparkling, creatively arranged pop-rock blend that George Martin and the Beatles perfected with Sgt. Pepper and that continues into the seventies with groups like Supertramp and XTC.  It shares qualities that one finds two years later in late 1969 in the Who’s Tommy (for example, the song “We Can Help You”) and even later in 1972 in the musical “Pippin.”

Track listing[from Wikipedia]

  • All songs written by Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropolous
  1. “Wings of Love” – 3:20
  2. “Lonely Boy” – 2:31
  3. “We Can Help You” – 1:57
  4. “Satellite Jockey” – 2:35
  5. “In the Courtyard of the Stars” – 2:36
  6. “You Are Just the One” – 2:07
  7. “Pentecost Hotel” – 3:06
  8. “I Never Found a Love Like This” – 2:50
  9. “Take This Hand” – 2:17
  10. “1999” – 2:09

The 2003 Universal Island Remasters collection includes both stereo and mono versions of the album on one disc. This release contains several bonus tracks:

  • 11. “I Believe in Magic” (b-side to “Tiny Goddess”)
  • 12. “Life Ain’t Easy” (previously unreleased version)
  • 13. “Feelin’ Shattered” (b-side to “Pentecost Hotel”)
  • 14. “Requiem to John Coltrane” (b-side to “Wings of Love”)

All songs composed by Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos

Personnel

  • Patrick Campbell-Lyons – guitar and vocals
  • Ray Singer – guitar
  • Alex Spyropoulos – piano, keyboards and vocals
  • Michael Coe – French horn and viola
  • Brian Henderson – bass
  • Peter Kester – drums
  • David Preston – drums
  • Patrick Shanahan – drums
  • Sylvia A. Schuster – cello

Production notes

  • Chris Blackwell – executive producer
  • Brian Humphries – engineer
  • Syd Dale – conductor

About halfway through their four year ban from performing in the U.S., something that deprived the group of significant financial opportunities during their prime years, the Kinks released their fifth studio album around September 1967.

The music is immediately accessible and Ray Davies’ clever lyrics reflect upon English social situations, characters, and topics with a particularly English point of view.   Top tracks include “David Watts”, “Death of a Clown”, “Two Sisters” and “Waterloo Sunset.”

Nicki Hopkins, who adds vitality to the 1967 Rolling Stones’ “Between the Buttons” with his lively piano contributions, also takes this Kink’s album to another level starting with the opening seconds of “David Watts” and continuing with piano-infused improvements on several other tracks including the second track,  “Death of a Clown.”

“Two Sisters” includes harpsichord (not sure if this is Ray Davies or Nicki) and strings. “No Return” successfully incorporates elements of Bossa Nova with appropriate melody chord changes and nylon stringed acoustic guitar. “Situation Vacant” includes more Nicki Hopkin’s piano, some Ray Davies’ organ, and Dave Davies’ guitar, but it is the lyrics that most diverge from typical pop fare capturing the dynamics between husband, position, and an “ambitious” mother-in-law.”

Side two begins with the simple but catchy Dave Davies’ “Love me till (sic) the Sun Shines”, followed by a partly-psychedelic “Lazy Old Sun.” Dave Davies’ “Funny Face” is well arranged and includes an effective contrasting bridge-like section, similar to something Brian Wilson might compose.

“Waterloo Sunset” is one of Ray Davies’ best compositions ever, lyrically and musically, and brings a praiseworthy album to an effective close.

Track listing[Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Ray Davies, unless otherwise noted.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. David Watts 2:32
2. Death of a Clown Dave Davies, R. Davies 3:04
3. Two Sisters 2:01
4. “No Return” 2:03
5. “Harry Rag” 2:16
6. “Tin Soldier Man” 2:49
7. “Situation Vacant” 3:16
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Love Me till the Sun Shines” D. Davies 3:16
2. “Lazy Old Sun” 2:48
3. “Afternoon Tea” 3:27
4. “Funny Face” D. Davies 2:17
5. “End of the Season” 2:57
6. Waterloo Sunset 3:15

Personnel

 

 

 

 

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