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Fifty Year Friday: Temptations, Wish it Would Rain; Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Twain Shall Meet; ABA and NBA finals

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This excellent album captures the Temptations’ smooth, soulful, and often passionate sound. It is the last album produced by Smokey Robinson and the final album with Ruffin, Kendricks, and bass singer Melvin Franklin taking turns on lead vocal: Mr. Ruffin being dismissed due to disruptive behavior, including insistence on the group’s name being changed to “David Ruffin and the Temptations” mimicking the name change of the Supremes to Diana Ross and The Supremes.

Besides the excellent vocals, we have the Motown studio musicians, named at the time as the Soul Brothers by Motown CEO Berry Gordy, Jr, but not credited on this album or other such albums of the era, and historically referred to as the “Funk Brothers”, in top form.

 

A1 I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)  3:33
A2 Cindy  3:08
A3 I Wish It Would Rain  2:48
A4 Please Return Your Love To Me  2:26
A5 Fan The Flame  2:44
A6 He Who Picks A Rose  2:28
B1 Why Did You Leave Me Darling  2:11
B2 I Truly, Truly Believe  2:44
B3 This Is My Beloved  2;13
B4 Gonna Give Her All The Love I’ve Got  2:46
B5 I’ve Passed This Way Before  2:43
B6 No Man Can Love Her Like I Do  2:16

Personnel

AnimalsTwainShallMeet

“If you want to find the truth in life, don’t pass music by.”

Eric Burdon and the Animals were effective performers at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.   They recorded “Monterrey”, written about the festival’s performers.  Perhaps this was the first rock song written about a concert event (before Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” or Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”) The lyrics are weak, and Burdon even gets Ravi Shankar’s name wrong (“Shanknar”) but there is something special to this song that barely made it to the fifteenth spot on the US pop charts.  It opens up with solo koto (or perhaps a similar instrument like the Chinese guzheng) and includes snippets of instrumental sound-painting as some the musicians that performed at the festival are described. In addition, woodwinds and  strings are added. It really is a celebration of the time, helped by the lyrics general naiveté and the song’s relentless, expanding energy, as it picks up tempo as it progresses.

The album containing “Monterrey”, The Twain Shall Meet, was released in May of 1968 and is a solid and capable mixture of hard and psychedelic rock, and has much in common with the first albums of harder rock groups and some of the progressive rock groups that followed soon after.  If one ignores the weakness in the lyrics and focuses on the music, this album provides a intriguing historical perspective on the early days of hard rock and provides insight into the transition from hard rock to what is commonly labelled as progressive rock.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one

  1. Monterey” (4:18)
  2. “Just the Thought” (3:47)
  3. “Closer to the Truth” (4:31)
  4. “No Self Pity” (4:50)
  5. “Orange and Red Beams” (3:45)

Side two

  1. Sky Pilot” (7:27)
  2. “We Love You Lil” (6:48)
  3. “All Is One” (7:45)

All selections written by Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, John Weider, Barry Jenkins, & Danny McCulloch except “Orange and Red Beams”, written by McCulloch.

Personnel

 

conniehwkins

Connie Hawkins and the Pittsburgh Pipers defeated Larry Brown and the New Orleans Buccaneers in the seventh game of the very first ABA playoff in front of 11,000 fans, up considerably from their average attendance of around 3,000.  Worth mentioning is the price paid for the New Orleans Bucs franchise: exactly $1000.

In other basketball news, the Los Angeles Lakers beat previous Western champion, the San Francisco Warriors, and the Boston Celtics defeated previous NBA champions, Wilt Chamberlain and the 76ers (with Wilt’s getting 34 rebounds in game 7 but his teammates shooting poorly and Wilt receiving limited touches on offense) to meet in the finals where the Lakers (with Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Archie Clark, and Gail Goodrich) lost the seven game series for the fifth time in seven years to the Celtics, this time in six games.

Wilt Chamberlain, perhaps still upset about the 76ers previously withdrawing a verbal commitment to give Chamberlain part ownership of the team, would demand a trade, indicating the possibility of going to the ABA, and soon Chamberlain would be sent to the Lakers for Archie Clark, Darrall Imhoff, and Jerry Chambers.

This was the first and last year of the ABA Anaheim Amigos,  purchased for $30,000 and sold less than a year later for $450,000, renamed to the Los Angeles Stars, and moved from the Anaheim convention Center to the LA Sports Center.

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Fifty Year Friday: Sly and the Family Stone, Dance to the Music, Hair

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Pioneers of psychedelic soul and greatly influential to the course of funk and jazz-rock, San Francisco’s Sly and the Family Stone,  led by composer, arranger, and producer Sly Stone releases their second solid album, Dance to the Music, on April 27, 1968. Sly’s original intent was more in the direction of psychedelic soul, but was urged by CBS’s Clive Davis to make the album pop friendly.  Despite any musical  compromises, Sly Stone is unwavering in emphasizing peace, love, and social harmony.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All songs written by Sylvester Stewart and produced and arranged by Sly Stone for Stone Flower Productions.

Side one

  1. Dance to the Music” – 3:00
  2. “Higher” – 2:49
  3. “I Ain’t Got Nobody (For Real)” – 4:26
  4. Dance to the Medley – 12:12
    1. “Music Is Alive”
    2. “Dance In”
    3. “Music Lover”

Side two

  1. “Ride the Rhythm” – 2:48
  2. “Color Me True” – 3:10
  3. “Are You Ready” – 2:50
  4. “Don’t Burn Baby” – 3:14
  5. “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” – 3:25

Personnel

Sly and the Family Stone

Hairposter_thumb

Starting as an off-Broadway music in 1967, Hair opened on Broadway on April 29, 1968 at the Biltmore Theatre in the middle of the theater district.  Known for songs like “Aquarius”, “Hair”, “Easy to be Hard”, “Good Morning Starshine”, and “The Flesh Failures” aka “Let the Sun Shine In” as well as it’s nude scene (nudity onstage was legal, but only if the actors were not moving, and this restriction was appropriately incorporated as the actors undressed under a parachute-like fabric and then sang the remainder of the song motionless), this book-less musical (no story) stitches together scenes addressing topics of that day such as hair length, the Vietnam war, race and sexual freedom.

Songs [from Wikipedia]

The score had many more songs than were typical of Broadway shows of the day. Most Broadway shows had about six to ten songs per act; Hair’s total is in the thirties. This list reflects the most common Broadway lineup.

Fifty Years Ago: Anthony Braxton, 3 Compositions of New Jazz

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Though generally not a fan of free jazz, I do enjoy the music I have purchased and heard from Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and Sam Rivers.  I also find John Coltrane’s forays into free jazz particularly appealing, but let’s face it, John Coltrane could have made interesting music just playing rising and falling whole tone scales.

There is also a spectrum of free jazz from semi-structured to complete chaos.  Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch album is the kind of free jazz that I love the most — it has much in common with traditional jazz and it doesn’t sound chaotic or random, but unfolds logically and musically.  I am generally a fan of Sun Ra and have no challenges setting aside time to listen to his explorations into free jazz.

As I music major, I listened to hours of the so-called avant-garde including Boulez, Stockhausen, Crumb, Xenakis, and many others. Truthfully, I like this type of music better than much of what is played today on the top 40 radio stations, but not by a lot.  My interest in second-half twentieth century classical music gravitated towards composers like Oliver Messiaen or the minimalists, like Philip Glass.

However, listening to a wide range of music expands one’s appreciation for music in general and listening to the so-called avant-garde, aleatoric (music based on chance), or free-jazz expands one’s ability to listen fully and comprehensively.  I once spent a little bit of time around John Cage in Europe, attending concerts and talking with him, and I learned much about how to listen to and appreciate music, organized sounds, random sounds, and the wide array of sensory input available to us.   I do enjoy hearing the rain against the house, or the sounds of wind in a forest or the music of the ocean when out on the deck of a ship.  And the beauty of music is not only determined from the labor and skill of the composer, but from the skill of each and every once of us to organize the sounds we perceive into a meaningful experience.

And so, though I prefer Anthony Braxton’s occasional excursions into standard jazz over his completely free jazz recordings, I still respect the talent and the skills he applies to free jazz, starting with his very first album as a leader,  3 Compositions of New Jazz, recorded in March and April 1968.  And I still value the part I personally play in making a coherent, and hopefully, enjoyable or even uplifting experience,  when listening to this or any other work of music.

And there is a lot of talent and skill that has gone into the three tracks on 3 Compositions of New Jazz. The variety (wide arrange of sounds, textures, and instruments employed by the four musicians) and the thoughtful quality of the music, makes this worthy of an initial listening, even if you then set it aside for a decade or more — or never pick it up again.  What works best for me, is the second track on side two, Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith’s “The Bell”, which I find attractive for its purity and beauty.  And in general, I particularly like Leroy Jenkins violin and viola playing throughout this album.

Am I impressed by how Braxton and team abandon conventionality and move forward with bold freedom?  Not so.  Braxton was twenty-three when this was recorded, and such youthful musical courage is not unexpected.  What is unexpected is the amount of variety, artfulness, and ability to make such unstructured music work and hold one’s attention.

Do I recommend this?  Not necessarily.  There are plenty of other jazz and even free-jazz albums I find more appealing.  Is this of historic importance?  Perhaps.   It is noteworth for its place in the musical landscape of 1968 and its blend of what is very much a John Cage approach with jazz music, but I suspect the history of free jazz would have been much the same if Delmark had shelved this album and failed to release it until forty years later.

Music is never completely driven by chance, unless it is generated by chance and performed by a computer, and this music, even with the following of the simple diagrams provided to the musicians for the first two tracks, is less about chance and more about musical and spiritual expression without the confinements of a set sequences of chord changes, a verse and chorus or other melodic framework, or recurring rhythmic patterns.  What is of interest here is just as engaging and potentially captivating as sitting outside of Penn Station in New York and watching hundreds of people a minute go on their way to work, listening to the birds sing in the forest, or listening to strangers’ conversations  on a bus, subway, or in a restaurant. It’s certainly better than listening to most radio talk shows, watching most youtube videos, or being bombarded repeatedly by some of the popular music of today or even some of the lower-quality popular music played on AM radios fifty years ago.

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Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Anthony Braxton, except where noted.

# Title Length
1 “(840m)-Realize-44M-44M (Composition 6 E)” 20:03*
2 “N-M488-44M-Z (Composition 6 D)” 12:57*
3 “The Bell” (Leo Smith) 10:31

*These first two tracks are graphically titled. This is an attempt to translate the title.

  • Recorded at Sound Studios, Chicago, IL on March 27 (track 1) and April 10 (tracks 2 & 3), 1968

Personnel

 

 

Fifty Year Friday: Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends; Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr. Assassination; Civil Rights Act of 1968

bookends

Released on April 3, 1968, it wasn’t until summer of 1968 that I first heard this album.  My sister had left it out on the top of my dad’s large mono hi-fidelity set, and alone in the living room, I took the record sleeve out of the outer cover and the vinyl contents out of its record sleeve, put it on the only quality turntable in the house, and one of the better ones on the block, turned on the machine, guided the tonearm to the beginning and while still standing in front of the hi-fi, became totally ensnared by this work of musical art.

The album opens with a solo acoustic guitar prelude intimating that this is not going to be just a collection of songs, but something more  – an organized musical statement. The second track, with Moog synthesizer setting the general ambiance, and thick reverb and choir providing the texture, is dark and grey, much in keeping with the black and white cover, and sets an encompassing atmosphere of bleakness, alienation and separation which carries on even through the last, more upbeat, song of the album.

This is very much Paul Simon’s Sgt. Peppers album — a concept album without a concrete concept, establishing coherence and a unified whole based on the quality of the songs, their arrangements, and, even going further than Sgt. Pepper, on a consistency of style in both the music and lyrics.  There is a deep seriousness in this music far beyond the previous Simon and Garfunkel albums: the music is shadowy and gloomy but rich in textures and images similar to some of the more detailed and complex art-deco black-and-white photography such as one of Edward Striochen’s photos as shown below:

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“America”, “Hazy Shade of Winter”, and “At the Zoo” may be uptempo and full of rhythm and the essence of rock music — listen to Yes’s flashy, kaleidoscopic realization of “America” — but these are inherently dark compositions with all intrusively brighter colors filtered out to expose the true underlying monochrome content.  Should I venture to compare this album general effect to one of Mahler’s works? Perhaps there is merit for such a comparison, but these tracks belong to 1968 not to a time eighty years earlier, and the most appropriate comparisons are to music of 1968.  Like Sgt. Pepper’s, this album could not have been made with the normal limitations placed on studio time for most rock artists.  Thankfully, Simon and Garfunkel had a clause in their contract specifying the label’s obligation to provide the necessary funding for the studio time, and the duo took advantage of this with hours and hours spent on perfecting the final product with multiple takes and significant dollars spent on that studio time as well as money spent on  the incorporation of additional instruments and the musicians playing them.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Paul Simon, except “Voices of Old People” by Art Garfunkel.

Side one

No.

Title

Recorded

Length

1.

Bookends Theme 1968

0:32

2.

Save the Life of My Child Dec. 14, 1967

2:49

3.

America Feb. 1, 1968

3:35

4.

Overs Oct. 16, 1967

2:14

5.

“Voices of Old People” Feb. 6, 1968

2:07

6.

Old Friends 1968

2:36

7.

“Bookends Theme” 1968

1:16

Side two

No.

Title

Recorded

Length

8.

Fakin’ It June 1967

3:17

9.

Punky’s Dilemma Oct. 5, 1967

2:12

10.

Mrs. Robinson Feb. 2, 1968

4:02

11.

A Hazy Shade of Winter Sept. 7, 1966

2:17

12.

At the Zoo Jan. 8, 1967

2:23

April 4, 1968, was a day of great tragedy: the assassination of  Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr.  Further tragedy followed with rioting and violence across 125 cities that took the lives of 39 people and injured many, many more. As with so many tragedies, good followed including the passage of the previously stalled Civil Rights Act of 1968 which now made it federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin” as well as directly addressing an area where millions had previously been treated unfairly by being “the first effective law against discrimination in the sale and rental of housing in the United States of America” making fair housing “the unchallenged law of the land.”  For this reason, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, is also known as the Fair Housing Act.

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Nina Simone dedicates a program of music to Dr. King at Westbury Music Fair, April 7, 1968. This music is later released in 1968 on the album, Nuff Said.  The third track on the album, is “Backlash Blues”, a Civil Rights song first recorded on Nina Simone Sings the Blues with lyrics by renowned poet,  Langston Hughes:

Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash,
Just who do think I am?
You raise my taxes, freeze my wages
And send my son to Vietnam.
 
You give me second class houses
And second class schools.
Do you think that all the colored folks
Are just second class fools?
Mr. Backlash, I’m gonna leave you
With the backlash blues.
 
When I try to find a job
To earn a little cash
All you got to offer
Is your mean old white backlash
But the world is big
Big and bright and round
And it’s full of folks like me
Who are black, yellow, beige and brown.
Mr. Backlash, I’m gonna leave you
With the backlash blues.
 
Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just what do you think I got to lose?
I’m gonna leave you
With the backlash blues
You’re the one will have the blues
Not me, just wait and see.

Dr King’s voice was never silenced — it lived on the the memories of the many that heard him and lives on today in recordings and videos readily available all over the internet — and Dr. King inspired many others to speak out on the necessity of equal opportunity and freedom for all — a work that is very much still in progress today.

We_the_people__

 

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: Dizzy Gillespie in 1967

 

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First and most important: Happy Birthday, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie.  Born one hundred years ago, on October 21, 1917 and blessing us music lovers with his presence until Jan 6, 1993, leaving a catalog of excellent to must-listen-to music for many generations of listeners.

I was lucky enough to see him live in Oslo, Norway in 1978 and hear him and his group play “Night in Tunisia.”  He was personable, relaxed, and loved being in front of a small auditorium of very attentive listeners.  The music was excellent and the time raced by.  At the end, I realized how lucky I was to get a ticket that very evening an hour or two before the performance, and thus be able to witness such amazing music.   I am also thankful that I had a friend, who earlier, in California, had persuaded me to go with him to listen to jazz artists like Sonny Stitt and Milt Jackson, leading my onto the path of developing my love for bebop.

You see, Dizzy was one of the founding fathers of bebop, along with other giants like Charlie ParkerThelonious Monk, and Bud Powell.  The recordings he made in the 1940s with Charlie Parker are essential listening, and are as an important part of musical history as the premiere of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” (aka “Le Sacre du printemps”), Alban Berg’s two amazing operas, or the British Invasion and the rise of The Beatles and development of progressive rock.

We are very fortunate that on October 1st, 1967, three sets of music were recorded at the Village Vanguard, the famous jazz New York City jazz club.  The Solid State LP includes three tracks, one from each set, with Dizzy, Pepper Adams on baritone saxophoneRay Nance on violin, Chick Corea on piano, Richard Davis on bass, and, on drums, Elvin Jones on “Dizzy’s Blues”, and  Mel Lewis on the other two tracks.  Later, Solid State releases two more LPs of material, which Blue Note later releases on CD in a 2 CD set.

This music is not to be missed, the musicians are excellent and the playing is riveting. If you want to sample the first LP released by Solid State, you can find it on youtube:

Track listing (all compositions by Dizzy Gillespie)

 

  1. Dizzy’s Blues (aka”Birk’s Works”) – 14:30 (This is edited and the complete, nearly eighteen minute version is available on the Blue Note 2 CD set)
  2. “Blues for Max” – 9:10
  3. “Tour de Force” – 9:45  (This is edited and the complete, nearly twelve minute version is available on the Blue Note 2 CD set)

Personnel[edit]

As great as this music is, I would advise to supplement it with another live album,  “Sweet Low, Sweet Cadillac.” The Impulse record label brings together recordings from three different concerts in May 1967, one in NYC and two in L.A. to provide another glimpse of what a Dizzy-led 1967 live performance was like.  The playfulness and charm of the master is captured as well as some great music. This is the only recording I have where Dizzy sings, and, though not at the level as the 1967 Village Vanguard recordings, this is a treat not to be missed.

Track listing[from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Dizzy Gillespie except as indicated
  1. “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac” – 7:17
  2. Mas que Nada” (Jorge Ben) – 6:15
  3. “Bye” – 1:15
  4. “Something in Your Smile” (Leslie Bricusse) – 2:40
  5. “Kush” – 15:50
  • Recorded at Memory Lane in Los Angeles, California on May 25 & 26, 1967

Personnel

Fifty Year Friday: Marta Argerich and Carlos Paredes

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This 1967 recording contains two of the most popular Twentieth Century piano concertos, full of energy from one of the brightest classical music stars of the 1960’s, the twenty-six year old Argentine, Marta Argerich.  An impressive pianist since her early teens, winning both the Geneva International Music Competition and the Ferruccio Busoni International Competition at the age of 18 within three weeks of each other, Marta teams up with conductor Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic to provide a stunning, wild-ride performance of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto.  This LP also contains the Ravel G Major Piano Concerto, a work influenced by George Gershwin and the jazz music of the 1920s.  What sounds like an inspired, spontaneous work, was a work of intense labor and craftsmanship. Writing music”, noted Ravel, “is seventy-five percent an intellectual activity.”

TRACKS
Serge Prokofieff (1891-1953) Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26

1. Andante – Allegro

2. Theme and Variations

3. Allegro ma non troppo

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Piano Concerto in G Major

1. Allegramente

2. Adagio assai

3. Presto

 

This is Carlos Paredes first album, yet is is an unquestionable masterpiece.  Paredes plays an instrument called the Portuguese guitar, a twelve steel-stringed instrument, popularly used in Fado music (Portuguese folk music) known for its expressive and often wistful qualities.  In this album we are treated to both Paredes’ amazing virtuosity as well as his gift for serious composition.  Each work displays an individual character and identity and invites repeated listenings. If you don’t usually sample the youtube videos sometimes provided, its worth making an exception here:

Tracks for “Guitarra portuguesa”

Variações em Ré maior
Porto Santo
Fantasia
Melodia N.2
Dança
Canção verdes anos
Divertimento
Romance N.1
Romance N.2
Pantomima
Melodia N.1

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