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Fifty Year Friday: Aretha In Paris; Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels of the Ages; Electric Ladyland

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The producer of this album, Jerry Wexler, once said that Aretha in Paris was an embarrassment to him.  Yet, fifty years later after its release on October 1968 (of a concert earlier that year in May recorded at the Olympia Theatre in Paris), we have to be thankful for such a wonderful document of the greatest soul singer in her prime. The band could be better, Wexler’s primary complaint, and the arrangements are less than stellar, but the band is engaged and energetic and, within the given arrangements, provides the suitable canvass for Franklin to project her magic.

Track listing [from,Wikipedia]

  1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (Mick JaggerKeith Richards)
  2. “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream” (Franklin, Teddy White)
  3. “Soul Serenade” (Luther DixonCurtis Ousley)
  4. “Night Life” (Willie Nelson, Walt Breeland, Paul Buskirk)
  5. Baby, I Love You” (Jimmy Holiday, Ronnie Shannon)
  6. Groovin’” (Eddie BrigatiFelix Cavaliere)
  7. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Carole KingGerry GoffinJerry Wexler)
  8. Come Back Baby” (Ray Charles)
  9. “Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)” (Franklin, Teddy White)
  10. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” (Franklin, Teddy White)
  11. I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” (Ronnie Shannon)
  12. Chain Of Fools” (Don Covay)
  13. Respect” (Otis Redding)

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An improvement from the first album, there are a number of strong tracks sandwiched between what are arguably the weakest two tracks which start and end the album, “Deboraarobed”,  a quasi blues-based number with a second half that is the recorded tape of the first half played backwards (Debora — arobeD) thus flipping the extended opening on the tonic major chord to also serve as its coda , and the a capella  “Scenescof Dynasty” which goes nowhere repeating nearly endlessly, aided in its absence of interest by handclaps and difficult to suss out lyrics, until it ceases abruptly as if the vinyl real estate had run out.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Marc Bolan.

Side A
No. Title Length
1. “Deboraarobed” 3:33
2. “Stacey Grove” 1:59
3. “Wind Quartets” 2:57
4. “Conesuala” 2:25
5. “Trelawny Lawn” 1:46
6. “Aznageel the Mage” 1:59
7. “The Friends” 1:19
Side B
No. Title Length
1. “Salamanda Palaganda” 2:15
2. “Our Wonderful Brownskin Man” 0:51
3. “Oh Harley (The Saltimbanques)” 2:19
4. “Eastern Spell” 1:41
5. “The Travelling Tragition” 1:48
6. “Juniper Suction” 1:13
7. “Scenescof Dynasty” 4:07

ELadyLand

Though more a testament to Jimi Hendrix’s remarkable performing, improvisational and leadership skills than his considerable songwriting abilities, this two LP set, Electric Ladyland, provides an impressive example of 1968 rock music at its very best. The album is stylistic next-to-impossible to define, ranging from psychedelic to blues-rock to jam-rock with notable post-bop and early prog-rock qualities, but at the end of it all it holds together as a finished work of art.  Yet still, amazingly, this album just about has something for everyone, from the highly accessible “Cross Town Traffic” to the epic, brilliantly crafted “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)”.  If there is just one Hendrix studio album to have in one’s collection, this may be yet, but the truth is, one should have every Hendrix album in their collection.

For those looking to purchase this, a fiftieth anniversary edition box set will be available in early November on digital and vinyl formats that includes the original studio tracks plus additional material.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Jimi Hendrix, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “And the Gods Made Love” 1:21
2. Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland) 2:11
3. Crosstown Traffic 2:25
4. Voodoo Chile 15:00
Total length: 20:57
Side two
No. Title Length
5. “Little Miss Strange” (Noel Redding) 2:52
6. “Long Hot Summer Night” 3:27
7. Come On (Part I)” (Earl King; originally titled “Come On” on UK Track release) 4:09
8. Gypsy Eyes” (Originally titled “Gipsy Eyes” on UK Track release) 3:43
9. Burning of the Midnight Lamp 3:39
Total length: 17:50
Side three
No. Title Length
10. “Rainy Day, Dream Away” 3:42
11. 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) 13:39
12. “Moon, Turn the Tides…Gently Gently Away” 1:02
Total length: 18:23
Side four
No. Title Length
13. “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” 4:25
14. “House Burning Down” 4:33
15. All Along the Watchtower” (Bob Dylan) 4:01
16. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) 5:12
Total length: 18:11

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

  • Jimi Hendrix – lead vocals, guitar, piano, percussion, comb and tissue paper kazooelectric harpsichord, bass on “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)”, “Long Hot Summer Night”, “Gypsy Eyes”, “1983”, “House Burning Down”, and “All Along the Watchtower”
  • Noel Redding – backing vocals, bass on “Crosstown Traffic”, “Little Miss Strange”, “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)”, “Burning of the Midnight Lamp”, and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”, acoustic guitar and lead vocals on “Little Miss Strange”
  • Mitch Mitchell – backing vocals, drums (except on “Rainy Day Dream Away” and “Still Raining, Still Dreaming”), percussion, lead vocals on “Little Miss Strange”

Additional personnel

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Fifty Year Friday: June 1968 including Roland Kirk, Pink Floyd and more

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“When I die I want them to play the BLACK AND CRAZY BLUES, I want to be cremated, put in a bag of pot and I want beautiful people to smoke me and hope they got something out of it.”

― Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Recorded in November of 1967 and released on June 14, 1968,  The Inflated Tear is proof that jazz is as vital and important in the late 1960’s as at any time in its storied history.  “Black and Crazy Blues” opens a very personal, somewhat biographic album with a bluesy funeral dirge, a well crafted and perfectly performed composition that resonates with the type of quiet pride that carries the weary or downtrodden through defeat, suffering, sadness and darkness, whether that darkness is sightlessness, social ignorance or the absence of carefree joy.

This is followed by the light-hearted “A Laugh for Rory” with its playful, dancing flute-work — a sparkling, imaginative tribute to Roland Kirk’s young son, whose voice is heard at the start of the track.  The third track, “Many Blessings”, opens up with Kirk’s solo tenor, joined by a second sax, played simultaneously by Kirk, joined by Rahn Burton on piano, Steve Novosel on bass and Jimmy Hopps in the statement of a very Thelonious Monk-like theme followed by some amazing saxophone soloing and an exuberant piano solo with Kirk’s saxophone providing a strong closing for the work.

“Fingers In the Wind” showcases Kirk’s sensitivity and lyrical expressiveness.  Here we have Roland on flute delivering a work of intimacy, confidence, and clarity.

After hearing the first track, one would normally assume that this is the masterpiece of the album, but “Inflated Tear” is more personal and dives further into the depths of darkness, exploring anguish as well as moments of quiet despair and desolation. Kirk uses his instrumental talents to provide emotional range and impact, particularly in using two saxophones simultaneously to fully and accurately display anguish.

Duke Ellington’s “Creole Love Song” is mostly in a style that recalls Mingus, and this is followed by the lively, jubilant “A Handful of Five” featuring Kirk on the “manzello”, a  modified B-flat soprano saxophone.

“Fly By Night”, is generally upbeat, perhaps indicative of the unconquerable spirit of independence exhibited by those with disabilities that soar through the sky in whatever conditions that are present as part of their circumstance. The last track, “Lovellevelliloqui”, impossible to type without referencing the album jacket, is a buoyant celebration of the power of love, and finishes the album nicely by providing the quest, the accomplishment, and the ultimate victory.

This album, a broad and honest representation of life, is worth not only our attention, but the attention of those generations that follow us.  We can inspect or scrutinize, or simply marvel at these works, just like we marvel at an Edward Hopper,  Andrew Newell Wyeth or Frederick Remington painting.  The music is modern, profound and easily accessible to anyone that appreciates how multi-faceted jazz also requires an alert and empathetic listener to explore both its surfaces and its depths.

Track listing [from Wikipedia ]

All tracks written by Roland Kirk, except where noted.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “The Black and Crazy Blues” 6:07
2. “A Laugh for Rory” 2:54
3. “Many Blessings” 4:45
4. “Fingers in the Wind” 4:18
5. “The Inflated Tear” 4:58
6. Creole Love Call Duke Ellington 3:53
7. “A Handful of Fives” 2:42
8. “Fly by Night” 4:19
9. “Lovellevelliloqui” 4:17

Personnel

 

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Pink Floyd: Saucerful of Secrets

With Syd Barrett becoming more unstable, guitarist and friend David Gilmour was brought in with the original intent that Barrett would continue to write some music for the band — but with Barrett, around March of 1968 eventually agreeing to leave entirely.

Three tracks have Barrett playing or singing including his own composition, “Jugband Blues” and the Water’s composition “Set the Controls for the Heart of The Sun” in which we get to hear both Barrett and Gilmour on guitar.

Due to his erratic and unreliable behavior, there was little choice but to drop Barrett, the primary song writer for the group.  Roger Waters and Richard Wright, then provided the music for this second album with Mason and Waters working out the general musical outline for the an additional track required to add additional length to the album to provide the necessary minutes to fill out side 2. This would be titled , “A Saucerful of Secrets”, and would also become the title for the album.

Historically this is quite an interesting album.  For one, the last track when compared to the rest of the album provides us a reminder that Pink Floyd would have had a very different timeline if Syd Barrett had stayed with the group. Whether any treatment available at the time could have helped Barrett is not clear, but if he had been able to recover from the difficulties apparently brought on by psychotropic drugs like LSD and had stayed with the group, it is likely that Pink Floyd’s ensuing albums would have had a very different character.

The other important historical aspect is the progressive nature of this music and the first appearances of “space rock”, the otherworldly transformation of psychedelic rock, providing a more open, often gentler and slower paced genre of music that is the musical equivalent of stretching out space and time, and de-emphasizing matter and energy, achieving a transcendental or hypnotic type of listening experience.  “Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun” is a prime example of a shorter space-rock track, with the title track being a more expansive, longer example, architected beforehand to have an overall shape and character — and highly improvised, evolving from beginning to end as if a single statement.  This style of music will be influential in the direction and style of many European bands. particularly bands in Germany and some in France influencing groups as diverse as Tangerine Dream,  Amon Düül II, Hawkwind, Gong, Grobschnitt, Ash Ra Tempel, and Hoelderlin.  Ultimately, from the seventies well into the 21st century, we have numerous bands and individuals creating various manifestations of space rock and a Bay Area weekly radio program, “Hearts of Space”, started in 1973 that went national on public radio in 1983 with archived programs online at the Hearts of Space website.

Track listing

  1. Let There Be More Light
    05:37 (Waters)
  2. Remember a Day
    04:34 (Wright)
  3. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
    05:28 (Waters)
  4. Corporal Clegg
    04:12 (Waters)
  5. A Saucerful of Secrets
    11:57 (Mason/Waters/Wright/Gilmour)
  6. See-Saw
    04:37 (Wright)
  7. Jugband Blues
    03:00 (Barrett)

Personnel

Pink Floyd

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Max Roach: Members Don’t Get Weary

Recorded in late June of 1968, Members, Don’t Git Weary is an excellent post-bop jazz album, featuring one of the most interesting and effective jazz drummers of all time, Max Roach, along with Charles Tolliver on trumpet, Gary Bartz on alto sax, Stanley Cowell on piano and electric keyboards and electric bass pioneer, Jymie Merritt.

Besides the excellence of the music, particularly tracks 2, 3, and 6, I am amazed at similarities in the first three tracks and some of the modal-jazz passages used by the jazz-rock group Chicago in their 1969 and 1970 albums.  It leads me to speculate that one or more of Chicago horn players, if not Chicago’s main songwriters, had listened to the first side of this album repeatedly.

Though this album is mostly post-bop modal music, the title track, “Members, Don’t Git Weary”, is a blues based tune with Andy Bey on vocals providing a vehicle for free-jazz improvisation that makes for an interesting contrast to the rest of the album as does “Equipose” which shares some similarities with the modal music on John Coltrane’s Love Supreme album.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Stanley Cowell except as indicated

  1. “Abstrutions” – 3:40
  2. “Libra” (Gary Bartz) – 4:58
  3. “Effi” – 6:15
  4. “Equipoise” – 6:22
  5. “Members, Don’t Git Weary” (Max Roach) – 5:32
  6. “Absolutions” (Jymie Merritt) – 4:39
  • Recorded in New York on June 25 (tracks 2-4 & 6) and June 26 (tracks 1 & 5), 1968

Personnel 

 

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The Beach Boys: Friends

Released on June 24, 1968, Friends, is the Beach Boys 14th Studio Album.  Though generally good, it did not sell well in the states with sales around 18,000 units.  It did better on the UK charts peaking at number 13.

The two best tracks on the album are the first two tracks, with “Friends”, which was also released as a single, being a minor masterpiece.  Unfortunately, the promise of the first two tracks are not met by the remainder of the album with the weakest tracks on side two.

Track Listing and Personnel

 

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Aretha Franklin: Aretha Now

Released on June 14, 1968, less than five months after the highly successful Lady Soul album, Aretha Now is an impressive showcase of Aretha’s amazing vocal artistry, peaking at number 1 on the R&B album charts, number 3 on the pop charts and number 9 on the jazz charts.

Every track on this album from “Think” to “”I Can’t See Myself Leaving You” is another opportunity to be wowed and entranced by Aretha’s amazing singing.  Particularly interesting, from an arrangement and interpretive perspective, is the rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “I Say a Little Prayer”, a 1967 hit sung by Dionne Warwick.  Though the original message of the song was about the singer’s concern for her loved one serving in the Vietnam War, this interpretation on Aretha Now reaches past the original message of “offering a prayer”  for someone, to praying (to get) someone, hinted at from the beginning with the Aretha singing “I’ll say a little prayer” and the backup singers following her with “for you” separating the two parts out to highlight this alternative meaning. In the closing, Aretha makes this alternative meaning quite clear with her passionate entreaty in the delivery of the last line: “To live without you would only mean heartbreak for me.”  Whichever of the two ways one takes the meaning, this is emotional affective intepretation, and possibly closer to how Burt Barcharach would have liked to have heard the song having purportedly indicated that the Dionne Warwick version felt a bit rushed.

Track Listing and Personnel

 

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Spooky Tooth: It’s All About

Whereas Aretha Franklin takes a previously successful song and makes an every more impressive version. Spooky Tooth  falls into the trap on their pretty good debut album, It’s All About, of taking a  previously perfectly rendered hit, Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child” and falling short of that level of excellence. Janis Ian had starting conceptualizing this song around 1964 at age 13, finishing it and recording it at age 14, in 1965. About a partially taboo topic for the mid sixties, racial prejudice and its suppression of romantic choice,  it was banned by numerous radio stations, slowing is climb up the national charts, limiting it to achieving only the 14th spot, sadly short of what the song deserved.

Spooky Tooth’s inclusion of this song is clearly a tribute to their understanding of the solid musical craftsmanship of the work, and the gothic, organ-dominated rendition of this certainly is interesting.  Just as The Stories had reversed the genders in “Brother Louie”, Spooky Tooth, reverses the gender to match the gender of the singer, thus inadvertently weakening the message which was not completely separable from the gender-related double standard connected to the topic.

Still one should praise the intent and musical appreciation of this English Band for taking on this American classic song and the generally high level of musicianship and creativity on the first track and the album itself.  The two vocalists, Mike Harrison and Gary Wright, are also providing keyboards, with Harrison sometimes on harpsichord, and Wright providing solid foundation and sometimes psychedelic organ passages.  Music ranges from psychedelic to hard rock with elements of acid rock and heavy metal with overall quality ranging from mundane and predictable to fascinating and interesting.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

  1. Society’s Child” 4:30 (Janis Ian)
  2. “Love Really Changed Me” 3:33 (Grosvenor, Miller, Wright)
  3. “Here I Lived So Well” 5:06 (Wright, Grosvenor, Harrison, Miller)
  4. Too Much of Nothing” 3:57 (Bob Dylan)
  5. “Sunshine Help Me” 3:02 (Wright)
  6. “It’s All About a Roundabout” 2:43 (Miller, Wright)
  7. Tobacco Road” 5:33 (J.D. Loudermilk)
  8. “It Hurts You So” 3:03 (Miller, Wright)
  9. “Forget It, I Got It” 3:26 (Miller, Wright)
  10. “Bubbles” 2:49 (Grosvenor, Wright)

“Too Much of Nothing” was replaced by a cover version of The Band’s “The Weight” on the American release.

Personnel

Spooky Tooth

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Arthur Brown: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

Released in June 1968, Arthur Brown’s first album,  and the first and final album of the band named after him, “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” is one of a kind.  The first side, somewhat symphonic and conceptual in nature is pretty impressive.  Quite unconventional and Zappa-like in moments, this first side includes their one hit, “Fire”, which got heavy air play in Southern California peaking at number 2 nationally.   The second side is also of interest.  David Bowie fans need to listen to “Rest Cure” where Arthur Brown vocals anticipate David Bowie’s post Ziggy vocals. The  album is provided with overdubbed orchestration by producer Kit Lambert, which effectively raises the level of activity and intensity without sounding artificial or contrived.

The original intent of Brown’s ambitious first album was to make the entire album a rock-opera — a rock album themed around entering into and the resulting horrors of Hell.  Interestingly, enough, Kit Lambert, who would later produce the Who’s Tommy, preferred something more commercial and Brown and Lambert came to compromise limiting this mini-rock opera to one side.

Kit Lambert had plenty of experience with opera, and classical music, being the son of composer Constant Lambert.    Though Constant Lambert never composed an opera,  he did write themed ballets and the social circle which Constant, Constant’s friend, and Kit’s godfather, William Walton, and Constant’s brothers, sculptor Maurice Lambert and painter George Lambert were part of exposed Kit to a wide array of music and culture.  Kit’s father died at an early age (brought about partly from alcohol abuse) when Kit was only 16.  Kit then pursued a more adventurous life, studying film at Trinity College in Oxford and at the University Paris, then serving as an officer in the British Army, and then joining an expedition to locate the source of Brazil’s Iriri River in which one member was killed by one of the Panará tribes.

Kit is known largely for his and Chris Stamp’s involvement with the Who. The two were setting to make a documentary about a single band, and ultimately Kit became interested in a group called The High Numbers.  Kit and Chris took over management and changed the name of the group to “The Who.” Kit encouraged Townshend’s songwriting, and was responsible for some of the group’s onstage tricks.  Kit produced and engineered the Who’s albums up to Tommy (coming back for Quadrophenia), being partly responsible for the progressive nature of The Who, which is definitely missing in the post-Quadrophenia albums.

It is ironic, then, that Kit Lambert, with his background in classical music and the arts, and who was involved in the writing of the first draft of the Who’s Tommy, discouraged Arthur Brown from making a full album rock-opera and encouraged him to make something more commercial.  And also ironic, then, is that this album doesn’t sound very commercial at all.  And further ironical is that such a non-commercial album not only did so well commercially, but also produced a number two singles hit. Oh, wait, never mind, this was 1968.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one

  1. “Prelude/Nightmare” (Arthur Brown) – 3:28
  2. “Fanfare/Fire Poem” (Brown, Vincent Crane) – 1:51
  3. Fire” (Brown, Crane, Mike Finesilver, Peter Ker)[6] – 2:54
  4. “Come and Buy” (Brown, Crane) – 5:40
  5. “Time” (Brown) – 3:07
  6. “Confusion” (Crane) – 2:08

Side two

  1. I Put a Spell on You” (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) – 3:41
  2. “Spontaneous Apple Creation” (Brown, Crane) – 2:54
  3. “Rest Cure” (Brown, Crane) – 2:44
  4. I’ve Got Money” (James Brown) – 3:09
  5. “Child of My Kingdom” (Brown, Crane) – 7:01 (Original North American releases of the album contained a 6:25 edit of this track, but incorrectly list its length as 5:05; the UK mono edition contains a 6:04 edit)

Personnel

  • Arthur Brown – vocals
  • Vincent Crane – keyboards, vibes, musical arrangements and orchestration
  • Nick Greenwood (billed as “Sean Nicholas”) – bass guitar
  • Drachen Theaker – drums
  • John Marshall – drums (on “I Put a Spell on You” and “Child of My Kingdom”)[1]
Additional personnel
  • Pete Townshend – associate producer
  • Kit Lambert – producer
  • David King – cover design
  • David Montgomery – photography
  • Ed Strait – compilation producer

Os Mutantes and Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival

If you are still reading at this point, and there is no concrete reason to think you are, I need to also mention Brazil’s Os Mutantes and the June 15 recording of the Bill Evans Trio at Montreux, Switzerland.

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From this first track, of Os Mutantes’s self-title debut album “Panis Et Cirenses” (Latin for “Bread and Circuses” and meant to indicate a means of superficial or easily-provided appeasement), one is caught up in this very accessible Brazilian pop. Tangentially connected to the Tropicália movement and also Gil Gilberto as evidenced by the music that opens each side of the album, Os Mutantes releases their first album in June 1968,  filling it full of joy and celebration.  Enriched with special effects, as in the rain-forest-meets-Carnaval “Adeus Maria Fulô”, this album is certainly progressive in the general sense of that word and with its best quality tracks — as with “O Relógio” — this is a fun and enjoyable album that vibrantly bubbles with the musical elements of 1968 pop, rock and Brazilian music.

 

Track Listing [from progarchives.com]

1. Panis Et Circenses (3:40)
2. A Minha Menina (4:45)
3. O Relógio (3:32)
4. Adeus Maria Fulô (3:06)
5. Baby (3:02)
6. Senhor F (2:36)
7. Bat Macumba (3:10)
8. Le Premier Bonheur Du Jour (3:40)
9. Trem Fantasma (3:19)
10. Tempo No Tempo (1:49)
11. Ave, Gengis Khan (3:51)

Total time 36:30

Personnel [from Wikipedia]

Os Mutantes
Special guests
  • Dirceu: drums
  • Jorge Ben: vocals and acoustic guitar (in “A Minha Menina”)
  • Dr. César Baptista: vocals (in “Ave, Gengis Khan”)
  • Clarisse Leitepiano in “Senhor F”
  • Cláudio Baptista: electronics
  • Gilberto Gilpercussion (in “Bat Macumba”)

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We are very fortunate that someone at the Montreux Jazz Festival recorded this performance of the Bill Evans Trio —  the only recording that I am aware of Bill Evans with Eddie Gómez and Jack DeJohnette.

I sometimes lose interest in obligatory bass solos, but not with any of Gómez’s solo or ensemble bass work.  I love that “Embraceable You” is used as a platform for over six minutes of mesmerizing bass work.  I also am impressed at how well Jack DeJohnette’s partners with both Gómez and Evans throughout the live performance, with “Nardis”  being an impressive display of how well these three musicians work together.

Most of all, I love listening to Bill Evans and he is in top form here. We get two beautiful, expressive solo piano ballads (“Quiet Now” and “I Loves You, Porgy”) as well as two original Evans compositions.   Time enough spent blogging — or in your case, if you made it this far, reading — time now to listen to this and other music again!

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

  1. “Spoken Introduction” – 0:57
  2. “One for Helen” (Bill Evans) – 4:22
  3. A Sleepin’ Bee” (Harold ArlenTruman Capote) – 6:05
  4. “Mother of Earl” (Earl Zindars) – 5:14
  5. “Nardis” (Miles Davis) – 8:23
  6. “Quiet Now” (Denny Zeitlin) – 6:26 (Not on original LP, but included on CD)
  7. I Loves You, Porgy” (George GershwinIra GershwinDuBose Heyward) – 6:00
  8. “The Touch of Your Lips” (Ray Noble) – 4:45
  9. Embraceable You” (G. Gershwin, I. Gershwin) – 6:45
  10. Some Day My Prince Will Come” (Frank ChurchillLarry Morey) – 6:08
  11. “Walkin’ Up” (Evans) – 3:34

Personnel

 

Fifty Year Friday: Aretha Franklin “I Never Loved a Man”, Simon Dupree & The Big Sound “Without Reservations”

Aretha Franklin  “I Never Loved a Man”

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Raised singing gospel and touring with her minister father on gospel caravan tours,  first accompanying his preaching on piano and later singing on his gospel tours from church to church, Aretha Franklin recorded her first album in 1956 at the age of 14, “Songs of Faith”, a album of nine gospel songs recorded live.

At 18, Aretha chose to pursue a pop career, like her close friend Sam Cooke, who she had known when he was in the Soul Stirrers, and signed with Columbia records.  Columbia had little interest of what was best for Aretha, and determined to make her into a commercially viable jazz-pop singer, ignoring her gospel background and making touring and song selection choices for her based on converting her into a marketable and commercially successful commodity — but basically failing at that over the course of recording eleven commercially disappointing albums.  Fortunately at the end of her Columbia contract, Aretha signed with the smaller, independent label, Atlantic Records in 1966 and Atlantic gave her the green light to not only chose her own songs, but determine how she would sing, perform and arrange them.  Now in control of the artistic process, Aretha also composed songs, played piano and brought in her two sisters Erma and Carolyn to provide backup vocals. The result was an artistic and commercial success where Aretha used her full range of talents and drew on her gospel experience to provide a expressive, vital album, distinctive, yet intimately familiar.

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On this new album, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You”, Aretha combines a wide range of musical and emotional expression coherently, consistently,  and consummately throughout all eleven tracks.  The vocal nuance and subtitles captured here make this album a classic that can be listened to over and over.  This music and singing owe much to the gospel music of Aretha’s cultural heritage, but the lyrics are secular and, like traditional blues, address flawed social and inter-personal relationships.

Tracks like Otis Redding’s “Respect”, the song many people today directly associate with Aretha Franklin, “I Never Loved a Man” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” are particularly notable, but one can pick any song on this album to savor the beauty and artistry of Aretha Franklin’s exceptional vocal delivery.  Appropriate musical support is provided, including King Curtis on saxophone.

In addition to this landmark album, Aretha provided us four number one singles on the R&B charts in 1967, two from this album, plus “Baby, I Love You” from her second 1967 Atlantic album “Aretha Arrives” and “Chain of Fools.” Also of note is Aretha’s 1967 recording of Carol King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” written especially for Aretha and appearing on her third Altantic album, “Aretha: Lady Soul” recorded in 1967 and released January 1968.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. Respect Otis Redding 2:29
2. Drown in My Own Tears Henry Glover 4:07
3. I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) Ronnie Shannon 2:51
4. Soul Serenade King CurtisLuther Dixon 2:39
5. “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream” Aretha Franklin, Ted White 2:23
6. “Baby Baby Baby” Aretha Franklin, Carolyn Franklin 2:54
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. “Dr. Feelgood” Aretha Franklin, Ted White 3:23
8. Good Times Sam Cooke 2:10
9. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man Dan PennChips Moman 3:16
10. “Save Me” Aretha Franklin, Carolyn Franklin, King Curtis 2:21
11. A Change Is Gonna Come Sam Cooke 4:20

Simon Dupree & The Big Sound

It would be just fine for me to completely skip over Simon Dupree & The Big Sound, except for one extremely important consideration: three of the band members (brothers Phil Shulman, Derek Shulman and Ray Shulman) would later form Gentle Giant joining up with keyboardist and composer Kerry Minnear.

The UK was awash with bands of young musicians emulating American Rhythm and Blues.  We all know about the early Beatles, Stones, Animals and Pretty Things.  Few Americans, excepting die-hard Gentle Giant fans, know much about Simon Dupree & the Big Sound.

At some point in the mid-seventies, I had seen a lineage tree of where members of various seventy bands had come from: Keith Emerson of ELP had come from The Nice, Carl Palmer from Atomic Rooster and before that Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Greg Lake from King Crimson and before that the Gods — that sort of thing.  Will this “ancestry chart” showed that the three Shulmans came from Simon Dupree & The Big Sound.  I looked in the Schwann LP Catalog for any listing and saw none.  Clearly any albums they ahd recorded were out of print. Doing some further research I found they had one Top 10 UK singles hit, “Kites“, which reached the number eight position.

Years later, in 1988, I was then very lucky to find the single on a juke box in the UK in a pub in Holyhead, Wales while sipping on a pint of local brew and killing time while waiting to catch a ferry to Dublin. I got out some local pocket change and played both sides, listening to “Kites” three times and the B side, “Like the Sun, Like the Fire” twice. Despite the mellotron, xylophone, gong, wind-machine, and actress Jacqui Chan‘s seductively spoken Chinese on Kites during the instrumental passage, I preferred the B side, which sounded closer to very early Gentle Giant and included a bridge with a soulful Derek Shulman vocal and a brief bassoon, oboe and clarinet instrumental section and a final brief marching band coda.  Almost thirty years after hearing this track for this first time, I found out this song was co-authored by the one Shulman that wasn’t ever a part of Gentle Giant, Evelyn King, the elder sister to the Shulman brothers.

Simon Dupree and the Big Sound, based in Portsmouth, home of the Shulmans, was not named after any band member (the band was primarly the three Shulman brothers supplemented by Peter O’Flaherty on bass guitar, Eric Hine on keyboards, and dummer Tony Ransley.) Originally the group’s name was “Howlin’ Wolves” befitting of their R & B style, later changed to the Road Runners, and then finally replaced by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound at the suggestion of a local Portsmouth music promoter: Dupree was the name of an established and well known local family in Portsmouth.

The first (and only) album, “Without Reservations” is only sporadically interesting, partly due to the arrangements and level of musicianship of the Shulmans, and partly as providing insight into what contributions the Shulmans made to Gentle Giant compositions, particularly the first Gentle Giant album and the last three.  (On all their albums, from first to last, Gentle Giant gave song writing credit to their entire band rather than any individual contributors.)

Simon Dupree would continue on for a couple of more years with several attempts to score a second hit after Kites, but with no success. At one point, for a tour of Scotland, they had to replace an ill Eric Hines with an unknown keyboard player, Reggie Dwight (later Elton John, of course) for a tour of Scotland.   Dupree ended up recording an Elton John/Bernie Taupin tune, “I’m Going Home” for the B side of a recording of a James Taylor tune, “Something in the Way She Moves.” For whatever reason, Elton was not invited to remain as part of the band. Perhaps in some parallel universe, there is a recording of “Three Friends” with Elton John on keyboards. Whether that would have charted higher or lower than #197 on the Billboard 200 is open to speculation.

Fans of Gentle Giant can pick up all the Dupree recordings in the CD “Part of my Past” which includes all their studio-recorded tracks, mostly from 1967, with a few tunes from 1968 and 1969. As long as one keeps one’s expectations under check, there are enough interesting moments to make listening to this worthwhile and to further one’s understanding of the important role Kerry Minnear played in what was most exceptional about Gentle Giant and in why the overall low quality of “Giant For a Day” can be inferred to be due to a diminished role for Kerry Minnear, the composer.

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