“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.
||“The Black and Crazy Blues”
||“A Laugh for Rory”
||“Fingers in the Wind”
||“The Inflated Tear”
||“Creole Love Call“
||“A Handful of Fives”
||“Fly by Night”
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.
- Let There Be More Light
- Remember a Day
- Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
- Corporal Clegg
- A Saucerful of Secrets
- Jugband Blues
- Roger Waters – bass guitar, percussion, vocals
- Richard Wright – piano, Farfisa Combo Compact Duo organ, Hammond M-102 spinet organ, Mellotron Mark II, vibraphone, xylophone, vocals, tin whistle on “Jugband Blues”
- David Gilmour – guitars (except “Remember a Day” and “Jugband Blues”), kazoo, vocals
- Nick Mason – drums (except “Remember a Day”), percussion, vocals on “Corporal Clegg”, kazoo on “Jugband Blues”
- Syd Barrett – acoustic and slide guitar on “Remember a Day”, guitar on “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”, vocals and guitar on “Jugband Blues”
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
- “Abstrutions” – 3:40
- “Libra” (Gary Bartz) – 4:58
- “Effi” – 6:15
- “Equipoise” – 6:22
- “Members, Don’t Git Weary” (Max Roach) – 5:32
- “Absolutions” (Jymie Merritt) – 4:39
- Recorded in New York on June 25 (tracks 2-4 & 6) and June 26 (tracks 1 & 5), 1968
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.
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.
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]
- “Society’s Child” 4:30 (Janis Ian)
- “Love Really Changed Me” 3:33 (Grosvenor, Miller, Wright)
- “Here I Lived So Well” 5:06 (Wright, Grosvenor, Harrison, Miller)
- “Too Much of Nothing” 3:57 (Bob Dylan)
- “Sunshine Help Me” 3:02 (Wright)
- “It’s All About a Roundabout” 2:43 (Miller, Wright)
- “Tobacco Road” 5:33 (J.D. Loudermilk)
- “It Hurts You So” 3:03 (Miller, Wright)
- “Forget It, I Got It” 3:26 (Miller, Wright)
- “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.
- Spooky Tooth
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]
- “Prelude/Nightmare” (Arthur Brown) – 3:28
- “Fanfare/Fire Poem” (Brown, Vincent Crane) – 1:51
- “Fire” (Brown, Crane, Mike Finesilver, Peter Ker) – 2:54
- “Come and Buy” (Brown, Crane) – 5:40
- “Time” (Brown) – 3:07
- “Confusion” (Crane) – 2:08
- “I Put a Spell on You” (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) – 3:41
- “Spontaneous Apple Creation” (Brown, Crane) – 2:54
- “Rest Cure” (Brown, Crane) – 2:44
- “I’ve Got Money” (James Brown) – 3:09
- “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)
- 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”)
- 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.
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
- Rita Lee – vocals (1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11), recorder, autoharp, percussion
- Sérgio Dias – vocals (1, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11), guitars
- Arnaldo Baptista – vocals (1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11), keyboards, bass
- Special guests
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]
- “Spoken Introduction” – 0:57
- “One for Helen” (Bill Evans) – 4:22
- “A Sleepin’ Bee” (Harold Arlen, Truman Capote) – 6:05
- “Mother of Earl” (Earl Zindars) – 5:14
- “Nardis” (Miles Davis) – 8:23
- “Quiet Now” (Denny Zeitlin) – 6:26 (Not on original LP, but included on CD)
- “I Loves You, Porgy” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward) – 6:00
- “The Touch of Your Lips” (Ray Noble) – 4:45
- “Embraceable You” (G. Gershwin, I. Gershwin) – 6:45
- “Some Day My Prince Will Come” (Frank Churchill, Larry Morey) – 6:08
- “Walkin’ Up” (Evans) – 3:34