Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Don Ellis “Don Ellis at Fillmore” (1970)

Don Ellis at Fillmore will satisfy even the most intense and discerning cravings that people might have to hear more music like Frank Zappa's The Grand Wazoo and Waka/Jawaka. Ellis explores all things quirky with his Jazz ensemble. There's solos galore. Many of the songs are lengthy. There's comedic thrills. They go so far as to inject "Hey Jude" with a syringe of heroine and steroids. The room may be spinning but Jude could still kick your ass. The audience gets messed with severely. Pretty much every Zappa fan should own this music. Ellis was probably one of the main people that influenced Zappa to make the move from his early phase (Freak Out! to Uncle Meat) into trying something like Hot Rats all of the sudden. A copy of Don Ellis at Fillmore surely must have been on the Zappa tour bus. –Rob

Maxophone “Maxophone” (1975)

The lone album from Maxophone is another piece of archaeological evidence pointing towards the inevitable conclusion that the Italians took progressive rock to heights only hinted at by their UK contemporaries. While richly melodic, Maxophone nevertheless are as go-for-broke with their ornamented arrangements as any other Italian prog act, regularly spouting riffs offering more twists than a bowl of fusilli, bursting into flowery orchestral beauty, or detouring down a jazzy sax-mad side road at the drop of a hat. The layered vocals are delivered with the inspired passion that hallmarks the genre, also managing to hit some angelic falsettos along the way. –Ben

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fleetwood Mac “Then Play On” (1969)

If I was forced to name a favorite album, then I think I might go for "Then Play On". I can't really think of another album I consistently enjoy as much. With Danny Kirwan on board the expectation no longer falls squarely on Peter Green's shoulders and Kirwan's arrival had already bore fruit with the preceeding "Albatross" and "Man of the World" singles. There's a much broader feel on here than the previous Fleetwood Mac albums and "Then Play On" includes everything you could want on an album: soul-searching ballads ("Closing My Eyes", "Before the Beginning"), raucous rock 'n' roll ("Coming Your Way", "Rattlesnake Shake", "Oh Well (Part One)"), McCartney-esque pop ditties ("Although the Sun is Shining", "When You Say"), serene instrumentals ("My Dream", "Underway", "Oh Well (Part Two)") and breathtaking jams ("Looking for Madge", "Fighting for Madge"). Listening to "Then Play On" is particularly interesting when you consider how troubled the chief song writers would become in the ensuing months, years and decades. You can almost sense something ominous on Peter Green's horizon when listening to "Closing My Eyes", "Show-Biz Blues" (which includes the line "and you're sitting there so green, believe me man I'm just the same as you), the acoustic section of "Oh Well" or "Before the Beginning". There's something incredibly sad about Peter Green's contributions here although he still gets down and dirty for "Rattlesnake Shake", an ode to masterbation. Danny Kirwan proves himself to be a phenomenal song writer with his delicate, beautiful ballads and his album opener "Coming your Way" has an epic guitar outro. There isn't one dud to be found here and "Then Play On" is never anything less than an engrossing, moving, imaginative, flawless, impressive album from a band who may not have even hit there peak yet. –Tom

All That Jazz!

Jive Time carries many genres including jazz. Our main Jazz section contains Bebop, Cool Jazz, Hard-bop, Modal, Fusion, Latin Jazz, Soul-Jazz, Free-Jazz and Modern Jazz from the 1950's to the '80's. For earlier recordings check out our Big Band and Early Jazz section and find many classic jazz singers in our Vocals section. Be sure to also look through our very popular $3 and $5 Jazz clearance bins! Some of our favorite jazz labels include Impulse, Prestige, New Jazz, Blue Note, Columbia, Atlantic, Pacific, Riverside, Flying Dutchmen, Black Jazz, Strata East, Fantasy, CTI, Kudu and ECM. Click here for a list of some of the many jazz artists you'll find at Jive Time. Of course as an all-used store we can't promise to have every artist and title in-stock all the time but we work hard to ensure that every visit to our store promises new treasures are found. Fresh stock is added daily! Click to read more about our Jazz, Rock and Soul sections.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Black Oak Arkansas “High on the Hog” (1973)

Clodhoppin' rockers Black Oak Arkansas achieved their biggest success with High on the Hog and it's obnoxious #25 single "Jim Dandy," which featured raspy vocalist Jim "Dandy" Mangrum and Ruby Starr hootin' it up like a pair of courtin' cousins. Featuring a few other, similarly buck-toothed entries in "Happy Hooker," and acoustic pickers "Back to the Land" and "High 'n' Dry," High on the Hog is redeemed by the inclusion of nasty southern-livin' rockers like the funky opener "Swimmin' in Quicksand," the churning "Red Hot Lovin'," and "Mad Man," while "Moonshine Sonata" is a vintage guitarmony laced instrumental. Possessing neither the sophistication of an Allmans or attitude of Skynrd, High on the Hog is yer basic roll in the mud through a set of lowbrow rube-rock, worth checking out for fans of the genre. –Ben

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Eddie Harris “Is It In” (1974)

If you dig funk, two words: "Funkaroma" and "Is it In." (Okay, that's four words.) "Funkaroma" kicks off the album with Eddie and his plugged in tenor going off on this sixty second intro that just oozes with funky soul. At the one minute mark the band kicks in and funk perfection ensues with everybody firmly on the one. The title track is perfectly realized funk from :01. Guitarist Ronnie Muldrow lays it on thick with this breakneck riff and the band does the rest with Eddie wailing along, electrified, over the top. The drum chant "It's War" and gooey "Space Commercial" could both easily fit on a 70's funky Bruton Sound Library LP. Although most of Eddie's albums from this period are uneven in overall mood and performance (this one is no different), Eddie, his electric sax, and a group of accomplished stateside jam-hounds give funk true meaning with these songs. –A

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Neil Young and Crazy Horse “Zuma” (1975)

The genius of Zuma can really be be summed up by looking at the cover for a few seconds. A peice of shit? Politically incorrect? Wasted? Definetly. All that and more, but in a great way that’s truely representative of American attidude in art and the human spirit itself, which is "fuck it". Throw finesse out the window, close your eyes, and floor it. Let your gut and your soul make every decision and only keep your brain around to hold the massive amounts of cocaine you’re giving it. This is the world ZUMA was birthed in. Neil was finally free from a sprawling divorce and the unwanted fame following him since Harvest. He was not going to approach any love songs like a well spoken folkie. Too pussy, too dishonest. To really say what he felt he had to do while giving the finger, even when the songs are overwhelmingly beautiful. Unreserved 70’s guitar rock at it’s classic best, but capturing a vibe in the open feeling and wasted irony that still sounds fresh next to The Replacements’ Let it Be or Guided by Voices’ Propeller. –Alex

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rainbow “Rising” (1976)

As a blossoming Deep Purple fan 'Rising' was my introduction to Ritchie Blackmore's post-Purple work and although I was initially ambivalent about the sound and Dio's voice I've since come to love this music which, has also helped me appreciate Dio's stint with Black Sabbath a lot more. After a debut album that fiddled with some of Ritchie Blackmore's ideas, 'Rising' sounds more like a band effort and everything about the sound has got heavier. Dio's lyrics took me a while to get used to but they sound tailor-made for this kind of dramatic heavy rock and his voice is so good it doesn't matter matter what is said. The first side of 'Rising' is made up of short, punchy heavy rock songs with "Do You Close Your Eyes" being the album's weakest track and a mood lightener before the album's two big statements, "Stargazer and "A Light In The Black". "Stargazer" is a huge undertaking that demands nothing but the best from the people involved. The heavy drone is sustained for eight and a half minutes and Dio's range is tested in trying to match the constant thunder of the music. "A Light In The Black" is my personal favorite moment of the album, proving that this line-up could rock as hard as anybody. Cozy Powell drives the song along, allowing Dio to swoop and fly vocally, and Tony Carey takes on Ritchie Blackmore in a furious solo battle that brings out the best from both. The album's a bit short and there isn't a huge amount of variation but 'Rising' contains six good tracks and at least two essentials. –Tom

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Bloody Valentine “Isn’t Anything” (1988)

My Bloody Valentine spent a few years wasting time in paisley limbo before growing a massive pair and reinventing psychedelic music as well as a new language for the electric guitar. Isn't anything is their first full length representation of this, and in my opinion, their greatest achievement as a band. Jesus and Marychain and Spacemen 3 may have peaked before this, as critics love to point out, but who really gives a shit? The Marychain and Spacemen are the dictionary definition of posers, who in the process of riding on America's musical history for cool points, happened to luck out and make some good music. But there's nothing original there, no real emotion. Isn't Anything, on the other hand, is just a total swirling cacophony of electric sounds and emotions; sometimes bending, sometimes stacked on top of each other,sometimes crashing. You realize that this is truly what it feels like to be an opened up human being. It's the feeling that you’re feeling everything at once and bordering on insanity except that the one connecting point is, no matter what emotions are consuming your senses, they will be extreme. Love, loss, change, it's all here in it's purest form, the abstract form. And what’s truely impressive is that the music doesn't sound dated at all yet it's blatently psychedellic. The drums and bass border on hardcore via Dinosaur Jr's mammoth-like approach, while the guitars and vocals, both provided by the heavenly duo of Kevin Sheilds and Belinda Butcher, flow over and consume the sound in a way that the ocean might look lazy but ultimately it couldn't give a fuck about you and could wipe you out in a second if you were in the way of it's power. Just throw this on, and make sure it's at a somewhat loud enough volume. –Alex

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pink Floyd “Atom Heart Mother” (1970)

This is a hard Pink Floyd album, even the band admits it was an unwise "concept" idea. Side one, the "Atom Heart Mother Suite" marries orchestration with Floyd's ethereal wisps of other worldliness, didn't quite turn out. The AHM is not quite a convincing mesh of band and orchestra as the band and orchestra play around each other, not together. To me, the issue is AHM really acts more as a traditional score/soundtrack rather than a Floyd contemporary reinvention of soundtrack soundscapes into what should have been a major prog opus, needed more (no pun!!). That said convoluted as it's concept and execution, to my ears, some bits did work out, side two...Summer '68, Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast...are all sublime slow burners. It's a record you need to have if you dig seventies era Floyd at all, for experience, it's a sweet struggle to hear the Floyd moving past Gilmour's recreation of the world Syd Barrett invented. –Nipper

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Crazy Horse “At Crooked Lake” (1972)

I love this record, it skillfully straddles country rock and (something like) power pop without sounding contrived. The songs are uplifting, driving, downright sweet and packed full of harmonies...the album is worth it alone for the lead track "Rock and Roll Band"! And, honestly, for all the Neil Young and Crazy Horse collaborations considered canon, I'd play this before any Neil Young (and Crazy Horse) record. Take a second to swallow/regain your composure...I KNOW, right!? Don't hate's true!! Crooked Lake is that good. Unfortunately, with member Danny Whitten locked into a downward spiral of booze and pills, from which he would die soon after, this was the last of Crazy Horses LPs before they faded back into their other bands for a bit...Nils Lofgren back to Grin, Nitzsche, back in to production work...and the other core Crazies back with Mr. Young. Crazy Horse wouldn't reassemble, without Young, until 1978's Crazy Moon. –Nipper

Friday, March 19, 2010

Emmylou Harris “Elite Hotel” (1975)

Great interpretations of classic country and rock songs by the rare singer who's voice matches up to her physical beauty. Backed by the excellent Hot Band, Emmylou exudes a sort of dewy innocence, even when singing world-weary songs of heartache and drinking. It makes the sadness all the more palpable, because you want such purity sheltered from the evils of the world. –Lucas

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Big Star “#1 Record” (1972)

A shimmering, exciting record that captures pop's innocence, hints at rock's degradation, and mines melody for all it's worth, this is the gold standard by which all so-called power pop would be measured. The only group I know of to convincingly meld the Beatles, Byrds, and Rolling Stones to create something wholly new, this has been worshipped by hipsters for years and influenced countless great bands... but in a just world, the three original Big Star albums would be at least as famous as the aforementioned bands’ classics. Perhaps it's just too skewed to register in the popular psyche. The harmonies are unconventional, the guitar attack hard but never wanky, the ballads emotionally complex.

Big Star’s Alex Chilton and Chris Bell were music lovers above all, and wrote music that celebrates itself above all. Each song is distinct, filled out to the appropriate shape, never overstepping and never failing to follow a hook where it might go. It's the kind of debut album most groups would kill to have for a career’s greatest hits package. –Will

R.I.P. Alex Chilton (1950-2010)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gene Harris “Astral Signal” (1974)

Gene Harris really did come into himself when he ditched the Three Sounds and went into the ‘70s with full electronic funkiness. Side one of this album is mostly taken up with a medley of tunes that start with a psyched out “Prelude”, then moves through a hypnotically beautiful tribute to summer (“Summer (the First Time)”, Rebato Summer” and “I Remember Summer”), then once your all tripped out it kicks into the most incredibly dirty and heavy version of “Don’t Call Me Nigger Whitey” that will literally take your breath away. After the first gap on the side you get the killer rare-groove gem “Losalamitoslatinfunklovesong”, and even though this is on loads of compilations you still can’t beat hearing it in its original setting. Lastly you get the only straight jazz tune on the side, the solo piano piece “My Roots”. Side two is a little more subdued, but still no less amazing. You get the Harvey Mason composed/arranged “Higga-Boom” on this side, which though I’m not too mad on, still can’t deny its amazing driving groove. This album really is a jazz-funk/fusion masterpiece, definitely one of the most amazing finds I’ve come across in recent digs. –Nick

Monday, March 15, 2010

Soft Machine “Volume Two” (1969)

My personal favorite entry in the Soft Machine catalog, Volume 2 perfectly balances the psychedelia of their debut with the jazz-rock leanings of follow up Third. Sporting a stoner-friendly, reverb-drenched production, Wyatt's vocals are as expressive as ever, with his drum prowess underscoring the tragedy of his paralysis a few years later, while Ratledge is favoring thick acoustic piano chords as much, if not more than, organ. Kevin Ayers is gone and in his place we have Hugh Hopper filling in the bass seat, decidedly more nimble-fingered and with his oft used fuzz pedal in tow, not to mention brother Brian on sax. Like their first album, side one consists of a suite of sorts, something of a cut and paste job that nevertheless keeps things going with highlights like the Third predicting sax driven "Hibou Anemone And Bear", and "Dada Was Here" with Wyatt's passionate yet nonsensical vocal delivery. Side two tends to follow a more conventional arrangement of separate songs, favorites being the twisted acoustic "Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening", "Pig" with it's heavy fuzz-bass intro, and "10:30 Returns To The Bedroom" closing the album with some rapid fire fusion, and closing the door on Soft Machine's pysch days for the jazzier pursuits to come. Volume 2 is one of those "difficult" albums that nevertheless draws one back continually, melodic content complex yet somehow totally captivating, instrumental aptitude in bounds, but focused for ultimate effect. –Ben

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ramones “Ramones” (1976)

My Ramones story goes -- I couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old when I took a trip to the Big Apple with my family during the Thanksgiving holidays. I had been to the city several times before, but this trip was different: my interest in music had grown, I was aware of such a place as CBGB’s, and I had a somewhat understanding of the late 70’s punk movement. My knowledge on the topic was green, but anyhoo - I knew the basics. I would be lying if I said I listened to the music of the Ramones before, but if you were to ask, most likely I would have shrugged my shoulders in agreement that, “yes, I've listened to the Ramones.” I even had my very on Ramones t-shirt, despite never hearing any slab of music outside the “Hey Ho” chant of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” As music lovers, we all have been there - loving a band just for the sake of loving them. It could be an older sibling introducing what’s hip or simply idealizing a group to the point of feeling obligations to seek out their influences. For me, it was simpler than that. I saw a Ramones seal t-shirt in a window store and had to have it. Not the coolest introduction, but hey - I’m being honest. That was two years prior. Which brings us back to the New York City-Thanksgiving-Family-Vacation. As I mentioned before my knowledge in music had expanded. Therefore, one of the first things on ‘my’ to-do-list was seek out the nearest record store. My dad got the information from the concierge desk. The rest of the family went shopping with a plan to meet back up around lunch. The record store we found was not some stylish ‘mom & pop’ underground glory, but a mega-store that could have very well been Best Buy or Virgin, can’t exactly remember, it was a long time ago. I just remember it being big. The 'cool' meter from this story is already a scorcher, I know. But, like I said -- I’m being honest. My pops gave me ample time to look around and peruse the album titles. Soon after it became apparent, why not pick up a Ramones album? Already have the shirt, why not get the music. I of course selected their debut, and it wasn’t because I knew it was the first or cos the only song I recognized was, “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Truth be told, it was the artwork that made my decision. Johnny Ramone, so discreetly, giving the middle finger and Tommy, doing his best to add inches to his undersized height, standing on all tippy toes. While Joey, looking frail and freakish, towering over all his bandmates and Dee Dee…well, just being Dee Dee. The artwork was piercing, with its hoary set color, giving the appearance of an already classic album, I knew I had found my purchase. Many label this band as 'dumb.' But that doesn't really fit. No dumbass I know could ever be described as an inventor of a revolution. Granted, these guys weren't rocket scientists, they still possessed a talent which sparked an excitement that had been absent from rock. Back to the basics - that was their mission. And it’s obvious they had some wit. If not, they wouldn’t have been able to knock out four classic albums back-to-back, from their debut on to Road to Ruin. And even after, they still showed signs of luster with the Phil Spector produced, End of the Century, plus 1984’s, Too Tough To Die. There was consistency, no question. What gets me about their debut, above all the rest, is it never lets up. 14 songs in under 30 minutes. Now, that’s blitzing. No bullshit. No in between. Just plain old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll without all the self-indulgence that suffocated it from previous years. If I’m not a guitar player, then how the hell am I going to appreciate some fifteen minute virtuoso guitar solo? How am I suppose to relate? And more importantly, value what I'm hearing? The Ramones got that. And that’s what they unleashed on the world in 1976. I love the fact I was in New York the day I first listened to the Ramones. I love how I was experiencing their music in the very city that shaped their sound. I love how I could be passing 53rd and 3rd in a cab while hearing Dee Dee singing about turning tricks. I love hearing songs about chainsaws, beating on brats, and punks named, Judy. The Ramones first album was my New York City experience at the time. It made me see the city in a whole new light. Later I would move to NYC after my 22nd birthday and have other albums play there part in my living and musical advancements. But the Ramones were the first, and it’s fitting, seeing as they were the first to do everything back then. –Jason

Led Zeppelin “Presence” (1976)

One of Led Zeppelin’s greatest strengths was their willingness to explore and evolve, despite potential monetary incentive to put out more of the same. So, in 1976 we get Presence, with its harder grooves and choppy, funky guitar licks and not too much psychedelic blues wandering (“Tea for One” excepted) or acoustic folk-rock. Whether you consider this evolution welcome or not, it was certainly organic, and it resulted in the release of two flat-out, epic masterpieces. “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” follows in the time-honored tradition of Led Zeppelin copping a song that pre-dates them by decades, and transforming it into something so majestic (and bombastic) that it practically renders all previous versions inert by comparison. “Achilles Last Stand” is something else entirely. It may be the best ten-minute track ever recorded. It’s certainly in the top three in Zeppelin’s discography. Blistering, intense and mind-blowing; think Rush on steroids. So, when viewed as a whole, Presence holds up a lot better than its reputation would suggest. –Lucas

Sun Ra “Space Is the Place” (1973)

If you like your big bands disciplined, tidy and marching together, then Sun Ra is not for you. They just don't play that way on Saturn. It feels much more like the band are tumbling down a hill, musical instruments all over, but they are all falling in the same direction and by some miracle they never thump into each other, but are always dodging around, falling through each other's legs. The first track, the first side, is held together by a simple rhythm played by bass, baritone sax and bass clarinet, and a singer or two repeatedly singing Space Is the Place - but then they are assaulted by percussion, keyboards, shouts and just noise, a chaos of sound that is always threatening to spin the music away into the darkness of space. At times the rhythm does break down, but it always finally returns. At first I thought the 21 minutes was a bit excessive but as I returned to the music, listening to the constantly shifting tensions within the sound, I realised that 21 minutes was exactly what it needed. The album continues with variations of this tension. The featured trumpet, tenor and piano on the second track, “Images,” are calmly normal, as though from a good 1950s hard-bop band, but again the rest of the band set out to upset things: it is as though through Sun Ra's piano solo the band are sawing away at the piano's leg, just waiting for the crash as it falls to the ground. “Discipline” is the most intense statement of the basic tension, the finest track (perhaps it should be titled “Discipline and its Enemies”). “On Sea of Sounds” chaos has won, we are thrown away into the darkness - and it’s up to us to go with it and move through the music or just sullenly sit down and cover our ears. The final track brings us back, gives us some ground under our feet. –Nick

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nina Simone “Nina Simone at Town Hall” (1960)

Nina Simone at Town Hall is a magnificent showcase for one of music’s most versatile talents. Simone’s voice is remarkably expressive, but it’s not enough to have a strong instrument. It’s her ability to utilize her instrument for maximum effectiveness that makes her one of my favorite singers. On this live performance, she mostly explores the somber range of emotions, with unfaithful lovers being a prominent cause of the sorrow. On “I Don’t Want Him Anymore”, Simone sings volumes of emotional back-story into a six-minute song. At first sounding resigned as she gently spurns her lover while confronting his mistress, she goes on to outline the many ways that she adored him. Instead of bitterness, she betrays her true feelings of devotion as she recounts each small act of love, only to again ironically claim that she doesn’t want him anymore. The heartbreak is palpable, as it is on the song “The Other Woman”, which cleverly inverts our expectations by spending the back half describing how devastating it is to be the home-wrecker, not just the betrayed wife. Although Nina is widely recognized as a gifted singer and interpreter of songs, she is equally adept as a piano player, an attribute which is largely overlooked. Here, with minimal accompaniment, she really shines in this regard. Her playing is some unlikely hybrid of jazz, blues and classical, in which every note is as carefully played as her words are sung. This is a tremendous album for lovers of vocal jazz or torch songs. It’s definitely a late night album, due to its intimacy and the way it rewards your complete attention. Highly recommended. –Lucas

Harry Nilsson “Nilsson Schmilsson” (1971)

It’s the hallmark of a truly talented popsmith to make a collection of songs this weird and diverse so remarkably palatable. Nilsson is nothing if not inclusive, but he doesn’t pander. A lot of folks will know “Coconut” from Reservoir Dogs, and while that little island oddity is indicative of the adventurousness of the album as a whole, it isn’t indicative at all of any other track. Nilsson un-ironically employs strings, horns, rock guitar, mellotron and whatever else he thinks will do the songs justice, whether they’re his own or one of the three covers. It’s easy enough to let the perfectly crafted sounds waft on by with a smile, but the more I think about them, the more the depth is evident. –Lucas

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mission of Burma “Signals, Calls, and Marches” (1981)

Along with early Pere Ubu, Wire, and the Fall, Mission of Burma are on top of the post-punk heap anticipating Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and a whole lotta other stuff that's made music worthwhile in the last 30 years. Harnessing arty punk noise abandon to a firmly footed garage rawk, and throwing in enough hooks to snare your pop instincts and sonic left-turns to keep you guessing, there are few groups I can think of who made more bracing music in this very bracing period: the aforementioned luminaries rarely topped 'em, if ever. In fact, I'm not sure anyone can top the opening track on this record: it's been covered to death, but the original is timeless. Fortunately, their well-received reunion has resurrected their two essential early releases from obscurity. Get them both today. –Will

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Mission of Burma “Vs.” (1982)

A densely visceral piece of post-punk that manages to evoke a whole spectrum of moods with limited means, I would say this is as important as early Sonic Youth and Husker Du but better than both; as challenging as any of the most difficult work of Wire or Pere Ubu, but less pretentious; as abrasive as the UK’s industrial scene, but a whole lot more fun; hypnotic, like Krautrock, but never usable for ambience; and as meat ‘n’ potatoes as the Ramones. No one quite sounds like this group, who serve up a very noisy piece of rawk that anticipates both grindcore (but slower) and shoegaze (but rougher). Empty genre-bending this ain’t, however. I’ll say it’s one of the half-dozen or so best guitar records of the 80s, especially because, without it, Daydream Nation (one of its only peers in the underground) probably wouldn’t exist. –Will

Monday, March 08, 2010

Herbie Mann “Stone Flute” (1970)

One of the pleasures of working in a record store are those quiet weekday afternoons when you can randomly throw on weird records in hopes of unearthing a buried gem. Stone Flute is one of those gems! It’s also a far cry from the middle-of-the-road soul-jazz I generally associate with the furry Mr. Mann. (For all it's guilty-funky pleasure, this is no Push Push.) It’s one of the few records Mann recorded for his own Embryo label which is known for its moody, trippy jazz and jazz-rock and Stone Flute is no exception. A few standout tracks are the spacious, Eastern-inspired Donovan cover “In Tangier,” and the absolutley jaw-droppingly beautiful version of the Beatles’ “Flying,” which somehow manages to be even trippier than the original without sounding dated. If that’s not enough, the experimental “Miss Free Spirit” features jazz gods, Sonny Sharrock, Roy Ayers and and a pre-Weather Report Miroslav Vitous in top form! The album features spacious arrangements that are difficult to digest properly with a quick listen, give it a thorough spin and you’ll discover a totally unique Herbie Mann record and one that any fan of late sixties/early seventies jazz and especially fusion-era Miles will likely enjoy. –David

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Lou Reed “The Blue Mask” (1982)

After a dispiriting early-’80s slump at Arista Records, Lou Reed renewed himself artistically by changing labels and releasing The Blue Mask on RCA in 1982. This was a brave move, since The Blue Mask is a resolutely uncommercial album, making no concessions in either its stark, flatly recorded ambience or harrowing themes. However, grace notes abound for the patient listener. Performing with a no-frills setup for the first time since the Velvets, Reed keenly matches words and music with the sparest of means to achieve the maximum end. The Blue Mask pits a hard-earned contentment (“My House,” “Women”) against the dizzying abyss lurking beneath the surface of life (“Underneath The Bottle,” “Waves Of Fear” and, most compellingly, the awesome title track itself). Running through all this, Reed and second guitarist Robert Quine intertwine their instruments, sustaining meditative interludes and codas which are closer to jazz than to rock. Bassist Fernando Saunders’ vibrant tone and supple lines also add a new element of flexibility to Reed’s music, and his gentle falsetto backing vocals make a nice contrast to Reed’s famously edgy song-speech. (Joe Sarno, Muze) –Singer Saints

Tiny Tim “God Bless Tiny Tim” (1968)

A walking freak show and the ultimate novelty act of the '60s. But behind Tiny Tim's fruity falsetto antics lay a genuine love of his material, most of it taken from the 20’s - an equally odd time in popular music--before the rise of Bing Crosby--when nearly all white male vocalists were no-voice freaks. I can't honestly say that Tim's debut LP survives its own novelty value in the end. But it's a well-produced smorgasbord of highly entertaining moments complete with genuine hilarity ("The Viper") and some genuinely touching performances as well, especially the ones done in the singer's natural baritone (Gordon Jenkins' "This Is All I Ask," "Then I'd Be Satisfied with Life.") Another curiosity: why was this kind of faux-vaudeville so popular in the '60s? Does anybody remember "Winchester Cathedral"? In that sense Tiny Tim fit right into his times. During the late '50s and early '60s when he performed at Hubert's Museum (singing Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me" underwater) and appeared in Jack Smith's Normal Love, he was merely freakish. –Singer Saints

Friday, March 05, 2010

Herbie Hancock “Mwandishi” (1971)

Like a lot of early 70's fusion, this is highly indebted to Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew-era work, combining elements of funk, jazz, and avant-garde with Herbie’s own love of electronic keyboards and primitive synthesizers, low on melodic content but high on atmosphere. His work would get progressively funkier as the years went on, but Mwandishi’s three lengthy tracks are concerned more with creating an otherworldy vibe aimed at your head more than your feet. “Ostinato” emerges out of a spacey haze and rides a funky bass riff for much of its duration, a vehicle for a lengthy electric piano solo and propelled by some exotic percussion. A mellow, sleepy backdrop with washes of echoed electric piano and trumpet flourishes carries “You Know When You’ll Get There,” maintaining a quiet mood, though the band occasionally comes together to play a brief melodic figure, while “Wandering Spirit Song” tempers a similar vibe with frequent bursts of free-form noise. Mwandishi comes recommended to anyone with a love of fusion in the days before it largely morphed into a funk/rock showcase for virtuoso soloing. –Ben

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Charles Mingus “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” (1963)

Charles Mingus had always incorporated elements of modern avante-garde composition into his bop-esque and free-jazz/avant garde work while holding himself firmly within the jazz idiom. Here, he cast aside all the restrictions of both genres and meshed the two into an unbelievably complex, and yet emotionally and musically stunning magnum opus. Unlike Mingus' previous albums, rather than being merely a showcase for different tunes which may have had little to do with eachother melodically and structurally, this cd comprises the six movements of a symphony, and the music and ideas flow into eachother seamlessly. My favorite moment comes during the third track, "Group Dancers" when, after Mingus hints at an amazing melodic figure on the piano, the full ensemble plays it in all its glory. Anyone who loves music is missing something if he or she has never heard this milestone of melodic ingenuity. –Zach

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Scorpions “In Trance” (1975)

Three albums in and Scorpions are settling into an eccentric, decidedly European mix of piercing Teutonic fury and abject gothic balladry that would hallmark future Uli-era triumphs Virgin Killer and Taken by Force. In Trance features only a handful of hard rockers, but the manic, psyche-searing opener "Dark Lady" (featuring oddly appropriate lead vocals by Roth), tightly-clenched stomp of "Top of the Bill," and weird, lost in translation "Robot Man" are all stinging entries, while "Longing for Fire" stands out as an unusual, brightly melodic moment. But it's those troubled, moonlit strolls into balladry that really define the dark undercurrent of In Trance, with the mesmerizing title track, black veiled "Living and Dying," and thunderous declarations "Evening Wind" and "Life's Like a River" cementing the album under waves of isolation and melancholia. Only the lumbering blues "Sun in my Hand" hints at a loss of plot, one of Roth's weirder Hendrix tributes that's at least partially redeemed in his floating, Floydian instrumental "Night Lights" that closes the album. –Ben