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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

MONTY ALEXANDER : Montevideo [1971]

Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander has been playing & recording since the '60s and is still going strong.  He originally honed his chops playing behind Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, and the like.  But throughout the 60s, 70s, to the present has been releasing some quality albums.  This track is from his first LP recorded for the great MPS label.  A fast-paced Latin-jazz trio piece, it gives a kinetic energy and pulse throughout.  A nice crisp production, you can hear Alexander humming along with his piano lines.  

Song : "Montevideo" by Monty Alexander
From the LP "HERE COMES THE SUN" (MPS) 1971

Monty Alexander : piano
Eugene Wright : bass
Duffy Jackson : drums
Montego Joe : conga

Link in title. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

LOU REED : Satellite Of Love (1972)

OK this is a bit of a no-brainer.  There is something strangely magnetic about this old Velvets song as redone by Lou.  For his second album, Reed was finally able to make his mark utilizing the producing and recording talents of David Bowie and Mick Ronson.  With the raw production and poetic vocals, they produced a classic.

This track is consistently interpreted as a song about obsession coming from the angle of love.  In short order, the song segues to great outro at 2:24.  Ronson's presence is felt in the piano flourishes, and Bowie in the backing vocals.  Reed himself has stated how much he admired Bowie's vocal note choices (especially the high part starting at 2:49). 

Song : "Satellite Of Love" by Lou Reed
From the LP "TRANSFORMER" (RCA) Nov. 8, 1972

Lou Reed : vocals, guitar
Herbie Flowers : bass
Mick Ronson : piano, backing vocals, string arrangements
John Halsey : drums
David Bowie : backing vocals

Link in title. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

GENERATION X : Happy People [1981]

Generation X may not have been Billy Idol's first band, but it was definitely where he gained enough popularity (and material) to go solo!  Some of the material off this album was re-used by Idol on his first solo recordings.  By the time of this song (on the band's third official release), the group's sound had changed from punk to the growing New Wave scene.    
This track in particular has a lot of more poppy elements: mid-range tempo, pulsing bass, sparse guitar, and even dub echoing!  This allows Idol to take his time with singing, positioning his melody in between the guitar and percussion blasts.  In fact, the entire song seems like a dub version of another tune!  But this kind of beat and bassline was giving member Tony James some ideas for later projects...  both he and Idol soon left for greater success in the 80s... 

Song : "Happy People" by Gen X
From the LP "Kiss Me Deadly" (Chrysalis) 1981

Billy Idol : vocals, guitar
Tony James : bass
Terry Chimes : drums
James Stevenson, Steve Jones, John McGeoch? : additional guitar

Link in title

Saturday, September 22, 2012

TED NEELEY: The Adventures Of A Boy Child Wonder [1973]

Good old Ted, who first rose to fame in the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, used his popularity to relaunch a solo career. With it, he released a capable album of country-tinged 70s rock and acoustic songs. Definitely a product of the times, there are still a few interesting tracks for the curious. This one, which gets the 'best song title of the album' award, starts with a rocking mandolin solo with acoustic guitar. But once the piano kicks in, the rollicking beat asserts itself. Neeley sings with his best Texan drawl, telling his story by sliding his notes into the next bar. Also note the interesting horn charts that are almost lost in the mix, although they very much add to the sound, especially when they take over at the ride-out (at 2:15).

Song : "The Adventures Of A Boy Child Wonder" by Ted Neeley
From the LP "1974 A.D." (RCA APL1-0317)

The Adventures Of A Boy Child Wonder

Also see a previous post for the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack:
Blog post - Jesus Christ Superstar

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

ROGER BUNN : Crystal Tunnel [1969]

This guy confuses me.  A product of the UK psych scene, he learned skiffle, jazz, country, folk, all before dropping acid and travelling to the Middle East in the late 60s.  Returning to the UK, he was a fixture at London's UFO Club, sharing the stage with Pink Floyd and Soft Machine.  This all led to his one psychedelic album at the end of the decade, which ran the gamut of ALL the above styles, with a stream-of-consciousness tracklisting.  This track is more on the 'concise' side, with a jazzy rhythm, tasty piano chords, and well-placed horn jabs.  Vocals aren't the best, but the melody is intriguing enough.  And that's the thing that confuses me: his singing, songwriting (and sometimes production) is a bit on the 'rough' side overall, but every so often there is an interesting melody/line.  And in comes a well-placed rhythm section, horn line or string section!  Is it amateurish or professional?  Why do I care?  Well, something must be working, as I'm still trying to figure it out... 

His future collaborations were mainly with Pete Brown & Piblokto!, and also has the prestige of being Roxy Music's first guitarist (Nov. 1970 to summer 1971).  He passed away on Jul. 28, 2005.

Song : "Crystal Tunnel" by Roger Bunn
From the LP "Peace Of Mind" 1969

Crystal Tunnel

Monday, September 03, 2012

BEASTIE BOYS : Alive [1999]

Here's a semi-forgotten track by the group.  It was the single to promote their first compilation, "The Sounds Of Science", and of course had a clever video to go with it.

Two classic lines: 
"Bring it back, that old New York rap" was a sample from "I'm Still #1" by Boogie Down Productions (1988) 
"Dip dip dive, so socialize" was quite similar to lyrics of "Superrappin" by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five" (and Stetsasonic too!).  

Song : "Alive" by Beastie Boys
Single A-side (Capitol) Feb. 23, 1999


Link in title

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

THUNDERCLAP NEWMAN : Something In The Air [1969]

Thunderclap Newman was a 1960s UK one-hit wonder group.  Formed by The Who's Pete Townshend (and The Who manager, Kit Lambert), he produced the group and played bass on many of their songs.
The main songwriter/singer/drummer, John "Speedy" Keen was the chauffer/roadie for The Who.  He got a big break writing a track for "The Who Sell Out" album.  The group was formed after this.
This is their best-known song, with a strong melody, memorable vocals, and well-arranged guitars (by 15-year-old Jimmy McCulloch!).  The swelling string section was arranged courtesy of Pete Townshend.  Interestingly, at 1:57 the track goes into a rollicking piano figure by Andy "Thunderclap" Newman (a style he used on various other tracks of their sole album).  Soon enough, the song gets back to business at 2:55, with extra guitar and horns.
This song has been covered numerous times over the years, and has been used in many films (such as "Almost Famous"); still a staple on many classic rock stations!

Song : "Something In The Air" by Thunderclap Newman
Single A-side (Track Records 604031) May 1969

Lineup :
John "Speedy" Keen : vocals, drums
Andy "Thunderclap" Newman : piano
Jimmy McCulloch : guitars
Bijou Drains (a.k.a. Pete Townshend) : bass, production, string arrangements

Link in title.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

AFRODIZZ - Face (2004)

Finally back after a loooong hiatus.  I'm going to continue in the usual style: random.

This week's post if from Afrodizz, an afrobeat band from the unlikely city of Montreal, Quebec.  The group is the brainchild of guitarist Gabriel Aldama, enlisting like-minded individuals to create a convincing formula.  As with all Afrobeat, there is a huge tribute to Fela Kuti.  However, you can definitely hear a more modern production, with a heavier emphasis on guitar and syncopated horns.  In particular, credit has to go to the catchy and strong vocals from Vance Payne.  Makes me want to sing!

This track is from their first full album, but the band is still going strong.  Check them out!

Song : "Face" by Afrodizz
From the LP "KIF KIF" 2004

Vance Payne : vocals
Gabriel Aldama : guitar
Francois Plante : bass
John-Philippe Goncalves : drums
Francois Vincent : percussion
David Carbonneau : trumpet
Frede Simard : tenor sax
Francois Glidden : baritone sax