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Music Reviews

Mencken, H.L. – “Speaking” – [Caedmon]

Cousin Mary   3/31/2009   12-inch, A Library

Henry Mencken (1880-1956) made this recording at the Library of Congress in 1948. On side 1 he talks about Baltimore of his childhood in the 1880???s, being a newspaper reporter and magazine editor, his agnosticism and free speech vs. privacy. On side 2, he talks about Jack Dempsey, alcoholic beverages, being a drama critic around 1905-10, newspaper unions, how he got interested in American speech, and why newspapers should not own television stations. And much more! Completely absorbing hour from this cranky, articulate man who witnessed so much.

Caedmon spoken word recordings were mentioned recently in a Wall Street Journal article.

PGM: Each side is about 30 minutes long, levels are low.

Carlton and The Shoes – “This Heart of Mine” – [Quality Records]

humana   3/31/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Reggae: Once upon a time called Carlton and his Shades, but changed to ???the Shoes??? due to a typo, this Jamaican group headed by Carlton Manning is nothing short of charming. Earl Chinna Smith is on lead guitar, and Manning himself offers up the vocals. The songs are a mix of love songs and songs with a conscience and songs that are spiritually inspiring. All are upbeat, mellow, and worthy of a spin.
Picks: A2, A3, B1, B4.

Midnite-Lustre Kings – “Infinite Quality” – [Lustre Kings Productions]

humana   3/30/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Reggae: From St.Croix, Virgin Islands comes the sound of Midnite, founded by Ron Benjamin and his brother Vaughn, whose clear vocals are heard on every one of the songs he wrote for this album. Also appearing on every song in some way, shape, or form is Andrew ???Moon??? Bain, executive producer of Lustre Kings. As you can hear, reggae is valid even when not created in Jamaica. The society-conscious lyrics and upbeat riddims sometimes are reminiscent of hip hop. Give it a spin and listen to cellos and violas in addition to horns, guitars, and keyboards.
Picks: A2, A5, A6, B2, B6.

Christian, Charlie – “Charlie Christian” – [Everest]

Cousin Mary   3/30/2009   12-inch, Jazz

Charlie Christian was an early pioneer on electric guitar and was known for his work with Benny Goodman???s sextet. His virtuoso horn-like playing was very innovative and has influenced jazz guitarists to this day. Unfortunately, he died of tuberculosis in March of 1942 at the age of 25.

These tracks were recorded after hours in 1941 in Harlem at a club called Minton???s and feature Thelonius Monk on piano and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet. Although this LP was based on poor recordings, the hard driving performances come right through and give us a rare look at pre-war Harlem jazz.

James Brown – “James Brown Plays New Breed (The Boo-Ga-Loo)” – [Smash Records]

darkhelmet   3/29/2009   12-inch, Soul

This record is mostly instrumentals, relaxed and often heavy on the horns. Brown mans the keys (never the microphone) in this album, which was released in 1966 on Smash Records. “Vonshelia” (A3) is a pensive and slower jazz number, quite different than the other tracks. “Lost in the Mood of Changes” (B2) has a female chorus which remains in the background, acting more like an extra instrument than a focal point. For me, the standout number is “Jabo” (B1), which features some drum work and and has a wonderful finale.
-Dark Helmet

Fast ‘n’ Bulbous – “Waxed Oop” – [Cuneiform Records]

Max Level   3/28/2009   A Library, CD

The second album of compositions by Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) as played by this NY ensemble, led by saxophonist Phillip Johnston and guitarist Gary Lucas. The bluesy bounce and surreal swagger of the original versions are recreated here with sharp playing and arrangements heavy on horns. Lucas–an actual Beefheart collaborator for several years–adds grit with his mean slide guitar.
I enjoyed this CD even though the songs seem to me to be missing something without Van Vliet’s extremely dynamic vocals and startling lyrics. (exceptions: Ice Rose, which was always an instrumental, and The Blimp and China Pig, which do have vocals here.) Regardless, I applaud any effort to get Beefheart’s music out where people can hear it, and these guys are doing a good job of that.
Vocals by Robyn Hitchcock on #13.

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – “a Stranger Here” – [Anti]

humana   3/27/2009   A Library, CD

Country blues: How a 77-year-old can sound as youthful and strong of voice is beyond me, but with his vitality Ramblin??? Jack Elliott is keeping a lot alive–not the least of which is the memory and tradition passed onto him by Woody Guthrie. These songs are much more blues-inspired than folk, but the distinction between the two is unimportant, as the liner notes tell us. What matters is that Ramblin??? Jack has many stories to tell, and whether it???s a simple acoustic guitar backing him up or an accordian and vibraphone, he tells them in an entertaining way. Crack open a beer and mellow out on the front porch in a rocking chair as you let these fine tunes wash over you.
Picks: 7, 5, 9.
PGM: Start looking for songs to end around :08.

Wooden Shjips – “Dos” – [Holy Mountain]

humana   3/26/2009   A Library, CD

Psyche/Garage: This is the second full-length release from San Francisco four-piece Wooden Shjips. They have been compared to the Doors (primarily because the vocals sound so much like Jim Morrison). The first three tracks fall soundly in the realm of psychedelia, and the last two have a more garage-y, krautrock sound. Dusty Jermier is on bass, Eric ???Ripley??? Johnson is on guitar, Nash Whalen is on organ, and Omar Ahsanuddin plays drums. Upbeat, catchy, often repetitive, but in a good way. If you???re looking for a good long psyche-out try 3.
PGM: 1 ends at :05, 5 at :07.
Picks: 2, 1.

Fire Demons, The – “Bad Move” – [Self-Released]

ophelia necro   3/25/2009   A Library, CD

A band out of Humboldt County. Connections with The Hitch…
8 tracks of rock and roll with distorted vocals and heavy bass, drums & guitar. 6 tracks with naughty language. These 2 guys don’t pretend to be innovative and they don’t need to cuz they rock.

LANGUAGE on 1,3,4,5, 6 & 8

Latorre, Santiago – “Orbita” – [Accretions]

Cousin Mary   3/25/2009   A Library, CD

Santiago Latorre (sahn-tee-AH-go lah-TOE-ray) is a musician and sound engineer who lives and works in Barcelona. On Orbita (OR-bee-tah), he has combined sax, accordion, piano, voice and synth.

Is it jazz? Is it electronic? Gorgeous sounds and textures are put together in an original way.

Land of Kush – “Against The Day” – [Constellation]

Cousin Mary   3/25/2009   CD, Jazz

Sam Shalabi is a Montreal musician (oud, Middle Eastern lute)
who assembled this large ensemble for this 2009 release. His
liner notes call it an homage to Thomas Pynchon who wrote a
novel of the same name (Against the Day) that is sometimes
described as literary free jazz. Like Pynchon???s work, this is all
over the place and often with a lot happening just below the surface.

I could not make out the vocals very well, just words here and there.
Track notes:
1 Notable cello/drums.
2 Vocals/Middle Eastern/Baritone sax. Danceable!
3 Guitars begin/female vocals/flutes/electronic noise.
4 Strong drum beat/guitars/vocals.
5 Drum roll/strings.

Far out, but enjoyable and accessible.

Webster, Ben & Zawinul, Joe – “Soulmates” – [Riverside]

Cousin Mary   3/25/2009   12-inch, Jazz

Gorgeous, breathy, reverb tenor sax from Ben Webster, fine piano
from Joe Zawinul, Thad Jones on cornet, Sam Jones or Richard
David on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums on this fine 1963
recording. Zawinul and Webster were sharing an apartment around
this time and had gotten into the habit of ???practicing??? together.

Ballads ???Too Late Now??? and ???Come Sunday??? are especially sexy
and will make you want to slow dance with someone you love.

Album notes from producer Orrin Keepnews and pianist Bill Evans.

2001: a Space Ody (soundtrack) – “2001: a Space Odyssey” – [Rhino Records]

Marlena Poliatevska   3/23/2009   CD, Soundtrack

2001: A space Odyssey, Directed by Stanley Kubrick

The soundtrack from a classic science fiction movie, released by MGM
in 1968, which is now part of the American psyche.
The story was originally written by Arthur C. Clarke.

The album consists of the music used in the movie, in scene-order on
tracks 1 through 9. “Thus Spake Zarathustra” has become the audio
symbol of “2001: A space Odyssey”, much as the sound of
helicopter blades, became the symbol of the Vietnam war in the movie
“Apocolypse Now”.

“Also Sprach Zarathustra” was composed by Richard Strauss in 1896, as a
musical representation of Nietzsche’s “Superman” who would transcend
human limitations. This musical piece includes in its composition a
‘World riddle Theme’ consisting of a particular sequence of
musical notes in the melody.

Most notable for play on KFJC is track #7, “Jupiter and Beyond” (15:13)
consisting of three parts:

a) “Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs & Orchestra”
b) “Atmospheres”
c) “Adventures”

The album also includes four supplemental tracks, the most notable being a
collage of dialog with, and about HAL, the 9000-series computer aboard
the Discovery 1 craft headed on a half-billion mile journey to the planet
Jupiter. “HAL9000” is an interview with HAL, interspersed with dialog
between the crew and its computer which occur in several memorable
scenes in the movie.

The album also includes a 23-page booklet documenting the movie and
its production.

Two historical ICONS are presented in this movie, “The Bell System”
which was a national monopoly in the United States at that time, and also the international airline “Pan Am”

The shuttlecraft depicted in the movie is branded with the famous ‘Pan Am’
logo of Pan American Airways, which was founded in 1927 as the only
American airline company providing intercontinental air travel from the
United States to other countries.

Pan Am was barred from domestic flights within the Untied States, however
other airlines were permitted to compete with Pan Am internationally in 1978.
Pan Am declared bankruptcy in 1991, and its assets were purchased
by Delta Airlines.

Marlena Poliatevska

Beequeen – “Music For The Head Ballet” – [Isomorphic Records]

Marlena Poliatevska   3/23/2009   A Library, CD

Genre: New Age
Album Title: “Music for the Head Ballet”
Freek Kinkelaar, Netherlands

Track #1: “Days that never were” (21:43)
Drone electronics with what sounds like a
call/response of two tones sent / two tones
in response. dreamy/spacey/meditative.

(starts to fade out at -2 min)

Track #2: “These Foolish Things” (20:20)
continuation of track #1, lower vol level, call/response
replaced with multi-tonal drone that starts to build at -14:50
with the addition of electronic fluttery beats.
volume starts to fade out at -3:30 min

Track #3: “White feathers on a dish, used to erect
the pyramids” (10:33)
(Low playback volume on entire track — be sure to pot
this one up!!)

same multi-tonal drone as track #2

Marlena Poliatevska

Sun RA – “Live At The Horseshoe Tavern” – [Transparency]

humana   3/22/2009   CD, Jazz

Jazz: These are the live recordings of three concerts during 1978 at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, and Disc 10 is a 20-minute 1968 radio interview of Sun Ra with several guys at WBAI. Sun Ra sounds anything but humble in this interview in which he explains that he speaks to the world, and has since elementary school, where he taught and led students. The concert discs are truly the eclectic jazz mix that characterizes Sun Ra???s compositions, with Discs 3, 6, and 9 containing more vocalized ???sermons??? and almost sounding like revival meetings. ???Look to the sky…the best things in life are free…sing with the birds…??? This is vintage Sun Ra. See back cover for programming notes.

Boratto, Gui – “Take My Breath Away” – [Kompakt]

humana   3/20/2009   A Library, CD

Electronica/Dance: This second full-length release from the Brazilian electronic music producer starts off rather repetitively, full of frenetic beats and energy. Later, however, the tracks take on a refreshing unique quality, and it was difficult to narrow down my picks. 5 is the only one featuring vocals from Luciana Villanova, and they are lovely. The final track is the only somber one among so many cheerful upbeats, and it is uniquely beautiful with piano by Boratto himself. Enjoy.
Picks: 5, 3, 11.
PGM: 10 ends at :09, 11 at :07. The others end as early as :05.

Alpha Ailuros – “Katzchenszenzen” – [???? (None Listed)]

cinder   3/18/2009   A Library, CD

Don’t be fooled by the cuddly kitties!
Alpha Ailuros is Government Alpha (Yasutoshi Yoshida) & Reiko Azuma (Reiko.a – on KFJC live from Japan comp!), both noise artists from Japan. These 3 tracks were all recorded live from different venues in Tokyo. Prepare to blast out your speakers, this is some loud stuff! Harsh and ear-piercing electronics. Buzz sawing brain waves. Play this and rip your face off.

Khoury/Soderberg – “Volumen Drei” – [Tiger Asylum]

cinder   3/18/2009   A Library, CD

Improvisational compositions created by this duo, from the Michigan/Chicago areas. Violins (Khoury) and electronic (Soderberg) space dribbles. Oscillators bubbling in the bog. Knobs warbling in the warp. Sometimes the violin distracts you like a buzzing dirty fly, at other times it seduces you into underwater rainbow bliss (track 4 is gorgeous). Great collaboration between two different types of sounds, strings and electronics.