domingo, 26 de março de 2017

Birthday Party Of The Idle Race

Original released on LP Liberty LBS 831 32E
(UK, October 1968)

The debut album by this unjustly overlooked band is a piece of classic British psychedelia that transcends its origins. Most British bands trying to achieve a psychedelic sound in those days simply played softly and sang in a very effete and poetic manner - the Idle Race, by contrast, play hard here and don't sound effete so much as just cheerfully trippy, a lot like the Beatles of "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever"; indeed, "End of the Road" from this album sounds like a rewrite of "Penny Lane." Jeff Lynne is the dominant personality here, as composer, guitarist, and singer, and, as one might expect given his presence, the music all has a Beatles-like quality of playfulness amid the musical invention. The single "Skeleton and the Roundabout" may be a little over-produced, but it is beguilingly innocent in its zaniness, and the softer middle section anticipates the structure of Lynne's later work with ELO. Much more indicative of his future direction are "Morning Sunshine," one of the prettiest songs to come out of the entire Birmingham music scene and displaying a languid guitar flourish that anticipates any number of ELO songs circa A New World Record, and "The Lady Who Said She Could Fly," an orchestrated Beatlesque jewel that sounds like a lost ELO track. As demonstrated here, the Idle Race weren't quite as powerful a band as their rivals the Move - who also loved to cover American soul and folk-rock and thus had a wider variety to their sound - but this album is steeped in beautiful melodies and even prettier embellishments in the singing and playing, yet never loses sight of its rock & roll underpinnings. Once in a while, as in "On with the Show," the sound effects are a little more prominent than one would like, and there's a certain music hall ambience to a few songs (such as "Lucky Man") that is somewhat distracting - but those two numbers are followed by the joyous and pounding "Pie in the Sky," so it all balances out and, overall, this album is very solid and a great deal of fun, as well as full of little surprises and signposts pointing toward Lynne's future. (Bruce Eder in AllMusic)

The Genesis Of The Gods

Original released on LP Columbia (EMI) S)C)X 6286
(UK, 1968)

The Gods' debut album was the sound of a band capturing the transition of British psychedelia into more ostentatious progressive hard rock. Ken Hensley's heavy Hammond organ was the center of their sound, and both that and the sometimes overbearing vibrato vocals pointed toward the less psychedelic sounds he and drummer Lee Kerslake would pursue in Uriah Heep. "Genesis" is undoubtedly lighter than Uriah Heep, though, often employing characteristically late-'60s British vocal harmonies. Some tunes, like "Candles Getting Shorter" and "Radio Show," even skirt a pop-soul sensibility. But the songs weren't terribly memorable, though they were segued together by brief odd'n'goofy instrumental bits at the end of tracks in keeping with the modus operandi of the psychedelic era. The Mellotron in "I Never Know" does rather remind one of the way the instrument was used on King Crimson's first album, though King Crimson inserted it into much better material. (Richie Unterberger in AllMusic)

sábado, 25 de março de 2017

CAT STEVENS: "Tea for the Tillerman"

Original released on LP Island ILPS 9135
(UK 1970, November 23)

"Mona Bone Jakon" only began Cat Stevens' comeback. Seven months later, he returned with this "Tea for the Tillerman", an album in the same chamber-group style, employing the same musicians and producer, but with a far more confident tone. "Mona Bone Jakon" had been full of references to death, but "Tea for the Tillerman" was not about dying; it was about living in the modern world while rejecting it in favor of spiritual fulfillment. It began with a statement of purpose, "Where Do the Children Play?," in which Stevens questioned the value of technology and progress. "Wild World" found the singer being dumped by a girl, but making the novel suggestion that she should stay with him because she was incapable of handling things without him. "Sad Lisa" might have been about the same girl after she tried and failed to make her way; now, she seemed depressed to the point of psychosis. The rest of the album veered between two themes: the conflict between the young and the old, and religion as an answer to life's questions. "Tea for the Tillerman" was the story of a young man's search for spiritual meaning in a soulless class society he found abhorrent. He hadn't yet reached his destination, but he was confident he was going in the right direction, traveling at his own, unhurried pace. The album's rejection of contemporary life and its yearning for something more struck a chord with listeners in an era in which traditional verities had been shaken. It didn't hurt, of course, that Stevens had lost none of his ability to craft a catchy pop melody; the album may have been full of angst, but it wasn't hard to sing along to. As a result, "Tea for the Tillerman" became a big seller and, for the second time in four years, its creator became a pop star. (William Ruhlmann in AllMusic)

London-born Cat Stevens (a.k.a. Steven Georgiou) had scored hits since the late 1960s, but with "Tea for the Tillerman", his fourth album, he became a global star. Previous LP "Mona Bone Jakon" (featuring hit single "Lady d'Arbanville") had seen Stevens emerge as one of a new breed of reflective singer-songwriters. For this album he preserved the same core of musicians (Alun Davis, guitar; Harvey Burns, drums; John Ryan, bass) and the producer, maintaining the uncluttered production of "Mona Bone Jakon". Apart from Stevens' ear for a great melody, what caught the listener's attention most was the sensibility of his lyrics and his readliness to address pressing issues of his time - notably the search for spiritual direction that underpins "But I Might Die Tonight" and "On the Way to Find Out". "Father and Son" was written at the heels of a massive explosion of youth culture, but the song is all the more poignant for the lack of recrimination between the eponymous pair. (The album's sleeve, painted by Stevens, picks up on the subject of youth and age.) The album's melodic appeal and gentle charm saw sales soar and it garnered a gold disc. Seven years later, Stevens became a Muslim, changed his name to Yusuf Islam, and abandoned the music business to practice the spirituality yearned for in his songs. Since then, his work has rarely approached the tuneful simplicity of this much-loved album. (Liam Pieper in "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die")

Cat Stevens had already released one album in 1970, "Mona Bone Jakon" back in April, when "Tea for the Tillerman" arrived that November. And almost immediately, things changed for the 22-year-old London singer-songwriter born Steven Demetre Georgiou. And then they just didn’t stop. Stevens had been kicking around the British folk scene for quite some time, penning songs for other people and just trying to make a living when he started recording his fourth album in London during the summer of 1970. Nobody, not even Stevens, had any reason to believe that "Tea for the Tillerman" would sell any better than his other LPs ("Mona Bone Jakon" peaked at No. 164). But none of his other albums contained songs as uniformly great as those found on "Tea for the Tillerman", a career milestone and the album that finally helped break Stevens worldwide. It all started with “Wild World,” his first Top 40 single (which stopped just shy of the Top 10 at No. 11), and ended a little more than a year later, when the cult movie Harold and Maude used Stevens’ songs (including a handful from "Tea for the Tillerman") on its soundtrack. And it was all setup for his biggest success in 1971 with “Morning Has Broken” (which hit No. 6) and the album "Catch Bull at Four" (which hit No. 1, his only LP to do so).

But "Tea for the Tillerman" is the album that made Stevens a star, the one that introduced his voice (soft, quivering, delicate and raspy at points) and songwriting (sharp, moving, eminently hummable) to a larger audience. Prior to "Tillerman", he was best known as the guy who wrote “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” which R&B singer P.P. Arnold had a hit with; afterward, he became one of the most representative voices, faces and personalities of the ’70s’ folk movement. From the opening “Where Do the Children Play?” (an ecologically minded survey of the era’s deadliest threats) and “Hard Headed Woman” to “Wild World” and “Father and Son” (one of the most moving songs ever written about the divide between parents and children), the album is a soft-rock landmark - made primarily on acoustic instruments, including congas, double bass and violin - that’s as timeless as it is a part of its generation. After the album’s success, Stevens pretty much followed its template for most of the ’70s, until his career dried up at the end of the decade. The majestic arrangements, the driving force behind many of "Tea for the Tillerman"'s songs, almost sound neutered in later recordings. But here they shake things up, giving lift to everything around them. Stevens relied on them later; on "Tillerman", they were just another piece of the creative process that helped define the album and, in turn, helped define the artist. (Michael Gallucci)

sexta-feira, 24 de março de 2017

The Album Of July

Original released on Lp Major Minor SMLP 29
(UK, July 1968)

July has come to be highly prized, mainly for the presence of "My Clown," which is considered to be one of the great psychedelic singles of all time. Tom Newman, who went on to glory as the engineer of choice for Mike Oldfield, handles the vocals for the majority of the album (the exception being Chris Jackson's "Crying Is for Writers"), as well as the majority of the songwriting. Tony Duhig, who later moved on to start Jade Warrior and Assagai, provides guitars and a strong sense of Indian music, although the greater part of his participation is via warbling and groaning guitars, and a fortunately blazing solo in the midst of the otherwise painful "Crying Is for Writers." Very good psychedelia, for the most part, but a bit dated in places and heavily influenced by much of the music coming from the direction of San Francisco at that time. The first six cuts are perhaps the most essential, going by the original vinyl release: "My Clown" and "Dandelion Seeds" are delightful, while "Jolly Mary" is simply good fun.  (Steven McDonald in AllMusic)

quinta-feira, 23 de março de 2017


 Original released on CD Epic EK 90760
(EU 2003, November 18)

As the girl who just wants to have fun, Cyndi Lauper became an '80s music icon with her flamboyant style, powerful baby-doll voice, and quirky songs, but as time and tastes moved on, her playful persona wore thin and attempts at becoming a more serious artist failed to regain her dwindling audience. With "At Last", Lauper steps even further away from that playful image to become the girl who just wants to sing as she tackles a set of pop standards that showcase her underrated voice. Although occasionally shrill and reckless, Lauper's forceful tones can be quite moving and awe-inspiring when corralled into the proper setting, as with her bluesy take on Etta James' "At Last." With its lazy tempo and minimal arrangement, Lauper is able to relax and convey the lyrics in one of her most mature and affecting performances. Even more low-key is the whisper quiet of "Walk on By," in which she turns Dionne Warwick's midtempo gem into a dark tale of mourning by sadly singing the lyrics over a crawling tempo. Getting a Tori Amos-style ballad treatment is the Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," which lets Lauper's rock roots rise to the surface with her edgy performance. While some of her song choices work, others fall flat, like "La Vie en Rose," in which her slightly ragged reading is too rough for the delicate song. Also misfiring is her corny duet with Tony Bennett, "Makin' Whoopee," where the voices of these two New Yorkers clash like stripes and plaids. Lauper also has a little too much fun with Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs' "Stay," as she reverts back to her boisterous voice of yesteryear and disrupts the mature tone of the disc. Although the results are mixed, "At Last" does focus on Cyndi Lauper's best asset - her voice - and may help to rejuvenate a career in which the personality unfortunately overshadowed the talent. (Aaron Latham in AllMusic)

TOMORROW - First and Last Album

Original released on LP Parlophone PCS 7042
(UK, February 1968)

Tomorrow's sole album was a solid effort, with quite a few first-rate tracks. "My White Bicycle" was one of the first songs to prominently feature backward guitar phasing, "Real Life Permanent Dream" has engaging English harmonies and sitar riffs, "Revolution" is an infectious hippie anthem, and "Now Your Time Has Come" features intricate riffing from Steve Howe. "Hallucinations," with its irresistible melody, gentle harmonies, and affectingly trippy lyrics, was perhaps their best track. The more self-conscious English whimsy - populated by jolly little dwarfs, Auntie Mary's dress shop, colonels, and the like - is less successful, although the band's craftsmanship is strong enough to avoid embarassment. (Richie Unterberger in AllMusic)

Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music

Original released on LP ABC-Paramount ABCS-410
(US, April 1962)

Less modern for its country-R&B blend (Elvis Presley and company did it in 1955) and lushly produced C&W tone (the Nashville sound cropped up in the late '50s) than for its place as a high-profile crossover hit, "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" fit right in with Ray Charles' expansive musical ways while on the Atlantic label in the '50s. In need of even more room to explore, Charles signed with ABC Paramount and eventually took full advantage of his contract's "full artistic freedom clause" with this collection of revamped country classics. Covering a period from 1939 to the early '60s, the 12 tracks here touch on old-timey fare (Floyd Tillman's "It Makes No Difference to Me Now"), honky tonk (three Hank Williams songs), and early countrypolitan (Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You"). Along with a Top Ten go at Eddy Arnold's "You Don't Know Me," the Gibson cover helped the album remain at the top of the pop charts for nearly three months and brought Charles international fame. Above a mix of swinging big band charts by Gerald Wilson and strings and choir backdrops from Marty Paich, Charles' intones the sleepy-blue nuances of country crooners while still giving the songs a needed kick with his gospel outbursts. No pedal steel or fiddles here, just a fine store of inimitable interpretations. (Stephen Cook in AllMusic) 

Original released on LP ABC-Paramount ABCS-435
(US, October 1962)

Having struck the mother lode with Vol. 1 of this genre-busting concept, "Brother Ray," producer Sid Feller, and ABC-Paramount went for another helping and put it out immediately. The idea was basically the same - raid the then-plentiful coffers of Nashville for songs and turn them into Ray Charles material with either a big band or a carpet of strings and choir. This time, though, instead of a random mix of backgrounds, the big band tracks - again arranged by Gerald Wilson in New York - went on side one, and the strings/choir numbers - again arranged by Marty Paich in Hollywood - were placed on side two. Saleswise, it couldn't miss, but, more importantly, Vol. 2 defied the curse of the sequel and was just as much of an artistic triumph as its predecessor, if not as immediately startling. Charles' transfiguration of "You Are My Sunshine" sets the tone, and, as before, there's a good quota of Don Gibson material; "Don't Tell Me Your Troubles" becomes a fast gospel rouser and "Oh Lonesome Me" a frantic big band number. Paich lays on the '50s and early-'60s Muzak with an almost gleeful, over-the-top commercial slickness that with an ordinary artist would have been embarrassing. But the miracle is that Charles' hurt, tortured, soulfully twisting voice transforms the backgrounds as well as the material; you believe what he's singing. It appealed across the board, from the teenage singles-buying crowd to adult consumers of easy listening albums and Charles' core black audience - and even those who cried "sellout" probably took some secret guilty pleasures from these recordings. While Charles didn't get a number one chartbuster à la "I Can't Stop Loving You" out of this package, "Sunshine" got up to number seven, and "Take These Chains From My Heart," with its Shearing-like piano solo and big string chart, made it to number eight - which wasn't shabby at all. (Richard Ginell in AllMusic)

quarta-feira, 22 de março de 2017


The Style Of The Hollies

Original released on LP Parlophone PMC 1235
(UK 1964, November 1)

Released only ten months after their debut album, "Stay With the Hollies", this second album was a huge leap forward in every respect. Their famous airtight harmonies were now in place, and the sloppiness of the instrumental attack gone. Most important, the group developed enormously as songwriters. Eight of the 12 tracks were Hollies originals and quite skillful in their mastery of the British Invasion essentials of driving, catchy melodies and shining harmonies. A couple of the covers are duds, but the "Nitty Gritty/Something's Got a Hold of Me" medley is first-rate, and the version of "It's in His Kiss" (retitled "It's in Her Kiss") respectable. The Hollies weren't from Liverpool (though Manchester is fairly close), but this nonetheless ranks of one of the very best Merseybeat albums not released by the Beatles themselves. It doesn't include any British or American hits, but "Come On Home," "To You My Love," "Don't You Know," and "What Kind of Boy" (the last of which was written for them by one Big Dee Irwin) will appeal to any British Invasion fan. Surprisingly, none of the tracks were ever released in the United States, making the reissue all the more desirable an item for British Invasion collectors from U.S. shores, who most likely missed it entirely the first time around. (Richie Unterberger in AllMusic)

domingo, 19 de março de 2017

CHUCK BERRY 1st Collection

Original released on LP Chess 1435
(US, July 1959)

If you had to sweat all of Chuck Berry's early albums on Chess (and some, but not all, of his subsequent greatest-hits packages), this would be the one to own. The song lineup is exemplary, cobbling together classics like "Maybellene," "Carol," "Sweet Little Rock & Roller," "Little Queenie," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Around and Around," "Johnny B. Goode," and "Almost Grown." With the addition of the Latin-flavored "Hey Pedro," the steel guitar workout "Blues for Hawaiians," "Anthony Boy," and "Jo Jo Gunne," this serves as almost a mini-greatest-hits package in and of itself. While this may be merely a collection of singles and album ballast (as were most rock & roll LPs of the 1950s and early '60s), it ends up being the most perfectly realized of Chuck Berry's career. (Cub Koda in AllMusic)

NAT KING COLE - The Third Spanish Album

Original released on LP Capitol W 1749
(US, April 1962)

Original liner notes:
Over the past few years the millions of Nat King Cole fans in the United States have come to realize that they must share their favorite singer with people in many parts of the world, especially with their friendly Spanish-speaking neighbors to the South. And the overwhelming success of his two previous albums recorded in Latin America furnishes more than ample proof that Nat’s wonderfully warm singing style is every bit as appealing in Spanish as it is in English. Maybe that’s because the smooth, naturally romantic voice of Nat Cole lends itself so perfectly to a love song, and the language of love is indeed a universal one. Here, in answer to countless requests for more “Cole Español”, Nat applies his charm, his voice, and his Spanish to another fine assortment of ballads and folk songs, aided by the arrangements of Ralph Carmichael and some of Mexico’s top musicians and singers. Most of the songs were done with strings and full orchestral accompaniment, while a mellow marimba ensemble provided the backgrounds for “Las Chiapanecas” and “Vaya Con Dios”. And on three numbers, including  the rousing favorite Guadalajara, Nat was assisted by the delightful singing and playing of one of Mexico’s foremost Mariachi bands. The recording was done in Mexico City, and among the enthusiastic spectators and admirers present was Nat’s good friend, the famed Latin singing idol Lucho Gatica. In tribute to their friendship, Nat included his version of “No Me Platiques”, a lovely ballad first made popular by Lucho several years ago.

"More Cole Español" was Nat King Cole's third album of songs sung in Spanish, following "Cole Español" (1958) and "A Mis Amigos" (1959). Recorded in Mexico City with Mexican singers and musicians, but arranged and conducted by Ralph Carmichael, the collection demonstrated that Cole had made significant advances as a singer in Spanish in a few years. "Cole Español" had found him providing tentative, phonetically learned syllables over pre-recorded tracks imported from Cuba, giving him the sound of someone trying to avoid making mistakes. "A Mis Amigos", cut in Rio de Janeiro during the South American tour promoting "Cole Español", was better, but still not a truly complete fit for Cole. He still didn't sound like he always knew what he was singing, and he still seemed to be working on his pronunciation, but on this "More Cole Español" he was clearly having a lot more fun. In part, this had to be because the arrangements were more rhythmic and uptempo, and Cole must have been taking enthusiasm from the Mexican musicians who accompanied him. And he must have been more familiar with material that included crossover hits like "Vaya con Dios." Whatever the reasons, "More Cole Español" was his most successful effort at making music for fans south of the border. (William Ruhlmann in AllMusic)

NAT KING COLE - The Second Spanish album

Original Released on LP Capitol W 1220 
(US, May 1959)

In any language the warm voice of Nat King Cole adds special appeal to any song. These tunes are well-loved Latin favorites recorded during Nat’s tour that extended throughout most of Latin America, and he sings them in Spanish and Portuguese. Some of them are already well-known in the United States too, and Nat hopes that his friends everywhere will enjoy them.The accompaniments include a large and beautiful string section in some selections, and feature excellent brass accents throughout. Also accompanying Nat in some tunes are favorite Brazilian singing stars: Sylvia Telles, and the Trio Irakitan. (from the original liner notes – see back cover).

Lado A da edição brasileira

Sempre, depois de uma agradável visita – da qual guardamos uma belíssima lembrança – é costume enviar-se uma carta agradecendo pela hospitalidade e atenção recebidas. Esta colecção de canções de Nat King Cole é precisamente isso: a expressão do seu agradecimento aos inúmeros amigos e admiradores que o acolheram durante sua recente tournée pelos países da América Latina. Estas canções foram gravadas nos estúdios da Odeon, no Rio, com magníficas orquestras sob a direção de Dave Cavanaugh, da Capitol, a quem se devem também os arranjos. Cantadas em português e espanhol, são a prova evidente de que é fácil reconhecer a interpretação sincera de um artista consumado, pois o incomparável estilo de Nat transpõe as barreiras do idioma. O título deste novo LP de Nat King Cole, “A Meus Amigos”, é bem adequado. Onde quer que ele se apresente é aceite como embaixador da amizade e da arte. Que a sua tournée obteve um êxito ressonante foi demonstrado pelo facto de que em todas as cidades onde esteve foi cercado por multidões que o aclamaram entusiasticamente. No Brasil foi convidado a cantar para o Presidente Kubitchek. Mais do que a apresentação pura e simples de números musicais, este punhado de canções constitui um agradecimento caloroso aos vários amigos que fez para si e para o seu país. Estas melodias são ao mesmo tempo presente musical e um gesto de boa vontade e apresentação continental. Como diz Nat: «Só com música não se pode governar o mundo; porém, dá-se aos povos uma oportunidade de esquecer as diferenças que separam os países» 
(notas originais no verso da edição brasileira)

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