Saturday, February 24, 2018

Kraftwerk - The Mix 'Best Of' (1991) plus bonus single

(Germany 1970 - Present)
Kraftwerk was created in the German city Düsseldorf; the band formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970,  fronted by them until Schneider’s departure in 2008. Their signature is easy recognizable driving; repetitive rhythms with strong melodies, minimalist strictly electronic instruments, almost naïve lyrics simplified and at times sung trough a vocoder of computer speech software. The harmonies are classical western; however, these simplified lyrics are conceptual and enormously strong future oriented.

Description once exotic objects in our consumer culture those today are the most ordinary and important things surrounded with (similarities to pop art). In 1981 came the albums Computer Welt those lyrics singing about home computers, pocket calculators a conceptual work and vision of today’s world of computers. In 1986 came the albumElectric Café and again Kraftwerk lyrics are about the telephone, mobile phones and a society builds upon electronic communication; still with the catchy melody laying on the top making their songs feel like any Beatles tunes sing along. Earlier work as the Autobahn (1974), Radioaktivität (1975) and Trans-Europe Expresss (1977) state a clear vision of the future, motorways, transportation, superfast trains, energy consumption etc.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kraftwerk distinctive sound was revolutionary, and has had a lasting effect across many genres of modern music. No other band has influenced pop culture more than Kraftwerk since the Beatles, their massive impact on the sound and music for an artist such as Moby, David Bowie, R.E.M., Daft Punk, Orchestral Maneuver’s in the Dark, Madonna, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Missy Elliott and Fergie. It doesn’t stop their Techno music from Detroit would not have happened if it wasn’t the impact Kraftwerk had on ‘Belleville three’ (Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson & Derrick May), who fused the repetitive melodies of Kraftwerk with funk rhythms. Hip Hop roots is no exception for their influence; Trans Europe Express and Numbers mixed in Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and The Soul Sonic Force, one of the earliest hip-hop/electro hits. Richard D James (Aphex Twin), Björk, Joy Division and New Order were heavily influenced by Kraftwerk. David Bowie’s “V-2 Schneider,” released as B-side to the “Heroes” single, features on the album “Heroes,” is a tribute to Florian Schneider. Furthermore, disco scene and later electronic music would not have been the same. [extract from]

Alternative Cover
The Mix
'The Mix' is a 1991 remix album by Kraftwerk. It featured re-recorded and in some cases re-arranged versions of a selection of songs which had originally appeared on the albums Autobahn through Electric Café. Hütter stated in interviews that he regarded The Mix as a type of live album, as it captured the results of the band's continual digital improvisations in their Kling Klang studio. The band had made a return to the stage in 1990, after a nine-year hiatus from touring, and since then the band's live setlist has used arrangements drawn from The Mix rather than the original recordings. The album has a German version titled Das Mix.

Stated reasons from the group explaining the release include:

The group didn't want to release a traditional "Greatest Hits" or "Best of" collection.
At the time, the band were in the process of reconfiguring their Kling Klang studio from analog to digital recording technology; integrating MIDI into their setup and creating sound archives from their original master tapes that were stored onto computers. This proved to be an ongoing task, as new upgrades and equipment were continually made available in the years following the album project.
Despite no new, original recorded material or live tours outside of Europe, Ralf Hütter did not want Kraftwerk to appear defunct to the public.

Popular Kraftwerk Albums
The album met with a rather mixed reception on its release. Many were disappointed at the lack of new compositions and, moreover, the production values of the re-recorded tracks did not strike many listeners as particularly cutting edge, something which Kraftwerk had previously been renowned for. The Mix was created entirely digitally, albeit during a period when the technology had yet to reach its maturity, and thus featured a sound which many listeners tend to find somewhat "sterile" compared to the analogue electronics employed on most of Kraftwerk's previous recordings of these songs.

The album sleeve was somewhat obtuse in the information it offered. Production is credited to Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, and Fritz Hilpert, the latter of whom had replaced percussionist and stage set designer Wolfgang Flür after Flür left the group in 1987. Karl Bartos also left the band in 1991 and was replaced by Fernando Abrantes. Bartos claimed in later interviews that much of his programming work was still featured on The Mix, uncredited. The original 1991 release gives credit for "Music Data Mix" to Hütter, Schneider, Hilpert. The 2009 remaster release gives more detailed credits for Hütter and Schneider in addition.

Album Review
A collection of 11 tracks from across their post-Ralf und Florian' catalogue rebuilt from the ground-up in new, supposedly more dance-friendly forms, it’s controversial and divisive for several reasons, and stands out as the most idiosyncratic release in the Kraftwerk catalogue. Apologists and defenders stake a claim for it being an ideologically sound way for a band who have always avoided playing the marketing game to sidestep a greatest hits package, which their label EMI were pressuring them to release. The argument seems disingenuous, however: Metallica and AC/DC have avoided ever releasing greatest hits albums, so why not Kraftwerk?

But then 'The Mix', even if its tracks were present in their original forms, isn’t really a greatest hits package. There’s no ‘Showroom Dummies’, ‘The Model’ or ‘Tour de France’, for example. At the same time 1981 b-side ‘Dentaku’, the Japanese-language version of ‘Pocket Calculator’, is the only track included that wasn’t already by this time considered an established part of the Kraftwerk canon.

Given the innovation and force of the original tracks, recreating them in a ‘modern’ idiom was always going to be a tall order, even if the remixers were the composers themselves. At its lowest ebb, crushingly, The Mix deals in an excruciating neutering of its source material. The fuzzed-over chrome melt of ‘Computer Love’ somehow becomes New Order remixed by early-Nineties Wrexham ravers K-Klass, its sterile drum-fills and staccato key stabs not supporting or in any way reimagining the song, but merely getting in its way.

Fortunately this is by some distance the worst that The Mix has to offer, its other sins being ones of redundancy rather than active damage. ‘Music Non Stop’ is a less rhythmically interesting partner to ‘Musique Non Stop’; ‘Pocket Calculator’ and ‘Dentaku’ are thorough exercises in funk-reduction, reshaping the so-unfunky-they’re-funky right-angles of the originals into inoffensive linearity; ‘The Robots’ has its corrosive power replaced by pleasantness, the new version spinning light trance atmospherics around a prominent fazing synth line that lurks subtly in the background of the original.

Compromise and blandness are deeply un-Kraftwerkian characteristics, and there are thankfully times when The Mix manages to shake off the air of being so toweringly unnecessary. The ‘Trance-Europe Express’/‘Abzug’/’Metal on Metal’ sequence achieves this by leaving the sound of the original suite largely alone, instead shifting the emphasis so that the beat-heavy ‘Metal on Metal’ section becomes the dominant conclusion, as opposed to the central segue role it performs on the Trance-Europe Express album version. ‘Radioactivity’ succeeds not by virtue of its snare-heavy drum pattern, which swaps the grieving majesty of the original for a more dancefloor-friendly tempo, but due to the robotic fallout haiku - ‘Tschernobyl/Harrisburg/Sellafield/Hiroshima’ - that blurts out at regular intervals. It’s not subtle, but it’s effective.

Kraftwerk performing Autobahn
The Mix’s version of ‘Autobahn’, one of Kraftwerk’s most iconic tracks, serves to illustrate both the worst and best of what this album represents. For much of its length the new version is irremediably pointless: a flanged synth chord here, a sharpened-up beat there, but with all the free-flowing spirit of the original chucked out of the car and forced to find its own way home. In this context the glorious naivety of the melody, the sublimity of which is at least in part due to its hovering so close to wide-eyed foolishness, sounds insipid. In the breakdown, however, the trilling vocal harmonies of the original are thoroughly worked over, the end result sounding like androids trying to emulate Bavarian yodelling. By itself it’s hardly earthshaking, but it prompts thoughts of what The Mix could have been if Kraftwerk had elected to really work these tracks over in a radical way, rather than essentially updating them to dance music’s early-Nineties industry standard.

Painful as it is to admit it, the judgement of long-time Kraftwerk collaborator Emil Schult (who painted the original Autobahn cover and, effectively 'the fifth robot', helped the band formulate much of its visual and thematic grammar) seem accurate when considering The Mix: “Would Leonardo Da Vinci have taken the Mona Lisa back and painted her over? I think not. "Autobahn" didn’t need a remix by Kraftwerk.”

Certainly the path the band had taken since Electric Cafe wasn’t to the liking of two of its members. Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos, junior partners to Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider since 1974, left in 1989 and 1991, respectively. Flür, stated that he was reluctant to become “the best paid caretaker of the most famous sound laboratory in the world”, while Bartos stated memorably in 1993 that “[b]y the end of the Eighties Kraftwerk was a paralysed giant. The inner structure didn’t allow any new ideas.” Given the paucity of new ideas on The Mix and the apparent lack of any new material, his words seemed depressingly precise [by Chris Power October 15th, 2009
This post consists of MP3's (320kps) ripped from my CD copy and includes full album artwork for both CD and Vinyl formats plus label scans.  While investigating the release of this 'compilation album' it become apparent that there have been many different releases, all featuring their unique 'robotic figurines', similar to one shown on the right.  Boys and their toys, hey!
My first introduction to Kraftwerk was hearing Autobahn on the radio and thinking 'what the hell was that, but it was different and drew you in more and more. The AM radio stations played the (short) single version to death but some of the more adventurous FM stations played the album version - all 24 mins  - and it was then that I realised these guys were serious.  Of course I purchased the album and played the A-Side to death. I've still got it, and me thinks I might post it real soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this Techo taster, featuring yet another version of their Auto hit. I've also included, as a bonus, the original single release of Autobahn, ripped from my trusty 45, which I picked up at the flee market. 

Track Listing
01 The Robots 8:56
02 Computer Love 6:35
03 Pocket Calculator 4:32
04 Dentaku 3:27
05 Autobahn 9:27
06 Radioactivity 6:53
07 Trans Europe Express 3:20
08 Abzug 2:18
09 Metal On Metal 4:58
11 Home Computer 8:02
12 Music Non Stop 6:38
13   Autobahn (Bonus Original Single)    3:28
Kraftwerk are:
Ralf Hütter – album concept, music data mix, voice, vocoder, synclavier.
Florian Schneider – album concept, music data mix, vocoder, speech synthesis
Fritz Hilpert – music data mix (electronic percussion)
Kraftwerk Link (160Mb)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Friendship (feat. Lee Ritenour) - Selftitled (1979)

(U.S  1979)
Bands such as Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers and artists such as Michael Jackson made it clear how heavily the synergy of studio session instrumentalists were to their sounds. The more they were able to adapt their sounds to the persona of an artist? The more they were able to expand their own sound. When drummer Alex Acuna, sax player Ernie Watts, keyboardist Don Grusin, bassist Abraham Laboriel, percussionist Steve Foreman and Captain Fingers himself Lee Ritenour got together for this 1979 one shot session under the name Friendship - all this experience just clicked.

Starting up with Grusin's melodic,staccato piano "Bullet Train" brings to the front the hardest grooving variety of West Coast style jazz funk-with each of the players inventing new melodies in a truly democratic fashion. "Tighten Up" is my favorite here-a bass synth led Headhunters type funk. The situation takes the then very popular Caribbean/Reggae type into that similar idiom while "Let's Not Talk About It" is a ferocious fusion type number with Laboriel's bass line sounding as if I am sure Super Mario Bros used as the basis for part of it's soundtrack. "Here Today,Here Tomorrow" had a more soul/pop type groove about it whereas "Waterwings" has a very percussive Afro-Latin flavor that never takes its eyes off the prize Steve Foreman sets up for it. Ernie Watts' time to shine comes on "The Real Thing"-one of the finest solos I've heard from him.

Considering the obvious instrumental pedigree of these musicians? I went into this album running on autopilot in terms of this being an impeccably played album. Yet well played music and soulful music are really at their best when they are mutually exclusive. Sometimes an artist with a more soulful attitude might like the musical chops to deliver the goods. And vice versa. On this album,each of the six participants bring their funkiest and their most melodically adept elements to the forefront on every one the songs featured. There is definitely a strong sense of familiarity among these players of course-having done so many sessions together in different combinations. Yet somehow Friendship manage to sound like a band all their own. In terms of funky grooving instrumental communication in the jazz/funk-fusion genre? This album really gets the flavor of the late 1970's end of that musical ethic down to a science!  [Review by Andre S. Grindle].

Lee Ritenour
Lee Ritenour (born January 11, 1952) is an American jazz guitarist who has contributed to over 3000 sessions and has charted over 30 contemporary jazz hits since 1976.

Ritenour was born January 11, 1952 in Los Angeles. At 16, he played on his first recording session, with the Mamas & the Papas, and was given the nickname Captain Fingers for his dexterity. He was a studio musician in the 1970s, winning Guitar Player magazine’s Best Studio Guitarist award twice.

Throughout his career, Ritenour has experimented with different styles of music, incoprorating funk, pop, rock, blues, Brazilian, and classical music with jazz.

He is noted for playing his red Gibson ES-335 and his Gibson L5 guitars. Since his early recordings in the 1970s, Lee has held numerous #1 spots on guitar polls, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian SJ Awards, and a prestigious “Alumnus of the Year” Award from the University of Southern California.
Ritenour’s solo career began with the album First Course (1976), which was a good example of the jazz-funk sound of the 1970s. That was followed by Captain Fingers, The Captain’s Journey (1978), and Feel the Night (1979)

In 1979, Ritenour “was brought in to beef up one of Pink Floyd’s The Wall ‘ heaviest rock numbers, “Run Like Hell”.He also played “uncredited rhythm guitar” on “One of My Turns”.

As the 1980s began, Ritenour began to add stronger elements of pop to his music, beginning with Rit in 1981. For this, he kept with his distorted sound, now using his Ibanez LR-10 signature model guitar. The song “Is It You”, with vocals by Eric Tagg reached No. 15 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 27 on the soul chart. The track also peaked at number fifteen on Hot Adult Contemporary chart. He continued with the pop-oriented music for Rit/2 (1982) and Banded Together (1984), while releasing a slick, yet more crossover-styled, Direct-Disk instrumental album in 1983 called On the Line. He also provided rhythm guitar on Tom Browne’s hit, Funkin’ for Jamaica.

In 1985, he recorded his first album for GRP Records with Dave Grusin, entitled Harlequin, featuring Ritenour primarily on classical guitar, with Brazilian singer Ivan Lins.

On Earth Run (1986) he used nine different guitars, most notably the SynthAxe ,whose power is Awesome, his Valley Arts guitar, and his Gibson Chet Atkins acoustic. The album also featured long-time collaborator Phil Perry for the first time, on the track “If I’m Dreaming, Don’t Wake Me”, a song also featuring David Foster and Maurice White who played wicked good (prove it?) on the recording.

Ritenour continued in a direction strongly featuring other artists in 1987, with Portrait. The album itself has something of a strong smooth-jazz sound, and Ritenour can be heard here playing with The Yellowjackets, Djavan, and Kenny G.

Don Grusin
In 1988, his smooth jazz-influenced Brazilian music came to the forefront with Festival – another album strongly featuring his work on nylon-string acoustic guitars. The following album, Color Rit, continued with a similar mood. He did however, change direction completely again with his straight-ahead jazz album Stolen Moments. Sounding similar to Wes Montgomery, Ritenour played alongside long-time collaborator, saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist Alan Broadbent, bassist John Patitucci (playing only acoustic) and drummer Harvey Mason. During that same year, he performed and composed the theme song of the Canadian TV series Ramona.

In 1991 Ritenour, together with keyboard player Bob James, formed the Grammy-nominated contemporary jazz group Fourplay. He left the hugely successful group in 1998 to continue with his own solo works. He was replaced by Larry Carlton. He paid tribute to the Wes Montgomery with the album Wes Bound, featuring covers of songs written by Montgomery. Also seen in this decade was a 1994 collaboration album with guitarist Larry Carlton called Larry & Lee.

Lee Ritenour's 70's Solo LP's
In February 2004, Ritenour completed a project looking back on his career involving musicians he has worked with throughout his career called Overtime. Overtime was recorded live in a studio in front of a small audience. It was released in early 2005, and is currently available as a singular audio CD, double-DVD set or singular HD DVD. Some of the musicians featured include Dave Grusin, Patrice Rushen, Ivan Lins, Dave Carpenter, Eric Marienthal, Harvey Mason, Alex Acuna, Kenya Hathaway, Taylor Dayne, Steve Forman, Nathan East, Chris Botti, Anthony Jackson, Melvin Lee Davis, and Ernie Watts, amongst many others.

His album entitled Smoke n’ Mirrors was released in late August 2006. His son Wesley makes his debut appearance as a drummer on the album at the age of 13. This album contains Ritenour’s version of Bill Withers’ 1978 hit “Lovely Day”.

In June 2010, in order to celebrate his fifty years as a guitarist, Lee Ritenour released the album 6 String Theory (in reference to 6 musical areas covered by the use of guitar). The album featured famous guitarists such as Vince Gil, Steve Lukather, Neal Schon, John Scofield, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Cray, Slash, Pat Martino, Mike Stern, George Benson and B.B.King, but also younger players such as Andy McKee, Joe Robinson and Guthrie Govan. Ritenour, Yamaha Corporation, The Berklee College of Music, Concord Records, Monster Cable, and D’Addario Strings collaborated to create the 2010 Yamaha 6 String Theory Guitar Competition. The winner of that international competition, that included guitarists from over 45 countries, was 16-year-old Canadian classical guitarist Shon Boublil. The competition in 2011 is continuing.

In 2012, Lee released Rhythm Sessions, which also features luminaries such as Chick Corea, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Dave Grusin, Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta, Nathan East, Patrice Rushen, Marcus Miller and many others. The album also features the winners of the 2012 6 String Theory rhythm section competition on the Dave Grusin track, Punta Del Sol. [extract from]
Tighten Up 45
This post consists of MP3's (320kps) ripped from my trusty vinyl copy of this album, and features full album artwork & label scans.  I have followed Lee Ritenour's career ever since his debut album 'Captain Fingers' from 1977 and was delighted to find this collaboration LP which features some of the  jazz rock artists in the business.  It is interesting to note that Lee actually released a solo album entitled Friendship one year earlier and was probably the impetus for releasing this collaborative masterpiece. I plan to post more of Lee's material in future, so stay tuned .
A1 Bullet Train 5:23
A2 Tighten Up 5:10
A3 The Situation 4:30
A4 Let's Not Talk About It 4:53
B1 Here Today Hear Tomorrow 5:20
B2 Waterwings 6:53
B3 The Real Thing 5:56

Friendship were:
Lee Ritenour (guitar)
Alex Acuna (drums)
Steve Forman (percussion)
Don Grusin (piano)
Abraham Laboriel (bass)
Ernie Watts (saxophone)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Eric Clapton & The Yardbirds - Rarities (1994)

(U.K 1963-1968)
The Yardbirds formed in 1963 and were originally known as Be Metropolis Blues Quartet.
The primary members of the band included Anthony Topham, known as 'Top" who was replaced by Eric Clapton in October 1963. At that time the band comprised of the following musicians:-

Eric Clapton - Lead guitar
Keith Relf - Vocals and Harmonica
Chris Dreja - Rhythm guitar
Jim McCarty - Drums
Paul Samwell-Smith - Bass guitar

Eric Clapton joined the Yardbirds in late 1963 and left the band in early 1965 when he was dissatisfied with their new pop direction. In between was the calendar year 1964, when Clapton led the group to explore and advance the blues foundations which would be adopted by many groups over the coming decades, including several of Clapton’s own vast musical entities.

The Yardbirds 1964
Following the Rolling Stones in residency at the famous Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, they became cult figures of the time and attracted crowds of fans to the legendary Marquee Club in London.
A tour of Europe with American Blues artiste, Sonny Boy Williamson was enhanced by a joint album titled "Sonny Boy Williamson And The Yardbirds" which was released in 1965 and subsequently re-issued in 1975. This album became a rare collectors item.

Other albums included "Five Live Yardbirds" released in 1964 and a successful hit album "Yardbirds" which reached the number 20 spot and remained in the chart for 8 weeks in 1966. The band's American albums included "For Your Love" in August 1965 and "Having A Rave Up" in January 1966.

The band also experienced singles chart successes, topped by "Heart Full Of Soul" which was their highest chart record, reaching number 2 in June 1966. ft remained for 13 weeks. Their most remembered single, however, was "For Your Love" which achieved a number 3 position in the UK charts on the 18th March 1965 and sustained for 12 weeks. Other singles included, "Good Morning Little School" November 1964, "Evil Hearted You" in October 1965, "Shapes Of Things" in March 1966, "Over Under Sideways Down" in June 1966 and "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" in October 1968.

Over the years the band has hosted musicians of outstanding merit who have moved on to become rock legends in their own time and artists of world acclaim including Jimmy Page, who went on to become a founder of Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck whose successful single "Hi Ho Silver Lining", which appeared 3 times in the UK charts in March 67, November 72 and October 82, has long been overshadowed by his world success as a respected guitarist with such albums to his credit as, "There And Back", "Flash" and "Beck, Bogert & Appice". Eric Clapton's continued success, world acclaim and respect need no endorsement and are currently self evident.

This album comprises the original line-up including Eric Clapton and the tracks are original live radio recordings which must be considered rare in their own right.
The Yardbirds will be remembered as a great band and the springboard for a wealth of musical talent which has brought pleasure to millions of fans throughout the world.
[Sleeve notes compiled by Ian Taylor King]
There are only nine songs on the disc. The source of the tracks seems to be open for debate. The liner notes claims these are "radio recordings" by The Yardbirds. claims these are recordings of a super group involving Clapton, Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Ian Stewart. After some digging I was able to identify the tracks.

Four tracks are clearly The Yardbirds, possibly BBC recordings. "They are I Wish You Would", "For Your Love", "A Certain Girl", and "Got To Hurry". All also appear on The Yardbirds' first US LP, proof that the tracks here are indeed The Yardbirds with Eric Clapton.

It is worth noting  that there is some contention as to whether Eric Clapton actually played on the Yardbirds first big hit "For Your Love".  In Ritchie Yorke's biography of Led Zeppelin, he looks at the evolution of Led Zeppelin from the Yardbirds (which later featured Jimmy Page) and discusses this very point.  On page 42-43, nightclub owner of the Cradaddy Club in Richmond and manager 'Giorgio Gomelsky' talks about the Yardies first hit single "For Your Love" and states:

"It was very difficult in those  days because we had the problem of trying to make a hit single that would work out for everybody. Eric Clapton didn't even play on "For Your Love" - there was simply no guitar part for him. We got Brian Auger in to play harpsichord. I can still remember Eric lying on his back at the IPC Studios while we were recording the song - he just wasn't interested in it at all, and I can't blame him. It was terrible that we had to go through all that hit single bullshit. Personally I just wanted the band to make live albums - I thought that albums were going to be the important thing abd they were, but not until three years later!.....Eric Clapton made no secret of his profound dislike of "For Your Love's" blatant commercialism, as he didn't want to pander the hit single genre, and this was one key reason for his decision to quit the Yardies in January, 1965. Another was Clapton's tenuous relationship with vocalist Keith Relf. Eric found it difficult to work with Keith musically.

The other five tracks are instrumentals that carry Clapton/Page songwriting credits. According to the exhaustive online database, Complete Works of the Rolling Stones, the tracks titled "Choker", "Draggin' My Tail", "Snake Drive", and "West Coast Idea" were indeed recorded in June 1965 by Clapton and Page, and in August 1965 the aforementioned members of The Rolling Stones (except Charlie Watts was not present - Chris Winters sat in the drummer's chair for the sessions) added backing instrumentation separately. I cannot find documentation for "Freight Loader". On the disc, the song is just two electric guitars, so it may be from that June '65 session without any other musicians involved.

In the end, this is an interesting collection of mid-60s British blues. Clapton's solos on the instrumentals are at times astonishing. For that alone you may feel it's worth it. Not sure how much I'll listen to this in the future. It's a nice little time capsule if nothing else.

Paul Samuel-Smith, Keith Relf, Chris Dreja, Eric Clapton and Jim McCarty
This album is essentially live recordings of material. There are only 3 vocal tracks on this album, "I Wish You Would", "For Your Love", and "A Certain Girl". The album is also composed of six instrumentals, the aforementioned "Choker, Snake Drive, Draggin' My Tail, Freight Loader, Got To Hurry and West Coast Idea". Out of the tracks, "For Your Love" is probably the most well-known track of the group. As stated in the liner notes above, it spent an astonishing 12 consecutive weeks at #3 on the British charts. The three actual songs are pop-influenced melodies that will get you singing, but the genius of the album are the instrumentals.

10" Vinyl Release
Here we get to see the influence of the blues on tracks like "Freight Loader", "West Coast Idea" and "Got To Hurry". These gems are a nice close to the album, with the upbeat tempo "Got To Hurry", is followed by the more bluesy sounding and slower playing "West Coast Idea". If you like blues guitarists, you won't be disappointed by sampling some of the tracks on this album. The opening track "Choker" is a nice hook that gets you interested enough to listen, while the singing tracks offer a nice change up to the blues-influenced instrumentals which dominate the theme of the album. This is a nice method to introduce someone to the Yardbirds. The total album is only around 21 minutes long in terms of listening time, but good things come in small packages!

A 10" vinyl reissue of the album was released in 1998 on the Get Back label in white Vinyl, with a different order in the track list.
This post consists of FLACs and MP3's (320kps) ripped from AMCOS CD release and includes artwork for both CD and 10" Vinyl formats. There have been other CD releases of this album and I've included artwork for these as well.
Track Listing
01. Choker 1:19
02. I Wish You Would 2:15
03. Snake Drive 2:26
04. For Your Love 2:24
05. Draggin' My Tail 3:02
06. A Certain Girl 2:14
07. Freight Loader 2:44
08. Got To Hurry 2:17
09. West Coast Idea 2:16 

Eric Clapton - Lead guitar
Keith Relf - Vocals and Harmonica
Chris Dreja - Rhythm guitar
Jim McCarty - Drums
Paul Samwell-Smith - Bass guitar
Eric Clapton & The Yardbirds FLACs  (137Mb)

Eric Clapton & The Yardbirds MP3 Link (43Mb)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Johnny Rocco Band - Rocco (1976)

(Australian 1974 - 1976)
Moving away from the progressive rock of his previous band Friends, the New Zealand-born Maori soul vocalist Leo De Castro started to play a mix of funk, soul, rock and blues. It was a style that  Leo would pursue for the rest of his career. The De Castro line-up was completed by Steve Webb, Rob Grey (keyboards), lan 'Willy' Winter (guitar; ex-Carson, Daddy Cool) and John Young (bass). Later in the year Leo moved to Sydney where he joined funk outfit the Johnny Rocco Band.

The band presumably named themselves after Edward G. Robinson's bad guy in the 1948 film "Key Largo". This Sydney-based group of jazz and funk musicians were joined on this, their only LP, by one of a few Maori singers who made their mark in Australian soul-funk and other music in the 1970s, De Castro played in many bands, but recorded with relatively few.

Like many urban indigenous musicians around the world who are surrounded by European culture, Maori musicians have often found a home in musics that stem from the African musical diaspora - soul-funk, reggae, and more recently hip hop - although besides this album, De Castro's other sparse outings are more in tune with the ubiquitous "boogie-rock" that held a grip over his adopted country at the time.

Leo De Castro
The original Johnny Rocco Band line-up, formed in February 1974, comprised Mark Punch (guitar, vocals; ex-Mother Earth), Tony Buchanan (sax; ex-Daly-Wilson Big Band), Tim Partridge (bass; ex-King Harvest, Mighty Kong) and Russell Dunlop (drums; ex-Levi Smith's Clefs, SCRA, Mother Earth). They were one of the first Australian bands to incorporate funk and soul into the pub rock forum. Leo and Mick Kenny (keyboards; ex-Levi Smith's Clefs) joined in late 1974. The band recorded the first version of 'Heading In The Right Direction', co-written by Mark Punch and Garry Paige. Singer Renee Geyer later made the song famous via her definitive reading.

I saw these guys play somewhere in 1975, and was particularly taken with De Castro's live voice, he killed it on tracks like "Baby's Gonna make it" - and in cataloguing these 70s funk albums, I'm realizing how much I got out when I was 13, and how comparatively little I get out now. At the time, they were building up a strong live following, and preparing to record this album.

Original guitarist Mark Punch had just run off to join Renée Geyer's band, but was seemingly here to record on at least two of the tracks he'd co-written : "Heading In the Right Direction", soon to be a hit single for Geyer on "Ready To Deal", and "Sweet Kisses", that she would later record on "Winner".
There are some tight instrumental funk workouts with jazz touches, the flute and talkbox stormer "Number 43", and great percussion throughout from Sunil De Silva - it's a pretty solid album and worth checking out.

While only independently released in Australia, the album was picked up internationally by 20th Century Records, with the band re-named simply 'Rocco', and a publishing deal seems to have been signed with the Reizner Music Corporation. This rip comes from this release.

The single 'Heading In The Right Direction' b/w 'Funky Max' came out in August 1975. Harris Campbell had replaced Punch who went on to join the Renee Geyer Band. Johnny Rocco Band issued the album Rocco (May 1976) which yielded a second single, 'Gonna Have A Good Time' b/w 'Who's This Guy' (April). Amazingly, this was Leo' first appearance on a full band album. Leo's gorgeous vocals lead the way on 'Heading In The Right Direction', 'Gonna Have A Good Time' and 'She's Knocking On My Door'. The band's playing throughout is incredibly tight, with Dunlop's fatback drum patterns driving the music onwards. The likes of 'Funky Max' and 'Rocco' are now highly rated examples of the funk rock genre (although Leo's vocals are but a minor part of these particular tracks).
The album got issued in the US on the 20th Century label and prospects looked good. Success failed to come the band's way and they eventually parted in late 1976.

Leo formed the all Kiwi band Cahoots with Tui Richards (by then ex-Powerhouse), Billy Rylands (guitar; ex-Freshwater, Stevie Wright Band), Phil Pritchard (guitar; ex-Highway, Miss Universe), George Limbidis (bass; ex-Highway, Miss Universe) and Doug McDonald (drums; ex-Powerhouse). In May 1977 the band was billed as Leo De Castro and Rocco with Mark Punch back in the line-up. By the end of the year it was the Leo De Castro Band. Then came Heavy Division in 1978 with Richards, Russell Smith (guitar; ex-Company Caine, Mighty Kong, Billy T), Tim Partridge (bass; by then ex-Kevin Borich Express) and John Watson (drums).
Original Vinyl Cover
This post consists of MP3's (320kps) ripped from vinyl and includes limited artwork for both CD and Vinyl. (Thanks to Micko at Midoztouch for the rip)
Le De Castro is one of the most influential and talented Aussie musicians, evolving from the roots of King Harvest and then forming some very short lived but legendary bands, like Friends, Healing Force, Le De Castro's Babylon and of course The Johnny Rocco band.  Oh, and just for the record (pun intended) The Rocco band didn't actually have anyone in the band called Johnny Rocco.

Track Listing
01 - Good Times (Olson / Riviera / Monette / Bridges / Guzman / Daird)
02  - Heading in the Right Direction (Punch / Paige)
03 - Who's the Guy (Campbell / Partridge / Rich / Dunlop)
04 - Sweet Kisses (Punch / Paige)
05 - Funky Max (Punch / Partridge / Dunlop / De Castro)
06 - Rocco (Buchanan / Punch / Partridge / Dunlop)
07 - Baby's Gonna Make It  (De Castro / Buchanan / Punch / Partridge)

08 - She's Knocking on My Door (Dunlop)
09 - What are you gonna do for the rest of your life? (Dunlop / Richards)
10 - Number Forty Three (Dunlop / Punch / Buchanan / Partridge) 

Band Members:
Leo De Castro - guitar,vocals (King Harvest, Friends)
Harris Campbell - guitar,vocals
'Spoona' Tony Buchanan - sax, flute (Daly Wilson),
Sunil De Silva - percussuion (Skylight)
Russell Dunlop - drums - 'Fibes' (Ayers Rock, SCRA, Levi Smiths Clefs)

Tim Partridge - bass (Company Caine, Mighty Kong, Kevin Borich Express)
Other Musicians:
Tony Ansell - keyboards
Mick Kenny - roland synthesiser
Mark Punch - guitar
Ralph White - horns
Tui Richards - guitar
Garry Paige - mentor


Johnny Rocco Band  (73Mb)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Don Grusin - Raven (1990)

(U.S  1975 - Present)
The younger brother of producer/composer Dave Grusin, Don Grusin is an excellent keyboardist who has had his own solo career. He originally avoided music (not wanting to be in his brother's shadow), becoming an economics professor and not becoming a full-time musician until 1975. At that time, he put together a band to tour Japan with Quincy Jones, freelanced in Los Angeles, and headed the group Friendship which recorded for Elektra in 1978. Grusin recorded a few albums for JVC in the early '80s; and in 1988, with Sticks and Stones (a collaboration with brother Dave), Don Grusin began recording regularly for the record company GRP, playing music that (although influenced by pop) is also somewhat adventurous within the crossover genre.

Don Grusin
During the '80s, Grusin performed with and/or produced albums for a wide array of artists including saxophonist Watts (on the 1985 Grammy-winning Musician), Brazilian singer/songwriter Milton Nascimento, pianist David Benoit, and Patti Austin, Sergio Mendes, Oscar Castro-Neves, Zoot Sims, Dori Caymmi, Sadao Watanabe, Frank Quintero, Brenda Russell, Gerald Albright, Nelson Rangell, Jim Hall, Gilberto Gil, Flora Purim, Airto, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Leon Ware, and many others. On his own, Grusin has recorded for several labels, most notably GRP, releasing such albums as 1990's Raven (featured here), 1991's Zephyr, 1992's No Borders, 1993's Native Land, and 1994's Banana Fish.

Grusin received a Grammy nomination for his 2004 live album The Hang, and played keyboards on Paul Winter's 2008 Grammy-winning album Crestone. Grusin continues to perform, record and produce music internationally and also teaches a multidisciplinary course at the ATLAS Institue at the University of Colorado. He released the solo album Piano in Venice on JVC in 2008.
Album Review
As he proved in his production of David Benoit's 1989 smash Urban Daydreams, Don Grusin is a master at texturing various synth textures with the acoustic piano. On his solo debut 'Raven', Grusin once again does a remarkable job of this, mixing up his styles along the way to include bits and pieces of funk, Brazilian and mainstream jazz, along with healthy doses of the obligatory pop jazz formulas. Though the ballads here, such as "Oracle," are likable, Grusin the player is most at home on funky and frisky numbers like the stealthy "Catwalk," which features some tasty acoustic improvisations layered sparingly amidst a contagious synth groove. The best cut is another funkfest, "Graffiti Bird," which features the very punchy solo chops of saxman Eric Marienthal. The horns of Gary Herbig, Gary Grant, and Jerry Hey brass up this cut, as well as the softer line of "Light in the Window," while Sal Marquez's trumpet (which added so much to The Fabulous Baker Boys) adds a mainstream touch to songs like the title cut. The Brazilian vocalizing by Djavan makes "Two Lives" a memorable experience as well. And let's not forget kudos for the solid back beat by bassist Flim Johnson and skinmaster Tommy Brechtlein. GRP was the smooth jazz mecca for many years, but once in a while the label released a project like this which added a lot of twists to the tried and true.

My favourite tracks are "Flight Of The Raven" and "Catwalk" and everything in between - this is a great album! I like Don's style of playing. He is a bit more percussive a player than his older brother Dave, but is still very melodic. Don also uses a battery of acoustic and electronics keys. This is a great introduction to Don Gusin as a stand alone artist.

In 1976, Grusin/Rosen Productions was formed by composer, arranger, producer, keyboardist Dave Grusin, and entrepreneur, musician, producer, recording engineer, Larry Rosen. The purpose of the Company was to produce recording artists for major record labels, and discover, sign, and produce new artists for Grusin/Rosen Productions, and release the resulting albums through major record distribution systems.

The partners began their long list of successes with albums for artists Jon Lucien, Patti Austin, Lee Ritenour, Noel Pointer, and Earl Klugh. In 1978, the Grusin/Rosen team signed a multi-year label deal with Arista Records president Clive Davis. Under the logo Arista/GRP, Grusin and Rosen discovered signed, produced, recorded, and launched the careers of Angela Bofill, Dave Valentin, Tom Browne, Bernard Wright, Jay Hoggard, Scott Jarrett, and produced and recorded the first totally non-classical digitally recorded album, Dave Grusin's "Mountain Dance."

Grusin and Rosen gained immediate success with music fans bringing sales of Tom Browne's hit "Funkin' for Jamaica" to over 1 million units, and Angela Bofill's sales to over 500,000 units, while playing a pioneering roll in the music industry by leading the way to the digital storage of audio products.

Don Grusin
In 1982, the duo launched GRP Records, known as the "Digital Master Company," as an independent label adopting an "all digital" recording philosophy being the first in America to record and release all titles on compact disc. GRP went on to become Billboard magazine's #1 contemporary jazz label worldwide for five consecutive years and its artists were nominated for over 80 Grammy Awards. GRP's artist roster included Chick Corea, Lee Ritenour, Diane Schuur, Patti Austin, Dr. John, Dave Grusin, Spyra Gyra, The Rippingtons, David Benoit, Tom Scott, Gary Burton, B.B. King, Ramsey Lewis, Sergio Salvatore, Dave Valentin, Arturo Sandoval, Diana Krall, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Yellowjackets, Don Grusin, Kevin Eubanks, GRP All-Star Big Band, and many more.

In 1990, Grusin and Rosen sold GRP Records to the Universal Music Group. From 1990 to 1995 Grusin continued to record for the label and Rosen continued as president and CEO of GRP Records.[extract from the Larry Rosen's Website]

This post consists of MP3 (320kps) ripped from my CD copy and includes full album artwork for both CD / Vinyl. I'm a big fan of Jazz Rock / Fusion (ie. Mahivishna Orchestra, Al Di Meola, Jan Hammer, Weather Report, Lee Ritenour to list a few) and this album fits in nicely with these artists.
If you enjoy this album, then take a look at a release by his brother and others called GRP Live in Session, also posted on my blog

Track Listing
01. Flight Of The Raven (4:34)
02. Two Lives (4:30)
03. Hip Hop Be Bop ( 5:41)
04. Oracle (6:01)
05. Outback Oasis (5:27)
06. Light In The Window (4:32)
07. Zuma Noon (5:32)
08. Um Beijo (A Kiss) (5:10)
09. Graffiti-Bird (4:23)
10. Highline (4:14) *
11. Catwalk (5:28)

* CD release only

Don Grusin (vocals, piano, synthesizer) 
Djavan, Jim Gilstrap, Kate Markowitz, Marilyn Scott (vocals) 
Ricardo Silveira (guitar)
Gary Herbig (flute, saxophone) 
Gary Grant (alto flute, trumpet, flugelhorn) 
Eric Marienthal (soprano saxophone, alto saxophone) 
Jerry Hey (trumpet, flugelhorn) 
Sal Marquez (trumpet) 
Tom Brechtlein (drums)


Friday, January 26, 2018

W.O.C.K On Vinyl: Barry Crocker - Bazza McKenzie's Party Songs (1972)

On Australia Day we come together as a nation to celebrate what's great about Australia and being Australian. It's the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. It's the day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future. Australia Day, 26 January, is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788.

With respect to Australia's Music Industry, we can be very proud of the contributions that our Aussie Musos have made in entertaining people from every nation with music and song, with many of our artists achieving world wide acclaim. Therefore, I would like to celebrate Australia Day by posting this Party Classic by one of our country's well known and respected T.V / Radio celebrities from the 70 / 80's. I hope you enjoy it and have a great Australia Day !

Nothing can be more Aussie than grabbing a meat pie and a nice cold frothy and singing along to the cheeky and in some cases, very politically incorrect ditties sung by Bazza McKenzie (alias Barry Crocker). The character Bazza McKenzie was the brain child of Barry Humphries, back in the early 70's and resulted in the release of a Comic Strip and several rather riskee satirical movies entitled 'The Adventures of Barry McKenzie' (which basically focused on taking the piss out of the Poms).

Barry Humphries summarizes 'Bazza's' musical master piece in the album liner notes:

Barry McKenzie has a really beautiful singing voice! I first suspected this around 1965 when he warbled a ditty called The Old Pacific Sea in the 'Private Eye' comic strip, and he absolutely bewitched them with his native woodnotes wild — and with that raunchy no-holds-barred lyric about the simple joys of chundering whenever the spirit, or the beer, moved him. It was a notable first; a comic strip character with a really good voice. Mandrake might gesture hypnotically, Popeye consume his spinach, Snoopy could actually talk, but none of them could hold a tune.

Comic Strip
When it came to transposing Bazza to the silver screen we had long ago cast Barry Crocker in the star part; he looked like Bazza, given a script crammed with timeless archaisms he could talk like Bazza, he could even be persuaded to act like Bazza. The problem which vexed us sorely was: could he SING as well as Nick Garland's drawing? Now, if Mr. Crocker has not convinced you of his musical prowess up till now, either accept the judgement of one of the 200,000 connoisseurs who have purchased his albums over the past few years or hearken to this one.
If anyone wished to demonstrate that Bazza McKenzie doesn't need to be classy to have Class, then Mr. Crocker's nimble larynx has made the point, NO WORRIES.

There are still  a few pedantic old duffers in Australia who can't imagine Bazza opening the Opera House. Stiff cheese to them. He's lived in London long enough to top the bill in our newest Palace of Varieties, and he enshrines our happiest of knacks for social and cultural mobility. With less charm, he could step adroitly into the shoes of Archbishop, Prime Minister, General Manager of the A.B.C., or even those of the Commonwealth Film Censor.
His solitary vice (if you'll pardon the expression) is that he infuriates dull people, which is probably the only reason he isn't in the Public Service. He answers Samuel Butler's description of himself: 'as innocent as a new-laid egg', and yet Bazza seems capable of anything.

He is Joan Sutherland in a Bond's singlet, Candide  with  an  Akubra,  Childe Roland in Young and Jackson's Galahad in   Gomorrah, Gulliver in the Realm of Lillibet, Hamlet in Hammersmith, Alice in Chunderland. Right now, on this record, he's having a few quiet tubes with his mates in  Earl's Court and singing an artless ballad or two with some of the thirstiest choruses ever written. Melodies grave and gay, they'll set your thongs a'flapping and the sheilahs down the far end of the room are welcome to join in too, NO  RISK.
Barry Humphries (Tangier, Nov. 1972)

This post consists of FLACs ripped from my 'beer / meat pie' stained vinyl copy and includes full album artwork plus label scans. 
I really like the live pub atmosphere that the producer has created on this record and the intermittent sounds of Fosters cans being opened in the background and the yahooing by the thirsty crowd adds to the flavour of this record. 
Favourite tracks are "Washed Down The Gutter" and "One-Eyed Trouser Snake"
Sink one while they're still cold !
A1 Pub With No Beer
A2 Earl's Court Blues
A3 There's A Bridle Hanging On The Wall
A4 Where Have They Gone
A5 Washed Down The Gutter
A6 Swaggie Jock
B1 Bazza's Rock
B2 Bazza's Love Song
B3 One-Eyed Trouser Snake
B4 Old Shep
B5 Chunder In The Old Pacific