WEATHER REPORT – S/T (1982)

Review by: Eric Pember
Assigned by: Sam Belden

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I admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for this sort of 1980s sitcom opening music. I have both Heavy Weather and Mister Magic in my collection, and they are surprisingly cool albums.

However, while this album goes on with the same sort of sound, it feels more unfocused. Considering that the main redeeming factor of the aforementioned albums are their melodicism, this makes it a bit dull to listen to. “Dara Factor 2” has some melodic flair to it, but that’s about it. However, it still remains entirely fine background music, and there’s nothing to really hate about it.

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León Gieco – De Ushuaia a La Quiaca Vol. 1 (1985)

Review by Roland Bruynesteyn
Assigned by Charly Saenz

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Wikipedia claims Léon Gieco is known for mixing popular folkloric genres with Argentinian rock and roll (suggesting something like the south American Los Lobos), and that he can be considered the Argentinian Bob Dylan (suggesting a political and / or poetic singer song writer). I wouldn’t know about that, but I do think there’s a local, ethnic, element in the music, a bit like the Argentinian Fairport Convention or Incredible String Band.

In 1981 Gieco started a Never Ending Tour all over Argentina, collecting material from the different places he visited during the tour. Following the tour, he recorded this first volume of De Ushuaia a La Quiaca various local musicians in 1985. Two other volumes were recorded in different locations of the country. Paul Simon may have gotten the idea for Rhythm of the Saints upon hearing this, when he had to come up with a follow up to Graceland…

His voice is nicely sincere and almost theatrical. Not as overdone as by flamenco artists (like Camarón de la Isla) but definitely in, say, Triana territory. Because I sympathize with social activists (he suffered censorship in the 70’s) and because I like the intention to redo traditionals and employ locals, I want to like this album, but the production is making it difficult. Sometimes bad production tricks seep through: at 7.32 (on YT) you’ll hear the programmed keyboard fuck up. At other times, for instance on the third song Por El Camino Perdido, a nice enough song gets lost in a silly repeating keyboard pattern and a nauseating guitar sound that make it sound like your average 80’s pop ballad. But then, on Principe Azul, it all works: mainly acoustic, sounding quite authentic.

The YT version I listened to, proudly claims that Gustavo Santaolalla, the musical director for the project, was the first to integrate MIDI into traditional music. Based on this album, I consider this a bad idea. In ‘updating’ the sound, he actually loses the sound, making it hard to judge the quality of the song writing. It’s as if you update the Clapton song Let It Rain into My Fathers’ Eyes. Still, Gustavo wrote No Existe Fuerza En El Muno. It is potentially one of the best songs on the album, but you wouldn’t know it from this version.

Yo Vendo Unos Ojos Negros does sound quite a lot like Los Lobos, as it’s one of the few up-tempo tracks. Again, not a bad song, the accordion and the background yelling adding to the authentic atmosphere. A nice song to end the album, but I do not really like the album

I’ll have to postpone my final verdict about Léon: I (desperately want to) believe that this is his “mid 80’s Dylan phase”, and that there are better albums before and after, but I just do not know yet.

The Tony Williams Lifetime – Emergency! (1969)

Assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sanchez
Reviewed by: Victor Guimarães

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The Tony Williams Lifetime! The rising times of jazz-fusion! Who was the ingenious mind who thought about mixing jazz improvisation and harmony with elements of rock music? And 60-70s rock! Even better! Give this enlightened someone a cookie! And to this enlightened group of musicians revolving around the creative genius of their leader, the jazz drummer, Tony Williams, another. Or a full jar, for that matter!

For the record, Emergency! is their debut album. The legend says it wasn’t well received by jazz fans back in ‘69… Critics that time now look back and bite their conservative tongues. Well deserved, as Tony and co. really were groundbreakers. Apart from some minor spoken lines, the album’s focus is fully instrumental. It sounds well for both rock and jazz listeners – although a bit more for jazz people, I think. (We could exclude, maybe, some conservative I-only-listen-to-x variations. We don’t count them in the statistics as they are not funny at all). As I enjoy both genres myself, I gotta say Tony and Co. would carry you alongside a longer-than-hour trip into their timeless sound experience. Expect creative instrumentals, jazz-like. Guitars could sport a rock-like approach, it tends to jazz. Drums would keep jazz-ing, rock-ing, then jazz-ing again, building the right tempo for the right situations, generally on par with the guitar. Ah! Don’t try. Don’t say a thing. This drumming is simply beautiful. Organs complete the melody, adding key touches and passages that would truly be missed. And although not listed in the official records, I definitely listen to a bass – an amazing, well-played bass. (No-bass jazz don’t make sense, c’mon). And, of course, there’s the room for improvisation. I can listen to this album a thousand times and I’d still think they gathered to practice and ended up recording this in one-shot, listened to everything, fixed some stuff and recorded again only because of their own perfectionism.

This Groundbreaking courage, this fusion, this spirit! Music definitely need more of that! Thanks to The Tony Williams Lifetime, we had doors open for this innovation. Your move, 2017 artists.

LOS DELINQÜENTES – Recuerdos garrapateros de la flama y el carril (2006)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

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This was a fun album to listen to, although I didn’t have as much time to digest it as I might have liked. This album is a compilation of material from the band’s previous material, put together after the death of one of their key members.  The music was recorded in the late 90’s early 2000’s. Their style is very eclectic, based on flamenco or rumba, and incorporating a mix of international popular music styles, including rock, reggae, and even a bit of rap. These kinds of fusion often turn into a mess, but these guys merge the styles into a cohesive, unique style. There appear  to be two singers, one who has a raspy voice more in line with (my relatively ignorant preconception of) flamenco singers, and another singer who sings in a higher register who reminds me of Manu Chao a bit.

The album title and many of the lyrics make reference to “garrapatas”, or ticks. The reference seems to refer to humble and/or rural origins (I don’t know their biographies). Many of the songs refer to the street, and to life on the margins of society. The tick metaphor seems to be used as a symbol of freedom from the trappings and expectations of society. I do speak Spanish, but a lot of Spanish/Andalusian slang & cultural references went over my head.

Overall quite an enjoyable album. If you don’t understand the lyrics, you’ll miss out on the humor, but you’ll still enjoy the music. Fans of the afore-mentioned Manu Chao would probably like this album. Thumbs up.

CHARLY’S ROCK COLUMN: THE KINKS – SINGLES HISTORY – Part 1: Early Kinks (1964)

Written by: Charly Saenz

It’s almost a thrill to listen to that clumsy version of “Long Tall Sally”, their first single.. It’s really an amateur band sound in retrospect (George Martin said that newer bands tend to record in a higher speed.. Emotions out of control?), and not necessarily in the bad sense. They *mean it*, like The Beatles in their stuff pre “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, they’re hungry for more, baby. Ray wrote the flip side, and it’s hardly any better you know, but hey, family, friends, we were recording!

It’s in the second single “You Still Want Me” (and the similar sounding “You Do Something To Me”, both sides written by Ray), where they really shine – a precious melody and hooks, and well, let me tell you, it’s the kind of frame of mind in the recording companies those days you had to change. Why recording covers? Not everyone could, but Ray COULD write.

Those were harsh times and you had to get a hit, so we did that razor thing with the speaker and Dave came up with that feedback storm (it’s 1964, get this in your system!), that piercing sting called “You Really Got Me”. In those times The Kinks were about electricity you know, so no big words from Ray, but he wrote a musical anthem for the early Kinks. It was a monolithic achievement. “It’s All Right” on the other side, was unremarkable: another “let’s all scream in concert” tune (a cousin of “I’m Alright” by the Stones, probably).

Same year, The Kinks released an EP called “Kinksize Session”, with a “Louie Louie” cover; much better than “Long Tall Sally”, at least Ray sang in his own gritty voice, not like a suicidal lamb. Can’t say much about “I Gotta Go Now” but it’s marginally better than the cover (they’d perfect this style on albums like “Kinda Kinks” or even on “Kontroversy”). “Things Are Getting Better” is another frantic number, quite disposable.  But “I’ve Got That Feeling” with that pretty piano (Nicky “Session Man” Hopkins perhaps?) is a beauty. Going slower is sometimes a great decision…

.. But we accelerated a bit for “All Day And All Of The Night”. Certainly a successful clone, a sombre child of “You Really Got Me”, and I usually prefer the child, as it’s slightly darker, more intense, and obsessive. The B-side, “I Gotta Move” is very good, with a pretty crescendo at the end, as it never leaves the original punching beat (kudos to Mick Avory’s hi hat); also a much better realized song for a dynamic concert number (in this case, the Stones title-alike would be “I’m Moving On”).

This was, dear friends, a single year in the life of The Kinks.. Evolution? Well I’d say quite some big steps for them and humanity, but they would be bigger steps next year.

PAUL MCCARTNEY – Press to Play (1986)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Assigned by: Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho

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Welcome to the Rock Superhero Bashing Circus! Well, as you might know “Press To Play” is usually indicated by some reviewers (oh those are terrible.. Oops) as Paul’s nadir. Oops again: I used to despise this album. But my fellow reviewer has given me the opportunity to explore this album under a new light; mostly in the darkness of my room, to be honest – just the music, and no videos. Those really didn’t stop playing back in the day. That wasn’t good.

“Stranglehold” is an extraordinary start. It’s strong and luminous, slightly bluesy. I feel some good 90s vibe here, even a bit of Lloyd Cole. There’s a double bass quality in the rhythmic base and the sax touches are totally engaging.

I changed scenery for the second song “Good Times Coming/Feel The Sun”. Had to step out in the street on a cold threatening night, so I mounted the Fiio DAC and the Sennheiser cans on my head and I connected the DAC to my Android phone. BOOM! POW! Well, all those Batman 1966 onomatopeias. After the goofy start, it really blew my mind. You know sound counts, this is mostly a finely recorded album, no matter what they say.

I’m back in the computer and I launch the next song, “Talk more talk”, on the Yamaha amp. This one is a tad more annoying in the production department. The song itself is interesting (the guitar work is indeed very detailed) but it goes nowhere. Still, hardly offending. “Footprints”, instead, is one FINE Macca-style song. Extremely joyful details (some remind me of the future “Driving Rain” but everything was a little more guitar-rocking there). There’s a cracking detail in Paul’s otherwise still beautiful voice.. Is this when he starts to show the signs of age? “Press(ed) to play”..

About that song, and let’s forget the video clip, it’s probably the weakest in the lot. Paul what were you trying to achieve? This album has no hits (Will you count the bonus track, “Spies like us”? Well that video was.. slightly funny) and this is for the best: “Press” is really awful with the extremely tiring electronic drum, the echo vocals. No, please: “Never like this”.

Save your breath, then we have another little gem, “Pretty Little Head”, that could have been considered an A-HA (or even Tears For Fears) song as it begins. Here the electronic drums roll deliciously over the keyboards, and there’s that feeling that Paul is on the loose, experimenting.. The “African” voices are exquisite; the intertwined guitars and of course the effect-laden synths. It might be a little long; but I won’t complain, Paul is having fun.

As if he was paying the debts for “Press”, he scores high again with “Move Over Busker” (“Busker”.. Wasn’t that a movie with Phil Collins?). An engaging number, with more traditional sound, and a line that is certainly closer (specially in the second part) to a good rock and roll circa 1958, if you clean up the make up, that is. It rocks better than, say, “Take it away”.

Well in the end, you know, this wasn’t the awful album I’ve grown to despise. There is no such thing as bad production per se; it’s all in the numbers, “Press” ain’t a great song anyway and it tainted the whole set as a single, but a good electronic drum can be put to good use as we all know. For completists, “Angry” ain’t a particularly great song and “However Absurd” is a weird ending, but a good effort, anyway.

And the melodies, the hooks are there, Macca brand. Oh by the way did I mention “Only Love Remains”? 100% Macca ballad of any era, and it’s really good.

This is how you do it, and it’s 1986 so it’s worth a lot. Go and buy it before the fools and the critics find out and all the “Press To Play” CDs start to dissapear from the record stores. We still have CDs right?…

HENRYK GORECKI – Dawn Upshaw, London Sinfonietta, David Zinman ‎– Symphony No. 3 (1992)

Review by: Schuyler L
Assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

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Note: Well, this isn’t something I’ve done… er, ever. Upon receiving the assignment, I considered the idea of reviewing a symphony proper which:
A. Was published in 1977
B. Has three movements, with the longest at nearly twenty-seven minutes
C. Is titled “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” in reference to its subject matter, the victims of the holocaust.

… And naturally, I realized that it just wouldn’t do to say some words about this piece whilst trying to insert the usual levity I like to employ for comedic effect (when I run out of more substantive comments).

And, naturally, I sort of put this one off altogether for a while just because of that…. unfairly, I must say, because levity does not a good review make, and I might just as well put off reviewing something whimsical for lack of serious things to say.

Anyhow, this piece turned out to be one of wonderful depth and character, so I’m glad I was assigned it after all. The first movement in particular is really graced by the fine conducting of David Zinman, whose studied decisions in phrasing and texture are doubly strengthened by the warm (and wonderfully recorded) strings of London Sinfonietta. In fact, the first movement flows along so purposefully and unhampered in its first thirteen minutes that we nearly forget the presence on this recording of star soprano Dawn Upshaw, whose entrance is nothing short of angelic. Her appearance is only a brief repose, however, from the trudging, descending minor basso ostinato that is its central motif. The overall impression is one of something vibrant and unique soon to be eradicated by some impending doom.

The lamentful B-flat minor of the slow, tranquillisimo second movement is where things get quite serious. The vocal, which unceremoniously enters at the start like a quiet prayer, floats and lilts at the very center of the melody for the first time, while swells of strings add to a timeless, cosmic feeling of compassion for all suffering in this pathos-filled movement.

Finally, a somber, slightly faster D minor theme brings us back down to Earth. We feel as though something is irretrievably lost; the strings at times evoke the texture of a church organ, and soon we realize that what we are hearing is not merely a requiem for the dead, but for the world as people once knew it; the promises of the 20th century, any sense of a shared history and culture across civilisation – all of it is gone, forever, and all that remains is what we have always had – memories. But all is not lost – when the D minor melody enters a second time, its appearance seems hopeful; a testament to the immutability of a culture divided and broken, but steadfast in its determination to remember its past while forging ahead into modern culture. The piece finally resolves to a lingering, heroic A major, before vanishing into the ether once more.

An essential piece for anyone interested in modern music. As George would say, one thumb, way up there.