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.

YELLO – Solid Pleasure (1980)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Assigned by: Andreas Georgi 

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In a way, it’s a bit weird that I’m frequently at a loss for words when reviewing electronic music, since it was the first genre that caught my attention back in my youth, but it’s true. Anyway, Yello are an electronic music group, initially a trio, and this is their first album. Their music can be described as artsy synthpop with a strong emphasis in rhythm (including some non-trivial ones, like the Latin-derived beats in “Downtown Samba”, which are quite a feat for a band whose music is mainly programmed – apart from the singer, the other members are a tape manipulator and a samplist), but that does not exclude them from going for some darkish (with tongue firmly in cheek) ambient parts, like the “Massage”/”Assistant’s Cry” sequence. The record sounds also quite varied because Yello take the route of recording many short songs, which is unexpected (you’d usually think a straight dance number like “Bostich” would be a 7 minute rave, but here it lasts only two). In short this is the kind of album that I don’t think I could “love”, but would not mind returning to it some day.

JANDEK – Ready for House (1978)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Album assigned by: Andreas Georgi (who’s going to pay for this)


I quickly sampled the album and my first impression is that just thinking that I have to listen to 43 minutes of this makes me wanna curl up in a corner and weep.

It’s off key vocals without power nor color, backed by some amateurish banging at some zither like instrument. Ah no, it’s apparently a guitar. When you can’t identify an instrument that plays solo it means that whoever is playing it is SO UNSKILLED that cannot even make it sound like itself.

Okay, I cannot stand this. I don’t like it. Nobody does. Everybody who says they like it are lying and being pretentious. This is an offense on humanity. MAKE IT STOP. MAKE. IT. STOP.

Oh, wait a moment.
I realised I’m not forced to do this.
I can make it stop myself.
Done.
FUCK.
YOU.

DADDY YANKEE – Mundial (2010)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

I keep trying to get Spotify to play this record but all I hear is the playlist to which Fanta runs its brand promotion tied to the world cup series on a beach party. See, this reggaeton thing was for some reason as hugely popular as europop (another genre that revolves hugely around aggressively beating you over the head with simplistic repetitive beats and annoying vocal hooks for the duration of the song) but really the only context I see for a music like that nowadays is to mindlessly blast it through the speakers of the bungee jumping machine at the beach under the hot summer sun. It is not even fit to be the background music they play between the X-factor auditions! Like who listens to this stuff? How did it end up in the charts? Can anyone even relate emotionally to this? I know I stopped paying attention after the first track because this repetitive plateau of high after high after high all at the same volume and intensity, it cannot captivate your attention, let alone move your soul. Furthermore, you have read, I presume, how songwriting committees have evaluated that radio-friendly songs nowadays have to hit a new high every 6 seconds in order to keep the attention of the ever station-switching listener in his car. Yeah, but how can you top high after high after high, if you never relax the tension? Tension and relaxation until an eventual resolution, that’s the secret to a great many awesome songs in the pop canon!!
No, that was actually my first listen impression and it is totally not fair to the record. In fact, even on my first listen I noticed the attitude in the opening track “El Mejor De Todos Los Tiempos” and recognised its relative uniqueness in the bailando & vuvuzela context, and after a second listen I can confirm that the first two tracks here are actually legitimately cool. Most of the following tracks on the record are also not without their merits — even occasionally triggering my nostalgia for the times most simple that have long since passed (even if this record did actually come out as late as 2010) and making me admire the Spanish language and the Latin beats that really have their own logic and effect on the body and mind. That said, there are still some tracks (“La Despedida” to quote one) that can only fall under the generic bailando noise category. There is even the obligatory FIFA song (“Grito Mundial”, not eventually used for the 2010 World Cup series for reasons explained properly in Wikipedia) – I mean, the album is called Mundial… But after a thorough and dedicated listen I end up wondering if Daddy Yankee isn’t kinda my daddy now because this record certainly has a lot to recommend it… yeah…

GREEN DAY – American Idiot (2004)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Album assigned by: Graham Warnken

My only memories of Green Day were when they were on the radio a lot around the release of “Dookie”, so for me they were always this young pop-punk band, so when I read in the press that they were doing a conceptual rock opera thing I was thinking “Huh? Are they the right band to do this? Wouldn’t it be boring? Pop punk only has so much diversity and when you go for a concept album you need musical diversity”.

Or course I was not being aware that 10 years had passed since “Dookie”, and another 12 have passed since they released “American Idiot” to the day in which I’m listening to it for the first time.

First of all, I will not comment on the plot and the concept, for one simple reason: I would need to pay attention to the lyrics, and that would be something for a time when I can focus enough on them.

I don’t know if in the time span between Dookie and American Idiot they had already transcended their old sound, but in this record they sound quite more diverse than simply punky pop (although “St. Jimmy” – actually the second half of “Are We The Waiting / St. Jimmy”; a lot of tracks come in pairs – is totally classic punk). But the energy is there, oh boy is it there. The guitars jump at you with classic rock abandon, the drums are precise yet lively and the bass holds the ground as it’s supposed to do. Check the title track for an example – it’s exhilarating.

Green Day asserted that they had done their homework and studied classic rock operas and it shows. They said their main inspiration was “Quadrophenia” and I can agree – but if anything, it sounds like Quad if Quad had been done by the Who of 1965 rather than the Who of 1973. But that’s not the only discernible influence; take the second track and arguably the tour de force of the album, “Jesus of Suburbia”, a nine minute monster in several parts. Not only there are very strong hints of Ziggy Stardust here and there, but the third section (“I don’t care”) is so much in the same rhythm as the “I have to know” part of “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar – and it’s so totally appropriate in a meta level – that it cannot be accidental.

Diversity is also a mark of the “paired” tracks: the “Are we the waiting” section of that track I mentioned above has nothing to do with the “St. Jimmy” section; “Give me Novocaine / She’s a rebel” repeats the trick: the first part is funky and acoustic, the second is punk pop at its most direct; “Holiday / Boulevard of Broken Dreams” sounds like the reggaeified Clash in its first part (excellent!), and like Oasis in the second (damn!). “Wake me up when September ends” is the expected acoustic/power ballad, and its placement in the album makes it the equivalent of the typical Broadway “11 o’clock song” (clever!). Then “Homecoming” tries to repeat the trick of “Jesus of Suburbia” (it’s even a little longer) but not quite succeeding as much, although having the two guys not named Billie Joe contribute (and sing) a section is a welcome idea (in addition to a possible nod at “Tommy”).

In short, even taking the concept out of the equation, the album is an enjoyable romp and its opening stretch is certainly good; I’d nominate the entire sequence of “American Idiot”, “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Holiday” (a pity about the “Boulevard” part – sorry guys but Oasis????) as the best part of the album. Thumbs totally up.

JEAN MICHEL JARRE – Équinoxe (1978)

Review by: Ed Luo
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

The second of French composer Jean Michel Jarre’s string of progressive electronic albums that gained him mainstream success in the late 1970s, after 1976’s Oxygène. I really liked Oxygène when I first listened to it a couple months back, and Équinoxe is a fine follow-up to that. The composition throughout stays at a moderately uptempo pace, with the dynamics and different themes shifting consistently so it doesn’t become too monotonous while still keeping you in a trance.

And then it ends with a bit of what sounds like street organ music, which is a hoot.

Anyways, if you’re a fan of other progressive electronic composers like Vangelis, Klaus Schulze and the like, listening to Équinoxe (and Oxygène) is well worth your time.