Archive for the 'Instrumental' Category

08
Nov
18

Tangerine Dream “Stratosfear”

I’m pretty sure I used to have this 1976 Tangerine Dream record and was not too crazy about it, so it’s worth revisiting—perhaps I have grown mature, or electronic, or German, or mellow, or nostalgic. The front and back and inside images are some photo-collage nonsense that is embarrassingly dated. The first song, “Stratosfear” sounds really familiar, like maybe it was used in a movie soundtrack or maybe soundtrack music has been directly inspired by this. I can see some wintery, European landscape with an expensive car traveling over desolate roads that should be beautiful, but because of this music and the the exaggerated blue color temperature of the scene we understand that something tragic either just happened or is about to. It seems like half, or more, of the movies I see are incredibly, annoyingly blue—and my theory about this is that it’s because of the current pharmaceutical landscape in which we live. I thought about this while working at a recent grocery store job where the workers (the ones who didn’t get “laid off”) worked with a seemingly speed-fueled intensity—in spite of their being NO coffee offered in the workplace—and very little coffee brought in from outside, even. Which led me to think about all the people who are diagnosed with ADHD, etc. and are prescribed Adderall, etc. and are essentially like speed freaks all the time. I don’t know this, but it would explain a lot. So, likewise, I’m thinking, with so many people on anti-depressants, maybe this has caused an overall shift in the acceptable color temperature of commercial cinema—in order to just look “normal”—it has to be very, very blue.

The first side is astoundingly under 15 minutes long (the second is closer to 20, but still…) aren’t these progressive rock guys famous for really long songs and albums? Maybe I’m just thinking of Genesis, whose records were always like 60 minutes long. But come on, it’s not like anyone is working up a sweat here, it’s just kind of programmed and then it trickles along like a 1970s movie (that you can’t believe was allowed to take its time like that, and would never happen today). But come on, guys, a lot of trees died so this album cover could open up to reveal the letters “TD” 24 inches wide (and a photo-collaged, little, black and white, blond, German kid as big as your fingernail). Side two is so quiet and low-key I think it would only work on that original, really good LSD I’ve heard about—and playing through tube amplifiers the size of a VW, and Altec-Lansing “Voice of the Theater” speakers that would turn the 1812 Overture into a weapon of mass destruction—but here functions to expose the subtlety that is necessary for this record to make any sense at all.

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03
Nov
18

Herbie Hancock “Headhunters”

I’ve never been a huge Herbie Hancock fan, though I’ve always liked him more or less, but kind of a lukewarm love (Herbie Hancock fans don’t want to hear this)—like, I’ve owned a few of his records over the years, but I’m not usually burning to put them on. But this one has such a weird cover that it kind of screamed out to me (not necessarily a good scream, but a loud and got my attention scream). Anyway, I think HH has done some soundtracks over the years (can’t be entirely sure with no internet to reference) and I can really imagine a lot of this music as a soundtrack—but a really strong one, like, I’d watch that movie just to see a guy driving an early-Seventies LTD thru Harlem with this music playing. In fact, I’m guessing a 1973 LTD, gold with a green faux fabric top—a lot about this whole scenario says 1973 (I’ll see if there’s a date on the disk when it stops spinning…)

The cover is a kind of photo collage of HH at the keyboard with his band behind him in blue shadows, but it’s not HH really—or it is HH, I guess, but instead of his head there’s a huge orange circle, that from a distance looks like an orange with eyes and a mouth and some kind of insect pincers on the top of the head—but upon closer examination it’s evident that the eyes are knobs and the mouth is a VU meter. I can’t tell if the pincers coming out of the tip of the head are like antennas, or grabbers, or if it’s organic or mechanical—regardless, it’s all kind of creepy. I’m listening to the record a few times through as I’m writing, and I’m actually liking it more and more—maybe this is the HH record for me. It’s got some weird instrumentation and some pretty hardcore repetitious grooves (I mean as opposed to all the stopping and starting kind of stuff I don’t like as well). I’ve been working at a grocery store where the muzak system plays such a bizarre mix of about a dozen or 20 songs (seems like less, but is probably actually more) that it could have only been selected by a computer algorithm. But what if they just played this record? I wouldn’t be working, I’d be partying—couldn’t have that.

15
Oct
18

The Gerry Mulligan Quartet “What Is There to Say?”

Somehow I ended up with two of these albums, even though I’m not particularly a rabid Gerry Mulligan fan—which leads me to believe it was a fairly popular jazz record which you could sell a mint copy on the internet for about $2.00. I’m listening to it now, though, and it’s great. I’m going to keep one of these just as pure listening for pleasure record—the other copy is up for grabs. It just occurred to me—what do I have against Gerry Mulligan? Maybe it’s his first name that bothers me—that name, I’m never sure if it’s “Jerry” or “Gary”—I mean, I guess it’s always pronounced like Jerry—okay—sorry to offend the Gerry’s out there, that’s not fair. Maybe it’s his last name, which is some kind of stew, I guess, and also an unfortunate golf term—but it’s also Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel—one of my favorite children’s picture books—so I should come around it it! Also, he’s a blond guy playing jazz—no big deal, or shouldn’t be—but say, the picture of him on the cover of this album—you’ve never seen such long blond eyelashes. Actually, he really reminds me of someone on this cover photo—its either some famous actress or someone I know—I should just try to get that out of my head or I’ll go nuts trying to think of who. And then… he plays—or is most well known for—a weird instrument—the baritone saxophone—which isn’t really that weird actually, and is really pretty cool, and sounds great. So all in all, I should just really come around to Gerry Mulligan!

The liner notes on back are by Gerry Mulligan, and pretty good—a bit of a diatribe against the over-seriousness of jazz criticism—not too angry, good-natured. The quartet is Mulligan, Art Farmer on trumpet, Bill Crown on bass, and Dave Bailey on drums. Eight songs, some standards like “My Funny Valentine” and “Just in Time,” and some originals by Mulligan, including one called “Utter Chaos.” The songs were all recorded right about the time I was being conceived, if not biologically, working up to it with what I hope were romantic good times. My dad might have had this record, actually, though I don’t recall seeing it in his collection—though I might have ignored it, just thinking about how you could land a helicopter on that dude’s eyelashes. It’s the kind of stuff my dad listened to—he liked cool jazz—and maybe my mom, too—I’m not sure, now that I think about it—whose records were whose, for sure—which ones they each brought to the relationship, and then which ones they bought after the marriage. It’s too late to ask them now, too—kind of sad. Anyone reading this whose parents are still alive, make sure you ask them all those questions, important or not, while you have the chance!

21
Dec
17

Les Baxter and His Orchestra “April in Portugal” / “Suddenly”

Whenever I happen to have a random pile of 45s for whatever reason (I just always do) there always seems to be a Les Baxter record, and I never listen to it. This one, from 1953 (on that boring, purple Capital label) has been kicking around for awhile, and I think this is the first time I’ve put it on. So I asked Internet for a bit about Les Baxter, and I didn’t realize he was an Exotica guy. That makes me a little more interested. “April in Portugal” sounds like it has a zither in there, but I don’t know. It’s a bouncy instrumental that I could picture playing along with some robotic contraption at House On The Rock. “Suddenly” is a vocal number, with Bill Kennedy singing, and is an actually pretty nice song, kind of romantic and corny. “Suddenly the night was very still and your touch became a thrill and I knew I was part of you, but I told my heart to be still, until your lips kissed mine,” (like disembodied lips, kind of creepy). The idea here is that two people were not really on each other’s radar, and then suddenly they’re kissing, and rest is history. Or eternity, if you believe in that kind of stuff.

15
Dec
17

The Dave Brubeck Quartet “Newport 1958”

It’s kind of amazing to me that we live in a time when you can pick up a record like this for nothing, and because it’s been produced on an indestructible format, it has not only survived but is superior to anything that’s come along in the last 60 years. I just put this record on like it was no big deal, and holograms of this jazz quartet popped up in my room (not all see-thru and distorted like in a sci-fi movie, but indistinguishable from my memories, and me). The extensive liner notes pinpoint Thursday, July 3rd, 1958, and a salute to Duke Ellington (some of these songs are his compositions). This is a nice record. If the hologram strikes you as a little too real, you can focus on the album cover, which is a slightly expressionistic painting of the quartet (or else four guys with glasses playing piano, bass, drums, and sax). The painting’s by Bob Parker (somewhere, someone has the original) and I’m going to make a note of his name, because hopefully I’ll see other work by him. Can you take the A Train all the way up to Newport? When it’s a time machine, you can, and that’s what this record is.

06
Dec
17

Stan Getz “Reflections”

This is a 1964 Stan Getz record, with “arrangements by Claus Ogerman/Lalo Schifrin” on Verve Records—11 short songs (I wish they were all longer!)—all really nice—what would be a great make-out record, except you have to get up too often to turn it over—but that’s one of the drawbacks of records, in general, for making out. I don’t know why this made me think about making out—I was not thinking of that; I suppose it’s because there is certain evocative appeal of these songs, and these arrangements, and this playing; that tenor sax is so out front at times it’s almost obscene. Or maybe it’s the songs with the choral arrangements, that sound like a movie (some of it is, such as Charade)—from a pre-rock’n’roll corner of the Sixties—a montage with beautiful people driving in a sports car with the top down, Cary Grant with a sick tan, or maybe Tony Curtis acting semi-inappropriate.

The cover has Stan Getz (I assume; he looks like that one character actor, you know, Jimmy Stewart’s cop friend in Rear Window) lying on a hillside in a seersucker jacket, smoking a cigarette, with an expression of either cool or defeat. It looks to me like the art department blacked out the area directly behind him so he wouldn’t just blend in with the grass, but it ends up looking more like we’re seeing a cutaway of him entombed in a fairly spacious grave. If you were to interpret it that way, you might interpret his expression as “not giving a shit.” You could even imagine this cover as one of those early anti-smoking ads, except he doesn’t look miserable enough, even for a man buried alive. Seeing how the album is titled “Reflections,” I’d have to say he’s… reflecting.

There are some serious liner notes on the back (three columns) by Jack Maher—I’d like to read it all, but maybe tomorrow after coffee. Okay, it’s now the next day. Have any of you reached the point in your life where coffee really does nothing as far as keeping you awake? I mean, it works in that it makes me feel normal, but say, to keep awake while reading three columns of text on the back of an album… no. Isn’t it great that someone would think it was cool to put three columns of text on the back of this album? I’d love to read it all, discuss it intelligently, but I don’t really feel like doing any kind of research right now. I know Lalo Schifrin from film scores, but I don’t know much else. I don’t know the Bossa Nova from a Chevy Nova, and I think the Samba is a pocket of dough, deep-fried and filled with something delicious. I read somewhere that everyone was all pissed off at Getz for “selling out” with this record—and I kind of love that idea, in its quaint sincerity—kind of like the folk people getting mad a Dylan for “going electric.” It’s a good reminder for anyone, in any time period, to step back and realize that even if you could look into the future, you have no idea just how bad things can and will get.

21
Aug
17

Lionel Hampton “Apollo Hall Concert 1954”

If you believe the title of this record, and why not, it’s a live recording of Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra from 1954 at Apollo Hall. There are some audience noises, but not so much that it’s annoying. I find live rock records almost unlistenable (except maybe in a ironic, comic way) due to the crowd noise, dumb shit said between songs, and the sped-up, adrenaline (or coke) fueled versions of songs. Maybe I’m kinder to live  jazz because I know less about it; I can’t confidently tell a good performance from a bad one, but I guess I definitely like some much more than others—performances, musicians, and songs. My dad had a lot of Lionel Hampton records (not this one, but it inspires nostalgia, nonetheless) and my parents played them, so did I, so I kind of grew up listening to him. For whatever reason, vibraphone is my favorite instrument, or second to piano. In some extensive liner notes on the back of this album cover, the anonymous author goes on and on about how popular Lionel Hampton was at this time. As familiar as I am with his music, I know little about him, so maybe I’ll read more—but some other time. The liner notes just about put me under, just now. I’m still reading, actually. It’s a good record, though the last number kind of bums me out—too loud, fast, energetic, crowd-pleasing—though I’m sure if I was seeing it live in 1954, I’d be into it. The liner notes didn’t do much for me either, though I did like this line, when talking about the importance of rhythm: “Rhythm, which exercises a similar intoxicating effect to a glass of good, heady wine, but which leaves no unpleasant hangover.”




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