Archive for the 'Pretentious Jazz Rock Fusion' Category

30
Jul
17

Michael Franks “The Art of Tea”

I had never heard of Michael Franks, saw this record in a thrift store and bought it against my better judgment. The picture on the cover, of him, doesn’t tell you much, unless it tells you this record is 1975. There are some familiar names playing on this record: Wilton Felder, Joe Sample, Larry Carlton, and more, and I’m listening to it as I look for him on the Internet. He’s a jazz singer/songwriter; all the songs here are his, and there are lyrics on the back, and there’s some good ones. On second listening the record is already growing on me. I like his voice a lot—it’s equal parts a little odd and way smooth. He’s been putting out albums pretty regularly since 1973, and he’s got a website, looking pretty good, now in his seventies, and still playing. Don’t know why I’ve never heard of him. One song here, “Popsicle Toes,” I’ve heard before—I believe done by Diana Krall. How about these lyrics from that song: “You must have been Miss Pennsylvania/With all this pulchritude/How come you always load your Pentax/When I’m in the nude?” Or how about this one, called “Eggplant”: “When my baby cooks her eggplant/She don’t read no book/And she’s got a Gioconda/Kind of dirty look/And my baby cooks her eggplant/About 19 different ways/But sometimes I just have it raw/With mayonnaise.” In the lyric department, he’s definitely got it going on, at least here in 1975. And did I say that the whole record is smooth?—something that might have put me off at one time, but now I’m into it.

14
Mar
09

George Benson “Weekend in LA”

Ever since the suffering, bored days of high school, I’ve always considered George Benson’s 1976 milestone, “Breezin'” as shorthand for “insipid.” So it was with great trepidation that I put on this double, LIVE, LP from two years later, the dreaded cultural abyss of 1978. But to my surprise, I’m rather enjoying this low key, smooth jazz experience—really, I’m not kidding. I’ve graced my turntable and neighbors with this LP more than a few times lately. Perhaps I have mellowed like a fine wine. I’m not exactly coming home from school, putting on the Sex Pistols, and pounding a quart of hard cider like I was doing in the days this was pressed. No, these days Ray Speen has used his crack pipe to prop up the wobbly leg of his game table where he’s slowly working on an enormous jigsaw puzzle of the Taj Mahal. That image in the reflecting pool—as still and perfect as it is—just drives you crazy! But that’s another subject.

At first I thought this was a single record, as the second disk is gone. Then I noticed that I was in possession of Record 1 Side I, backed with Record 1 Side IV. That’s Roman numeral “4” for all you intravenous drug abusers who can’t get their minds off the dope. Try a jigsaw puzzle, really. The best song is on side “IV”—the awesome Leon Russell’s “Lady Blue.” Other standouts are “Weekend in LA”, which could be synonymous with “mellow,” and “On Broadway” which could maybe be the theme song for everything in the 1970s I’d like to forget. But in a good way. You can barely tell this is a live record, the audience is so subdued; they sound like they’re all sitting in comfortable seats next to blonde ladies, sipping gin sours.

The cover is as equally classic, with “George Benson” “signed” in red neon, and George assuming the (strictly reserved for superstars) Jesus on the cross pose, that is if Jesus had been gripping a hollowbody, George Benson signature Ibanez in one hand, which, who knows, maybe he was. There are a couple more good pictures of GB, and really, he’s got one of the best moustaches of all time. This could very well be my moustache model for my new look. I’m already, as it is well known, fond of those open collars big enough to double as a jib, Genoa, or even a mainsail. Not something you’d want to wear on the high seas, but fine for tropical, LA nights.

26
Dec
08

Jeff Beck “with the Jan Hammer Group Live”

If that title makes you say, “Uh-oh,” you’re right. You’ve got to love the live album, though. By 1977 people still weren’t embarrassed by it, I guess. The rising crowd noise, obviously manipulated, the out of breath utterances of the rock star… There was never any need to make “Spinal Tap 2” because you have all the endless, endless shit that Spinal Tap was making fun of.

This is the Jan Hammer that did the excellent Miami Vice Theme, so I don’t think he’s so much to blame here. There are these sections of pretty listenable light funk, but it always devolves into some kind of pretentious, unpleasant statement of virtuosity. Every song seems like two songs, an okay one that teases you, followed by utter crap. During one song on the second side they momentarily go into the “Stoll On/Train Kept a Rollin’” thing, and it sounds just right and heavy, but it’s just like the sugar to attempt to make palatable the unbearable jazz/rock fusion to follow.

Most notable is the back cover of the album with a photo of Hammer and Beck, presumably playing live, slapped down with the most amateurish cut and paste technique I’ve seen in recent memory. I mean, these days, even quickly done grocery store newspaper inserts are pretty sophisticated, but this bit of nostalgia is back from when it was done by hand. But was it done by hand WHILE DRUNK, or what? It literally looks like the photo was cut out in about three minutes– a six year old would do a much more careful job. And weirder, great care was taken to cut out the microphone that is over the drums, but where is the drummer? Cut out completely! It is actually too weirdly bad to accept that it was just sloppy; I have to think it was purposely evoking cheap Kinko’s flyer style of the time, and in that, it’s pretty excellent!




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