12 August 2010

Fats Domino - Fats Domino Swings

Fats Domino legacy begs for a deluxe treatment. A kind of "Complete Sessions" box with not only his best known takes, but lesser-known gems. Every one of his cuts is special, Fats just has this special something. One of my favorite collections of his early hits is called Fats Domino Swings (12.000.000 Records). Catchy title.

It's got most of his best known works: "Blue Monday", "I'm Walking", "I'm In Love Again", "The Fat Man" and of course "Blueberry Hill" - my favorite. "Though we're apart, you're part of me still", sung in his beautiful, calm and soothingly cheerful voice is priceless. This track is a special classic, even Led Zeppelin covered it live. Not that their version matters anything. Omitted is "I'm Ready", but I've got more of his disks and many of the songs are duplicated on some, but I never could tire of them. And one can buy them very cheap (which is a great, but a great shame too).

Fats plays piano, behind him shines the best New Orleans horn section you could dream of, I don't know if even Otis Redding's ensemble could rival those guys. Upbeat, uptempo tracks with one or two ballads, yeah, that's what me likes. Almost as much as digging into his quite unknown work and finding awesome tracks I've never heard before. He really recorded plenty of them.

Check out a small part of lyrics to "Bo Weevil": "on Saturday night / where I was born / down on the farm / guitar plinking / and we started drinking / till the break of dawn" - this is genuine good time music.

11 August 2010

Ry Cooder - I, Flathead

Ry Cooder is a man to admire. Master guitarist, musicologist and archivist, open-minded producer, guy behind Buena Vista Social Club. He taught Keith Richards about open tunings which resulted in the Stones' best work. He recorded a great soundtrack to Paris, Texas which he built on one riff by Blind Willie Johnson. And I, Flathead is his most recent release which closes a trilogy released on Nonesuch Records (Chavez Ravine and My Name Is Buddy).

I, Flathead is a concept album and there's a book included which I haven't read and I doubt I'll ever will. I like particular songs, particular sounds, I know this album is great, but it's beyond my tastes. Just with titles like "Johnny Cash", "Can I Smoke In Here?" and "Steel Guitar Heaven" it should be one of the releases of the year. Well no, it's not for me. I just can't really get into world music. It ruins things for me. If Cooder decided to record a stricte blues album, I'm sure I'd fall for him.

But his inspirations are much wider and more interesting for most, making me a kind of musical outcast. Listening to the Stooges, Gram Parsons and Miles Davis in a row is still a step before Cooder's music! His explorations of American music are clearly not for me, at least for now. Or maybe I'll take a listen to his "Boomer's Story"... While I love Tom Waits, this albums owns too much to him with all those crazy and weird sounds.

But even on I, Flathead there are moments. Not to mention great songs on his previous, quite similar albums, Chavez Ravine and My Name Is Buddy. Check out "Poor Man's Shangri-La" and some others, you'll know. I, Flathead is an album I wouldn't really mind listening with some friends at a party, but only in case we were all baked beyond recognition. ;^)

10 August 2010

The Stooges - 1970: the Complete Fun House Sessions

Punk as we love it. It's 1970, the Stones are at their peak, the Beatles are gone. The Stooges are simple, nihilistic, absurd, shocking, good, and they even know what they want. As the AllMusic review states, this is the true way to separate the Stooges fans from truly obsessed. I quite like Fun House, 8-CD set with complete sessions (!) is even better. Just because I love so those "session recordings" and I love hearing how the band develops. But it's all in theory... Now as we get back to the album, it sucks a little. Still love.

So, there are 30 takes of "Loose", which is one of my favorite Stooges songs. The thing is, all of those takes are almost the same, no kidding. I can say if it's an early or late take, but hell, they are the same. And there are only 2 songs that didn't make the album (one of them is blues so I'm all hot for it anyway, it's called "Slidin' the Blues"). I can even forgive them for bad jokes, I can't forget them the variety which is, I'm estimating, at zero level.

Every good band should have a set like this, showing it bare, with no special effects or production tricks, just messing around, being true. It's really fascinating. And punk is fun. Really. What else you've got to hear? "Louie Louie" by the Stooges.

09 August 2010

Gram Parsons - Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels (the Gram Parsons Anthology)

While I just can't enjoy most of the country records, I find it great to put on Jerry Lee or Johnny Cash from time to time. If I was allowed to listen to only one country album though, I'm sure it'd be a Gram Parsons compilation, Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels. What a fucking great album - and I'm not very much into compilations myself, but this LP is wonderful, diverse and absolutely enough to fall in love with Gram. A classic.

We've got two CDs of the International Submarine Band, a little Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons & the Fallen Angels and the man himself solo. We've got "She", "Hickory Wind", "Love Hurts" and "Sleepless Nights". Country and country rock can't, just can't get better. There are some really rare pearls I've never heard, well, never even heard of, that are just awesome. Gram was a very special guy and a very special story, and it's all there.

Recommended to everyone, not only fans of country. If you heard the Stones do "Dead Flowers" you can have a slight vision of what's to come on Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels.

Marc Ford - Fuzz Machine

Finally I got my hands on new Marc Ford album called Fuzz Machine. Well, I kinda like it. Ford is a talented white blues guitarist, weak singer and composer, but somehow he manages to put out really good solo albums (he got kicked out from the Black Crowes for drug use), like his 2008 Marc Ford & the Neptune Blues Club (with some Chuck Berry-esque rockers, "white blues" stuff and a very nice ballad, "Keep Holdin' On", not to mention "Main Drain" and "Shame On Me").

I'm a great fan of natural guitar sound, clear and undistorted, so I didn't like the title, but there's not much of that on the album. Ford nicely combines the styles of Clapton and Hendrix into his own, maybe reminding me a little of Ronnie Wood, but with many more boring instrumental passages.

I'm after one listen only, and have to say - it's usual good stuff Ford plays and a good contemporary blues album. With really, really decent production. I hoped for a hint of "Beck's Bolero" in "Bolero In Red" but that was totally different track. "You're the One" seems to be my favorite from Fuzz Machine for now but it's likely to change, it's a very consistent album. Maybe just one or two ballads too many...

07 August 2010

Steve Kuhn - Mostly Coltrane

Steve Kuhn's career started in the 50s and since mid-60s he has been recording and releasing a great deal of post-bop piano. He recorded with many big shots in the jazz world, most famous of them is John Coltrane. Unfortunately for Kuhn he played with Trane for a very brief time in 1960 and got replaced in the quartet by McCoy Tyner without recording anything.

Almost 50 years later Kuhn finally decided to record a tribute album to the great saxophonist containing tunes written or associated with Coltrane. It's called Mostly Coltrane. I picked it up just for one song, "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" (originally recorded by Trane on Coltrane's Sound in 1960), but other 12 tunes are worth checking out, too.

Kuhn plays with the listener perfectly. While Coltrane's "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" started with that unforgettable riff right away, Brooklyn-born pianist isn't rushing anywhere. He plays many notes teasing the listener with the melody, but never playing it in its original, crystal clear form. Kuhn's not covering Trane's work, he's reinventing it at times. His band includes bassist David Finck, drummer Joey Baron and guesting Joe Lovano on sax, who is an especially good addition to the usual Kuhn's trio.

Kuhn's usually a little too classical-oriented for my taste, but Mostly Coltrane will go down in 21st century jazz history as one of the finest tributes to John Coltrane.

06 August 2010

The Black Crowes - Shake Your Money Maker

90s were all about grunge when it came to good guitar-driven music, or at least early 90s. There was only one band then that released successful rock and roll records and got away with it: the Black Crowes. They debuted in 1990 with probably my favorite album of the decade - Shake Your Money Maker.

Heavily influenced by the Rolling Stones, the Faces and old blues singers, they weren't orginal at all - but the Black Crowes were, and still are, awesome musicians. "Sister Luck" is an obvious rip-off of the Stones' "Sway" for example, but who cares? I'd much rather hear it than a rip-off of anything else. Raw and hard "Struttin' Blues" and "Stare It Cold" are two another examples of the classic groove, but it's such a joy to listen to them, they sound like they're unstoppable, just go on and on, faster and faster. There are two fine ballads and absolutely insane Otis Redding cover, "Hard to Handle". The opening rocker with its remarkable slide guitar part reminds me of Neil Young's "Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown", top this. Such a shame there's no "Shake Your Money Maker" on the album...

It's not only the best album in the Crowes 20 year history, it's a goddamn masterpiece. It really, really sounds like it was recorded in the 1960s, not 30 years later. Shake Your Money Maker was produced by Rick Rubin and the Rolling Stones' long time collaborator Chuck Leavell participated on piano. Highly recommended.

05 August 2010

Sonny Rollins - On Impulse!

Sonny Rollins is mostly known for his absolutely awesome solo career during the late 50s and for taking a long hiatus afterwards. His later works are almost obscure, but outstanding nevertheless. I took a look at three of his Impulse! disks (released in 1965 and 1966) and the first one, Sonny Rollins On Impulse!, seems to be the most interesting of them all.

His tone changed since Saxophone Collosus from ten years earlier but it's still good old Sonny Rollins reinterpreting old standards. Disk starts with two standards, "On Green Dolphin Street" and lenghty "Everything Happens to Me". The first one was made famous by Miles Davis, second was played by almost everyone, from Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk to Bilie Holliday. Rollins is very lyrical, especially "On Green Dolphin Street" gained my attention as a very different version to the one played by Miles (not to mention Albert Ayler ;)). It's not melancholic anymore and swings beautifully.

Then there's calypso and I just love Rollins playing Caribbean rhythms, no matter if it's "St. Thomas" or anything else. This time it's "Hold 'Em Joe" - so joyful one can't resist dancing and jumping around. Rollins' backing band may not be well-known but sure knows how to swing, they are doing their job fine. Ray Bryant plays piano, Walter Booker is on bass and Mickey Roker on drums. And I can honestly say I'm glad Sonny decided to play with piano this time, Bryant is very prominent on this disk and deserves that place very much.

Both last tunes, "Blue Room" and "Three Little Rooms" are different and even more challenging, especially the first one noted. Judge for yourself, this is forgotten Sonny Rollins at his best.

04 August 2010

Television - Live at the Old Waldorf, San Francisco

So, I haven't written anything about Television yet? Weird, I thought I had written how magical Marquee Moon was before. So, anyway... Television was a wonderful, short-lived band in the end of 70s that played rock. Art rock, punk rock, you name it - they were masterful musicians and had two guitars (played by Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd) exchanging leads (so-called weaving). And, they were good at playing long improvisations. Doesn't certainly sound like punk, right? Oh, there's more - they loved the Stones, the Beatles and others. They were rather neglecting early 70s music like Yes and ELP, though.

And they were playing almost everything but the blues. Their idea was simple - not to play the blues. Oh well. Damn it, I forgive them. They were epic anyway. Marquee Moon from 1977 is probably the greatest LP from that decade, such a shame 1978 follow-up was much weaker. Well, nevermind. Television broke up after two releases. But we're happy to have some live releases. Both from 1978, the first one is called The Blow-Up and was released in 1982 in shameful quality, second, from 2003, is much better. It's simply called Live at the Old Waldorf, San Francisco (waldorf salad instantly comes to my mind).

What we get: two 14-minute-long wild improvisations, two of undersigned's favorite tunes, one the Rolling Stones cover (Satisfaction, of course) and four other rockers. It is unbelievable. Makes me want to jump on stage and play with the band. What a divine album. Best live 70s rock ever released.

02 August 2010

Dave Holland - Pathways

After Vijay Iyer's Historicity I wanted to hear some more modern-day jazz, so I downloaded released this year but recorded live in 2009 album by Dave Holland Octet called Pathways.

First thought: it doesn't site like an octet, everybody waits patiently for their time and has plenty of space. Holland's band consists of Antonio Hart (alto sax and flute), Chris Potter (tenor and soprano sax), Gary Smulyan (baritone sax), Alex Sasha Sipiagin (trumpet and flugelhorn), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Steve Nelson (vibraphone and marimba) and Nate Smith (drums). This is the first time this group played together but you don't feel this - they are really swinging. My favorite cut is the longest one, "How's Never?".

Loud applause after almost every solo adds to the album very much. It was recorded at New York's Birdland and I'd love to be there, but since I'm a million miles away, I am pretty satisfied with this live document. Dave Holland said he was always a fan of Duke Ellington and dreamed about playing with such a powerful front line (3 saxes, 2 brasses). So, he made one of the best jazz releases of the year. And I don't miss piano...

Vijay Iyer - Historicity

I love piano blues and piano jazz. Hell, I just love pianos. There are many mighty solo piano LPs and this is by far my favorite setting of this instrument (start with Monk's Alone In San Francisco). But jazz trios (piano, bass and drums) can be very fine either. I guess this is the case with the rising star of 00s jazz, Vijay Iyer.

Born in 1971 in New York City, he has a very nice name and Indian roots ;) And he plays mean piano; his trio also consists of Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. They have released a couple of disks already, many critics say their last one, Historicity (Act, 2009), is their best. Now as I listen...

It's good. Sometimes Iyer is trying too hard and intense for my liking but in overall, it's good. One can't go wrong with jazz piano trios ;) And there's "Smoke Stack" by Andrew Hill. +10 to awesomeness. (Not to mention Stevie Wonder's tune...) All in all, it's recommended stuff.

I have no idea what's going on on today's jazz scene so hearing Vijay Iyer makes me happy there's still some good music around. I missed his show in Warsaw on the other hand - my huge mistake! I'll look for his Tragicomic LP (Sunnyside, 2008) and the good news: I'm looking forward to hearing his upcoming solo album named just Solo.

PS. Vijay Iyer won Downbeat Magazine's 2009 poll for Rising Star Pianist. So, he's like really, really worth hearing.

01 August 2010

J.R. Monterose

J.R. Monterose is remembered mostly for playing tenor sax on Mingus' Pithecantropus Erectus. His solo career was never really successful commercially, but his works were very highly rated by critics. Monterose debuted for Blue Note Records, AllMusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine said it was "in the vein of Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins" and gave it 4.5 stars. In the session participated Ira Sullivan, Horace Silver, Wilbur Ware (yay) and Philly Joe Jones. It's a really swinging date, check out "Ka-Link", it's even on YouTube. This self-titled debut album makes a great pair with Introducing Johnny Griffin LP from the same year, try to mix them!

Later J.R. Monterose recorded obscure disks with Tommy Flanagan, Pete La Roca and Jimmy Garriosn (Straight Ahead, 1959) and others which for now I'm trying to get to. Great stuff!