Monday, May 26, 2008
enjoy listening to some opera/folk/indian bullshit
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I can't really pretend I know Portuguese. Though I can pretend that I really enjoy a huge portion of the Brazilian music I encounter. Granted this is almost all regulated to the Tropicalia sound in the 60s and 70s, my catalogs of Veloso and Buarque also show me some brilliant more traditional vocal pop.
Qualquer Coisa was released simultaneously with Joia, which is probably my favorite Veloso album (yes, even more than the self-titles). It's release comes a little before Veloso was to move to the mainstream pop star he became in Brazil in the 80s, and thus the sound is still rooted in a little bit of that tropicalia sound, but veers more towards really nice lite vocal stuff. He covers 3 Beatles classics towards the end of the album, and though most people pan this choice, preferring his Portuguese languaged songs more, I cannot say that these are bad cover versions. A very nice, relaxing, beautiful album from a master.
Friday, May 9, 2008
My obsession with this album in February and March is more or less the reason that I chose to start this blog up as more than just a place to dump my Top 50 lists. It's the source of hip hop samples, including the the awesome "Party Life" on Jay-Z's last album, and is just a totally unique sound.
Little Beaver is a soul dude from Florida who is sort of like a 1970s Cody Chesnutt or something (I guess Martin Luther from The Roots is a better reference point). Where this is clearly soul music and the way that Little Beaver sings is awesome, it is his work on the guitar that really sets this album apart. Totally unique.
It's only 7 tracks, and they all basically blend into each other and sound the same, but they are so fucking smooth and awesome that you don't care, it's the best 30 minutes of your life.
It's similar to Shuggie Otis' Inspiration Information which is one of the best albums of the 70s, so this is in good territory.
Little bit of funk, little bit of sultry shit. Altogether a masterpiece and totally overlooked. Great shit and perfect for the summer months that are rapidly approaching.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
An unjustly overlooked Prince "album" released in 2002, One Nite Alone was released by him in 2002, by special order and features The Purple One by himself, swooning listeners with just his voice and a piano.
It's pretty weird to hear Prince in this way, but fuck it is sexy.
An NPG Music Club exclusive release, One Nite Alone… features Prince mostly alone at the piano performing 10 songs. One Nite Alone… was the first album delivered to NPG Music Club members after the club changed its format from monthly downloads to actual album releases. The release date, May 14th, refers to when shpping to fans began (the first reports from fans having received the album occurred on May 15th). Five of the tracks had previously been released to members of the music club. “Pearls B4 The Swine” was included in the “Ahdio Show” released on September 18th 2001. “A Case Of U,” “One Nite Alone…,” “U’re Gonna C Me,” and “Here On Earth” were released in the last instalment, January 17th 2002. Thus, NPGMC members had already heard half of the album before receiving the CD.
Subtitled “Solo piano and voice by Prince,” One Nite Alone… was produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince. John Blackwell is credited as drummer on two tracks, “Here On Earth” and “A Case Of U.” While piano is the primary accompaniment, many tracks also include synth embellishments. “Here On Earth” and “A Case Of U” feature bass in addition to Blackwell’s drums. “Pearls B4 The Swine” has an even fuller arrangement, consisting of piano, synth, percussion, and semi-acoustic guitar and bass.
The album was recorded some time in the spring of 2001, apparently during the mastering of The Rainbow Children. It is clear that many of the songs were recorded in sequence, much like Prince has been known to do many times in the past. However, it is quite likely that Prince also added a couple of tracks from other sessions. “Pearls B4 The Swine” has a different sound and arrangement, indicating that it might have been tracked on another occasion. Possibly, “Here On Earth” and “A Case Of U,” both featuring Blackwell, were also part of a separate session. The remaining seven songs were recorded with Prince at the piano, with synth overdubs added afterwards. Despite some differences in the instrumentation, most of the songs seem to merge into each other, like movements in a classical suite.
Not unlike the primarily acoustic guitar-based The Truth, One Nite Alone… is a subdued and intimate-sounding album. In many ways, piano is Prince’s most personal “voice,” as indicated by piano-based songs of the past, including “The Beautiful Ones,” “Old Friends 4 Sale,” “Condition Of The Heart,” and “Anna Stesia” to name but a few. Many fans commented on the NPG Music Club website that the album was “extremely intimate and personal” and that Prince “speaks from the soul” and is “sharing intimate details of his life.” Certainly, one can hear every note and nuance, including when Prince lightly pounds his boots to keep the beat or is drawing a breath. Thus, the intimate atmosphere creates a feeling of actually experiencing one night along with Prince. Still, One Nite Alone… does not express more heartfelt emotion than an average Prince album. Indeed, most of the songs cover highly familiar Prince themes, dealing mostly with relationships.
The title track concerns a love affair, described as a “little secret.” Prince asks his lover, “Tell me now, what’s your name?”, indicating an anonymous one-night stand. Recalling “The Ride,” Prince wants to know, “Do you like it fast, or do you like it slow?” “U’re Gonna C Me” finds Prince longing desperately for an ex-lover. He admits, “There’s never a minute that I find that you don’t ever cross my mind.” He would stare into the sun if she were his, because “it’s not so great a leap since to all others [he is] blind,” a line which brings to mind “Adore” on Sign O’ The Times (“If God one day struck me blind, your beauty I’d still see”). “Young And Beautiful” offers moral advise to a young, carefree girl, the type that populated so many of the songs in the first half of Prince’s career. Acting as a guardian of morality, Prince tells her that she doesn’t “have to do what the other ones do,” and he warns her that “they only want your virginity.” Thus, the message is at the other end of the scale of a song like “One Nite Alone…,” revealing the dual nature of Prince’s personality.
Two songs express romantic bliss. “Here On Earth” depicts a “young woman running for her very life,” trying to escape from her partner. However, it turns out to be a dream and Prince leans over and kisses his woman, realising that “here on earth, with you, it’s not so bad.” Oddly enough, the chorus is written from a first person narrative, but the rest of the song is written from the point of view of Prince as an observer. In “Objects In The Mirror,” Prince reveals that his favourite time with his woman is the time they share in the bathroom, brushing their teeth and posing in the mirror, after making a movie, “The kind that requires the title ‘Parental Advisory.’” He sings of how much they can share since they are “the same height, weight, and body fluid.” The title of the song alludes to the closeness Prince feels with his partner, as “the objects” are closer than what they appear to be in the mirror.
“Pearls B4 The Swine” concerns an affair that is over. Prince asks why they had go their separate ways, hoping for a reconciliation. In the end, he realises that his hopes and words are futile, being “pearls before the swine.” Similarly, “Have A Heart” portrays a failed relationship, with Prince hearing from a mutual friend that he broke his ex-partner’s heart. Prince doesn’t take the blame, instead asking rhetorically, “Don’t you have to have a heart first before you get it broken?” He argues that “everybody has had a heartbreak” and implies that she was the reason for the break-up, mentioning the “things you put me through” without specifying what happened or why they broke up. Prince delivers the words in a soft, tender voice (not his falsetto), revealing little of the bitterness evident in the lyrics. One of the songs digresses thematically.
“Avalanche” is an angry protest against the poor treatment of Afro-American people in the US. The first verse accuses USA’s first President Abraham Lincoln of being a racist because “he was not or never had been in favour of setting our people free.” The second verse names John Hammond, one of the most venerated figures in the history of American popular music. He recorded Benny Goodman, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. Later, he signed Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen to CBS. Prince’s disdain for music industry moguls and managers is well known and he depicts Hammond as someone lurking in the shadows where Afro-American musicians play, “With his pen in hand, sayin’, “Sign your kingdom over to me and be known throughout the land!’” The title of the song comes from Prince’s analogy of individual snowflakes, which cannot be blamed for an avalanche, and people who do not want to take responsibility for their actions. The song is far more serious than the other songs. Prince has been hesitant to include songs that take a stand on racial issues, possibly fearing that it will alienate some of his WASP audience.
The album includes a version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case Of U” (originally titled “A Case Of You”), a song which Prince has performed many times over the years, beginning with the 1983 First Avenue concert where he premiered much of the Purple Rain material. This is his first known recording of the song. The song was originally released in 1971 on Mitchell’s highly acclaimed Blue album, which is also one of her best-selling albums (it sold over a million copies at a time when such feats were exceptional). Prince dedicates his rendition to the memory of his father, John L. Nelson. The topic of the song has been much debated. Brian Hinton speculates in his Mitchell biography Both Sides Now that the song could be about ex-lovers Graham Nash or Leonard Cohen. However, he also believes it could be a message to Mitchell’s abandoned daughter, who is being bid goodbye to. The lyrics imply that love is never lost, but can be recreated in memory, as if new born. Prince sings the first verse of the song, which portrays her as a “lonely painter,” something which Prince clearly could identify with. The allusion to his father is also obvious with the lyric, “Part of you pours out of me from time to time in these lines, you’re in my blood like holy wine.”
The piano medleys of Prince’s concerts, from the Lovesexy tour and onwards, have always been amongst the fans’ favourite part of the show, so an entire album of piano-based material seemed like an excellent idea. However, the One Nite Alone… material cannot be compared to such extraordinary songs as “Starfish And Coffee,” “Strange Relationship,” “Venus De Milo,” and “Raspberry Beret,” to name a few piano medley regulars. The songs on One Nite Alone… lack the distinctive, memorable melodies and assertive choruses of Prince’s pop/rock material, being more gentle and subdued, leaning more towards complex jazzy melodies and harmonies. The material is calm and relaxing. Prince sings most songs using his sensitive falsetto vocal, adding to the tranquil atmosphere.
Much of the songwriting of One Nite Alone… is sketchy and unfocused, with several of the songs sounding tentative, giving the impression that Prince didn’t spend much time on the songwriting. The obvious highlight of the album is “Avalanche,” a melancholy-tinged bluesy number which is deeply felt and touchingly sung by Prince. His falsetto voice cracks with emotion at times. In a clever musical illustration of the title of the song, the chorus comes rolling in over the end of the first verse, very much like an avalanche. Starting off with some Chinese-flavoured piano, “Young And Beautiful” is the album’s most lively, pop-oriented number, with a chorus that has a slight hint of “Little Red Corvette.” The tempo is faster than the other songs on the album and Prince’s piano playing is more chord-based and rhythmic. “Have A Heart” has a more defined melody than most of the other tracks, to the extent that Prince recycled the melody line in “Objects In The Mirror.”
One of the most fully developed songs on the album, “Pearls B4 The Swine” seems slightly out of place as it doesn’t feature piano as the main instrument, instead boasting a much fuller sound of piano, synth touches, light percussion, and semi-acoustic bass and guitar. In fact, the song has more in common with the primarily acoustic guitar-based The Truth. The song is a gentle number with jazz-tinged harmonies, although it is not particularly engaging. “Here On Earth” also has a fuller arrangement, featuring a bass line, light brush drumming by Blackwell, and a high-pitched synth line á la some of Prince’s “silky smooth” songs and remixes (including “18 And Over,” the “Mustang Mix” of “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” and the “Remix by Shock G.” of “Love Sign”).
The closing “Arboretum” is an instrumental. It starts off with an arpeggio piano part, sounding like a clichéd classical piece, but Prince changes gear after a few seconds, delivering a soothing, laidback piece that is more decorative ear-candy than engaging listening. The album ends with the sound of Prince getting up from the piano and walking to a door, which he closes behind him after having spent “one night alone” with his listeners.
Ultimately, One Nite Alone… wasn’t intended for mass consumption or to compete with Prince’s more mainstream-oriented pop, rock, funk and R&B music. Still, the album is a pleasant experience, showcasing another facet of Prince’s musical vocabulary.
One Nite Alone
Monday, May 5, 2008
Well, I've spoiled you with this one. Night Through is an amazing collection the guitar demi-god spread over 3 discs. There is a ton of different stuff spread over these 70+ tracks, from his americana-style pickings to the weird-experimental avant-garde sound to the sublime ambient stuff he is most known for now. I would never call this collection essential, because it is a lot of music, and I can rarely digest even half of it. But I will tell you that all of it is excellent. A truly unheralded legend, introduce yourself to Loren Connors.
Not too many instrumentalists could put together a three-disc set of music released on 7” singles, but Loren Connors (aka Loren Mattei, Loren MazzaCane, Loren MazzaCane Connors – and we’re just talking the names that appeared on these singles) is not your average instrumentalist. Inspired by Mark Rothko, J.S. Bach, and most of all the blues, Connors has been pursuing his art constantly since the Carter administration; he would press his own LPs in batches of 50 and glue pictures on their sleeves before labels wised up and clamored to release his records in the late 1990s. That flow of records has slowed in recent years, with only one 7” released since 2000, but the previously unreleased material on the third disc of Night Through shows that Connors is still searching and changing.
Loren’s music works well in short doses; some of his singles only had music on one side, but I never felt short-changed when I bought one. The temporal confines seemed to focus his attention, bring him right to the point. But even on a little vinyl platter, he indulged a penchant for musical narrative; “Deirdre of the Sorrows” moves through four discreet movements in five minutes. Such works necessarily lose a bit of their stand-alone impact when you hear them as part of an hour-plus program, or when you go straight to them with a button rather than dig 'em out of the box, take 'em out of the sleeve, and put 'em on the turntable. But they gain something else. Thanks to mastering engineer Jim O’Rourke, many of these tracks sound much more present than they did crammed onto often crackly vinyl.
Night Through’s mostly chronological presentation charts Connors’ artistic maturation and subsequent efflorescence. He moans over careening acoustic slide licks on the set’s earliest recording, a previously unissued cover of “Come On In My Kitchen” from 1976. There was too much obvious effort in his music back then; when he pressed up the earliest release of this set, “Ribbon of Blues,” 10 years later Connors had already reined in and amplified his playing, and his voice was well in the background, soon to disappear completely. By the time of his next EP, “Mother & Son” (1992), Loren had distilled his music into a force of evocation rather than display; the notes are sparse and short and always bent, implying the tenderness and ache of bonds between parent and child rather than shoving your face in it. Around this time Connors learned that he had Parkinson’s disease, which forced him to further pare back his playing, and also accounted for the sheer volume of music that poured our of him for the rest of the decade – he didn’t know how much time he had to make it. It also forced him to pick his notes carefully, since he could no longer play so many of them. He has explored various themes; his Irish Catholic heritage, the streets of New York City, universal and specific experiences of loss, even his bad relationship with canines. He has also explored different techniques; his clean-toned early-'90s playing is worlds away from the echo-laden wah-wah cries on the previously unreleased “For Miles Davis,” which was recorded in 2004, but they’re still unmistakably the work of one man.
Disc one includes one suite from 1996, “Battle of Clontarf,” that never made it to disc and counts as one of the great finds of this collection. His wife Suzanne Langille delivers a blood-thickening, hate-filled text on one track; her dry, tremulous delivery closely matched her husband’s playing, and her words perfectly captured the rage of the disenfranchised Irish. On the next, Connors rings out a fuzz-toned melody that sounds like a hymn sung from a wind-blasted, battle-torn hill. And on yet another, you can hear the distant sounds of dishes being done – Connors recorded nearly everything here at home, and his prolific output is partly the consequence of a readiness to do the work regardless. Just like a painter paints or a writer writes every day even though they are denied immediate contact with their audience, this player plays no matter what.
The second disc is book-ended by temporally out-of-sequence pieces that offer glimpses of Connors’ roots. The opening duet with the more traditional singer Robert Crotty just shows how distant Loren was from the blues mainstream, even in 1981; his liberal use of dissonance and over-the-top vocalizing seems to tug Crotty from the back porch into some dark forest. It ends with “Peace,” a lamentation sung in 1959 by his mother in church while young Loren kicked at the pews. Her voice carries over the organ in a way that Loren’s own leads soar over his grinding accompaniment (like Bach, Connors likes counterpoint, and generally overdubs several guitar tracks to get it). In between are some of his best recordings: the dark, pummeling “Exile”; the dramatic, keening “The End, The Afternoon, The Light”; the sober restraint of “For NY 9/11/01,” which was originally released as a CD-R. His most recent single, the 2003 release “Moon Gone Down,” points to new directions; Connors uses field recordings of wolves and a menacing, reticent bass guitar instead of the old rhythm chords, which results in some of his sparsest and eeriest music.
The third disc is essentially a bonus album; aside from a few compilation tracks, it’s all previously unreleased stuff, some of it pretty recent. There’s a titanic live cut by Haunted House, his late-90s rock band with Langille and members of San Agustin, and “I Love You Porgy,” a rare and uncommonly sweet dip into the standard repertoire. There are some recent explorations of the ghostly sound world that Miles Davis unearthed when he recorded “He Loved Him Madly,” even a tribute to the Dark Prince himself. Handsomely packaged and well annotated, Night Through gives another enduring and constantly evolving artist his due.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Composed in 1951, recorded in 1959 and released in 1962 for the Seattle-based World's Fair, Man In Space With Sounds is about as kitschy a record as one can find. A true product of it's time, Mineo here composes early electronic gems that bring to mind the romantic "Lost In Space" and "Space Mountain" era space music. It's a lot of fun, but unless you are putting on some sort of space themed event or party, the music doesn't have a ton of replay value. (Or maybe you're into old sci-fi comics or something). This is the Subliminal Sounds re-release so the first 12 tracks are the songs with spoken word introductions and the second 12 are the same songs without the vocals.
"Attilio Mineo is one of those obscure artists who created music so far ahead of its time that we are still trying to catch up to it today. What we have today, in 1999, is music that is reminiscent of science fiction soundtracks from "Forbidden Planet" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" to "Terminator 2" and "The Fifth Element." But the music also resembles some of the earliest tape-loop experiments by people like Stockhausen, where traditional musical elements were combined with samples and sound effects. Mineo manages to blends orchestral scores with sound effects so that there is almost no distinction between them. The strings and horns are as "alien" as the alarm sounds and the theromyne wails. What really makes this music contemporary with 1999, however, is the thing that probably killed its commercial appeal in the 1960s--the narrator. At the start of each track, a narrator offers a brief comment, designed to guide the visitor through the fair. From a modern perspective, however, the narrator merely adds another weird element to music that is already weirder than most anything I've ever heard. Again, this is a gem: a found piece of electronic art that deserves recognition."
Man In Space With Sounds