Category Archives: Music

Desert, Revolution and Cold Wine.

Ghost on Ghost is an album released in spring 2013, by American singer-songwriter known by stage name “Iron & Wine”, “Iron & Wine” born Samuel Ervin Beam is known to create music and songs in what is usually called “Indie Folk” or “Folk Rock” in line with artist like Bon Iver or The Decemberists.

But what I particular like about this album, is that it expands a lot on the genre especially with strong Jazz elements. Adding jazz drummers Brian Blade and Kenny Wollesen, also Saxophone’s, Trumpet, Cornet, Alto Horn, Trombone and Upright Bass appears on the album, with a long list of guest musicians with Jazz as well as Classical music backgrounds.

Samuel Ervin Beam put it something like this, in an interview with SPIN back in 2013

Elements of ’60s and ’70s R&B and of Charles Mingus’s music. It was fun to combine the two in Lover’s Revolution, Desert Babbler sounds a lot like Marvin Gaye……, country elements and gospel elements, so the influences get mashed together.

This fine and crafted mix of music, centered around Iron & Wine’s straight forward but nice and relaxed songwriting, makes for a laid back music perfectly fitting a cold glass of White Wine or Rose  on a hot summer day, and that is what we got in my region right now.

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The Stone Temple

The original COLOUR HAZE was founded in summer 1994 in Munich (Germany) by Stefan Koglek (Guitar, Vocal) – Christian Wiesner (Bass) and Tim Höfer (Drums)

By springtime the following year the first album was released, ”Chopping Machine”. The album was a bit messy in sound and somehow also direction, far from the refined sound of later albums, but a fine start with interesting perspectives.

After this first album the band went through some years of turbulence with no album releases and a brand new lineup with only one member left. The new lineup was existing member Stefan Koglek (Guitar, Vocal), Philipp Rasthofer (bass) and Mani Merwald (drums).

The new lineup released first album Periscope in 1999

This was the lineup that was to become Colour Haze right up to the present day with now 10 albums under their belt. From Periscope onwards they also found their core sound, a heavy stoner rock that would make them amongst the most celebrated bands on the continental European Stoner/Psych Rock scene.

Their 2006 album Tempel a favorite of mine. A must have album if you like this kind of music.

On their late 2000’s albums “Tempel” “All” and “She Said” they started to introduce guests on the album, tweaking the sound a little bit but without changing the core impression. Most notable on the album “She Said” with a long list of guests:

Carolin Roth, Lipa Majstrovic, Mario Knapp (Backing vocals) – Robert Schoosleitner (Chimes, shaker) – Ben Esen (Congas)  Christian Hawellek (Electric piano, Grand piano) Ellernquartett (Strings) Roman Bichler (Mellotron, Coir) Georg Weisbrodt (Trombone)

Title track from “She Said”, some may think it is too long – I’d say “absolutely not” it’s perfect.  (start very very slowly nothing wrong with your speakers/headset)

 

Their last album to this day was “In Her Garden” from 2017, might get back to that another time.

Sukiyaki

The original version of ”Ue wo Muite Arukō” was included in the film and on the soundtrack album ”From Up On Poppy Hill” or “Kokuriko-zaka Kara” (2011) an Anime film by Gorō Miyazaki son of world famous Anime film maker Hayao Miyazaki.

 From Up On Poppy Hill” set in 1963 Yokohama

 

Rokusuke Ei wrote the original lyrics for ”Ue wo Muite Arukō” known as ”Sukiyaki”, there is two different versions to explain the lyrics, A: the political and B: the romantic.
A: Rokusuke was walking home from a protest over U.S. military presence in Japan, tears expressing his frustration with the situation.
B: Rokusuke had his heart broken by a Japanese actress by the name of Meiko Nakamura.

The original with translation:

The song was released 1961 in Japan by Kyu Sakamoto, Louis Benjamin of “Pye Records” heard the song in Japan and back in UK, an instrumental version was recorded by Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen making it to 10th at UK charts.

With the success of this recording, HMV released the original version on the British marked in 1963 more or less simultaneously DJ Richard Osborne’s from Pasco, Washington. Knew about the Kenny Ball version and got hold of the original Japanese which he put at frequent rotation in his radio show.

Capitol Records got the rights and released it on the US marked also as ”Sukiyaki” in 1963, notably ”Sukiyaki” is the name of a Japanese dish and the word is not mentioned in the song.

Danish Otto Brandenburg perform “Sukiyaki” with Swedish Lyrics (1963)

The song made it to no.1 on Billboard Hot 100, and with total sales figures at 13 million, it is by far the best selling single ever with lyrics not in English, to put it in perspective it has outsold any single by The Beatles.

American rhythm and blues group “A Taste of Honey”, known from their “Boogie Oogie Oogie” hitting in 1978, also had a hit with ”Sukiyaki” in 1981. Janice–Marie Johnson of “A Taste of Honey” made the English version of the lyrics, later used by many others artists.

The song has been used in many film and TV series, notably M*A*S*H uses it even though it was recorded long after the Korean War was over. It has also been recorded by lots of different artists in many languages.

Just under a month ago (13. April 2018) another version was released, as  producer, remixer, composer, and performer G.H. Hat released a ten-track remix album featuring dance remakes of “Sukiyaki”,on this video with vocals by Alina Renae and based on Janice–Marie Johnson’s lyrics.

 

From World’s End to Believe

Go to the first post in this series

Pendragon cover from “Belive” 2005 (by Simon Williams)

After 5 year break where Nick Barrett went through a divorce Pendragon was back with a new release in 2001 “Not Of This World” another fine album although a bit too much of the same. Could have expected a bit more development after 5 years but did not see that much on this one, that said it is not a bad album actually on of the better amongst the early ones.

 

More interesting in terms of creative development, the band released a recording from Polish radio in 2002 “Acoustically Challenged” mainly based on Vocal and Acoustic Guitars, some keyboard but no drums.

Whether you like these kind of acoustic sets or not, It is both daring and interesting when a band normally relying a lot on a highly produced prog sound, strips it down like this.

The above mentioned sound somewhat made it into the next album “Believe”, coming out less symphonic or pompous than their earlier albums, the sound was turning a little more in a Pink Floyd direction with more room for the guitars and less for the keyboards.

The Blake Album

“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is an illustrated book by the influential English poet William Blake created 1790 to 1793

“Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is an 1998 album by Ulver, sometimes reffered to as just “The Blake Album” where the illustration’s by Blake is replaced by music, the text/lyrics is exactly the same.

For those interested in the entire text and William Blake’s impressive etched plates, click here

In 1998 Norwegian music collective ULVER led by vocalist Kristoffer Rygg, was known mainly as a black metal band with some acoustic elements from classical and/or folk music, after the release of their three first albums. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell saw a huge change in their artistic direction.

There is a black metal vibe left from the previous album, but this is a magic mixture of elements from other styles like Industrial, Electronic and Ambient etc that you won’t really find anywhere else, that combined with those mysterius and spiritual lyrics provide for a  very avantgarde rock to say the least, a complex music that demands a lot and rewards equally too those patient souls able to dig deep enough.

While this album at first glance seems very dark and almost scary, there is something very beautiful in the interaction or contrast of those acoustic moments and vocals clashed with passages of brutal distorted sections of hard industrial rock and dark vocals – perfectly illustrating “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”.

To me personally it is that kind of album, that I don’t visit too often, but when i do I always spent the entire hour needed to hear it all at ones.

Im not an expert in Literature and this is just by own interpretation: In reflection of the above mentioned harmony of contradictions, it is my believe that William Blake’s idea was exactly to highlight that Heaven and Hell or rather The Natural Element and The Civilized Element, was not contradicting and “The Marriage” of those are  needed.

 

John Paul’s roots music

To a list of all earlier post about Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. (reverse chronological order)

 In 2006 John Paul was producing and performing on Uncle Earl’s album “Waterloo, Tennessee”

A band playing old time traditional folk and bluegrass sending thoughts back to the early days of wild west, formed in 2000 by KC Groves and Jo Serrapere

At the point where John Paul was producing “Waterloo, Tennessee” the band was composed of these four women:

Founding member KC Groves: Vocals, Mandolin, Guitar, Mandola  Kristin Andreassen: Vocals, Guitar, Fiddle, Ukulele Banjo              Rayna Gellert: Vocals, Fiddle                                                                                        Abigail Washburn: Vocals, Banjo

On the album John Paul Jones was credited with Piano, Bass, Mandola, Wobble Board and Vocals. The album was released in 2007.

On this hilarious video John Paul plays the piano.

His next project as an album producer and performer would be Sara Watkins self-titled debut recorded in 2007-2008 and released in 2009.

Singer-songwriter and fiddler Sara Watkins is also firmly rooted in bluegrass and folk music, as longtime member of Grammy winning “Nickel Creek”, on the album John Paul is credited with vocals , bass, organ, electric piano, mandolin and piano

“Where Will You Be”

John Paul: bass, Sara Watkins: vocals, Sean Watkins: acoustic guitar, Jon Brion: electric guitar

Toshiko – Bebop with a Japanese twist

Toshiko Akiyoshi was born in 1929 in what is today know as Dalian, (formerly known as Darien or Port Arthur) Manchuria, at the time ruled by the Japanese after the victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.
Born from upper class parents, her father was a textile and steel mill owner, she and her sisters was brought up studying traditional Japanese dance, classic piano and ballet. Toshiko was addicted to the piano and soon focused of that.

As you can easily imagine the family luck changes dramatically in 1946 after the war. They were relocated to Beppu on the island of Kyushu in southern japan, with little money and only the belongings they could carry. Resulting in the fact that Toshiko Akiyoshi now 7 years old no longer had a piano.

From “The Subject is Jazz” 1958

Japan was full of American soldiers after the war, and entertainment establishments opened offering dance music. Toshiko Akiyoshi got a job playing in a dance band getting access to a piano and could practise classic piano outside working hours. One day a Japanese record collector heard her play and introduced her to Jazz playing a recording of Afro-American jazz pianist Teddy Wilson.

From “Her Trio, Her Quartet” – “Thou Swell” 1956

This was a revolution to the young Toshiko Akiyoshi, she started listening to and practice Jazz, in 1950 she moved to Tokyo to start up her own band. In 1952 pianist Oscar Peterson saw Akiyoshi playing in a club and soon Toshiko was recording her first album “Toshiko’s Piano” with members of Oscar Peterson’s band in Radio Tokyo Studio. The first two albums was dominate by covers of American Jazz, but on the third “The Toshiko Trio” (1956) it was mainly her own compositions. Recorded in New York City after she moved to US to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston

From “The Toshiko Trio” – “Kyoshu” 1956

In the 1960’s she was living in both Tokyo and New York, when not turing.

In 1964 her daughter Michiru Mariano was born, but she was divorced in 1967 from the father, two years later she married saxophonist Lew Tabackin.

Inspired by an interview with Duke Ellington expressing how proud he was of his race, Toshiko Akiyoshi gained interest in how to incorporate Japanese culture and music in her writing.

This was first attempted on Toshiko Akiyoshi – Lew Tabackin Big Band’s album “Kogun” (1974), and came to its full on their album “Insights” (1976), on the brilliant sidelong Jazz suite “Minamata”.

Nowhere near Japanese traditional music, but complex Jazz with a slight Japanese twist.

From “Insights” – “Minamata” 1976

To be continued

For additional reading on the subject I can recommend this great article by Susan Fleet,  generally a rich source of information on pioneering women in music.

 

 

and the time is…then

After their eponymous debut, Yes  released “Time and a Word” in summer 1970.

The line-up was unchanged, but this time the album features a brass and strings orchestra on almost every track, which leaves the listener with a more Progressive Rock sound, pointing towards the future Yes. They were thinking about using a Mellotron but the idea was dropped and Mellotron would not be introduced to a Yes album until Tony Kaye would be replaced by Rick Wakeman

Then

 

The album opens with a Richie Havens cover of “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed”, a track that showcase the entire album quite well even though it is not a Yes original. Together with “The Prophet” and “Astral Traveller” the tracks that most clearly shows the direction towards Symphonic Rock Yes was heading for.

Yes cover of “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed”

Richie Havens 1968 original of “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” from his 2nd album “Something Else Again”

Production wise as well as artistically, I guess most Yes lovers would agree that the two early albums stands out as the weakest of the 70’s catalogue at least up to Tormato. Personally though I find “Time and a World” to be clearly the better of the two. Without being perfect I believe the orchestra addition works quite well and overall the album contains quite a few strong tunes.

Time and a Word may sound very cheesy especially to those that prefer their rock to be hard and punchy but when in the right mood I find it to be a fine song.

There was increasing tension between Peter Banks and the Band, mostly due to his opposition against the use of orchestra and the direction the music was taking, something he felt would reduce his options as a guitarist and he left the band or rather was sacked, before the album hit the record stores. This provided an absurd situation where the US cover featured a picture of the band with future guitarist Steve Howe although he was not playing on the album and not mentioned in the credits.

TimeAndAWordUS

On a side note there was another important contributor to the album, David Foster a long-time friend to Jon Anderson who was playing with Jon in The Warriors, a band that also included Ian Wallace who would later join King Crimson playing on their “Islands” album and Live recordings from 1971-1972.

David Foster sings on “Sweet Dreams” and plays acoustic guitar on “Time and a Word” he also co-wrote both tracks.

At this 1967 clip of The Warriors – Jon Anderson have taken over lead vocal after his brother Tony who left in late 1965.

Dora Pejačević

Maria Theodora Paulina Pejačević was born 1885 in Budapest daughter of Count Teodor Pejačević and Baroness Lilla Vay de Vaya.

Pejačević, Dora

Usually refered to as Dora Pejačević or Pejacsevich, more or less self-taught in music the talented girl started to compose at the age of twelve, later she recived some private education in Zagreb, Dresden and Munich.

During her travels, Dora came to know some of the leading artists and intellectuals of the time and she was also interested in politics seemingly not comfortable with the attitude of the high class into which she was born.

Dora volunteered as a nurse helping the wounded soldiers in first world war, after the war she became increasingly critical of her class. She wrote to a friend: “I simply cannot understand how people can live without work and how many of them do, especially the higher aristocracy . . . . I despise them because of this.”

In 1921, Dora married Ottomar von Lumbe, a military officer seven years her junior. They settled in Munich, where Dora became pregnant with their first child. Four weeks after giving birth, Dora Pejačević died from kidney failure. True to her beliefs, she refused to be buried in the family crypt and requested a stone with just the words “Dora Rest Now”. Instead of flowers at the funeral she wanted money for the families of poor musicians.

Dora composed a considerable amount of work over her short lifetime , mostly in late-Romantic style, songs, piano works, chamber music and compositions for large orchestra. Her Symphony in F-sharp minor is considered the first modern symphony in Croatian music.

Maynard is the “Tool” of the masses

James Herbert Keenan was born in Ohio (US) in 1964, today better known as Maynard James Keenan, front figure and vocalist in three important contempart American bands: Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer all at least in theory still active.

As I would consider Maynard one of my absolute favorite Rock vocalists, it is about time that I made some posts about his music, this will be the first also celebrating my 150 blog-post.

Maynard take on Elton John’s brilliant Rocket Man, Officially credited to Puscifer & Steven Drozd (Flaming Lips) – 2009

What I especialy like about Maynard music, is that even though he is clearly rooted in and famous for his Hard Rock/ Prog Metal work, he did not accept to get boxed in one genre. I won’t get into the contents of his lyrics too much not having english as my first language, but I can say that i truely enjoy the deep emotional expressions of his voice whether it is agressive, sensitive or licentious.

Maynard with David Bowie and John Frusciante on Bowie’s ”Bring Me The Disco King” used in the soundtrack album for Underworld (2013).

Maynard parrents divorced and from the age of three he only saw his father a few time a year, growing up in Ohio amongst what he referes to as dead people. The creative shift came when he moved to Michigan, living with his father during his highschole years, then three years in US army after which he studied at Kendall College of Art and Design in Michigan.

During the late 80’s Maynard started playing bass and singing in local bands in Michigan, but what was to catapult his career was the move he made in 1988, relocation to Los Angeles and meeting guitarist Adam Jones with whom he was soon to form Tool.

Maynard adding additional vocals to Deftones “Passenger”  (White Pony album from 2000)

Besides Maynard and Adam, the band was Danny Carey (drums) and Paul D’Amour (Bass). Two years after their formation the band was releasing their first recording the EP named Opiate, after Karl Marx: “Religion is the opium of the people”

The EP is composed of 7 tracks (the last one “hidden”) the album is Hard Rock/Metal with little sign of the progressive elements that Tool would develop later.

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