December 18, 2010

Playlist Week of 12-18-10

* Palestrina, et al.: Die Kleinorgel (de Klerk) (Telefunken LP)
* Buxtehude: Six Sonatas (Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden) (Naxos CD)
* Biber: Mensa Sonora (Musica Antique Köln/Goebel) (Archiv Produktion CD)†
* Biber: Harmonia Artificioso (Musica Antique Köln/Goebel) (Archiv Produktion CD)†
* Handel: Organ Concertos, Op.4 (Academy of Ancient Music/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi SACD)
* Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words (Rév) (Hyperion 2CD)
* Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue, etc. (Boston Pops/Fiedler/Wild) (RCA SACD)
* Lachenmann: Schwankungen am Rand (Ensemble Modern/Eötvös) (ECM CD)
* John Coltrane: One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note (Impulse! 2CD)
* John Coltrane: John Coltrane Quartet Plays (Impulse! CD)
* John Coltrane: Living Space (Impulse! CD)
* John Coltrane: Transition (Impulse! CD)
* Tony Williams: Life Time (Blue Note CD)
* Andrew Hill: Andrew!! (Blue Note CD)
* Andrew Hill: Compulsion (Blue Note CD)
* Andrew Hill: Change (Blue Note CD)
* Sun Ra: The Singles (d.2) (selections) (Evidence 2CD)
* Sun Ra: What Planet Is This? (Leo 2CD)
* Anthony Braxton/Walter Thompson Orchestra: Irondale Center, Brooklyn, NY 4-16-09 (AUD 2CDR)
* Aretha Franklin: Lady Soul/Aretha Now (Atlantic/Mobile Fidelity CD)
* Grateful Dead: Assembly Hall, Univ. of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana 2-21-73 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Assembly Hall, Univ. of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana 1-22-73 (d.1) (SBD 2CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY 3-27-93 (SBD 3CDR) ‡
* Grateful Dead: Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY 3-28-93 (SBD 3CDR) ‡
* Grateful Dead: Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY 3-29-93 (selections) (SBD 3CDR) ‡
* Van Morrison: Poetic Champions Compose (Polydor CD)
* Van Morrison: No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (Polydor CD)
* Chicago: VII (Columbia 2LP)
* Frank Zappa: Studio Tan (DiscReet LP)
* Frank Zappa: Orchestral Favorites (DiscReet LP)
* Frank Zappa: Sleep Dirt (DiscReet LP)
* Frank Zappa: Zappa In New York (Rkyo 2CD)
* Captain Beefheart: Trout Mask Replica (Reprise CD)
* Yes: Tormato (Atlantic/Rhino CD)
* Phil Collins: Face Value (Atlantic/Audio Fidelity CD)
* The Fall: This Nation’s Saving Grace (Beggar’s Banquet—UK CD)
* The Fall: Bend Sinister (Beggar’s Banquet—UK CD)
* The Fall: The Frenz Experiment (Beggar’s Banquet/RCA CD)
* Sonic Youth: Goodbye Twentieth Century (SYR-4 2LP)
* Kim Gordon/DJ Olive/Ikue Mori: SYR-5 (SYR-5 2EP)



What a week! Even though we’re days away from the Solstice, winter weather moved in on Sunday with six inches of snow, and topped it off with freezing rain on Wednesday. Fortunately, it warmed up overnight and regular wet rain on Thursday melted everything. Sheesh! Is this what it’s going to be like? Today is the first time we’ve seen the sun all week. Well, one nice thing about a “snow day” is getting time to listen to more records!


I’m a huge fan of John Coltrane, but, for me, the music he made in 1965 is by far the most astonishing. He was incredibly prolific during this period, as if he could barely keep up with the flood of ideas—as if he knew he only had another couple of years left—and you can hear his rapid development from the relatively straightforward modalism of John Coltrane Quartet Plays through the experimental chamber jazz found on Living Space and Transition, leading directly to the cathartic spiritualism of Sun Ship, Ascension and Meditations later in the year. In the process, the so-called “classic quartet” disintegrated, as first Elvin Jones, and then McCoy Tyner quit the band, unwilling to go as far as Coltrane needed to go (or maybe they were just unwilling to share the stage with newcomers Pharoah Sanders and Rashied Ali). By November, the tension is audible. Nevertheless, the almost overwhelming intensity of the music is part of what makes these last records of 1965 the summit of Coltrane’s achievement and I’m looking forward to listening them this coming week.


Debate rages amongst Zappaphiles regarding Frank’s true intentions regarding Läther (pronounced “leather”), a proposed four-LP box set of high-gloss rock-jazz and ambitious orchestral music recorded in 1974-1976. As the story goes, test pressings were made but Warner Bros. apparently refused to release it. But I suspect the mythical Läther was just a ploy to break his contract with the label. Zappa was in the midst of myriad disputes with his manager and Warner Bros. during this period, and, in December, 1977, he played an entire eight-sided test pressing over KRQQ radio station in Pasedena, encouraging listeners to tape it off the air, which, of course, many of them did. This tactic evidently worked: by 1978, Zappa had extricated himself from the contract with Warner Bros.—but the Läther material began to appear on the now defunct DiscReet label on four separate albums, Zappa In New York, Studio Tan, Orchestral Favorites and Sleep Dirt (the latter three with lurid artwork by Gary Panter and zero credits). Regardless of their provenance, these are some of my favorite Zappa records.

As usual, the music ranges from brilliantly sophisticated instrumentals to the most puerile songs imaginable. The twenty-minute “Greggery Peccary” (Studio Tan) manages to combine it all into a metaphorical fable about the invention of the calendar—probably one of Zappa’s most successful musical satires ever. Orchestral Favorites is just what it says, Frank’s demanding “classical” scores—sometimes augmented by his rock band. Good stuff. Sleep Dirt is another all-instrumental album but with a more jazz-rock-fusion feel—except for the title track, an acoustic guitar duet with James Youman, which exhibits Frank’s rarely-heard soft and sensitive side. Zappa In New York compiles live recordings from The Palladium in December, 1976 and while the jokey material has worn thin for me (e.g. “Titties and Beer”; "The Illinois Enema Bandit”), the musicianship is uniformly spectacular. The Ryko CD restores the censored “Punky’s Whips” (another bit of homophobic (?) theatricality) along with four other unreleased tracks from these shows, but the digital mastering leaves a lot to be desired. The sound quality of the original LPs is fantastic: warm and detailed, with a vast, welcoming soundstage. Further, the official Läther three-CD set released by Ryko in 1996 includes dubious editing and overdubs that lessen the impact of many of these tracks. Whatever Frank’s true intentions, I prefer the individual albums in their original presentation. Your mileage may vary.


Sam said...

"Studio Tan," "Orchestral Favorites," and "Sleep Dirt" are three of my all-time favorite Zappa albums, but, in retrospect, "Live in N.Y." is where it all started to end for me. I enjoyed "The black page" when that album came out, but now the whole record is almost unbearable to me. That's the major flaw with the reissued "Lather"--the great tracks from the other three albums (albeit edited and mixed differently) are mixed in with the horrendous live material --god, it's brutal. Then came "Sheik Yerbuti," "Thingfish," and all the rest--I shudder. But those three albums are uniformly brilliant!

Here's my lists from last week:

Playlists 2010-12-20

*Luciano Berlio: A Portrait, Part I (CDR) disc 2
*John Cage's Musicircus 2009-10-22: Richmond, VA (CDR) selections
*Elliott Carter: CD compilation, disc 2
*Charles Ives: Ives Plays Ives: The Complete Recordings of Charles Ives at the Piano (1933-1943)
*Karlheinz Stockhausen: 2008-08-22 BBC Prom 48: Gurzenich Orchestra (CDR)
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Complete Live in Japan
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: 1984-09-23 UVA, Charlottesville VA (CDR)
*Art Ensemble of Chicago & Cecil Taylor: 1984-10-30 Paris (CDR)
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: Naked
*Ornette Coleman Sextet: 1978-07-04 Berlin (CDR)
*Duke Ellington: Three Suites
*Miles Davis Septet: 1970-08-02 CBS Records Convention, Nassau (Bahamas) (CDR)
*Miles Davis: 1974-01-26 Willimantic, CT (CDR) disc 2
*New Loft: 2010-12-08 "Look Out!!" (wav)
*Apples in Stereo: Tone Soul Evolution
*Beach Boys: Ultimate Christmas
*Dark Carpet: CDR compilation 2 (2010)
*Grateful Dead: Live/Dead (side 1)
*Grateful Dead: 1973-06-10 RFK Stadium, DC (CDR) (set 3 selections)
*Grateful Dead: 1973-06-24 Portland, OR (CDR) selections
*Led Zeppelin: Live at Blueberry Hill (boot CDR) disc 2
*Jackie Mittoo: Last Train to Skaville
*Prince & the Revolution: The Avenue (1983-08-03 Minneapolis) (boot CDR)
*Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St. (deluxe ed., remastered) disc 2

Reading log 2010-12-20

*O'Brien, Geoffrey. The Phantom Empire (started)
*Canniff, Milton. Terry & the Pirates Color Sundays Vol. 4 1938 (in progress)
*Moore, Steven. The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings to 1600 (in progress)
*Oates, Joyce Carol. Blonde (in progress)

Rodger Coleman said...

Yep. I agree. I think the edits and overdubs ruin the "Sleep Dirt" tracks and much of "Live in New York" is, um, problematic. But there is some great music on there besides "The Black Page" -- like the unfortunately titled, "I Promise Not To...[etc.]" and "The Purple Lagoon." The CD adds "Cruisin' for Burgers," "I'm the Slime" and "Pound for Brown," which, despite the hard and cold sound quality, makes it worthwhile. (This album was a big deal in my youth.)

I actually like a lot of "Sheik Yerbouti" (some great guitar playing on there) and some of what comes after...I'm gonna keep plowing through it.