February 26, 2012

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Jazz Showcase, Chicago, IL 11-27-76 (AUD 2CDR)

Paging through the Discography, it is apparent that, beginning with the Châteauvallon tapes (August 24 and 25,1976), we have entered a new era of audience recordings. With portable compact cassette recorders becoming widely available in the late-1970s, “bootleg” tapes would start to proliferate, resulting in a flood of generally high-quality tapes by the 1980s as the technology matured. When I first dipped my toe into reviewing these types of recordings, I hesitated, knowing full well what I was in for: variable sound quality, repetitive setlists and occasionally uninspired performances. In many ways, I wanted to avoid these things altogether and concentrate of the officially released albums—there are certainly enough of those to deal with! Yet, since my goal has been as much to discover Sun Ra’s music as to memorialize it, it made sense to dive into the world of “bootleg” recordings and see for myself just what was out there. But, honestly, it can be something of chore to sit through some of this stuff and my antipathy towards the exercise is no doubt reflected in my sometimes hastily concocted judgments. I try to be fair: I listen to everything several times (which is partly why this project is taking so long) and there is almost always something worth hearing, even on the worse-sounding tape. But I must apologize for the lack of enthusiasm I often demonstrate when confronted with yet another dodgy “bootleg.”

This ninety-minute recording from the Jazz Showcase in Chicago from November 27, 1976 is a case in point and presents the usual sorts of challenges. Sound quality is actually pretty decent—so vivid, in fact, it sounds like it was recorded from the stage (right next to Sonny’s amplifier!)—but the set is dominated by an overlong declamation segments and interminable percussion jams that might have been highly amusing in concert but are almost intolerable to listen to on tape. Moreover, the CDR dispenses with any index markers, meaning you can’t skip to the good parts. I quibble, but there you go (it’s my blog and I can cry if I want to). Nevertheless, there is some interesting music here and there, if you have the patience to sit through the rest of it.

The set begins with processional drums to introduce June Tyson, who sings “Astro Black” accompanied by pitter-pattering percussion. Then a throbbing space chord sets up “Along Came Ra,” a weirdly dissonant fanfare with vocals led by John Gilmore—an evocative opening, for sure. But Sun Ra enters the stage and immediately starts lecturing: “I Have Many Names!” “You’re On the Right Road, Going In The Wrong Direction!” Etc. Meanwhile the dual bassists (probably Tony Bunn and Richard “Radu” Williams) (Id. pp.228-229) hack and saw away with their fingers and bows and the horns interject skronky improvisations. Well, OK then! Ra moves to organ and we get a bouncy, slightly uptempo “Friendly Galaxy No.2” but, unfortunately, the delicate flute arrangement is buried under his thick electronic chords and brassy solos from Ahmed Abdullah on trumpet, Craig Harris on trombone, and Vincent Chancey on French horn. Even so, it’s an enjoyable (if somewhat meandering) rendition, held aloft by Tommy “Bugs” Hunter’s laconic groove on trap drums. Then Ra starts declaiming “I, Pharoah” over it all and things start to get a bit tedious. The ensemble tries to maintain interest by displacing and elaborating upon the hypnotic tattoos of “Friendly Galaxy” but Ra is intent on hectoring the audience: “Who’s gonna save you now?,” he demands. Moving back to the organ, Sonny brings the proceedings to a close and introduces “The Satellites Are Spinning,” which is also played at a faster than usual clip. After a brief sing-along, “Calling Planet Earth” signals more bashing out-jazz improv, culminating in a frenzied, “mad-scientist-style” organ solo from Ra. Sadly, the tape cuts off in mid-flight. Oh well.

Disc two picks up in the middle of “The Shadow World,” taken at an impossibly quick tempo, with Ra’s skittering, pulsating organ driving the band to the breaking point. Gilmore tries to do his thing on tenor, but he seems overwhelmed by Ra violent keyboard attack and is left sputtering and honking in desperation. Eloe Omoe is similarly overtaken but space finally opens up a bit for Abdullah and, afterwards, Gilmore comes charging in for another shot—and he does not disappoint, offering up a ferocious a capella solo before the reprise. A shrill organ cluster sets up “Watusi” which has a less frenetic feel than usual courtesy of Hunter’s laid-back drumming style, although it still goes on for far too long. This was undoubtedly a visual spectacle, what with the dancing and carrying on that accompanied the percussion workout, but that stuff just doesn’t come across on tape. “Rose Room” starts with a romantic organ intro before moving into the jaunty swing arrangement, led by Gilmore’s tenor. He wails for several choruses, but is again nearly subsumed by the grinding organ chords and thrumming basses. Abdullah’s piercing trumpet is easier to hear (and nicely executed) but Chancey’s three-note solo seems perversely out-of-place amidst the continuously cycling pre-Bop chord changes. Frankly, it is not the most satisfying version of this big-band classic. “What’s New” begins with another rhapsodic organ solo before the head arrangement—but then the bottom drops out and it’s just Gilmore and drums. Gilmore gamely keeps the tune’s structure intact during his lengthy improvisation but he ultimately sounds restrained by the absence of accompaniment. Interestingly, Ra ditches the organ and returns on acoustic piano—which sounds so nice!—but the tape cuts off just as he begins to solo. Argh!

So, here we have another semi-frustrating “bootleg.” The sound quality is decent, but the instrumental balance is woefully off-kilter, with Sonny’s organ and booming basses dominating the sonic space. The ensembles sound fresh and inspired yet the soloing is merely OK—aside from his second blow-out on “The Shadow World,” Gilmore sounds tentative and subdued here, at least compared to his usual mind-blowing displays. Then again, perhaps my opinion is colored by the technical flaws which make this recording difficult to listen to, despite the reasonably good sound quality. But that’s how it goes with “bootlegs”: I’m happy to have them as historical documents, but I don’t necessarily enjoy listening to them. Your mileage may vary.

February 25, 2012

Playlist Week of 2-25-12

Jethro Tull - Aqualung 40th Anniversary

* Hesperion XXI, et al. (Savall): Borgia Dinasty: Church & Power In The Renaissance (Alia Vox 3SACD)
* Purcell: Fantasias For The Viols 1680 (Savall, et al.) (Alia Vox SACD)
* Geminiani: Cello Sonatas, Op.5 ((ter Linden/Mortensen) (Brilliant Classics CD)
* Miles Davis: The Bootleg Series Vol.1: Live In Europe 1967 (d.1) (Columbia/Legacy 3CD+DVD)
* Sun Ra: Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory of Music, Nov.1976 (AUD CDR)
* Sun Ra: Jazz Showcase, Chicago, IL 11-27-76 (AUD 2CDR)
* Herbie Hancock: Headhunters (Columbia/Legacy CD)
* Herbie Hancock: Thrust (Columbia/Legacy CD)
* Gateway (J. Abercrombie/D. Holland/J. DeJohnette): Gateway (ECM LP)
* Gateway (J. Abercrombie/D. Holland/J. DeJohnette): Gateway 2 (ECM LP)
* Grateful Dead: The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack (d.1-3) (GDP 6CD)
* Chicago: Chicago Transit Authority (Warner Bros./Rhino 2LP)
* Chicago: Chicago [II] (Warner Bros./Rhino 2LP)
* Jethro Tull: Aqualung (40th Anniversary Special Edition) (Chrysalis/Capitol 2CD)
* Caravan: In The Land of Grey And Pink (40th Anniversary Edition) (Deram/Decca 2CD+DVD)
* Gentle Giant: Three Friends (Alucard/EMI CD)(†)
* Gentle Giant: Octopus (Alucard/EMI CD)(†)
* Gentle Giant: In A Glass House (Alucard/EMI CD)
* Can: Waldbuhne, Berlin, West Germany 5-22-72 (AUD CDR)
* Can: Soon Over Babaluma (Spoon SACD)
* Can: Unlimited Edition (Spoon SACD)
* Can: Landed (Spoon SACD)
* Can: Flow Motion (Spoon SACD)†
* Can: Saw Delight (Spoon SACD)†(‡)
* Amon Düül II: Phallus Dei (Repertoire/SPV CD)
* Amon Düül II: Yeti (Liberty/Repertoire/SPV CD)
* Amon Düül II: Tanz Der Lemminge (United Artists/SPV CD)
* U2: Achtung Baby (Deluxe Edition) (Island/Universal 2CD)†(‡)
* Wilco: A.M. (Reprise/Nonesuch LP)
* Wilco: Being There (Reprise/Nonesuch 2LP)
* Wilco: Summerteeth (Reprise/Nonesuch 2LP)
* Porcupine Tree: Fear Of A Blank Planet (Atlantic CD)
* Porcupine Tree: Nil Recurring (KScope CDEP)
* Porcupine Tree: The Incident (Roadrunner 2CD)††
* Steven Wilson: Grace For Drowning (KScope 2CD)
* Opeth: Morningrise (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: My Arms, Your Hearse (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville/Icarus CD)†
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†(‡)
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Damnation (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner CD)†
* Opeth: Watershed (Roadrunner CD)†
* Katatonia: Last Fair Deal Gone Down (10th Anniversary Edition) (Peaceville 2CD)
* Katatonia: Viva Emptiness (Peaceville CD)
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peaceville CD)†(‡)
* Katatonia: Night Is The New Day (Peaceville CD)†(‡)
* Agalloch: The Mantle (The End Records CD)†
* Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain (The End Records CD)†
* Agalloch: Marrow Of The Spirit (Profound Lore CD)†



It would seem Steven Wilson is seeking to single-handedly restore the reputation of the much-maligned musical genre known as progressive rock. Not just with his own proggy bands (or his work with Opeth) but also as an audio engineer, being called upon to remix classic ‘70s prog records by King Crimson, Caravan and, most recently, Jethro Tull’s iconic Aqualung. Reviews have been so ecstatic, I had to check it out for myself and let me tell you first hand: the results are astonishing.

I hadn’t heard this album in a very long time, having gotten rid of my old LP many years ago in a periodic purge of the record collection. Tull were not necessarily the most musically accomplished of the prog-rockers, but they were the most popular amongst regular kids. The insistently creepy title track remains a staple of FM radio to this day (which is actually kind of amazing, when you think about it). I don’t remember my old LP sounding very good at all (sludgy would be the best word for it) but Wilson’s remix is incredibly clean, clear and punchy while still retaining that vintage analog vibe—a truly remarkable achievement. If you like this record, you owe it to yourself to hear this 40th Anniversary Special Edition. It’s like hearing it for the first time all over again! The 2CD set contains a second disc of bonus material to sweeten the deal but the truly hardcore fan will want to shell out for the Collector’s Edition box set, which includes the two CDs, DVD and Blu-Ray discs of the album in 5.1 surround sound along with a heavy-duty vinyl pressing of the LP, all housed in a lavish slipcase. I like this album well enough but perhaps not that much. Wilson’s treatment of Thick As A Brick is due April 3—can’t wait!

I had been holding off on the 40th Anniversary King Crimson reissues, seeing as I was perfectly happy with my 30th Anniversary Editions (wow, has it really been ten years?)—but after hearing the miracle Wilson has performed with Aqualung, I think I need to go ahead and upgrade. King Crimson is, after all, the (ahem) king of prog. My wallet may be lighter, but my ears will surely be happy. Thank you, Mr. Wilson, for helping to rescue progressive rock from the trash-heap of history!

February 19, 2012

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, MA, Nov. 1976 (AUD CDR)

According to Prof. Campbell, the Arkestra appeared at York University in Toronto on October 7, 1976 and at the Famous Ballroom in Baltimore on October 10 under the auspices of the Left Bank Jazz Society, but no recordings are known to exist of these performances (p.228). The Arkestra returned to The New England Conservatory of Music for another concert at Jordan Hall sometime in November and the first forty minutes or so was recorded from the audience. This tape surfaced sometime after the second edition of the discography, so dates and personnel are sketchy at best. However, the sound quality is actually quite good for the period with the stereophonic image roughly capturing the warm, resonant acoustic of this prestigious venue.

The concert begins with June Tyson intoning “Tapestry From An Asteroid” mostly a cappella, followed by a blast of horns and a brief rendition of “Astro Black.” Then the rest of the band joins with Tyson in singing “(The World Is Waiting) For The Sunrise,” with the audience heartily applauding Sonny’s entrance on stage. Baritone saxophones lead the way into “Discipline 27” and it’s the usual thing but with a particularly exuberant trumpet solo from Ahmed Adullah. However, the piece quickly descends into a long group improvisation consisting of various solos and duets punctuated with splashy space chords and bashing percussion. Interestingly, there appear to be two bass players here, one playing arco and one pizzicato. There is some nice soloing from Ra on piano and “mad-scientist-styled” electric organ (not to mention an out-there trombone solo from Craig Harris), but nothing is really allowed to fully develop despite the fifteen-minute duration. Sonny seems to be keeping the band on a pretty short leash. Two classic big-band numbers follow: “Yeah Man!” and “Lightnin’,” which are taken at absurdly fast tempos—yet the band is super-tight and, of course, John Gilmore rips it up on tenor sax. Although Ra has been provided a piano, he sticks to the buzzing Rocksichord and roller-rink organ, giving these old-timey numbers a weirdly modernized sound. Good stuff!

Then an unsual thing happens. Sun Ra speaks: “Not all of America is dis-integrated, there some things that are unified. With me tonight, I have two members of the band who have been with me for about twenty years, Robert Barry and John Gilmore [who will] improvise some outer space stuff for you.” Never mind that Barry the drummer had been absent from the band since 1968 (Id. p.784), he and Gilmore duet in a groovy, post-Coltrane style, but condensed down to a riveting four minutes. Then Ra introduces Tommy Hunter and Marshall Allen, who duet in a more aggressively avant-garde manner, but, again, all too briefly. Finally, Ra sets Danny Davis’s alto sax against James Jacson’s bassoon for a quickie two-minute honk-fest before the tape ends. I’m not sure what Sonny was up to here. He seems to be trying to school these Conservatory kids on the art of instant composition—I only wish these duos were allowed to go on a bit longer.

As for the last track on my CD, I do not think it is actually taken from this same gig—the ambience is very different, obviously recorded in a bigger venue in front of a much larger audience. In fact, I do not think this is Sun Ra at all, but rather the Grateful Dead circa.1974, when bassist Phil Lesh would duet with synthesizer player Ned Lagin between sets in the manner of their weird and woolly Seastones album. At first listen, you might think it is Sun Ra at his spaciest—but I am almost positive it is the Dead. A couple of minutes in, you can hear someone in the audience yell out “St. Stephen!”—a dead giveaway, if you will.

So, even though this concert fragment is less than completely satisfying, the better-than-usual sound quality and the brief but powerful duo segments make it worth the effort to track down. There is some excellent playing here—I just wish we could hear the rest of the concert!

February 18, 2012

Playlist Week of 2-18-12

Andrew Raffo Dewar - Piece for Four Instruments (page F)

* J.S. Bach: Violin Sonatas (Manze/Egarr/ter Linden) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Debussy: Images, Etudes, etc. (Thibaudet) (Decca 2CD)
* Sun Ra: Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, MA 11-76 (AUD CDR)
* Miles Davis: Decoy (Columbia LP)
* Miles Davis: You’re Under Arrest (Columbia LP)
* Miles Davis: Tutu (Warner Bros. LP)
* J. Abercrombie/ C. Walcott/J. DeJohnette/N. Vasconcelos: Woodstock, NY 9-19-81 (FM CDR)
* Gateway (Abercrombie/Holland/DeJohnette): Schaulburg, Bremen, W. Germany 6-21-83 (FM CDR)
* John Abercrombie: Timeless (ECM LP)
* Terje Rypdal/Miroslav Vitous/Jack DeJohnette (ECM LP)
* Pat Metheny Group: We Live Here (Geffen CD)
* Muhal Richard Abrams: Vision Towards Essence (Pi CD)
* Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: The Middle Picture (Firehouse 12 CD)
* Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12 CD)
* Grateful Dead: Dick’s Picks Vol.29 (5/19,21/77) (selections) (GDP 6CD)
* Crosby Stills & Nash: Crosby Stills & Nash (Atlantic/Audio Fidelity CD)
* Pink Floyd: Meddle (Pinkfloyd/EMI CD)
* Pink Floyd: Obscured By Clouds (Pinkfloyd/EMI CD)
* Even More Dazed & Confused (Soundtrack)(The Medicine Label/Warner Bros. CD)†/‡
* Amon Düül II: Carnival In Babylon (United Artists/Repertoire CD)†/‡
* Bill Laswell: Hear No Evil (d.1) (Virgin/Meta 2CD)†
* The Cure: Faith (Fiction/Rhino CD)†/‡
* Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador CD)†
* Shellac: At Action Park (Touch And Go LP)
* Slint: Tweez (Touch And Go LP)
* Slint: Spiderland (Touch And Go LP)
* Circus Devils: Capsized! (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)
* Radiohead: Kid A (Capitol CD)
* Radiohead: Amnesiac (Capitol CD)
* Radiohead: “Knives Out” (Parlophone CDEP)
* Radiohead: “Pyramid Song” (Toshiba-EMI CDEP)
* Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (Lava/Atlantic CD)
* Tool: Undertow (Volcano CD)†
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville/Icarus CD)†
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)(†)
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Damnation (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner CD)†
* Opeth: Watershed (Roadrunner CD)†
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner CD/DVD)†
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peaceville CD)†
* Katatonia: Night Is The New Day (Peaceville CD)†
* Agalloch: The Mantle (The End Records CD)
* Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain (The End Records CD)
* Agalloch: Marrow Of The Spirit (Profound Lore CD)†
* Mastodon: Crack The Skye (Reprise 2-45RPM LP)
* Ghost: Opus Eponymous (Rise Above/Metal Blade CD)†
* Ray LaMontagne: Trouble (RCA-Victor LP)
* Ray LaMontagne: Till The Sun Turns Black (RCA-Victor
* Ray LaMontagne: Gossip In The Grain (RCA-Victor 2LP)
* Broken Bells: Broken Bells (Columbia LP)
* Broken Bells: Meyrin Fields (Columbia EP)



Just posted this week on Theatre Intangible is the podcast of the October Indeterminacies program featuring two works by composer/instrumentalist Andrew Raffo Dewar performed by The Pulse New Music Ensemble and guitarist Brady Sharp. Yours truly moderated the discussion. Since the event was held outdoors in an urban courtyard, the audio recording was mostly unusable—in fact, Mr. Dewar kindly donated his hand-held audio recording of “Piece For Four Instruments” to Theatre Intangible for the podcast. That also means none of the discussion segments are included. Nevertheless, host, Tony Youngblood does an excellent job reading transcriptions of some of the exchanges. The music is very interesting and the podcast nicely captures the event—check it out here.

The Spring 2012 Indeterminacies progam kicks off March 1 with the Nashville Symphony’s Alan Valentine, followed by theorist/laptop composer/improviser, Michael Gardiner on April 12 and—hold on to your hats—the world-renowned Terry Riley on May1. Wow! These will all be must-see events!

The Fall 2012 series has recently been announced, with a theme exploring the relationship between improvisation and composition and I am supremely honored to have been asked to open the series on September 6 where I will perform with drummer, Sam Byrd, and with the discussion led by composer, Stan Link. I am both excited and terrified—I have not played music in public in many years—but I think it will be a scintillating evening! The series concludes with instrumentalists LaDonna Smith and Davey Williams on October 11 and compositions by Stan Link on November 1. Mark your calendars!

Indeterminacies is curated by Lesley Beeman and Lain York at Zeitgeist Gallery, 1819 21st Avenue South in Hillsboro Village, Nashville. See you there!

February 17, 2012



Around Christmastime, I was contacted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology regarding the use of this photograph of a Pileated woodpecker for their local newsletter. As you may know, Cornell University is the preeminent research institution regarding the study of birds; so, of course, I was more than happy to let them use the photo. The publication arrived this week and it is such an honor to see my “work” in print—and in such a prestigious venue. Their cropping and color-correction looks fabulous and many birdlovers will see this photograph on the cover of this newsletter. It was quite a thrill to get this in the mail.

I put the scare-quotes around “work” because playing around with the camera is not “work” for me. It’s nothing but fun! Lizzy likes to point out that unlike all of my other various interests, I do not “beat myself up” about photography. And it’s true: unlike music—or writing—I do not take it all that seriously. Don’t get me wrong: I’m obviously interested in cameras—sometimes downright obsessed—and I try to learn about more and improve my technique, but mostly because that it is all part of the fun. When I take a “bad” picture (which is almost always), I don’t get bent out of shape about it (unlike just about every bit of music I’ve ever made or word I’ve ever written). Thanks to the ease and economy of the digital camera, I’m overjoyed if three out of a hundred exposures is half-way decent. I almost never print anything and put my photos up on Flickr just to have them all in one virtual place. It’s nice when people make compliments and all but, more than anything, there is just something enormously gratifying about taking pictures and looking at them. But I’m not sure it’s “art” in the same way that painting or music (or writing) is. That assertion is, of course, entirely debatable (and the subject of another blog post altogether)—but this attitude (as wrong-headed as it is surely is) is what allows photography to be pure fun for me.

Well, much to my surprise, my Flickr photostream has recently been getting a lot more attention lately—and I’m not really sure why. I’ve had over a thousand “views” in the last month or so and have been contacted regarding using a couple of my photos for online travel guides. That is amazing enough—but the National Geographic Society recently submitted a licensing request through Getty Images to use one of my bird photographs for the cover (the cover!) of a book project they are working on. At first, I thought it was scam, but apparently, it is for real. If they ultimately do use it (an admittedly big if), I would actually get paid—some nominal sum no doubt—but still…National Geographic?! Are you kidding me? That is the ne plus ultra of wildlife photography. What is going on here? Should I start taking my photography more seriously? Should I try to launch a new career? It’s tempting to get carried away with these thoughts—but I want photography to remain the realm of pure joy.

Whatever happens, it is, at the moment, enormously flattering to know that people are looking at my photographs and a tremendous honor to even be considered by National Geographic. This little ego-boost comes at a most welcome time as I ponder what to do with the rest of my life. Photography will always be a part of it since it is so much fun. But is it my purpose in life? I don’t know. Do I have a purpose? I’d like to think so—but I don’t know what it is. Can “work” and “play” be one and the same? That is the dream. What is the reality? Time will tell...

February 12, 2012

Sun Ra Sunday

I need to catch my breath here but, in the meantime, check out this amazing French television footage filmed at the House of Ra circa. 1969. Enjoy! I'll be back with more reviews next week!

February 11, 2012

Playlist Week of 2-11-12

Fire Zoom

* Debussy : Préludes, etc. (Thibaudet) (London 2CD)
* AMM: AMMMusic 1966 (Elektra/Matchless/RéR Megacorp CD)
* John Coltrane: First Meditations (Impulse!/GRP CD)
* Sun Ra: Rehearsal, Unknown Location 9-76 (SBD? CDR)
* Sun Ra: Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, MA 11-76 (AUD CDR)
* Sun Ra: Jazz Showcase, Chicago, IL 11-27-76 (AUD 2CDR)
* Sun Ra: Piano Recital, Teatro La Fenice, Venezia (Leo/Golden Years CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Composition 30 (Smythe) (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* Jim Hall & Pat Metheny: Jim Hall & Pat Metheny (Telarc CD)
* Pat Metheny Group: Falcon & The Snowman (Soundtrack) (EMICD)
* Pat Metheny Group: Still Life (Talking) (Geffen CD)
* Pat Metheny Group: Letter From Home (Geffen CD)
* Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks Vol.1: The Mosque, Richmond, VA 5/25/77 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Dazed & Confused (Soundtrack) (The Medicine Label/Warner Bros. CD)†/‡
* Joni Mitchell: Court And Spark (Asylum HDCD)
* Joni Mitchell: The Hissing of Summer Lawns (Asylum HDCD)
* Can: Monster Movie (Spoon (SA)CD)†
* Can: Soundtracks (Spoon SACD)
* Can: Tago Mago (Spoon (SA)CD)†
* Can Ege Bamyasi (Spoon (SA)CD)†
* Can: Future Days (Spoon SACD)
* Talking Heads: Remain In Light (Sire/Warner Bros. DVD-A)
* Helios Creed: Superior Catholic Finger (Subterranean LP)
* Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (Lava/Atlantic CD)
* Opeth: Morningrise (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: My Arms, Your Hearse (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville/Icarus CD)†
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Damnation (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Lamentations: Live At Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2003 (Music For Nations DVD/2CD)(†/‡)
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner CD)†
* Opeth: The Roundhouse Tapes (Peaceville DVD/2CD)
* Opeth: Watershed (Roadrunner CD)(†)
* Opeth: In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall (Roadrunner 2DVD/3CD)†
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner CD+DVD/2LP)
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peaceville CD)†/‡
* Katatonia: Night Is The New Day (Peaceville CD)†/‡
* Agalloch: Marrow Of The Spirit (Profound Lore CD)†
* Ghost: Opus Eponymous (Rise Above/Metal Blade CD)(†)
* The Mars Volta: Frances The Mute (Gold Standard Laboratories/Universal CD)
* The Mars Volta: Amputecture (Gold Standard Laboratories/Universal CD)
* The Mars Volta: The Bedlam In Goliath (Universal CD+DVD)
* The Mars Volta: Octahedron (Warner Bros. CD)
* The Black Keys: Brothers (Nonesuch 2LP)
* The Black Keys: El Camino (Nonesuch LP)



I have nothing to say, really. Except, oh yeah! Opeth rocks!

February 5, 2012

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Rehearsal, Unknown Location 9-76 (SBD? CDR)

This thirty-minute rehearsal tape, recorded at an unknown location in September, 1976, was played on WKCR-FM’s Sun Ra memorial broadcast in 1995 (Campbell & Trent pp.227-228) and circulates widely amongst collectors. There is a small audience present, indicating this was actually a soundcheck at a venue, rather than a rehearsal proper and, accordingly, there is neither in-depth working out of arrangements nor any verbal instruction whatsoever from Ra, unlike what we’ve heard in other rehearsal tapes. Instead, we get a miniature three-song set, presented as a contiguous performance, just as it would have been in concert. Sound quality is pretty good, with a strikingly close-up perspective, possibly recorded from the stage but more likely from the soundboard (bass and vocals are notably way up front while drums sound distant and indistinct). Perhaps this comes from Sonny’s personal stash of tapes? Who knows?

After a bit of hand percussion, June Tyson briefly leads the singalong on “(The World Is Waiting) For The Sunrise” before Danny Ray Thompson charges into the bari-sax riff of “Discipline 27.” The ensemble sounds a bit shaky and out of tune, eventually devolving into some skronky group improvisation and culminating in an a cappella tenor solo from John Gilmore—nothing special so far. After a quick space chord, Sonny enters with “The Shadow World” ostinato on organ, but soon drops out as the head commences. Meanwhile, everyone gets to take a solo (both with and without accompaniment) across its twenty-three minute duration: Marshall Allen and Danny Davis on alto saxophones, Elo Omoe on bass clarinet, Ra on “mad scientist” organ and Abdullah on trumpet. Even Tony Bunn gets a turn on fuzz bass followed by Dale Williams on distorted electric guitar, giving this a particularly rocked-out feel. While that might look good on paper, this is not the most compelling version of this showpiece, with the soloists sounding a bit listless (aside from Ra himself, who plays brilliantly as usual) and the ensembles failing to cohere. Well, it is a rehearsal and/or soundcheck after all.

While the unusually decent sound quality makes this an enjoyable listen, it is ultimately not very satisfying; a curious bit of filler that will be of interest only to the most committed Sun Ra completists.

February 4, 2012

Playlist Week of 2-04-12

* Hesperion XXI (Savall): Istanbul: Dimitrie Cantemir 1673-1723 (Alia Vox SACD)
* Handel: Concerti Grosse, Op.3 (Academy of Ancient Music/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi SACD)
* Sun Ra: Châteauvallon, France 8-25-76 (selections) (AUD 3CDR)
* Sun Ra: Rehearsal, Unknown Location 9-76 (AUD? CDR)
* John Abercrombie: The Third Quartet (ECM CD)
* Sun Ra: Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, MA 11-76 (AUD CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Molde) 2005 (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Piacenza) 2007 (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up: Actionspeak (482 Music CD)
* Bob Dylan: Nashville Skyline (Columbia SACD)
* Bob Dylan: New Morning (Columbia CD)
* Grateful Dead: To Terrapin: Hartford ’77 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks Vol.1: The Mosque, Richmond, VA 5/25/77 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Genesis: Wind & Wuthering (Atco LP)
* Genesis: Seconds Out (Charisma 2LP)
* Amon Düül II: Phallus Dei (Liberty/Repertoire CD)
* Neu!: Neu! (Brain/Astralwerks CD)
* Neu!: Neu! 2 (Brain/Astralwerks CD)
* Peter Frampton: Frampton Comes Alive! (Deluxe Edition) (A&M 2HDCD)
* The Cure: Seventeen Seconds (Fiction/Rhino CD)†/‡
* Die Kreuzen: October File (Touch and Go LP)
* Die Kreuzen: Century Days (Touch and Go LP)
* Guided By Voices: Let’s Go Eat The Factory (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Gastr Del Sol: Upgrade & Afterlife (Drag City 2LP)
* Gastr Del Sol: Camoufleur (Drag City LP)
* Porcupine Tree: Recordings (KScope CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (Lava/Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (Lava/Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Fear Of A Blank Planet (Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Nil Recurring (KScope CDEP)†
* Porcupine Tree: Anesthetize: Live In Tilburg Oct 2008 (KScope DVD)
* Porcupine Tree: The Incident (Roadrunner 2CD)†
* Opeth: Orchid (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: Morningrise (Candlelight CD)†(‡)
* Opeth: My Arms, Your Hearse (Candlelight CD)†
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Damnation (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner HDCD)
* Opeth: The Forum Theatre, Melbourne, Australia 4-26-06 (FM CDR)
* Opeth: Watershed (Roadrunner CD)†
* Opeth: In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall (Roadrunner 2DVD/3CD)†
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner CD+DVD/2LP)
* Opeth: Tragarn Night Club & Bar, Gothenburg, Sweden 12-04-11 (AUD 2CDR)
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peaceville CD)†(‡)
* Katatonia: Night Is The New Day (Peaceville CD)(†/‡)
* Mastodon: Leviathan (Relapse CD)†
* Mastodon: Blood Mountain (Reprise CD)†
* Mastodon: Crack The Skye (Reprise 2-45RPM LP)
* Mastodon: The Hunter (Reprise 2-45RPM LP)
* Baroness: Red Album (Relapse CD)†/‡
* Baroness: Blue Record (Relapse CD)†/‡



The Opeth/Mastodon tour (with special guests, Ghost) is official:

Featuring Opeth and Mastodon
with Special guests Ghost

04 Apr - Portland, ME @ State Theater**
05 Apr - Boston, MA @ Orpheum Theater*
06 Apr - Montreal, QC @ Metropolis*
07 Apr - Toronto, ON @ The Sony Centre For The Performing Arts*
09 Apr - Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory**
10 Apr - Wallingford, CT @ The Dome**
11 Apr - New York, NY @ Roseland**
13 Apr - Chicago, IL @ Riviera Theater**
14 Apr - Grand Rapids, MI @ Intersection**
15 Apr - Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE**
16 Apr - Knoxville, TN @ TN Theater*
18 Apr - Oklahoma City, OK @ Diamond Ballroom**
19 Apr - Dallas, TX @ Palladium*
20 Apr - San Antonio @ Back Stage Live*
21 Apr - Corpus Christi, TX @ Concrete Street*
23 Apr - Denver, CO @ Fillmore*
25 Apr - Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues**
26 Apr - Hollywood, CA @ Gibson*
27 Apr - Oakland, CA @ Fox Theatre*
28 Apr - Reno, NV @ Grand Sierra Resort**
30 Apr - Seattle, WA @ Paramount Theater*
01 May - Vancouver, BC @ Orpheum*
03 May - Edmonton, AB @ Edmonton Events Ctr*
04 May - Calgary, AB @ MacEwan Hall**
05 May - Saskatoon @ The Odeon**
06 May - Winnipeg, MB @ Burton Cummings*
09 May - Washington DC @ The Fillmore*
10 May - Charlotte, NC @ Fillmore**
11 May - Myrtle Beach, SC @ House of Blues*
12 May - Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade Music Park**

* = Opeth closing show
** = Mastodon closing show

True to my word, I’ll be taking a road trip to Knoxville to see them at the Tennessee Theatre, an elegant 1928 Beaux-Arts movie palace on April 16. That might seem like an odd venue for an intense heavy metal show, but then again these guys are more “art rock” than metal. Thanks to Opeth’s fan-club pre-sale, I scored seats in the tenth row, center—man, this is gonna be awesome! And since Atlanta is just down the road and it’s the last show of the tour (and located in Mastodon’s hometown), we’re going to try to go that one as well. That will be a very different sort of venue: outdoors, general admission. It should be a party, so long as the weather cooperates.

What has happened to me? Have I turned into a metalhead? A headbanger? I dunno—I just want to hear some good rock music. Heck, I haven’t been this excited about a concert in a very long time—I can’t wait!