Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Audiophile Audition Review

I want to thank John over at http://www.audaud.com/index.php for the exclusive rights to reprint this great review!

AUDIOPHILE AUDITION focuses on recordings of interest to audiophiles and collectors, with an accent on surround sound for music, and on all hi-res disc formats. Over 100SACD, DVD Video/Audio and standard CD reviews are published during each month, and our archives go back to January 2001.

Lonnie Johnson – Portraits in Blues, Vol. 6 – Swingville / Pure Pleasure Records PPAN SLP162 – Audiophile 180 gram LP – (1963 Copenhagen, Denmark) ****1/2:

(Lonnie Johnson, guitar, vocals; Otis Spann, piano)

Lonnie Johnson has been described as the grand old man of the blues. Born in 1894, in New Orleans, Johnson had a long and varied career; both playing and being rediscovered many times when he took time off from playing to do menial labor work to cover the lean times.

Johnson’s playing and singing is unique as it crosses boundaries between jazz and the blues. His blues had a more jazz orientation as his guitar picking leaned toward acoustic jazz and his voice had a sweetness unlike the more country blues gruffness found from Southern blues men. There is a sophistication he brought to blues like Clementine Blues, See See Rider, and Jelly Jelly.

Johnson also mastered the violin, which may be a reason that he made a name for himself in jazz circles, playing with Louis Armstrong’s Hot Seven as well as a brief stay with early Duke Ellington. Lonnie cut an extended series of recordings for Okeh Records in the mid 20s to early 30s. His recordings with jazz guitarist, Eddie Lang, are legendary.

On Portraits of Blues, we find Lonnie near the end of his career (he passed away seven years after this recording) on tour with the great Otis Spann accompanying him on piano. Johnson’s voice was still strong at age 64 and his guitar playing was still robust.

England’s Pure Pleasure Records has done their usual superb remastering job with the original Storyville tapes. It would actually be news if Pure Pleasure had done anything less. Having the opportunity to hear Lonnie Johnson in superb sonics is a real treat as Johnson is a unique musician who could cross jazz and blues genres easily. This LP shows that the two musical idioms could be blended into a sweet mix when you have the talent of the inimitable Lonnie Johnson. Highly recommended!

Side 1:
Tomorrow Night
Clementine Blues
See See Rider
Raining on the Cold Cold Ground
Jelly, Jelly

Side 2:
Too Late to Cry
Call Me Darling
Why Did You Go
Swingin’ with Lonnie
Please Help Me

Earl Hines and Harry “Sweets” Edison – Earl Meets Harry- Pure Pleasure Records/ Definitive Black and Blue Sessions PPAN 007 – 180 gram vinyl LP- 1978 *****:

(Earl “Fatha” Hines, piano; Harry “Sweets” Edison, trumpet)

As translated from the French album liner notes, it was surprising to note that jazz giants Earl Hines and Harry Edison, hardly knew each other in 1978 when they entered the Studio Sinus in Berne, Switzerland, on April 26, 1978. Well it certainly did not take them long to mesh as their styles are so complementary.

Hines was a master stride pianist and had among the quickest left hands in the business, as he would augment his stride lines with glistening arpeggios without losing a beat. With that lightning left hand he could approach Art Tatum in technique but not speed, as in that department Tatum had no peer, as Art played the piano as if having four hands and two pianos.

Sweets Edison was a master at understatement like his former boss, Count Basie. He could say more with fewer notes than most of his contemporaries. His taste was exquisite and he could swing effortlessly.

The Hines Edison duo just shines here playing strictly standards such as I Cover the Waterfront, Just Squeeze Me, Just You Just Me, and Mean to Me. For swing fans it’s a match made in heaven as Hines embellishes while Sweets plays all the right notes. As these songs are so well known, you kind of know what to expect, but it’s a treat to hear Hines cutting loose and Edison’s sweet, warm tone carrying the day.

Oh, did I forget to mention the impeccable true to life intimate acoustics that Pure Pleasure brings to all their projects is worth every penny of the asking price? If you dig Fatha and Sweets, you’ve got to have this LP.

TrackList: Side A: I Cover the Waterfront, Just Squeeze Me, But Not for Me, Just You Just Me
Side B: Mean to Me, I Surrender Dear, The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else

Laura Nyro – New York Tendaberry – Columbia/ Pure Pleasure Records- PPAN KCS9737 – (1969) *****:

Laura Nyro could break your heart with her gut-wrenching beauty. She poured out her emotions in songs full of gospel, soul, folk and jazz. She was a one of a kind and wore her heart on her sleeve. She had a once in a generation voice as Billie Holiday brought to jazz, and Joan Baez to folk.

The audiophile label, Pure Pleasure Records, out of England, has done a public service in releasing New York Tendaberry in glorious 180-gram vinyl with sumptuous remastering by Ray Staff. Laura’s vocals are crystalline and the occasional orchestral backings by Jimmy Haskell jump out from your speakers and will blow your mind on a quality pair of headphones.

Save the Country and Time And Love have been covered by many pop artists, but its Laura’s versions that stand the test of time. When you hear her emote, it’s as if Laura wrote the lyrics just to inspire you.

Laura Nyro had a brief period in the limelight before retiring at age 24. She came back on the scene several times in the ensuing decades but never regained her moment in the sun before dying of ovarian cancer in 1997. Her most noted compositions-Eli’s Coming, Stone Soul Picnic, and Sweet Blindness-were made into much bigger hits by others. Her genius was recognized by none other than David Geffen, who quit his early job as a music agent to become her manager.

New York Tendaberry had few hits, with the exception of Save the Country. What it did have was heartfelt lyrics sung in glorious emotions of happiness and deep pain by the genius that was Laura Nyro. What passes as pop music today pales in comparison. It was a “pure pleasure” to review this audiophile LP wonder…

TrackList: (Side A): You Don’t Love Me When I Cry, Captain for Dark Mornings, Tom Cat Goodbye, Mercy on Broadway, Save the Country
(Side B): Gibsom Street, Time and Love, The Man Who Sends Me Home, Sweet Lovin’ Baby, Captain Saint Lucifer, New York Tendaberry

Classic Rock Videos

Welcome To The Machine - Pink Floyd

Vinyl Collective News

I am happy to hear my friend Virgil over at www.vinylcollective.com is feeling better. Here is the latest news, stop by and pick up some great vinyl at the site:

With the shipment of the new NOFX album (Fristbee/Coaster), we received some restocks, too. Lawrence Arms, Loved Ones, Descendents, Strung Out, Sick of It All, D4, and more.

NOFX “Frisbee” LP
NOFX “Coaster” CD
AGAINST ME! “Don’t Lose Touch” LP
DILLINGER FOUR “Situationist Comedy” LP
J CHURCH “One Missippi” dbl LP
J Church “The Drama Of Alienation” LP
NO USE FOR A NAME “The Feel Good Record of the Year” LP
NOFX “Regaining Unconsciousness” 7″
NOFX “Surfer” 7″
NOFX “The Decline” LP
NOFX “The Longest Line” LP
NONE MORE BLACK “File Under Black” LP
PROPAGANDHI “How To Clean Everything” LP
SICK OF IT ALL “Call to Arms” LP
STRUNG OUT “American Paradox” LP
STRUNG OUT ìSuburban Teenage Wasteland Bluesî LP
THE LAWRENCE ARMS “Apathy & Exhaustion” LP
THE LOVED ONES “Build & Burn” LP
THE LOVED ONES “Distractions” LP

Best Buy Vinyl !

According to the New York Post, Best Buy is thinking about selling vinyl records again in their stores.

The reason, as we all know, is that vinyl sales are growing. (As much as 15 percent up in 2007 and 89% in 2008). The 2009 forecast gets even better. The numbers are so good that mega giant Best Buy started a vinyl record pilot program in 100 stores. The results are so encouraging that the third largest music seller after iTunes and Wal-Mart is thinking about using as much as eight square feet in each of its 1,020 stores to sell vinyl records.

Apparently, vinyl records are becoming a cult object, with an audience seeking the appeal of the physical format and the special sound of analog (which in the case of the classics, could be more attractive than the digital productions). The interest, although minimal considering the rest of the industry, is big enough that big labels are re-releasing old records in the vinyl format. Many established record companies (i.e. Capitol Records) are jumping on the 'vinyl bandwagon' and I would think that many more will be doing the same thing in the upcoming months. Why? It's all about the music (and profit) and there is money to be made. Hail Vinyl !

Allman Brothers' Beacon Run To Be Released in Massive Box Set

Although not a vinyl release, I feel that this is an historic day for Allman Brothers fans as bands' historic concerts at the Beacon Theater in New York last month is set to be released in a 45-disc CD package capturing all fifteen shows. This is the first time that the Allman Brothers have released any live music from, what is now, their 188 consecutive sold out shows dating back to 1989.

The run not only celebrated their 40th anniversary as a band, but was also dedicated to the late Duane Allman, guitarist and band founder. Joining them over the 15 nights is an amazing group of iconic musicians including: Eric Clapton, Levon Helm, Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy, Boz Scaggs, Johnny Winter, Sheryl Crow, Stanley Clarke, Kid Rock, Bonnie Bramlett, Robert Randolph, John Hammond, Billy Gibbons, David Hidalgo, Trey Anastasio, Susan Tedeschi, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh among others.

Also included in the set will be the band's performance at Warren Haynes' 20th annual Christmas Jam from December 2008 and 40 photos taken during the Beacon run. All of this will be included in a custom numbered box.

The price for this massive set is a bit expensive, but fans should have no problem shelling out the $499.00 for this amazing collectible set. Individual shows are also available for $27.00.

New Vinyl Releases

Bob Dylan: Together Through Life (2-CD & DVD) (LP & CD)

The Crocodiles: Summer Of Hate (vinyl)

Flipper: Generic (vinyl reissue)

Flipper: Gone Fishin' (vinyl reissue)

Florence and the Machine: A Lot of Love. A Lot of Blood (vinyl)

Flower-Corsano Duo: The Four Aims (vinyl)

Funkadelic: Cosmic Slop (vinyl reissue)

Funkadelic: Free Your Mind...And Your Ass Will Follow (vinyl reissue)

Gomez: A New Tide (vinyl)

Hearts Revolution: Switchblade EP

I Monster: A Dense Swarm of Ancient Stars (vinyl)

Immaculate Machine: High on Jackson Hill (vinyl)

Juan Maclean: One Day (vinyl)

Malajube: Labyrinthes (vinyl)

My Bloody Valentine: Isn't Anything (vinyl reissue)

My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (vinyl reissue)

Other Lives: Other Lives (vinyl)

Pulp: This Is Hardcore (vinyl reissue)

Ray LaMontagne: Till the Sun Turns Black (vinyl reissue)

Ray LaMontagne: Trouble (vinyl reissue)

Still Flyin': Never Gonna Touch the Ground (vinyl)

Thee Oh Sees: Help (vinyl)

Tosca: No Hassle (vinyl)

Townes Van Zandt: Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas (vinyl)

Turbo Fruits: Mama's Mad Cos I Fried My Brain (vinyl)

Weedeater: God Luck and Good Speed (vinyl)

Bird & Animal Names In Rock & Roll History- part ten

I am adjusting the schedule for this feature, look for this every Tuesday

As we continue our article series about “bird” and “animal” artists and groups in rock and roll, let’s revisit our “bird” theme and start with a little known band that was produced by Dave Edmunds.

Although never hugely popular, the London-based pub rockers “Ducks Deluxe” never let the mainstream rock and roll world get in their way. Playing American-style blues and boogie, adroitly woven with unpretentious rock and roll, Ducks Deluxe members’ Sean Tyla (guitar/vocals), Martin Belmont (guitars), Nick Garvey (bass) and Andy McMaster (keyboards) released several passionate LPs, starting in 1974.

But their best work just happened to be on their final studio album in 1975, an album called “All Too Much” (they added Mick Groom on bass and Tim Roper on the drums). In an expanded version of their EP “Jumpin’” (1975), the group attacks the Bobby Fuller hit “I Fought The Law” with shear abandon and actually are able to capture the essence of the song. Other notable cuts include a romantic rocker, blended with an extraordinary slide guitar on the song “Amsterdam Dog.” They also offer up two different versions of “Something’s Going On” and do an amazing cover of “Here Comes The Night.” Other highlights include the anthem-like “Rock and Roll for Every Boy and Girl” and the funky rhythms of the song “Cannons of the Boogie Night.”

And although they never “hit the big time,” this seminal pub rock band member’s experiences in Ducks Deluxe would serve them well. Ex-Ducks Deluxe members Nick Garvey and Andy McMaster formed the rock/pop band the Motors in 1977. Duck’s guitarist Martin Belmont went on to join Graham Parker’s backing band called The Rumour. Sean Tyla then formed the Tyla Gang. The group reformed to celebrate the 35th anniversary of their original formation.

Another “bird” group that never went on to be a household name was the Scottish-English soul band named “Stone The Crows” (from a Scottish curse meaning “the hell with it”). Perhaps the band’s claim to fame may have been introducing a Janis Joplin-like blues singer named Maggie Bell, who was singing with Les Harvey (brother of Alex Harvey of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band) in a band called Power. They caught the attention of Led Zeppelin manager, Peter Grant, who renamed the group “Stone The Crows.” The first two album releases met with critical acclaim, but failed to sell.

Their 1971 album “Teenage Licks,” was full of blues-rockers and was met with rave reviews and it seemed that the band was on the verge of success. In fact, Singer Maggie Bell won Britain’s Top Girl Singer Award for the first of many times. But, tragedy struck when band member Les Harvey was electrocuted by a microphone wire during a show. Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch came in to finish the predetermined gigs and also played on the band’s next release “Ontinuous,” but the band broke up shortly after its release. McCulloch would later join Paul McCartney and Wings and after a stint with them, he joined up with the reformed band Small Faces. Maggie Bell released several solo albums and enjoyed moderate success as a session vocalist, including sitting in on Rod Stewart’s album called “Every Picture Tells A Story.”

One of the first true punk groups from “down under” was the influential punk band called “Radio Birdman,” who released several high-energy, guitar heavy LPs in the late 70's (the origin of the band’s name comes from a lyric in the Blue Oyster Cult song “Dominance and Submission”). In their first EP called, “Burn My Eye,” surfer-turned vocalist Rob Younger unleashes his distinctive boisterous rants, while guitarist Deniz Tek skillfully plays rapid-fire, feverish guitar.

On their first LP, the band engages in a thunderous cover of the Stooges’ “T.V. Eye,” conquer the world of urban desolation with the song “Murder City Nights” and fill the album with emotionally draining, yet genre defining punk rock. But, after taking almost three years to record a follow up album, dozens of other Australian punk bands stole the spotlight and the group split up almost immediately after their second LP called “Living Eyes.” The band has influenced the work of many successful, mainstream groups and is now considered to be one of the most crucial bands to Australia's musical growth, but their main legacy was their towering influence over Australian indie rock in the 1980s.

We will continue with our article series about “bird” and “animal” groups and artists in rock and roll next week!

Ducks Deluxe Tidbits:

The band reformed to celebrate the 35th anniversary. This was at the 100 Club in London on October 9, 2007. The line-up was Martin Belmont, Sean Tyla, Mickey Groome and Billy Rankin. On January 26, 2008 they played Centre Culturel de Paul Baillart, Massy, near Paris, France. And on September 20, 2008 they played the PopXiria Festival in Carbello, near La Coruna in Spain, headlining the final night of the event.

In 2009, Ducks Deluxe appeared at the Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne Minster, Dorset on January 24, 2009 and are scheduled to tour Sweden in April 2009.

The permanent line-up of the band is now Sean Tyla (vocals and guitar), Martin Belmont (guitar and vocals), Kevin Foster (bass guitar and backing vocals) and Jim Russell on drums.

The band are reported to be compiling a new CD for release in 2009 of rare live tracks, b-sides (never before released on CD) and perhaps some new material as well.

Stone The Crows Tidbits:

Original Lineup:
Maggie Bell, vocals
Les Harvey, guitar
Colin Allen, drums
James Dewar, bass
John McGinnis, keyboards

One of their fantastic covers is the Beatles' "Fool On The Hill" "I always wanted to do this because it's got great lyrics. We didn't really do it like the Beatles but I remember Petula Clark once said it was the finest version she'd ever heard," explained Maggie.

Maggie Bell now lives in Rotterdam, Holland, and is still singing and recording. In 1995 she did a tour of Scotland with the old Alex Harvey Band which went down a storm. She also toured with Chris Farlowe for three years. "I have been keeping busy. I could never give this business up!"

Radio Birdman Tidbits:

Although there was no official announcement by management, the group disbanded in May 2008.

In 2006 Radio Birdman was very active, spearheaded by the completion of a new album entitled “Zeno Beach,” which was released in Australia on June 24, 2006 via the band's own Crying Sun Records, and in the US via Yep Roc Records.

In July 2007 the band were inducted into the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Hall of Fame.

Copyright 2009 Robert Benson