Aug 21, 2018

WAYNE SHORTER - Phantom Navigator (Columbia Records FC 40373, 1987)

Wayne Shorter's continually expanding body of work is inextricably linked to the history of modern music. His music transcends genre while keeping the improvisational genius and surprise of jazz burning at the center. Regarded as one of the most significant and prolific performers and composers in jazz and modern music; Wayne Shorter has an outstanding record of professional achievement in his historic career as a musician. He has received substantial recognition from his peers, including 6 Grammy Awards and 13 other Grammy nominations to date. He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from New York University, the New England Conservatory and the Berklee College of Music. In 1997, the National Endowment for the Arts presented Shorter with the prestigious Jazz Master Award. Shorter's childlike imagination and ceaseless innovation in music invite comparison to the enduring vitality of Picasso in the world of art or of Bergman in film. Today, Shorter continues to dazzle audiences with his Quartet and his Symphony project, creating some of the most powerful music of his career.

Even if the prolific composer had never written a single tune, his signature sound and choice of notes, sense of economy and unparalleled expression on both tenor and soprano saxes would have earmarked him for greatness. Combine the writing prowess with the fragmented, probing solos and the enigmatic Buddhist philosopher presence and you have the makings of a jazz immortal. “Life is so mysterious, to me,” says Shorter. “I can’t stop at any one thing to say, ‘Oh, this is what it is.’ And I think it’s always becoming, always becoming. That’s the adventure. And imagination is part of that adventure.”

Born in Newark, New Jersey on August 25, 1933, had his first great jazz epiphany as a teenager: “I remember seeing Lester Young when I was 15 years old. It was a Norman Granz Jazz at the Philharmonic show in Newark and he was late coming to the theater. Me and a couple of other guys were waiting out front of the Adams Theater and when he finally did show up, he had the pork pie hat and everything. So then we were trying to figure out how to get into the theater from the fire escape around the back. We eventually got into the mezzanine and saw that whole show — Stan Kenton and Dizzy Gillespie bands together on stage doing ‘Peanut Vendor,’ Charlie Parker with strings doing ‘Laura’ and stuff like that. And Russell Jacquet…Ilinois Jacquet. He was there doing his thing. That whole scene impressed me so much that I just decided, ‘Hey, man, let me get a clarinet.’ So I got one when I was 16, and that’s when I started music.”

Switching to tenor saxophone, Shorter formed a teenage band in Newark called The Jazz Informers and later got some invaluable bandstand experience with the Jackie Bland Band, a progressive Newark orchestra that specialized in bebop. While still in high school, Shorter participated in several cutting contests on Newark’s jazz scene, including one memorable encounter with sax great Sonny Stitt. He attended college at New York University while also soaking up the Manhattan jazz scene by frequenting popular nightspots like Birdland and Cafe Bohemia. Wayne worked his way through college by playing with the Nat Phipps orchestra. Upon graduating in 1956, he worked briefly with Johnny Eaton and his Princetonians, earning the nickname “The Newark Flash” for his speed and facility on the tenor saxophone.

But just as he was beginning making his mark, Shorter was drafted into the Army. He recalls a memorable jam session at the Cafe Bohemia just days before he was shipped off to Fort Dix, New Jersey. “A week before I went into the Army I went to the Cafe Bohemia to hear music, I said, for the last time in my life. I was standing at the bar having a cognac and I had my draft notice in my back pocket. That’s when I met Max Roach. He said, ‘You’re the kid from Newark, huh? You’re The Flash.’ And he asked me to sit in. They were changing drummers throughout the night, so Max played drums, then Art Taylor, then Art Blakey. Oscar Pettiford was on cello. Jimmy Smith came in the door with his organ. He drove to the club with his organ in a hearse. And outside we heard that Miles was looking for somebody named Cannonball. And I’m saying to myself, ‘All this stuff is going on and I gotta go to the Army in about five days!’”

Following his time in the service, Shorter had a brief stint in 1958 with Horace Silver and later played in the house band at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem. It was around this time that Shorter began jamming with fellow tenor saxophonists John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. In 1959, Shorter had a brief stint with the Maynard Ferguson big band before joining Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in August of that year. He remained with the Jazz Messengers through 1963, becoming Blakey’s musical director and contributing several key compositions to the band’s book during those years. Shorter made his recording debut as a leader in 1959 for the Vee Jay label and in 1964 cut the first of a string of important recordings for the Blue Note label. He joined the Miles Davis band in 1964 and remained with the group through 1970, contributing such landmark compositions as “Nefertiti,” “E.S.P.,” “Pinocchio,” “Sanctuary,” “Fall” and “Footprints.”

In 1970, Shorter co-founded the group Weather Report with keyboardist and Miles Davis alum, Joe Zawinul. It remained the premier fusion group through the ’70s and into the early ’80s before disbanding in 1985 after 16 acclaimed recordings, including 1980’s Grammy Award-winning double-live LP set, 8:30. Shorter formed his own group in 1986 and produced a succession of electric jazz albums for the Columbia label — 1986’s Atlantis, 1987’s Phantom Navigator, 1988’s Joy Ryder. He re-emerged on the Verve label with 1995’s High Life. After the tragic loss of his wife in 1996 (she was aboard the ill-fated Paris-bound flight TWA 800), Shorter returned to the scene with 1997’s 1+1, an intimate duet recording with pianist and former Miles Davis quintet bandmate Herbie Hancock. The two spent 1998 touring as a duet.

By the summer of 2001, Wayne began touring as the leader of a talented young lineup featuring pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, each a celebrated recording artist and bandleader in his own right. The group’s uncanny chemistry was well documented on 2002’s acclaimed Footprints Live! Shorter followed in 2003 with the ambitious Alegria, an expanded vision for large ensemble which earned him a Grammy Award. In 2005, Shorter released the live Beyond the Sound Barrier which earned him another Grammy Award. “It’s the same mission…fighting the good fight,” he said. “It’s making a statement about what life is, really. And I’m going to end the line with it.”

Shorter marked another musical milestone in 2007 by pairing up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw, and a handful of the world’s best symphony orchestras to unveil his new symphonic repertoire including striking reworkings of earlier compositions and newly composed material. Bassist John Pattitucci says that Shorter possesses the prowess of many classical composers combined. "Wayne's got a feel for the melody, like Puccini, on an extremely high level, but he's also got the harmonic complexity, like Ravel.” The rich harmonic palette of his music and the interaction between orchestra and soloists makes the music compelling and interesting to audiences and also energizing and interesting for orchestral musicians. The orchestra functions as a leading voice, in dialogue and interplay with improvisations by Shorter and his ensemble.


Aug 20, 2018

PATTI SMITH - Horses (Arista Records AL 4066, 1975)

Patricia Lee Smith was born in Chicago to Beverly Smith, a jazz singer turned waitress, and Grant Smith, who worked as a machinist at a Honeywell plant. The family was of part-Irish ancestry and Patti was the eldest of four children. At the age of 4, Smith's family moved from Chicago to the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, before her family moved to Pitman, New Jersey and later to The Woodbury Gardens section of Deptford Township, New Jersey. At this early age Smith was exposed to her first records, including Shrimp Boats by Harry Belafonte, Patience and Prudence's The Money Tree, and Another Side of Bob Dylan, which her mother gave to her. Smith graduated from Deptford Township High School in 1964 and went to work in a factory. She gave birth to her first child, a daughter, on April 26, 1967, and chose to place her for adoption.

In 1967, she left Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) and moved to Manhattan. She met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe there while working at a bookstore with friend and poet Janet Hamill. She and Mapplethorpe had an intense romantic relationship, which was tumultuous as the pair struggled with times of poverty, and Mapplethorpe with his own sexuality. Smith considers Mapplethorpe to be one of the most important people in her life, and in her book Just Kids refers to him as "the artist of my life." Mapplethorpe's photographs of her became the covers for the Patti Smith Group albums, and they remained friends until Mapplethorpe's death in 1989. She went to Paris with her sister in 1969, and started busking and doing performance art. When Smith returned to Manhattan, she lived in the Hotel Chelsea with Mapplethorpe; they frequented Max's Kansas City and CBGB. Smith provided the spoken word soundtrack for Sandy Daley's art film Robert Having His Nipple Pierced, starring Mapplethorpe. The same year Smith appeared with Wayne County in Jackie Curtis's play Femme Fatale. Afterward, she also starred in Tony Ingrassia's play Island. As a member of the St. Mark's Poetry Project, she spent the early 1970s painting, writing, and performing. In 1971 she performed for one night only in Cowboy Mouth, a play that she co-wrote with Sam Shepard. (The published play's notes call for "a man who looks like a coyote and a woman who looks like a crow".) She wrote several poems, "for sam shepard" and "Sam Shepard: 9 Random Years (7 + 2)" about her relationship with Shepard.

Smith was briefly considered for the lead singer position in Blue Öyster Cult. She contributed lyrics to several of the band's songs, including "Debbie Denise" (inspired by her poem "In Remembrance of Debbie Denise"), "Baby Ice Dog", "Career of Evil", "Fire of Unknown Origin", "The Revenge of Vera Gemini" (on which she performs duet vocals), and "Shooting Shark". She was romantically involved at the time with the band's keyboardist, Allen Lanier. During these years, Smith also wrote rock journalism pieces, some of which were published in Rolling Stone and Creem. By 1974, Patti Smith was performing rock music, initially with guitarist, bassist and rock archivist Lenny Kaye, and later with a full band comprising Kaye, Ivan Kral on guitar and bass, Jay Dee Daugherty on drums and Richard Sohl on piano. Kral was a refugee from Czechoslovakia who had moved to the United States in 1966 with his parents, who were diplomats. After the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, he decided not to return. Financed by Sam Wagstaff, the band recorded a first single, "Hey Joe / Piss Factory", in 1974. The A-side was a version of the rock standard with the addition of a spoken word piece about fugitive heiress Patty Hearst ("Patty Hearst, you're standing there in front of the Symbionese Liberation Army flag with your legs spread, I was wondering were you gettin' it every night from a black revolutionary man and his women"). A court later heard that Hearst had been confined against her will, and had been repeatedly threatened with execution and raped. The B-side describes the helpless anger Smith had felt while working on a factory assembly line and the salvation she discovered in the form of a shoplifted book, the 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations. In a 1996 interview which discusses artistic influences during her younger years, Smith said, "I had devoted so much of my girlish daydreams to Rimbaud. Rimbaud was like my boyfriend." Later that same year, she performed spoken poetry on "I Wake Up Screaming" from Ray Manzarek's "The Whole Thing Started with Rock & Roll Now It's Out of Control" album.

"Horses" was the debut studio album by American musician Patti Smith, released on December 13, 1975, on Arista Records. Smith, a fixture of the then-burgeoning New York punk rock music scene, began recording "Horses" with her band in 1975 after being signed to Arista Records, with John Cale being enlisted to produce the album. With its fusion of simplistic rock and roll structures and Smith's freeform, Beat poetry-infused lyrics, "Horses" was met with widespread critical acclaim upon its initial release. Despite a lack of airplay or a popular single to support the album, it nonetheless experienced modest commercial success, managing a top 50 placing on the US Billboard 200. "Horses" has since been viewed by critics as one of the greatest and most influential albums in the history of the American punk rock movement, as well as one of the greatest albums of all time. "Horses" has also been cited as a key influence on a number of succeeding post-punk, and alternative rock acts, including Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths, R.E.M. and PJ Harvey.

By 1975, Patti Smith and her band had established themselves as favorites in the New York underground club scene, and the band eventually caught the attention of industry executive Clive Davis, who was scouting for new talent to sign to his new label Arista Records and later offered Smith a record deal. Recording sessions for Smith's debut album "Horses" began later that year, with Smith retaining her longtime backing band from a lengthy residency at the New York club CBGB, Jay Dee Daugherty on drums, Lenny Kaye on guitar, Ivan Kral on bass, and Richard Sohl on keyboards. Smith enlisted Welsh musician John Cale, formerly of The Velvet Underground, to serve as the album's producer, as she was impressed by the raw sound of his own albums, such as "Fear". According to Smith, "Horses" was a conscious attempt "to make a record that would make a certain type of person not feel alone. People who were like me, different. I wasn't targeting the whole world. I wasn't trying to make a hit record". Recording sessions for the album were marked by frequent arguments between Smith and Cale, owing in part to their different work ethics. By the end of recording, and for some years immediately following the album's release, Smith was quick to downplay Cale's contributions and suggested that she and her band ignored his suggestions entirely. In a 1976 interview with Rolling Stone, Smith described the experience:

"My picking John was about as arbitrary as picking Rimbaud. I saw the cover of Illuminations with Rimbaud's face, y'know, he looked so cool, just like Bob Dylan. So Rimbaud became my favorite poet. I looked at the cover of Fear and I said, 'Now there's a set of cheekbones.' In my mind I picked him because his records sounded good. But I hired the wrong guy. All I was really looking for was a technical person. Instead, I got a total maniac artist. I went to pick out an expensive watercolor painting and instead I got a mirror. It was really like A Season in Hell, for both of us. But inspiration doesn't always have to be someone sending me half a dozen American Beauty roses. There's a lotta inspiration going on between the murderer and the victim. And he had me so nuts I wound up doing this nine-minute cut that transcended anything I ever did before".

John Cale would later recall that PattiSmith initially struck him as "someone with an incredibly volatile mouth who could handle any situation", and that as producer on "Horses" he wanted to capture the energy of her live performances, noting that there "was a lot of power in Patti's use of language, in the way images collided with one another." He described their working relationship during recording as "confrontational and a lot like an immutable force meeting an immovable object". Smith herself would later attribute much of the tension between herself and Cale to her inexperience with formal studio recording, recalling that she was "very, very suspicious, very guarded and hard to work with" and "made it difficult for him to do some of the things he had to do". She expressed gratitude for Cale's persistence in recording and producing the band, noting that he would always leave much of the band's "adolescent and honest flaws" in and ultimately "helped us in the birth of ourselves", calling him "like a brother to me, a brother who gave me a helping hand."

In Smith's own words, "Horses" was conceived as "three-chord rock merged with the power of the word". Steve Huey of AllMusic calls "Horses" essentially the first art punk album. Smith and her band's sound, spearheaded by the rudimentary guitar work of Lenny Kaye, drew on the simple aesthetics of garage rock, and the group's use of simplistic chord structures was emblematic of the punk rock scene associated with the band. Smith, however, used such structures as a basis for lyrical and musical improvisation in the album's songs, diverging from other contemporary punk acts who generally shied away from solos."Horses" drew on genres such as rock and roll, reggae, and jazz. "Redondo Beach" features a reggae backing track, while "Birdland", which was improvised by the band in Electric Lady Studios, owed more to jazz, which Smith's mother enjoyed, than to the influence of punk.

Reflecting Smith's background as a poet, the album's lyrics channel the French Symbolism movement, incorporating influences from the works of Charles Baudelaire, William Blake, and Smith's lifelong idol Arthur Rimbaud, and recall the revolutionary spirit of Rimbaud and resonate with the energy of Beat poetry, according to CMJ's Steve Klinge. Several of the album's songs, "Redondo Beach", "Free Money", "Kimberly", were inspired by moments with members of Smith's family, while others. "Break It Up", "Elegie", were written about her idols. Smith's sisters provide the lyrical inspirations for "Redondo Beach" and "Kimberly"; the former song, about despairing over a missing lover, was inspired by an incident in which Smith's sister Linda disappeared for the day following an argument with her, and the latter song was named after and dedicated to Smith's sister Kimberly. "Free Money" is a recollection of Smith's childhood in New Jersey.

"Break It Up" was written by Smith about Jim Morrison, deceased lead singer of The Doors, and based on her recollection of her visit of Morrison's grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, as well as a dream in which she witnessed Morrison stuck to a marble slab, trying and eventually succeeding in breaking free from the stone. "Elegie" was written about deceased rock musician Jimi Hendrix. "Birdland" features lyrics based upon A Book of Dreams, a 1973 memoir of Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich by his son Peter, and Smith has said that she imagined the spirit of Hendrix watching her while she and her band recorded the song. Horses also features two adaptations of songs by other artists: "Gloria", a radical retake on the Them song incorporating verses from Smith's own poem "Oath", and "Land", already a live favorite, which features the first verse of Chris Kenner's "Land of a Thousand Dances". On the latter, Smith fuses the imagery of the Kenner song together with the experiences of the character Johnny, a reference to the homoerotic protagonist of William S. Burroughs' 1971 novel The Wild Boys, while also alluding to Arthur Rimbaud and, less directly, Jimi Hendrix, whom she imagined to be "dreaming a simple rock-and-roll song, and it takes him into all these other realms."

The cover photograph for "Horses" was taken using natural light by American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, a close friend of Smith's, at the Greenwich Village penthouse apartment of his partner Sam Wagstaff. Smith is depicted wearing a plain white shirt which she had purchased at the Salvation Army on the Bowery and slinging a black jacket over her shoulder and her favorite black ribbon around her collar. Embedded on the jacket is a horse pin that Smith's friend Allen Lanier had given her. Smith has described her pose on the cover as a mix of Baudelaire and Sinatra. The record company wanted to make various changes to the photo, but Smith overruled such attempts. The black and white treatment and unisex pose were a departure from the typical promotional images of girl singers of the time, but Smith maintains that she wasn't making a big statement. That's just the way I dressed.

Upon initial release, "Horses" was met with near-universal acclaim from music critics and publications. In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, John Rockwell wrote that "Horses" is wonderful in large measure because it recognizes the over-whelming importance of words in Smith's work, covering a range of concerns far beyond what most rock records even dream of, and highlighted Smith's adaptions of rock standards as the most striking songs on the record. In Creem, Lester Bangs wrote that Smith's music in its ultimate moments touches deep wellsprings of emotion that extremely few artists in rock or anywhere else are capable of reaching, and declared that with her wealth of promise and the most incandescent flights and stillnesses of this album she joins the ranks of people like Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, or the Dylan of "Sad Eyed Lady" and Royal Albert Hall. Robert Christgau gave "Horses" an A- grade in The Village Voice and remarked that while the album does not capture Smith's humor, it gets the minimalist fury of her band and the revolutionary dimension of her singing just fine.

The "Horses" mix of philosophical elements in Smith's songwriting and rock and roll elements in its music did, however, attract some polarizing reactions, particularly from the British music press. A review of Horses from Melody Maker dismissed the album as precisely what's wrong with rock and roll right now. On the other hand, Jonh Ingham of Sounds published a five-star review of "Horses", naming it the record of the year and one of the most stunning, commanding, engrossing platters to come down the turnpike since John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band. Charles Shaar Murray of NME called it an album in a thousand and an important album in terms of what rock can encompass without losing its identity as a musical form, in that it introduces an artist of greater vision than has been seen in rock for far too long. Commercially, "Horses" performed modestly, managing to peak at number 47 on the United States Billboard 200 albums chart despite receiving virtually no airplay. At the end of 1975, "Horses" was voted the second best album of the year, behind Bob Dylan and The Band's "The Basement Tapes", in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics nationwide, published in The Village Voice. NME placed it at number thirteen on their year-end list of 1975's best albums. In 1979, Robert Christgau ranked it at number 38 on his list of the best albums of the 1970s.

Following its release, "Horses" further cemented Smith's reputation as one of the biggest names of the New York punk rock scene, alongside contemporary acts such as the Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads, and it has since been cited as the first significant punk rock album. "Horses" is considered one of the key recordings of the early punk rock movement and a landmark for punk and new wave music in general, inspiring a raw, almost amateurish energy for the former and critical, engaging reflexivity for the latter, according to writer Chris Smith in his book 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music. The Observer critic Simon Reynolds wrote, Pipping the Ramones' first album to the post by five months, "Horses" is generally considered not just one of the most startling debuts in rock history but the spark that ignited the punk explosion. In Variety, David Sprague wrote that "Horses", which became the first major-label punk-rock album when Arista unleashed it in 1975, not only helped spread the gospel of Bowery art-punk around the world, it set the tone for smart, unbending female rockers of generations to come.

Various recording artists have specifically named "Horses" as an influence on their music. English post-punk band Siouxsie and the Banshees acknowledged that the song "Carcass" from their 1978 album "The Scream" was inspired by "Horses". Michael Stipe of R.E.M. bought the album as a high school student and says that it tore his limbs off and put them back on in a whole different order, citing Smith as his primary inspiration for becoming a musician. Morrissey and Johnny Marr shared an appreciation for the record, and one of their early compositions for The Smiths, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle", is a reworking of "Kimberly". Courtney Love of Hole stated that "Horses" helped inspire her to become a rock musician, while Viv Albertine of The Slits stated that "Horses" absolutely and completely changed her life, adding: "Us girls never stood in front of a mirror posing as if we had a guitar because we had no role models. So, when Patti Smith came along, it was huge. She was groundbreakingly different." PJ Harvey stated in 1992 at the beginning of her career: "I heard "Horses" once and it was brilliant, not so much her music as her delivery, her words, her articulation. Her honesty".

"Horses" has been considered by music critics to be one of the finest albums in recorded music history, attaining high levels of critical success and influence in the years following its release despite modest sales figures. The album has been included in various publications' lists of the greatest albums of the 1970s and of all time. In 1992, NME ranked "Horses" at first place on its list of 20 Near-as-Damn-It Perfect Initial Efforts" Q magazine included it in its 2002 list of the 100 greatest punk albums. In 2003, the album was ranked number 44 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2006, Time named it as one of the All-TIME 100 Albums, and three years later, it was preserved by the Library of Congress into the National Recording Registry for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. In 2013, Rolling Stone ranked "Horses" number 10 on their list of the 100 best debut albums of all time, describing it as a declaration of committed mutiny, a statement of faith in the transfigurative powers of rock & roll.

Aug 19, 2018

JOHNNIE TAYLOR - Wanted One Soul Singer
(Atlantic/Stax Records S 715, 1967)

Johnnie Harrison Taylor was a popular gospel and rhythm and blues singer, known as the Philosopher of Soul, whose recording career spanned forty-six years. His single "Disco Lady" was the first single ever to be certified platinum. He was added to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1999. Johnnie Taylor was born in Crawfordsville (Crittenden County) on May 5, 1934. The official date of his birth was not revealed until after his death; he had long claimed to be four years younger. The youngest of three siblings, he was raised by his grandmother in West Memphis. She was religious and made sure he attended church regularly. He made his church singing debut at age six, and inspired by both gospel and the blues, he decided at a young age that he wanted to make a living by singing.

Taylor moved to Kansas City, Missouri, at age ten with his grandmother, and during his teen years, sang with a gospel quartet, the Melody Kings. They occasionally opened for the famous, highly influential gospel group, the Soul Stirrers, whose young lead singer, Sam Cooke, befriended Taylor. By 1953, Taylor had moved to Chicago, Illinois, and was singing with the doo-wop group the Five Echoes, with whom he made his first recordings on the VeeJay label. Shortly afterward, he also began singing with the Highway QCs, a long-running, popular gospel quartet in which Cooke and Lou Rawls had previously been members. The QCs made their recording debut in 1955 with Taylor singing lead on "Somewhere to Lay My Head", which made the group a nationwide gospel attraction.

When Cooke left the Soul Stirrers, Taylor was chosen to be his replacement in 1957. While a member of the group, he became an ordained minister and preached his first sermon at Fellowship Baptist Church in Chicago. After a wreck in which he ran over a little girl in 1960, Taylor was booted from the Soul Stirrers and went to Los Angeles, California, intending to preach full time. In 1963, however, Cooke signed him as the first artist on his new SAR label, and Taylor, still stinging from being kicked out of the Soul Stirrers and determined to find his place in the music marketplace, began recording secular music. His first solo single was "A Whole Lot of Woman" in 1961. Other notable early Rhythm'n'Blues recordings were "Rome (Wasn’t Built in a Day)" (1962) and "Baby We’ve Got Love" (1963), which was his first song to appear on Billboard magazine’s Top 100 chart. The label folded after Cooke’s death in 1964.

In 1966, Taylor signed with Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, where Stax executive, Al Bell of North Little Rock (Pulaski County), dubbed him the Philosopher of Soul. At Stax, Taylor polished his musical style, which combined gospel, Rhythm'n'Blues, and Blues, as well as his flamboyant appearance, and he proceeded to become one of the label’s top-selling performers, outselling such big stars as Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. He had a prolific run on the R&B charts, beginning with "I Had A Dream" (1966). His first song on the Stax label to break the pop Top 100 was "Somebody’s Sleeping in My Bed" (1967). In 1968, Taylor had his first major crossover pop and Rhythm'n'Blues hit in "Who’s Making Love", a funk/soul song that went to number one on the Rhythm'n'Blues charts and hit number five on the pop charts. The success of "Who’s Making Love" enabled Taylor to hire a superb, permanent touring band for the first time in his career, and he became a major performer on the "Chitlin' Circuit" all across the South. Subsequent hits included "Take Care of Your Homework" (1969), "Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone" (1971), "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)" (1972) and "Cheaper to Keep Her" (1973). By this time, he had perfected his style of smooth, soulful crooning, which incorporated gospel, blues, and soul.

When Stax Records went bankrupt in 1975, Taylor signed with CBS Columbia Records. In 1976, he released his first CBS album, titled "Eargasm", which contained his biggest hit, "Disco Lady", which went to number one on both the Rhythm'n'Blues and pop charts and became the first single ever to be certified platinum, selling more than two million copies. CBS pushed him to record more tunes in the disco genre, not taking advantage of the full range of his talent. His record sales slipped, and he began to look for another label. In 1982, Taylor signed with Beverly Glen Records and got back on the Rhythm'n'Blues charts with "What About My Love". In 1984, he signed with Malaco Records and became one of its most popular artists. He released a succession of hit Rhythm'n'Blues albums for the label, beginning with "This Is Your Night". His 1996 album, "Good Love", topped Billboard’s blues charts on the strength of the single "Last Two Dollars", and the album became the biggest seller in Malaco history. Taylor released his final album, "Gotta Get the Groove Back", in 1999. In that same year, he was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. While living in Duncanville, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, Taylor suffered a heart attack, and on May 31, 2000, he died at Charleton Methodist Hospital in Dallas.

Aug 16, 2018

THE ZOMBIES - Still Got That Hunger (Cherry Red Records CDBRED671, 2015)

"Still Got That Hunger" was the sixth studio album by English rock band The Zombies, released on 9 October 2015. The band funded production of the album through the crowdfunding web site PledgeMusic, receiving donations from 958 pledgers and reaching 143% of its funding goal. Two of the songs on the album were remakes of earlier recordings by members of the band. "I Want You Back Again" was originally released by the Zombies as a single in 1965 and in the intervening time has been covered in live performances by Tom Petty, a self-professed fan of the band. "Now I Know I'll Never Get Over You" was originally released by Colin Blunstone on his 2009 solo album "The Ghost of You and Me". Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, two true stalwarts of classy English pop, had reunited after three decades under the moniker of their former outfit, The Zombies.  Their reunion has been enthusiastically embraced by the public, thanks to a hot band, some superlative new material, and a stage repertoire that draws heavily upon their much-cherished catalogue of Zombies and solo hits.

In their day, the Zombies were one of the few English bands of the 1960s that enjoyed true global popularity, with two American number ones, chart records throughout the rest of the world, and a deep and lasting affection for their music. For instance, in early 1967, at a time when their career had almost ground to a halt in the UK, the band played to crowds of over 30,000 in the Philippines. And ironically, right after the band split, their final single “Time Of The Season” quickly became their biggest record – US radio plays for the latter song recently passed the four million mark. The Zombies’ first two American singles, “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No”, also remain two of the most-heavily spun vintage hits on American classic-rock radio.

But beyond the statistics, the Zombies had several remarkable attributes that set them apart from other artists. The sheer consistent quality of Rod Argent and Chris White’s songwriting is rivaled only by Lennon and McCartney. Building upon the standard R&B and rock’n’roll influences, the Zombies introduced class and sophistication into a genre not noted for either, and in the most natural, unselfconscious way possible. And the songs were lent an extra dimension by the voice of Colin Blunstone, widely acknowledged as one of the finest singers Britain has ever produced. Rod Argent’s keyboard work is regarded as some of the most accomplished and inventive in rock. The Zombies’ canon belongs on the same shelf as the other major players of the mid-1960s such as the Kinks, Yardbirds and Animals; from their debut “She’s Not There” onwards, there was never at any point a drop in quality. The Zombies’ records are some of the best produced and distinctive in all pop music.

More importantly, the popularity of the Zombies’ music, in keeping with their name, shows no sign of dying. Their unsurpassed oeuvre continues to influence musicians around the world, whether they be original fans the stature of Tom Petty or Pat Metheney, or relative youngsters like REM, Beck, Pavement and Paul Weller. And contemporary cutting edge American and UK acts such as Fountains of Wayne, Spoon, Badly Drawn Boy, Belle & Sebastian and Super Furry Animals are just the latest in a long line of musicians to play homage to the Zombies, for thanks to high profile reissues like the definitive 1997 box set Zombie Heaven, each new pop generation has been able to discover for themselves the undiluted magic of the band’s catalogue.

In recent years, when the Zombies have been feted by pop’s hip aristocracy, it has been largely for their swansong, Odessey & Oracle (famously misspelled by the cover artist), from which “Time Of The Season” was taken. It was their second and final album, recorded in 1967 before they went their separate ways, and remains perhaps their greatest artistic statement. Odessey presents an evocation of memory that maybe has yet to be surpassed in pop music, with a peculiarly English yet universal slant on dreams, childhood and the attendant loss of innocence that derives from the passing of both. And it is a record today as celebrated and influential as the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds or Love’s Forever Changes, recently ranked #80 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and #32 by the U.K.’s New Music Express in a similar list of British albums.

Upon the demise of the Zombies, Rod Argent went on to form the eponymously named band Argent, who had further success in the United States during the 1970s with the anthemic hits “Hold Your Head Up” and “God Gave Rock & Roll To You”. He has since had a varied and successful career in the field of record production, as well as frequently scoring for television and stage. Colin Blunstone meanwhile has remained a familiar chart presence in the UK and Europe through hits like “I Don’t Believe In Miracles” and “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”, while his back catalogue, studded with gems like the album One Year, boasts a solid cult following amongst musicians and fans ‘in the know’ (in addition to Zombies’ material, Rod and Colin feature excerpts from both of their solo careers in the current show).

In 1998, these two exceptional musicians decided to join forces again after thirty years, cognizant that their musical partnership is far more than the sum of the parts. They also have the added benefit of a splendid, entirely complementary band, which includes former Argent and Kinks bassist Jim Rodford,  his son Steve on drums, and acclaimed session player Tom Toomey on guitar. In 2001, Blunstone and Argent released the first recorded fruits of their collaboration in the album Out Of The Shadows. This was followed up in 2004 with As Far As I Can See…, released in the U.S. by Rhino Records.  Featuring 10 new tracks, plus a re-working of Blunstone’s hit “I Don’t Believe In Miracles”, the album is colored by The Zombies’ trademark minor-key melancholy along with Blunstone and Argent’s explorations of new musical territory.

This is also the first new recording released under “The Zombies” name since Odessey & Oracle - a move Argent had resisted for years, in respect to the band’s legacy. “Ever since The Zombies split up in 1967, we have always resisted re-forming despite being offered lots of money,” explains Argent. “We didn’t put the band back together then because we have always wanted to look forward, and it has always seemed wrong to put the band back together again simply to make a quick buck.” However, commenting on the new album, Rod reveals that the specter of the Zombies is a natural result of his and Colin’s renewed partnership: “When we played the first mixes back, Colin and I were surprised to hear many resonances of our first band on the record, because they weren’t achieved consciously,” says Argent. “Suddenly, and for the first time in all these years, it felt honest and right to include the name ‘Zombies’ somewhere on the album. It still feels important to include our own names as well - a way of expressing something about the future as well as acknowledging the past.”

The album has another special connection to The Zombies’ storied past. Paul Atkinson, one of the group’s original guitarists and a legendary music executive, earned a special A&R credit on As Far As I Can See…for his efforts championing the album. Blunstone and Argent recently played a benefit concert at the Los Angeles House of Blues to honor their friend and bandmate, who sadly died prior to the album’s American release. The album also features former Zombies member Chris White contributing guest vocals on three songs: “Memphis,” “I Want To Fly,” and “Look For A Better Way.” Their return to the concert stage is of particular importance to fans, since many never had the opportunity to see the band live during its brief existence in the 60’s (especially since a large number of their fans were born after the original line-up disbanded!).  Their live performances were recently captured on a double CD and DVD, Live At The Bloomsbury Theatre (released in the U.S. by Rhino in 2007), and their appearances in North America have included the “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” and “HippieFest” tours, as well a stint for Rod Argent in the 2006 line-up of Ringo Starr’s “All-Star Band”.

March 2008 marked a true celebration of joining the old and the new, when the current Zombies line-up was joined onstage by the other surviving original members, bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy, for a series of special concerts at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire, which featured the first-ever live performances of Odessey & Oracle in its entirety.  This momentous event, awaited by many for decades, was filmed for a future DVD release, and was attended by fans ranging from Robert Plant to members of Snow Patrol.

The Zombies are cited by the mercurial Courtney Love; and as influences by Badly Drawn Boy, Paul Weller, Super Furry Animals, Magic Numbers, Billy Joel, She & Him, Foo Fighters, Fleet Foxes, The Vaccines and the Arctic Monkeys, among others. Recorded for their Golddiggers album, The Beautiful South released their version of  “This Will Be Our Year” as a single. Just recently, Neko Case and Nick Cave recorded “She’s Not There” for the premier episode of HBO’s ‘True Blood’ fourth season.  The Zombies’ songs are regularly covered live by such varied artists as Beck, She & Him and Belle & Sebastian, and used in films and TV shows (‘Dear Wendy,’ ‘Awakenings,’ ‘Kill Bill 2,’ ‘The Simpson,’ among others – evidence that their music really is as fresh and relevant today as it ever was. The Zombies’ touring band features original members Colin Blunstone (lead vocals) and Rod Argent (keyboards & vocals), plus Jim Rodford (bass), Tom Toomey (guitar) and Steve Rodford (drums). They played live dates in the UK in 2009 and again in 2010, also touring that year in France, Spain, and the USA. They kicked off a successful U.S. tour in September, 2011 and returned in the summer of 2012, to even larger and more enthusiastic audiences.

Aug 15, 2018

THE FUZZTONES - Preaching To Be Perverted 
(Stag-O-Lee Records STAG-O-021, 2011)

The Fuzztones were born in the summer of 1980, in the bowels of New York City's Lower East Side. "Alphabet City" to be exact. Rudi Protrudi and Deb O'Nair had moved there from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, five years earlier, with their band Tina Peel. Hot on the Punk Rock trail, Tina Peel brought their 60's influenced bubblegum punk to the sweaty, boozy confines of slummy sleazepits like CBGB's, Max's Kansas City, and the equally notorious Mudd Club. Citing The Monkees, Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Company and The Archies as their musical influences, and opting for clashing black and white polka dot and striped mod attire instead of the leather jacketed, torn t-shirt uniform of the moment, Tina Peel weren't exactly Punk magazine's pick for Next Big Thing. And their choice of lyrical content and subject matter often alienated the less adventurous fan or serious rock critic. Rudi's penchant for writing warped odes to sexual situations ("Penis Between Us", "Blow Me ...A Kiss"), and malfunctions ("Bent Nail Syndrome", "Exception To The Ruler") even prompted Screw magazine to marvel that, "These guys are far more interested in their cocks than they should expect any of us to be". Tina Peel did achieve what they set out to do, however, and that was to be the ultimate "punk" band and offend EVERYONE! When their manager tried to steer them into a more commercial direction, the band retaliated by becoming The Fuzztones.

Rudi: "I loved 60's garage and psych was the music I grew up playing. We decided we would keep Tina Peel going since we were making money, and form a side band to play psych stuff...that was the Fuzztones...well, actually the "Fabulous Fuzztones", and open up for Tina Peel!" Rudi's brainstorm backfired for the better when, after their first show at Hurrah, The Fuzztones went over better than Tina Peel! The Peelers were promptly disbanded, the "Fabulous" dropped, and The Fuzztones were born. On September 19th, 1980, the "Gurus of Garage Grunge" made their official debut at Club 57 in NYC's East Village, complete with topless go-go girls, psychedelic light show, paisley and leather attire, and genuine human bone necklaces. Utilizing the fuzzbox (an effects pedal used by many 60's groups to achieve overly distorted "psychedelic" guitar sounds), the band created a raunchy style that they referred to as "Grunge." On their first single, "Bad News Travels Fast", guitarist Elan Portnoy is credited as playing "lead grunge" at least a decade before the Seattle Grunge Invasion! Unlike most of the groups embracing the term in the early 90's, the Fuzztones grunge was high energy...more akin to the MC5 than to the 60's garage bands they were inspired by. After at least 2 years of playing their own savage brand of psychedelic garage spew to 5 or 10 clueless patrons at such infamous Big Apple hotspots as the Mudd Club and CBGB's, The Fuzztones began to notice a scene gaining notoriety throughout NYC, L.A., and London.

What set the band apart from their peers was their use of 60's punk and psych, as well as early Rock 'n' Roll and blues, as influences upon which to build their own unique style, rather than trying to mimic their favorite artists. Soon the 'tones were touring the Midwest (on the strength of one cut on The Rebel Kind compilation), and recorded the deadly Leave Your Mind At Home LP during that sojourn. Truly one of the most over the top live performances ever to grace vinyl, the disc (as well as the scorching Acid-drenched blooze howl of their Live with Screamin' Jay Hawkins EP) paved the way for the band to release the classic studio LP, "Lysergic Emanations", for the ABC label in London. The Damned, one of England's premier punk outfits, requested that The Fuzztones open for them on their two month Phantasmagoria tour of England. With anadditional month of headlining dates throughout Europe, the 'tones became the first of the so-called "60's revivalists" to invade foreign shores. Although the headlining band was usually supportive (Dave Vanian watched every night from the wings, and The Damned even played "She's Wicked" at soundchecks), their fans took a lot of convincing. Being greeted with nightly barrages of flying beer bottles and gob (spit) only magnified the band's already confrontational stage demeanor, sometimes to the point of violence. At a show in Lyon, France, Rudi was shot at by an audience member, and at avenue in London, an inebriated Rat Scabies punched Deb O' Nair unconscious.

Meanwhile, "Lysergic Emanations" was quickly moving up the English indie charts, and The Damned found more and more of their die-hard fans converting to Fuzzmania. By the time the record reached #2 on the charts, ABC announced that it had sold over 30,000 copies. This was the first and last time the band would ever receive any sort of royalty statement from ABC. Although the record continued to sell extremely well for years and is now considered a classic, The Fuzztones never saw a penny from the label. Nevertheless, it appeared the 'tones were destined for bigger things. The video for "Ward 81" was receiving national TV airplay, articles on the band appeared in major magazines, and Enigma's Pink Dust label picked up the album for American distribution. Meanwhile, inner turmoil was tearing the band apart. Rudi had become involved with Elan's girlfriend, alienating both the lead guitarist and Rudi's former lover, Deb O'Nair. Elan and Ira left the band shortly after the tour to form The Headless Horsemen. Deb formed an all-girl psychedelic polka band, Das Furlines, with Wendy Wild. Rudi and Michael Jay auditioned prospective replacements for the good part of a year with less than satisfactory results. "Almost everyone on the garage scene tried out." Rudi recalls. "We even auditioned Marky Ramone and Jeff Salen (Tuff Darts, Sparks), but no one had the feel we were looking for".

No one, that is, except "Mad" Mike Czekaj. "I'd seen Mike with his band, The Stratford Survivors, several times. They were from Connecticut and would play NYC maybe once a year. The other guys in the band were really average, but Mike was incredible! He looked just like Moulty (the infamous one-handed drummer for 60's icons, The Barbarians) and was just as wild. For seven years I came to his shows and pestered him to join my band." By 1986, the Survivors finally broke up, and Mike moved to NYC to join The Fuzztones. Still unable to complete the line-up, the frustrated trio began knocking out Link Wray Link Protrudi & The Jaymen L-R: Mike Czekaj, Rudi Protrudi, Michael Jay tunes between auditions. "We were just playing for ourselves, really. Just playing stuff we dug...never planning to play out. People would drop by the studio and keep telling us how great we were, and that we had to play out! We worked up a whole set of Link Wray stuff. I changed my name to "Link", and since Wray's band was called The Raymen, we called ourselves The Jaymen, after Michael Jay." This unlikely tribute band went over so well that the band began writing their own material. They soon recorded two albums worth of material (live on a portable 4-track during an all-night party session in their rehearsal space), and went off to tour Eastern Canada.

Upon their return to NYC, Rudi and Mike decided to move to Los Angeles to try to Fuzztones 1987 Top L-R: Rudi Protrudi, Mike Czekaj; Bottom L-R: Jason Savall, Jordan Tarlow, John Carlucci reform The Fuzztones. Michael Jay chose to remain. By 1987, two weeks after arriving in Hollywood, The Fuzztones were reborn.  Ironically, most of the new line-up consisted of former New Yorkers! Jordan Tarlow (former lead guitarist for NYC cave-teens, Outta Place, and San Diego's Morlochs ), and John Carlucci (former bassist for NYC power-poppers, The Speedies ) were old friends from Rudi's earlier days. Organist Jason Savall was "the only guy in L.A. with a Vox organ." Link Protrudi & The Jaymen's albums, Drive It Home (Music Maniac Records) and Missing Links (Skyclad Records) were released while the new Fuzztones prepared for their debut. After their first rehearsal, Hans Kestelooo (Music Maniac's head honcho) called to tell the boys that Live in Europe (the original band's live LP, recorded on the '85 tour) was doing very well and invited the band to do a 3 month European tour to promote it. After only 3 trial shows in L.A. (billing themselves as J.C. and The Waterwalkers ), they made their debut as The Fuzztones at the legendary Paradisio Club in Amsterdam, for 1500 enthusiastic fans. The band soon learned that they'd already reached cult hero status before they even reached the stage. This line-up, comprised of seasoned performers (except Jason, who'd never been in a band before) were by no means intimidated, and welcomed the comparisons to the original line-up.

Each member was an intense showman, and a typical Fuzztones show featured 5 wildmen trying to outdo each other. This display was certainly not wasted on the female fans, and the boys were hardly opposed to receiving (and encouraging) as much physical "attention" as possible. Hans Kesteloo, who acted as tour manager, recalls,"Rudi felt similar to Jerry Lee Lewis when he sang. This made him hornier than he already was. It was hard to satisfy him, and God, I know what I'm talking about! During songs, Rudi would jump offstage and ravage female fans, and it was common for girls to jump onstage and strip! "One thing is sure..," Kesteloo reiterates, "no band had nude girls onstage dancing to Psychotic Reaction, besides The Fuzztones!" It wasn't long before the band was nicknamed the "Paisley Pussy Posse", a moniker they earned with their off-stage antics. The band returned to Hollywood, making their debut at Scream, Hollywood's most prestigious club. The Fuzztones raw, aggressive garage raunch so totally overshadowed the jaded glam-metal hair farmer scene that the 'tones became L.A.'s most popular unsigned band within a month! By 1989, The Cult's frontman, Ian Astbury, (a Fuzztones fan since the first time he'd seen the band on the Phantasmagoria tour), began showing up at their L.A. shows. A friendship ensued, and besides jumping onstage for the occasional guest appearance, Ian could often be seen lugging equipment with the crew! He utilized his clout to influence his record label, Beggar's Banquet, to check the band out. At the London show where Beggar's sent their female A&R person, Rudi completely ripped out his skin tight paisley trousers, and the band was signed on the spot!

Already artistic control was a dividing point between Rudi and the other band members, so an outside producer was needed for their next recording session. Protrudi wanted the group's raw, aggressive sound to dominate, while the others wanted to take a more "commercial" approach. The band agreed that they needed a producer who understood their musical roots, yet could convey their sound in an accessible way to a '90's audience. Jordan had seen an article in the music trade about the legendary producer Shel Talmy , whose work with The Who, Kinks, and Creation had certainly withstood the test of time. He was in self-exiled retirement, the article reported, but would come out for the right band. Upon listening to the Fuzztones demos, Shel agreed he'd found just that. Talmy, now blind from a congenital eye disease, could not offer hands on mixing board experience. Since the 'tones had already worked out all arrangements in pre-production, Shel's main function became arbitrator for Jordan and Rudi's conflicting musical visions. The resulting 1990 release "In Heat", while sporting all original 'tones tunes for the first time, was not representative of the band's capabilities.

The Fuzztones continued to tour Europe and England extensively, often up to 29 dates a month, to an average of 1500 fans each show. Meanwhile, Beggar's royalty statements claimed the band was not selling records, and inner turmoil escalated. An EP, "Action", was this line-up's last release, after which Rudi shocked the other members with the unexpected onstage announcement (during a sold-out 3 nighter at London's famed Marquee Club) that The Fuzztones "were no more." After returning to Hollywood, Rudi resurrected Link Protrudi & The Jaymen, with Tommyknockers bassist Chris Harlock and pre-Muffs drummer Chris Crass. Meanwhile, former Fuzztones, Jordan, Jason, John, and roadie Gary Wylde, formed the Phuzztones. After hearing that the Ph-tones were scheduled to debut at a Hollywood club, the F-tones rushed to book a gig the same night, leaving no doubt that Rudi was alive and..."well." The Phuzztones disbanded after their debut. Beggar's Banquet dissolved their contract and The Fuzztones went back into the studio to record Braindrops for Music Maniac.

Rudi actually persuaded two of his idols, Love's Arthur Lee and the Music Machine's Sean Bonniwell , to contribute guest vocal appearances on one of the albums' highlights, "All The King's Horses". Both sixties icons would once again join forces with The Fuzztones: Arthur belted out an impromptu "7 and 7 Is" with the band at a Hollywood club, and Sean's reformed Music Machine co-headlined a double bill at the Coconut Teazer. By this time the band had added Jake Cavaliere (formerly of The Witchdoctors ) on Vox organ. Image was always one of the band's strong points, and this line-up's was arguably the strongest. With jet black hair down to their asses, Beatle boots, leather, paisley, human bone jewelry, and black jeans so tight you could tell their religion, these Vox guitar (and organ) totin' wildmen continued to perpetuate The Fuzztones Legacy. They released the single, "Romilar D",  which included versions in Spanish and Italian, as well as English, and continued to tour Europe and Israel. Sometime during the last tour, The Fuzztones Curse struck once more and the band broke up. They returned to L.A. and recorded the first Rock 'n' Roll Halloween album, "Monster A Go-Go", honoring a prior recording commitment to Skyclad Skreamin' Skull Records. They played their final show at Hollywood's Club Lingerie on June 11, 1992.

Their influence on upcoming garage bands, as well as more well known acts (check out The Ramone' Acid Eaters LP and "Psychotherapy" video), can still be felt today. When Hole opened for The Fuzztones in Europe, Courtney Love confided to the band (while stripping naked backstage - to change clothes) that Kurt listened to The Fuzztones "all the time." Marc Almond even wore black turtleneck and bone necklace in a Soft Cell video. Rolling Stone recently published a photo of Ringo Starr with daughter Starkey wearing a Fuzztones T-shirt. The Fuzztones re-invented a musical style that originally existed for a mere 2 years (1966-67), and kept it alive and vital for more than their 13 year existence as a band. They left behind a live record, "Lysergic Ejaculations" (with X-rated cover and inner sleeve), documenting their final European tour, as well as a compilation of rare demos and obscurities ("Revenge of the Creatures That Time Forgot") that they plan to release eventually. To quote Tim Gassen from his book, Echoes In Time, "(Rudi) gave us a decade of loyalty to the garage band style and sound, sticking to his guns to the benefit of the musical genre. His crossed Vox guitar tattoo will never fade and neither will the legacy of a band called The Fuzztones".

Aug 14, 2018

TEXAS TORNADOS - Zone Of Our Own (Reprise Records 7599-26683-1, 1991)

The ultimate Tex-Mex supergroup Texas Tornados were composed of some of the genre's most legendary figures: Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers (Sahm's bandmate in the groundbreaking Sir Douglas Quintet), Hispanic country star Freddy Fender, and accordion virtuoso Flaco Jimenez. The group's infectious, party-ready sound blended Country, early Rock'n'Roll, Mexican Folk Music, Rhythm'n'Blues, Blues, and whatever other roots musics crossed their paths. The Texas Tornados first assembled in 1989 at a concert in San Francisco, billing themselves as the Tex-Mex Revue. They enjoyed the collaboration so much they decided to stick with it and generated far more publicity together than they would have solo; Jimenez had released several acclaimed albums by that point, but Sahm had recorded only sporadically during the '80s, and Fender hardly at all. Their selftitled debut album was released on Reprise Records in 1990, in both English and Spanish versions, to rapturous reviews and also sold pretty well, reaching number 25 on the country charts. The group toured extensively behind it and issued the Grammy-nominated follow-up album "Zone Of Our Own" in 1991, again to hugely positive reviews.

The initial combination of Flaco Jiménez, Augie Meyers, and Doug Sahm performed in front of a San Francisco audience, they all knew the genuine bond they felt in their music could probably be taken to another level. After they initially performed as the Tex-Mex Revue, they took the title Texas Tornados, after Sahm's song "Texas Tornado", from the album of the same name. Another account of the group's birth says they formed when record company executives looking to cash in on regional music sales approached Sahm and Meyers around 1990, and they brought in longtime friends and collaborators Fender and Jiménez. Sahm had released albums under the name Texas Tornados as early as the 1970s, some featuring Fender or Meyers. Jiménez and Meyers played on Sahm's Atlantic Records debut in 1971. As Fender once said, "You've heard of New Kids on the Block? We're the Old Guys in the Street." Individually, this quartet has had major success:

Freddy Fender was a cross-over success story around the world, with hits like "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" and "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights". Flaco Jiménez has played with acts ranging from the Rolling Stones to Dwight Yoakam. He also is known as the "Father of Conjunto Music" (he plays the Conjunto accordion). Augie Meyers has shared the stage with the likes of the Allman Brothers Band and Bob Dylan. He is also a member of the Texas Music Hall of Fame. Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers were both members of the 1960s pop-rock band the Sir Douglas Quintet, with hits such as "She's About a Mover" and "Mendocino" to their credit. Meyers's signature sound on the Vox organ was a prominent feature of the band's sound. Sahm, Meyers, and Jiménez are from the San Antonio area.

The band's 1990 debut was recorded in both English and Spanish versions. The Texas Tornados were asked to perform all over the world, such as at the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton and the Montreux Jazz Festival, and made regular appearances at Farm Aid and the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show. They won a Grammy award in 1990 for Best Mexican/American Performance. Their 1996 single "A Little Bit Is Better Than Nada" accompanied the opening credits of the golf movie Tin Cup, which was released the same year, and is included in the official soundtrack. Among their other albums is "Live From the Limo", the last album to be recorded with the original lineup, as Sahm died in 1999, the year of its release. Fender, who had health problems in later years, died in 2006. Their 2005 "Live from Austin" album was a recording of a 1990 performance on the TV series Austin City Limits. People sometimes refer to their lyrics as Spanglish because of the mixture of English and Spanish in the same song, in addition to pronouncing the Spanish lyrics in an American accent, which is evident in their hit, "(Hey Baby) Que Paso". An example is the lyric "Don't you know I love you, and my corazón is real?", in which the word corazón (Spanish for "heart") is improperly pronounced, with an obvious American accent. The band's self-titled debut album was offered in Spanish and English-language versions.

Augie Meyers and Flaco Jiménez reunited with the son of Doug Sahm, Shawn Sahm, in a new recording that includes five previously unreleased vocal performances from the legendary Freddy Fender. The collection, entitled "Está Bueno", includes new songs written by Fender, such as the swamp pop ballad "If I Could Only", an instant new Tornados-style classic written by Doug and Shawn Sahm, "Who’s to Blame, Señorita ?" and several Augie Meyers songs recorded for the first time by the Tornados, such as "Velma from Selma" and "My Sugar Blue". The album was produced by Shawn Sahm and was released nationally by Ray Benson's Bismeaux Records on March 2, 2010. Playing together again for the first time since the ‘90s and feeling what Shawn calls The Tornado vibe, the group enlisted Shawn to take over and drive the bus for their first album in over a decade. His goal for the record was to keep it a straight up Tex-Mex rock and roll record. When they first began recording, Shawn was very pleased but not surprised to hear them sounding like they are playing at the top of their game. He stated: "When you hear this record, you hear why they are the legends they are".

Shawn Sahm has been around the music industry since he was 13 and was the perfect person to entrust with preserving the Tornados' legacy. He fine-tuned each track according to the group’s feedback, giving each detail serious attention. Throughout the process, he insisted to all of them, “It is not done until you are happy.” For the release of the album, Benson’s Bismeaux Records, in Austin, was an obvious choice. Shawn Sahm commented, "Everyone knew they had a great record and they felt it would be important to go with someone who understood the legacy of the Texas Tornados. I knew Ray was the right guy. They have been friends for a long time. If anyone understood the legacy of the band, it was Ray". "Having known the original Texas Tornados, I was delighted when Shawn brought me the tracks of the new Texas Tornados CD", said Benson. "Besides the wonderful Freddy Fender songs recorded shortly before his passing, Augie, Flaco and Shawn have recorded an album true to the Tornados sound and vision. I am honored to present their CD on Bismeaux Records for old fans and I am sure a host of new ones, too". In addition to the featured members, the recordings include Tornado original musicians Louie Ortega, Speedy Sparks, and Ernie Durawa. Flaco Jiménez stated: "The groove is back".

Even if the Texas Tornados had picked a different name, it would be pretty hard to imagine them coming from anywhere besides the Lone Star State; their high-spirited mixture of Tex-Mex, norteño, garage rock, blues, and hardcore honky tonk flavors brands them as proud sons of a place all these sounds and more happily co-exist on a regular basis. "Zone Of Our Own", the second album from the all-star quartet of Freddy Fender, Flaco Jimenez, Augie Meyers, and Doug Sahm, isn't quite up to the same level as their superb self-titled debut, but it sure doesn't miss by much. Sahm gets to rave up on Sir Doug-style rockers like "I Ain't That Kat Anymore," Fender sings sad and soulful on "Oh Holy One," Jimenez burns up the squeeze box on "La Mucura," and Meyers gets to show off his bluesy side on "Did I Tell You." For all the sonic diversity of the Texas Tornados, "Zone Of Our Own" still sounds like it's all of a piece, like the play list of some blessedly eclectic radio station beaming out along the border, as the four frontmen bounce off each other with joyous aplomb. If you're looking for some aural seasoning for your next barbecue, "Zone Of Our Own" is just the bottle of hot sauce you need. 

By the time of 1992's "Hangin' On By A Thread", the group's primary audience was Latino, and Jimenez accordingly took more and more of the spotlight. After more touring, the group went their separate ways to concentrate on other projects and work on new material; most notably, Sahm and Meyers formed a new version of the Sir Douglas Quintet. In the meantime, Reprise issued a compilation, "The Best Of Texas Tornados". The Tornados reconvened in 1996 for the album "4 Aces", which didn't attract quite as much attention or acclaim as their previous work. The group's late-1998 concert at Antone's in Austin was recorded and released the following summer as "Live From the Limo Vol. 1"; unfortunately, it would prove to be the only volume, as Doug Sahm died of a heart attack in late 1999.

Aug 13, 2018

THE PROCLAIMERS - Sunshine On Leith (Chrysalis Records CCD 1668, 1988)

Born in Leith in 1962, Craig and Charlie Reid grew up in Edinburgh, Cornwall and Auchtermuchty in Fife. At home, they listened to early rock'n'roll and country greats such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams. At school, they played in punk bands and formed The Proclaimers in 1983. With a fervent live following growing in Scotland, particularly in Inverness where they performed regularly, their first big break came late in 1986 when they were invited to tour with The Housemartins. Then in January 1987 they made a now seminal appearance on the Channel 4 pop programme The Tube, performing "Letter From America" and "Throw The ‘R’ Away". Singing in regional accents about Scotland – its emigration and its politics – they were a far cry from the mid-Eighties playlist staples of Rick Astley and Sinitta, and became a phenomenon almost overnight, signing to Chrysalis within a month and recording their debut album acoustically, "This Is The Story", a week later, produced by the man who also signed them to Chrysalis, John Williams. Voted NME Readers Best New Band that year, they toured the UK extensively and a new ‘band’ version of "Letter From America", produced by Gerry Rafferty went Top 3 in November.

Complementing their raw, stripped down delivery with the greater musical scope of a full band, they then embraced country and rock on their second album, 1988’s "Sunshine On Leith" produced by Pete Wingfield, which also saw them form their first full live band and go on a 9 month World tour. In addition to the deeply moving classic title track which has gone on to be an anthem for Hibs fans, the album featured hit singles, the raucous, euphoric "I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)" and "I’m On My Way". In 1989 "I’m Gonna Be" spent 6 weeks at number 1 in Australia and a was a top 10 college radio hit in USA. The song went on to soar to No. 3 during a 6-month reign in the US Billboard Singles Chart in 1993 after appearing on the soundtrack of the Johnny Depp film Benny And Joon. "I’m On My Way" also re-emerged in 2001 when it subsequently accompanied one of the pivotal scenes in the hit movie Shrek. In 1990, The Proclaimers had a huge UK & European hit with their "King Of The Road" EP.  The Proclaimers returned in 1994 with "Hit The Highway", an album that featured a three-piece brass section yielding the hit "Let’s Get Married". A longer than intended break then ensued before a fourth album, 2001’s "Persevere", was cut in Minneapolis. Produced by Chris Kimsey with an all star American musician line up, another fantastic collection of Reid/Reid songs re-established The Proclaimers as they went back on another mammoth year long World tour.

Since then, the band have barely stood still, following the 2002 release of their "Best Of" they continued to tour extensively and one of that year’s more unusual highlights saw them perform on the pitch at Hampden Park to over a billion TV viewers before the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen. Two more acclaimed studio albums followed, 2003’s Edwyn Collins produced "Born Innocent" and 2005’s more soul orientated Mark Wallis/David Ruffy produced "Restless Soul". 2005 saw another live career highpoint, opening the bill at the Live 8 concert at Murrayfield Stadium. 2006 also saw a notable appearance in an episode of Family Guy. In March 2007, they topped the UK singles chart with a rousing new rendition of their classic anthem "I’m Going to Be (500 Miles)", collaboration with comedians Peter Kay and Matt Lucas for Comic Relief, raising over a million pounds for charity in the process. EMI relaunched their 2002 "Best Of" collection, re-entering the Album Charts at No 5 with sales soaring beyond platinum.  September 2007 saw The Proclaimers release their seventh studio album "Life With You" (Universal) in the UK to fantastic critical praise and great commercial success.  The Proclaimers kicked off their biggest ever UK & Ireland tour in October, 44 dates to over 100,000 fans. In Scotland, they sold more gig tickets than any other single act in 2007. 

Touring continued in 2008, with a huge 129 date, yearlong World tour, across Europe, two months coast to coast across the USA & Canada, followed by a variety of shows from Muscat to Bermuda, all brought to a triumphant conclusion with a concert at Edinburgh Castle. In 2009, The Proclaimers released their 8th studio album "Notes & Rhymes" (Universal) and hit the road for another 95 date World tour. In March, Craig and Charlie headed over to Austin, Texas to make their debut at SXSW where they performed a series of seven acoustic showcases, including a one-off Scottish extravaganza, sharing a bill with Glasvegas and Primal Scream. Whilst 2010 was spent mainly writing, The Proclaimers performed at 21 summer dates in Europe climaxing with a main stage T In The Park performance. In October 2011 special editions of The Proclaimers first three albums were released on Chrysalis ("This Is The Story", "Sunshine On Leith", "Hit The Highway"), each containing the original album plus a bonus disc containing B-sides, live tracks and previously unreleased radio sessions, all newly remastered at Abbey road Studios, London.

With producer Steve Evans at the helm, The Proclaimers released their 9th studio album "Like Comedy" in April 2012 to great acclaim by leading independent label Cooking Vinyl. One of their greatest fans, Matt Lucas made his director’s debut on the video for the single "Spinning Around In The Air" where he wrote a script for a Golden wedding anniversary descending into drunken mayhem and in the process managed to persuade Craig and Charlie for a career first, dressing them up as elderly ladies. The Proclaimers were then back out live with a busy summer in UK which included headlining the Hebridean and Big Tent festivals in Scotland, followed by another headline slot at Cambridge Festival, main stage appearances at the V Festivals in England and three shows at the Singapore Grand Prix. Another unique appearance occurred when The Proclaimers appeared on ITV’s Emmerdale – as headliners at Home Farm’s music festival, in an episode marking the beginning of the soap’s 40th birthday celebrations. October 2012 saw The Proclaimers head out on an eight week, 36-date UK tour, before finishing the year in style with a Hogmanay concert on the esplanade of Stirling Castle.

Craig and Charlie have reached the rarefied status that few have been able to achieve: with nearly three decades of career longevity, they are as innovative as ever and with every album and show played, they’ve continued to garner new fans. Their songs have been used extensively in adverts across the World and the list of movies they have featured in includes The Commitments, The Crossing, Mama’s Boy, Bottle Rocket, Benny & Joon, Shrek, Dumb & Dumber, Bye Bye Love, Burke And Hare, The Angel’s Share, Bachelorette, Perfect Pitch. The Proclaimers songs, too, provided the inspiration to an enormously successful, highly acclaimed, award winning musical, "Sunshine On Leith", put together by the Dundee Rep Theatre. Written by Stephen Greenhorn. The drama follows the highs and lows of 2 soldiers returning home from Afghanistan. Families, relationships and life in Leith are not all plain sailing in this exceptional love story about everyday life in Scotland. Directed by James Brining, the musical first toured Scotland in Spring 2007, returning in November 2008 for a 4 month run in Scotland and its first foray into England. The musical had its third outing a 4 month theatre tour (3 months in Scotland, 1 month in England) in Autumn 2010 with the cast for this run starring Billy Boyd, most widely known for playing the Character ‘Pippin’ in the movie The Lord of The Rings.

Aug 12, 2018

NUCLEUS - We'll Talk About It Later (Vertigo Records 6360 027, 1970)

Ian Carr was at the forefront of jazz music for over 40 years. He began in his home town of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, where he joined his brother Mike's modern jazz group, the EmCee Five which ran successfully from the late 1950s until the early 1960s. He then co-led the innovative modern British jazz group the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet which released 5 albums on EMI Columbia's "Lansdowne Series" label. The Rendell-Carr Quintet is regarded by many as one of the most influential, important and original modern British jazz groups ever. After the break-up of the Rendell-Carr Quintet, which also featured pianist Michael Garrick, Ian Carr went on to form the iconoclastic jazz-rock group Nucleus, which represented the United Kingdom at the 1970 Montreux Jazz Festival and won the award for top group that year. They also played the Newport Jazz Festival in the USA on the strength of Montreux.

They released 12 albums either under the Nucleus or Ian Carr name between 1970 and 1980 and toured extensively worldwide. Carr wrote all the music for three of these albums ("Solar Plexus", "Labyrinth" and "Old Heartland" of which the first two received bursaries from the Arts Council of Great Britain) and he wrote 8 of the 9 tracks on "Out of the Long Dark". He also made significant contributions to the recordings of compositions by jazz composer Neil Ardley on the albums, "A Kaleidoscope of Rainbows" (with Nucleus), "Harmony of the Spheres" and "Zyklus" and to jazz composer and pianist Keith Tippett’s jazz orchestra Centipede on the album "Septober Energy". He was also a founder member of the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble big band which made over 10 albums between 1977 and 1999 and which continued to perform until 2002, in which year it gave a series of farewell concerts.

Nucleus' second album has been hailed by many as a masterpiece of British jazz-rock and I can only fully concur! The parameters were set with the 1970 debut "Elastic Roc" and the same crew kicks it up a notch on "We'll Talk About It Later", released 1971. Well, it's time to talk about it now. What an incredible and timeless piece of music this is. Tighter than a Republican Tax legislator, the flow of tidy compositions wreak impossible pleasure to the unaware audiophile, dense tapestries of brassy sound from the sax, oboe and trumpet, raucous guitar friction from axe God Chris Spedding and a taut rhythm section that steers the music brazenly forward. Even after 40 years, the material resonates with shimmering grace and elegance. Many ensuing bands listened fixedly and were duly inspired by the brilliant tunes laid down on this vital recording. Blastoff with a rollicking Karl Jenkins composition "Song for the Bearded Lady" which would be remodeled on the 1974 "Bundles" album as "Hazard Profile 1", a pervasive riff that seeks to hypnotize and make comfortably numb, featuring some Ian Carr trumpet magic, Spedding's sexy guitar moans and some propulsive drumming from John Marshall, perhaps the most underrated drummer in prog. Thrill seekers will get their jollies here.

For those who worship the bass guitar altar, "Sun Child" provides a Jeff Clyne platform to rumble front and center, seduced by some scintillating collective brass work, funky wah- wah guitar that defies logic and possessed drumming. Sounds a lot like Roxy Music's "The Bogus Man" but without the synthesized Eno gloss. "Lullaby for a Lonely Child" coils out like a jazz reprise of ELP's "Take a Pebble", a gently, serene and percussive heavy piece that shudders and trembles with suave enchantment, giving lieu to some more Carr lung work. The monumental title track is a protracted bluesy jam that launches Spedding's guitar into deeper experimental expanses, letting all the soloists exploit their talent and inner muse to the hilt, thus creating an audio cacophony of utter urgency, something Led Zeppelin would do on "Dazed and Confused", for example. The colossal "Oasis" reveals in the course of its near 10 minutes the band's ability to seduce with atmosphere and not just chops, a sonic sanctuary where Brian Smith's sulfuric saxes, Jenkins' opulent oboe and Carr's trumpet and flugelhorn, all coalesce into a mesmeric refuge of sound. This is assuredly the jazziest piece yet, with a more obvious Miles Davis inspiration. The Clyne Marshall duo deal out some fine work, thus cementing the loosey-goosey improv into relaxed heights of accomplishment.

"Ballad of Joe Pimp" offers vocals that rekindle thoughts of early King Crimson and to a certain extent some of Zappa's oblique fixings or even a lighter version of Black Sabbath (the riff). Just tremendously creative stuff. "Easter 1916" is a jazz-rock adaptation of Yeats poem of the Irish uprising that ultimately led to some nasty executions. Musically, the powerful political emotions are delivered by some furious sax explosions and hyper polyrhythmic drumming from John Marshall who proves his mettle without a pause of any kind (his wrists must be sore as he takes this one home!). The mood is frenetic, raging, brittle and desperate. Unreal, and truely a masterpiece and timeless monument of contemporary rock music.

As an author, Ian Carr wrote several important books on jazz including "Music Outside" (1973) which was republished as a 2nd edition in January 2008; the authorised biography of Miles Davis, "Miles Davis: A Critical Biography" (1982) which includes a third revised edition (1998). This is considered by many to be the definitive biography of Miles Davis. He also wrote "Keith Jarrett, The Man and his Music" (1992) and was co-author of "Jazz, the Essential Companion" (1987) and "The Rough Guide to Jazz" (3rd edition, 2004). As a broadcaster he made many appearances on BBC Radio 3 including introducing a six part Jazz File series on Miles Davis in 2001. He was Programme Consultant for Mike Dibb's two-part Channel 4 television documentary "The Miles Davis Story", screened in April 2001. This attracted a record television audience for jazz of 1.2 million viewers. Similarly, he was consultant on Mike Dibb's documentary "Keith Jarrett - The Art Of Improvisation", screened on Channel 4 in December 2004.

Ian Carr was also an inspiring teacher and Associate Professor of Jazz at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He also taught at the Weekend Arts College for groups of young jazz musicians in North London and many of today’s jazz stars, such as pianist Julian Joseph and vocalist Cleveland Watkiss (both of whom performed at a tribute concert for Carr held at the Guildhall School of Music in November 2006) were inspired by him for his boundless enthusiasm and encouragement. In May 2001, Ian Carr joined his old partner Don Rendell for a reunion concert playing to a packed foyer audience at the Royal Festival Hall, in one of several concerts celebrating 50 years of the South Bank.

The trumpeter, composer and author Ian Carr was one of the United Kingdom’s most important figures in contemporary jazz music. As a musician, his contribution to jazz was exceptional and his musical legacy remains a huge influence on generations of musicians and audiences who often have been drawn to the many layers of jazz through an initial interest in Ian Carr’s music. His performances and recording work with his first major group, the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet in the 1960s made him a legendary figure. However, it was his later group Nucleus which was responsible for spearheading a huge revival in modern jazz music in the 1970s. Ian Carr passed away on Wednesday 25 February 2009, aged 75.