Luiz Bonfa – Plays Great Songs (1968)

LPFrontCover1Luiz Floriano Bonfá (17 October 1922 – 12 January 2001) was a Brazilian guitarist and composer. He was best known for the music he composed for the film Black Orpheus.

Luiz Floriano Bonfá was born on October 17, 1922, in Rio de Janeiro. He began studying with Uruguayan classical guitarist Isaías Sávio at the age of 11. These weekly lessons entailed a long, harsh commute (on foot, plus two and half hours on train) from his family home in Santa Cruz, in the western rural outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, to the teacher’s home in the hills of Santa Teresa. Given Bonfá’s extraordinary dedication and talent for the guitar, Sávio excused the youngster’s inability to pay for his lessons.

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Bonfá first gained widespread exposure in Brazil in 1947 when he was featured on Rio’s Rádio Nacional, then an important showcase for up-and-coming talent. He was a member of the vocal group Quitandinha Serenaders in the late 1940s. Some of his first compositions such as “Ranchinho de Palha”, “O Vento Não Sabe”, were recorded and performed by Brazilian crooner Dick Farney in the 1950s. Bonfá’s first hit song was “De Cigarro em Cigarro” recorded by Nora Ney in 1957. It was through Farney that Bonfá was introduced to Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, the leading songwriting team behind the worldwide explosion of the great Bossa Nova in the late 1950s to 1970s, becoming a fever in the US. Bonfá collaborated with them and with other prominent Brazilian musicians and artists in productions of de Moraes’ anthological play Orfeu da Conceição, which several years later gave origin to Marcel Camus’ film Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro in Portuguese). In the burgeoning days of Rio de Janeiro’s thriving jazz scene, it was commonplace for musicians, artists, and dramatists to collaborate in such theatrical presentations. Bonfá wrote some of the original music featured in the film, including the numbers “Samba de Orfeu” and his most famous composition, “Manhã de Carnaval” (of which Carl Sigman later wrote a different set of English lyrics titled “A Day in the Life of a Fool”), which has been among the top ten standards played worldwide, according to The Guinness Book of World Records.

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As a composer and performer, Bonfá was at heart an exponent of the bold, lyrical, lushly orchestrated, and emotionally charged samba-canção style that predated the arrival of João Gilberto’s more refined and subdued bossa nova style. Jobim, João Donato, Dorival Caymmi, and other contemporaries were also essentially samba-canção musicians until the sudden, massive popularity of the young Gilberto’s unique style of guitar playing and expressively muted vocals transformed the music of the day into the music of the future. Camus’ film and Gilberto’s and Jobim’s collaborations with American jazzmen such as Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd did much to bring Brazilian popular music to the attention of the world, and Bonfá became a highly visible ambassador of Brazilian music in the United States beginning with the famous November 1962 Bossa Nova concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

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Bonfá worked with American musicians such as Quincy Jones, George Benson, Stan Getz, and Frank Sinatra, recording several albums while in U.S. Elvis Presley sang a Bonfá composition, “Almost in Love” with lyrics by Randy Starr in the 1968 MGM film Live a Little, Love a Little. Also of note is his “The Gentle Rain”, with lyrics by Matt Dubey, “”Non-Stop To Brazil”” (recorded by Astrud Gilberto) and “Sambolero”. From 1990 to 1999, Bonfá worked with singer Ithamara Koorax on several recordings and concerts, appearing live with her as special guest at several venues in Rio de Janeiro such as Teatro Rival, BNDES Auditorium and Funarte-Sidney Miller Hall. They also recorded together, in 1996, the album Almost In Love – Ithamara Koorax Sings The Luiz Bonfá Songbook, featuring Bonfá on acoustic guitar plus special guests Larry Coryell, Eumir Deodato, Ron Carter, Marcos Suzano, and Sadao Watanabe. The sessions, produced by Arnaldo DeSouteiro, were filmed for a Japanese TV broadcast presented by Sadao Watanabe.

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Bonfá wrote soundtracks for two dozens of movies, such as Black Orpheus, O Santo Módico, Os Cafajestes, The Gentle Rain, Pour Un Amour Lointain, Le Ore dell’Amore, Carnival Of Crime and Prisoner Of Rio (on which he collaborated with arranger Hans Zimmer), among many others. He died of prostate cancer at 78 in Rio de Janeiro on January 12, 2001. At the time of his death, he was working in the soundtracks for a movie produced and starred by Karen Black and for a Broadway show titled Brazilian Bombshell based in the life of Carmen Miranda and to be starred by Sonia Braga. (wikipedia)

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This is an album with another really good guitar (released in Spain same year as “Grandes Standards”, but for my taste there are too many strings … and that is a pity, because his guitar alone is already a pleasure !

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Personnel:
Luiz Bonfa (guitar)
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unknown orchestra conducted by Nick Perito

Alternate edition from Australia:
Alternate Edition (Australia)

Tracklist:
01. Born Free (Black/Barry) 3.02
02. Moon River (Mercer/Mancini) 3.18
03. Spanish Eyes (Kampfert/Singelton/Snyder) 2.26
04. Strangers In The Night (Kampfert/Singelton/Snyder) 3.05
05. Bubala (Bonfa) 2.04
06. The Exodus Song (Boone/Gold) 3.13
07. More (Newell/Oliviero/Ortolani) 2.49
08. Somewhere My Love (Webster/Jarre) 3.09
09. Yellow Bird (Keith/Bergman/Luboff) 2.34
10. A Day In The Life Of A Fool (Manhã de Carnaval) (Sigman/Bonfa) 3.16
11. Seville (Bonfa) 2.14
12. A Man And A Woman (Bocouh/Lai/Keller) 2.18

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Alternate frontcovers from Spain and Japan:
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Paul Williams Set – In Memory Of Robert Johnson R.I.P. (1971)

FrontCover1Paul Williams (born Paul Nigel Vincent Yarlett; 19 September 1940 – 1 March 2019) was an English blues and rock singer and musician.

During his early career he joined Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band on bass and vocals, alongside the guitarist Andy Summers.

He then replaced John McVie in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, while also recording with Aynsley Dunbar and Dick Heckstall-Smith.

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In 1970 he joined the band Juicy Lucy as lead vocalist and recorded the album Lie Back and Enjoy It. This band included future Whitesnake guitarist Micky Moody and featured in the 1971 film Bread.[4] Williams later collaborated with Moody on the album Smokestacks, Broomdusters and Hoochie Coochie Men in 2002.

In 1973 he joined the progressive rock group Tempest, led by Jon Hiseman on drums with Mark Clarke on bass and Allan Holdsworth on guitar. After relocating to the United States, he joined Holdsworth in the group known as I.O.U. and recorded the three critically acclaimed albums I.O.U., Road Games and Metal Fatigue.

His most recent touring band had been Blue Thunder, with release in collaboration with David Hentschel in 2018 of Blue Thunder 2. (wikipedia)

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And here´s a brilliant tribute to Robert Johnson:

In Memory of Robert Johnson, remains a timeless tribute to its namesake. Although the production quality of the original 1973 release was remarkable even by today’s standards, the music has taken on an additional level of eloquence and brilliance in this artfully re-mastered version.

The life of Robert Johnson is shrouded in mystery. Some say the legendary blues artist went to the crossroads and made a deal with the devil to be able to play with such emotional power. In any case, his music never relieved his personal sufferings. Most of his recordings were made in the back rooms of Texas hotels and office buildings. Only Terraplane Blues came close to being a hit, even in the restricted race market of the time. Johnson’s difficult life finally ended in 1938 under violent circumstances, yet his music became immortal. During the blues revival of the 60s and early 70s, his songs were resurrected by Captain Beefheart, Cream, The Rolling Stones, and others.

The German edition:
German Edition

English singer, blues guitarist and harmonica player, Paul Williams, was impressed when he heard some of Johnson’s original recordings, which were made available to the public in the late 60s. Williams was so moved, in fact, that he gathered together some of England’s most prominent blues musicians and went into London’s Trident Studios. The resulting sessions faithfully captured the essence of Johnson’s style while providing a showcase from some of the finest musicians of the English blues revival.

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“What we found in Robert Johnson’s music was the authenticity of a man’s life,” stresses the album’s producer and acoustic guitarist Jon Mark, who was highly regarded for his work with blues legend John Mayall. “You have to understand that before the blues revival, we’d had Frank Sinatra singing slick, middle of the road material. Then all of a sudden young people became aware of the blues. We were really impressed with the ability of these black blues musicians to convey a pure sense of the truth. The blues was the most direct way of communicating the pain and the suffering of life, and Robert Johnson really lived it. So you can see why on this session there was a real concern of being purists, of not adulterating the music for our own purposes, but trying to recreate it or interpret it with great respect for the original source.”

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Williams and Mark were joined on this recording by steel guitarist Glenn Campbell, pianist Bob Hall, bassists Keith Ellis and Pat Donaldson, lead guitarist Eddie Yarlett, and guitarists Alun Davies and Spencer Davis. (press relase)

The Brazil edition:
Brazil Edition

This is not the Paul Williams of Bluegrass fame.

This Paul Williams knows Robert Johnson inside out. He brings more blues and passion to the treatment of this material than any of the White bread treatments by Eric Clapton or Peter Green. One can almost hear that old time Delta sound in this album by someone who knows the blues and has lived it. If one can’t get passed the scratchy sounds of the original Robert Johnson, this album is a good place to start. If you can get passed that, get the original, and then listen to the guys who taught Johnson his licks, such as Lonnie Johnson, Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Blake, and Charlie Patton. (Prometheus)

Indeed: a great tribute to one of the most impressive blues musicians we have ever had … and check the line-up !!!

But … who the fuck is Eddie Yarlett  ???

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Personnel:
Glenn Ross Campbell (steel guitar)
Alun Davies (guitar)
Spencer Davis (guitar)
Keith Ellis (bass)
Bob Hall (piano)
Jon Mark (guitar)
Paul Williams (vocals, guitar, harmonica)
Eddie Yarlett (lead guitar)
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Pat Donaldson (bass on 01. + 05.)

CDBooklet03+04Tracklist:
01. Terraplain Blues Version I 3:54
02. Crossroads 5:42
03. Kind Hearted Women Blues 3:56
04. If I Had Possession Over Judgement Dat. 3:40
05. Rambling Blues 4:28
06. When You Got A Good Friend 2:40
07. Come On In My Kitchen 3:58
08. Terraplain Blues Version II 4:32

All songs written by Robert Johnson

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Liner Notes

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Tom Verlaine – Dreamtime (1981)

LPFrontCover1Tom Verlaine (born Thomas Miller, December 13, 1949 – January 28, 2023) was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter, best known as the frontman of the New York City rock band Television.

Verlaine was born Thomas Miller to a Jewish family in Denville, New Jersey on December 13, 1949.[citation needed] He moved to Wilmington, Delaware, with his family at age of six. He began studying piano at an early age, but switched to saxophone in middle school after hearing a record by Stan Getz. Verlaine initially was unimpressed with the role of the guitar in both rock music and jazz, but was inspired to take up the instrument after hearing the Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown” during his adolescence, at which point he began a long period of experimentation to develop a personal style. A later musical influence of Verlaine’s became jazz musician Miles Davis’ electric-period recordings, particularly the Japanese LPs Agharta (1975) and Dark Magus (1977), which he was able to obtain as imports.

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Verlaine also had an interest in writing and poetry from an early age. As a teen, he was friends with future bandmate and punk icon Richard Hell (Richard Meyers) at Sanford School, a boarding school which they both attended. They quickly discovered that they shared a passion for music and poetry.

After one failed attempt, Verlaine (with Hell) succeeded in escaping from school and moved to New York City. He then created his stage name, a reference to the French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine. He is quoted as having said that this name was inspired by Bob Dylan’s name change and was a way of distancing himself from his past.[citation needed] He and Hell formed the Neon Boys, recruiting drummer Billy Ficca.[4] The Neon Boys quickly disbanded after failing to recruit a second guitarist, despite auditions by Dee Dee Ramone and Chris Stein. They reformed as Television a few months later,[4] finding a guitarist in Richard Lloyd, and began playing at seminal punk clubs like CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. In 1975, Verlaine kicked Hell out of the band for his erratic playing and behavior, and they released their first single with Fred Smith replacing Hell. Verlaine dated poet and musician Patti Smith when they were both in the burgeoning New York punk scene. Television released two albums, Marquee Moon and Adventure, to great critical acclaim and modest sales before breaking up in July 1978.

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Verlaine soon released a self-titled solo album that began a fruitful 1980s solo career. He took up residence in England for a brief period in response to the positive reception his work had received there and in Europe at large. In the 1990s he collaborated with different artists, including Patti Smith, and composed a film score for Love and a .45. In the early 1990s, Television reformed to record one studio album (Television) and a live recording (Live at the Academy, 1992); they have reunited periodically for touring. Verlaine released his first new album in many years in 2006, titled Songs and Other Things.

Verlaine died in New York City on January 28, 2023 after a brief illness, at the age of 73.

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Verlaine was in discussion with Jeff Buckley to produce his second album before Buckley’s death by drowning in 1997.

Verlaine guested as guitarist on numerous releases by other artists, including the album Penthouse by the band Luna. He played on Patti Smith’s Grammy-nominated “Glitter in Their Eyes” from her 2000 album Gung Ho. This was not the first time Verlaine had collaborated with one-time romantic partner Smith; four years earlier, he played on the song “Fireflies” from her 1996 album Gone Again, and in the 1970s he played guitar on her debut single “Hey Joe” and on “Break It Up” from her debut album Horses. He also co-wrote the latter song with Smith. He played with Smith in 2005 for a 30th-anniversary concert of Horses in its entirety, which was later released on CD.

Verlaine was part of the Million Dollar Bashers, a supergroup also featuring Sonic Youth musicians Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Bob Dylan bassist Tony Garnier, guitarist Smokey Hormel, and keyboardist John Medeski. Their work appears on the original soundtrack to I’m Not There, a biographical film reflecting on the life of Bob Dylan.

In 2012, Verlaine collaborated with former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha on his second solo album Look to the Sky. (wikipdia)

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Dreamtime is the second solo studio album by American musician Tom Verlaine, originally released in 1981. “Without a Word” is a rewrite of “Hard On Love,” an unreleased Television song performed live in 1974 and 1975. (wikipedia)

Tom Verlaine’s second album as a solo artist after disbanding Television is not groundbreaking or innovative as much as it is consistent. What is distinctive about Dreamtime, aside from its thick guitar fortifications, firm stance, and unwillingness to modify a sound he believed in, are the issues surrounding the making of these recordings. The first session was marred by the usage of poor quality reel-to-reel tapes, barely yielding only half an album. Other songs had to be re-recorded with different players, due to the original band’s unavailability. There’s also a strong connection with Patti Smith, who Verlaine toured with when leading Television. First session bassist Fred Smith, also from the original Television group, keyboardist Bruce Brody, and drummer throughout, Jay Dee Daugherty, are major contributors to the uniform texture of the tunes. It’s hard to pin down a single highlight, but several rank as distinctive. “Without a Word” is molded in the classic Television style, with repeat guitar lines from Verlaine and Ritchie Fliegler, “There’s a Reason” is self-explanatory and prototypical, while “Fragile” revises Byrne’s distant vocal foresight, with Verlaine claiming someone “stole my secret,” and further adds the repeat guitar hooks.

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“Penetration” is likely the rave fave, at once propelled, strutting, and plodding with the sparest of diffuse guitar, and inferences — sexual or otherwise — galore. “Always” sports the kind of cooled, ambiguous message under no frills rock & roll, with Verlaine exclaiming he has a clue on “the best kept secret in town.” Then there’s “Down on the Farm,” with vocals evocative of Dave Thomas and his stressed out style, the slow funky R&B elements of “Mary Marie” enhanced by the organ work of Bruce Brody, and a choogling Creedence Clearwater Revival ramble during the mainly instrumental jam “The Blue Robe.” Perhaps the most advanced track, “A Future in Noise” epitomizes the disarmed CBGB’s vibe with slightly built intensity, resolutely controlled. Not so much a set of tidy, trimmed concepts when one listens closely, as it is a vision of an artist laying it all out from the bottom of his heart. Many would easily admit Dreamtime is Tom Verlaine’s shining hour. (by Michael G. Nastos)

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Personnel:
Bruce Brody (keyboards on 02., 03. + 10.)
Jay Dee Daugherty (drums 01., 02., 05. +  09. )
Ritchie Fliegler (guitar)
Donnie Nossov (bass on 03., 04., 07., 08. + 10.)
Fred Smith (bass on 01., 05., 06. + 09.)
Rich Teeter (drums on 03.,04., 07., 08. +  10.)
Tom Verlaine (vocals, guitar, bass on 02.)

SingleTracklist:
01. There’s A Reason 3.39
02. Penetration 4.00
03. Always 3.55
04. The Blue Robe 3.47
05. Without A Word 3.16
06. Mr. Blur 3.22
07. Fragile 3.26
08. A Future In Noise 4.13
09. Down On The Farm 4.48
10. Mary Marie 3.22
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11. The Blue Robe (alternate vocal version) 4.19
12. Always (live) 9.25

All songs written by Tom Verlaine.

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Liner Notes

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Beat Instrumental (Magazine) – February 1973

FrontCoverBeat Instrumental was a UK monthly pop and rock magazine. Founded by Sean O’Mahony (aka Johnny Dean) and first published in May 1963 as Beat Monthly, it became Beat Instrumental Monthly with issue 18 and Beat Instrumental from issue 37. Like the weekly Melody Maker, it was aimed at musicians, emphasising instruments, production and equipment in its interviews and moving easily to progressive rock in the late 1960s. The magazine ceased publication in 1980.

Kevin Swift was among Beat Instrumental’s reporters in 1966. During the 1970s, the features editor was Steve Turner, and Adam Sweeting also wrote for the magazine. (wikipedia)

Beat Instrumental magazine launched in May 1963. A well informed London based monthly music magazine featuring pop and beat groups of the 1960’s through to rock and progressive groups of the 1970’s and 80’s. Originally christened Beat Monthly it was renamed Beat Instrumental Monthly by issue 18 and then Beat Instrumental magazine from issue 37. It catered for musicians with reviews of musical instruments, guitars, effects, amps and production equipment along with some great interviews, music news articles and record album reviews which attracted many non musicians. (worldradiohistory.com)

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Established in May 1963 as Beat Monthly. From #18 the title was changed to Beat Instrumental Monthly, and abbreviated to Beat Instrumental from #37. Emphasizing musical instruments and equipment (it billed itself as “The World’s First Group & Instrumental Magazine”), Beat Instrumental was among the first to publish interviews with musicians discussing their gear. The magazine also defined pop music more widely than many of its contemporaries. Later on, the magazine made seamless transitions from pop to rock and prog-rock. (Avo Raup)

And here´s the issue from February 1973:

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Enjoy this wonderful trip in a very important time of Rock music !

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More Beat Instrumental:
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Dave Brubeck Quartet – Jazz At Oberlin (1953)

FrontCover1David Warren Brubeck (December 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012) was an American jazz pianist and composer. Often regarded as a foremost exponent of cool jazz, Brubeck’s work is characterized by unusual time signatures and superimposing contrasting rhythms, meters, and tonalities.

Born in Concord, California, Brubeck was drafted into the US Army, but was spared from combat service when a Red Cross show he had played at became a hit. Within the US Army, Brubeck formed one of the first racially diverse bands. In 1951, Brubeck formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which kept its name despite shifting personnel.

DaveBrubeck1953A.jpgThe most successful—and prolific—lineup of the quartet was the one between 1958 and 1968. This lineup, in addition to Brubeck, featured saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello. A U.S. Department of State-sponsored tour in 1958 featuring the band inspired Brubeck to record the 1958 album Jazz Impressions of Eurasia. A later work, despite its esoteric theme and contrarian time signatures, Time Out became Brubeck’s highest-selling album, and the first jazz album to sell over one million copies. The lead single from the album, “Take Five”, a tune written by Desmond in 5
4 time, similarly became the highest-selling jazz single of all time. The quartet followed up Time Out with four other albums in non-standard time signatures, and some of the other songs from this series became hits as well, including “Blue Rondo à la Turk”  and “Unsquare Dance”.

Brubeck continued releasing music until his death in 2012.

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Brubeck’s style ranged from refined to bombastic, reflecting both his mother’s classical training and his own improvizational skills. He expressed elements of atonality and fugue. Brubeck, with Desmond, used elements of West Coast jazz near the height of its popularity, combining them with the unorthodox time signatures seen in Time Out. Like many of his contemporaries, Brubeck played into the style of the French composer Darius Milhaud, especially his earlier works, including “Serenade Suite” and “Playland-At-The-Beach”. Brubeck’s fusion of classical music and jazz would come to be known as “third stream”, although Brubeck’s use of third stream would predate the coining of the term. John Fordham of The Guardian commented: “Brubeck’s real achievement was to blend European compositional ideas, very demanding rhythmic structures, jazz song-forms and improvisation in expressive and accessible ways.”

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Brubeck was the recipient of several music awards and honors throughout his lifetime. In 1996, Brubeck received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2008, Brubeck was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, and a year later, he was given an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music. Brubeck’s 1959 album Time Out was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2005. Noted as “one of Jazz’s first pop stars” by the Los Angeles Times, Brubeck rejected his fame, and felt uncomfortable with Time magazine featuring him on the cover before Duke Ellington. (wikipedia)

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Although a touch underrated, Jazz at Oberlin is one of the early Dave Brubeck classic recordings. The interplay between the pianist-leader and altoist Paul Desmond on “Perdido” borders on the miraculous, and their renditions of “The Way You Look Tonight,” “How High the Moon” and “Stardust” are quite memorable. Brubeck’s piano playing on “These Foolish Things” is so percussive and atonal in one spot as to sound like Cecil Taylor, who would not emerge for another two years. With bassist Ron Crotty and drummer Lloyd Davis giving the Quartet quiet and steady support, Brubeck and Desmond were free to play at their most adventurous. Highly recommended. (by Scott Yanow)

Recorded live in Finney Chapel on the campus of Oberlin College in Ohio, this landmark album is essential listening in any collection. A breakthrough in the Cool Jazz style, this event also marked the change in acceptance of this music as both a serious area of study in the classroom and as respected entertainment in the concert hall (Matthew Vacca)

And … Paul Desmond is also a treat here !

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Personnel:
Dave Brubeck (piano)
Ron Crotty (bass)
Lloyd Davis (drums)
Paul Desmond (saxophone)

Alternate edition:
Alternate Edition

Tracklist:
01. These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You) (Strachey/Marvell/Link) 6.36
02. The Way You Look Tonight (Kern/Fields) 7.46
03. Perdido (Tizol) 7.51
04. Stardust (Carmichael/Parrish) 6.40
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05. How High The Moon (Lewis) 9.01

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More from Dave Brubeck:
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Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Beethoven’s Last Night (2000)

FrontCover1Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is an American rock band founded in 1996 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O’Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli (both members of Savatage) and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team. The band gained in popularity when they began touring in 1999 after completing their second album, The Christmas Attic, the year previous. In 2007, the Washington Post referred to them as “an arena-rock juggernaut” and described their music as “Pink Floyd meets Yes and the Who at Radio City Music Hall.” TSO has sold more than 10 million concert tickets and over 10 million albums. The band has released a series of rock operas: Christmas Eve and Other Stories, The Christmas Attic, Beethoven’s Last Night, The Lost Christmas Eve, their two-disc Night Castle and Letters From the Labyrinth. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is also known for their extensive charity work and elaborate concerts, which include a string section, a light show, lasers, moving trusses, video screens, and effects synchronized to music.

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Both Billboard Magazine and Pollstar have ranked them as one of the top twenty-five ticket-selling bands in the first decade of the new millennium. Their path to success was unusual in that, according to O’Neill, TSO is the first major rock band to go straight to theaters and arenas, having never played at a club, never having an opening act and never being an opening act.

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And here´s their third album:

Beethoven’s Last Night is a rock opera by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, released in 2000. The album tells the fictional story of Ludwig van Beethoven on the last night of his life, as the devil, Mephistopheles, comes to collect his soul. With the help of Fate and her son Twist, Beethoven unwittingly tricks the devil and is allowed to keep his soul which he had thought lost, but that the devil had no claim on. The album is a rock opera featuring many classical crossover rock songs which are clearly based on melodies from classical music, particularly Beethoven’s works. It is the first Trans-Siberian Orchestra album that does not feature Christmas themes. The original cover art was created by Edgar Jerins, and re-issued cover art was created by Greg Hildebrandt.

Late one night in spring 1827 (presumably March 26, the night he died), Ludwig van Beethoven has completed his masterpiece, his tenth symphony (which in reality, was never completed).

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Just as this work is finished, Fate and her deformed son Twist (as in ‘Twist of Fate’) arrive in the composer’s home, and inform him of what he had expected for a long while: that this night was the night of his death.

After this explanation, the devil Mephistopheles arrives to claim Beethoven’s soul. He offers the composer a deal; Mephistopheles will allow Beethoven to keep his soul if he may erase the memory of Beethoven’s works from all mankind. Beethoven is given one hour to consider, and Mephistopheles leaves the room.

Beethoven turns his anger to Fate at having been dealt a hard life, and now, this decision. In consolation, Fate allows Beethoven to travel back through his life in order to review it and make any changes that he wishes. Beethoven accepts this, and they begin with Beethoven’s experiences as a child.

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Beethoven comes into his room while the young Beethoven has just been slapped by a tutor for failing to receive appointment to the Imperial Court. Beethoven turns to Fate and informs her that he did not need the hardships that he had faced, with his mother dead and a painful childhood. He requests that she remove the experience from his life. After being told that such a request would remove the inspiration for his sixth symphony, he changes his mind.

Fate and Beethoven then go to one of Beethoven’s happier moments, meeting the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the city of Vienna. Fate then reminds Beethoven of his “immortal beloved” Theresa, and after experiencing a fond remembrance, Beethoven explains his reasons for needing to leave her.

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The pair venture to when Beethoven first realizes his deafness, and Beethoven explains that Theresa would not love him were she to know. He is then shown Theresa’s reaction to his unexplained absence, and he realizes that his deafness is the cause of all his problems. Fate explains that if she cures his deafness, his music will suffer, as the Muses would not be heard as easily through the everyday sound. He thus withdraws his request.

Beethoven is then shown that Theresa would have loved him forever, and he becomes very sorrowful. But Fate then offers visions of the countless musicians of the future who would be influenced by Beethoven’s works. As one last, ultimate vision, he is allowed to improvise with the musicians of the past and future who were inspired by him. Realizing that removing the hardships from his life would destroy his music, Beethoven informs Fate that he will not change any part of his life.

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At this point, Mephistopheles returns and Beethoven informs the devil that he will not allow his music to be destroyed. Desperate to receive the Tenth Symphony, Mephistopheles makes another deal: if Beethoven will give over only the Tenth Symphony, then Mephistopheles will not take the composer’s soul. After an appearance by Mozart’s ghost, Beethoven refuses this offer as well. As a final tactic, Mephistopheles points out the window to a young orphan, and describes the tortures that she will receive if Beethoven refuses to hand over his music. Heartbroken, Beethoven agrees to hand over his Tenth Symphony. After Twist’s prompting, a contract is drawn up by Fate, stating the following:

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It is agreed upon this night, March 26, 1827, between the undersigned, that the music of the Tenth Symphony, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, first born son of Johann and Maria van Beethoven, of the city of Bonn, shall henceforth be the property of Mephistopheles, Lord of Darkness and first fallen from the grace of God. It is also understood that it is his intention to remove any signs of this music from the memory of man for all eternity. In exchange for the destruction of the aforementioned music it is also agreed that Mephistopheles and all his minions will remove themselves from the life of the child presently sleeping in the gutter directly across from the window of this room. This removal of influence is to be commenced immediately upon signing and to be enforced for all eternity.

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The contract is signed by both the parties, after which Mephistopheles thrusts the Tenth Symphony over a lit candle. When it does not burn, the fact is revealed that Beethoven is in fact the second-born son of his parents by the name Ludwig van Beethoven, and thus, the contract does not apply to his music.

After Mephistopheles leaves in a fit of rage, it is revealed that the true destination of Beethoven’s soul is actually heaven (as Twist explains, the devil was simply lying to him all along). Fate tells him to rest, and Beethoven’s soul leaves his body for the great beyond. However, Twist also hides the manuscript for the tenth symphony. (wikipedia)

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The Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first non-holiday-themed album, Beethoven’s Last Night, incorporates some of the composer’s most noted pieces with original ones that peer into Beethoven’s psyche. Pieces like “What Is Eternal,” “What Good This Deafness,” and “Last Illusion” update Beethoven’s dramatic, portentous style, while “Requiem (the Fifth)” and “Fur Elise” lend themselves surprisingly well to the orchestra’s stylized fusion of classical and rock music. Fans of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s other work won’t be disappointed by Beethoven’s Last Night’s theatrical, orchestral song cycle. (by Heather Phares)

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Though this rock opera by TSO contains their usual sound, blending symphonic metal, hard rock, classical music and elements of Broadway music, it’s not a Christmas story as their most popular records are. Nonetheless, the shadow of “A Christmas Carol” hangs heavily over this story, but with a Faustian twist: Beethoven is given the chance to look through his past, present and future and alter anything he wishes, in order to save his soul.

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Since a large portion of TSO Christmas albums was always the interpolation of classical melodies, focusing an entire story on the world of classical music was a smart choice. Like all the other rock operas they’ve created, the story to this one seems nonsensical until you read the liner notes, see the live show, or pick up the “full narrated version” which contains the narrator’s speeches from the tour between tracks. Bryan Hicks, the company’s speaking voice, is still an acquired taste, with his over-the-top, stentorian delivery sometimes grating; but there’s still no denying that at the serious moments, his gravity and palpable emotion helps put the story over. (He’s still not great at doing character voices, though.)

The instrumentals here are better than the vocal tracks, and “A Last Illusion” takes the cake, blending Mozart, Beethoven and Rimsky Korsakov with nods to Styx and Liberace (both of whom were also known to interpolate classical music in virtuosic pop form, making them unlikely ancestors of TSO).  (by Greg Kerestan)

If you like this theatrical rock ala Meat Loaf or Queen … you should definitely listen to this album !

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Personnel:
Chris Caffery (guitar)
Bob Kinkel (keyboards)
Johnny Lee Middleton (bass)
Jon Oliva (keyboards)
Paul O’Neill (guitar)
Al Pitrelli (guitar)
Jeff Plate (drums)

Vocalists:
Jody Ashworth (Beethoven)
Dave Diamond (The Muses)
Guy Lemmonnier (Young Beethoven)
Jon Oliva (Mephistopheles)
Patti Russo (Theresa)
Zak Stevens (The Muses)
Doug Thoms (The Muses)
Jamie Torcellini (Twist)
Sylvia Tosun (Fate)
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Orchestra conucted by Mark Wood

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Tracklist:
01. Overture (Beethoven/O’Neill/Mozart) 2.57
02. Midnight (O’Neill/Kinkel) 2.10
03. Fate (O’Neill) 1.15
04. What Good This Deafness (O’Neill/Kinkel) 1.47
05. Mephistopheles (Oliva/O’Neill) 3.43
06. What Is Eternal (O’Neill/Kinkel) 4.40
07. The Moment (Oliva/O’Neill) 2.47
08. Vienna (Oliva/O’Neill/Kinkel) 3.32
09. Mozart / Figaro (Mozart) 3.18
10. The Dreams Of Candlelight (O’Neill/Kinkel) 4.05
11. Requiem (The Fifth) (Beethoven/O’Neill/Mozart) 2.59
12. I’ll Keep Your Secrets (Oliva/O’Neill/Kinkel) 4.15
13. The Dark (Oliva/O’Neill/Caffery) 4.23
14. Für Elise (Beethoven) 0.41
15. After The Fall (Oliva/O’Neill) 4.35
16. A Last Illusion (Beethoven/O’Neill/Kinkel/Mozart/Rimsky-Korsakov) 5.26
17. This Is Who You Are (Oliva/O’Neill) 3.59
18. Beethoven (Beethoven/O’Neill/Kinkel/Mozart) 2.56
19. Mephistopheles’ Return (O’Neill/Kinkel) 4.25
20. Misery (O’Neill/Kinkel) 2.44
21. Who Is This Child (Oliva/O’Neill) 4.34
22. A Final Dream (Oliva/O’Neill) 1.56

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The official website:
Website

Popol Vuh – Hosianna Mantra (1972)

LPFrontCover1Popol Vuh were a German musical collective founded by keyboardist Florian Fricke in 1969 together with Frank Fiedler (sound design, fine cut), Holger Trülzsch (percussion), and Bettina Fricke (tablas and production). Other important members during the next two decades included Djong Yun, Renate Knaup, Conny Veit, Daniel Fichelscher, Klaus Wiese, and Robert Eliscu. The band took its name from the Mayan manuscript containing the mythology of highland Guatemala’s K’iche’ people.

Popol Vuh began as an electronic music project, but under Fricke’s leadership they soon abandoned synthesizers for organic instrumentation and world music influences. They developed a productive working partnership with director Werner Herzog, contributing scores to films such as Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), and Fitzcarraldo (1982). The group are associated with West Germany’s 1970s krautrock movement and are considered progenitors of new-age and ambient music. Today, Popol Vuh’s best-reviewed works are In den Gärten Pharaos (1971) and Hosianna Mantra (1972).

PopolVuh01The band’s name, taken from the Mayan manuscript, has been translated roughly as “meeting place” or “book of the community”. Their first album, Affenstunde, released in 1970, can be regarded as one of the earliest space music works, featuring the then new sounds of the Moog synthesizer together with ethnic percussion. This continued for only one more album, In den Gärten Pharaos, and material later to be released on the soundtrack to Aguirre, the Wrath of God, before Fricke largely abandoned electronic instruments in favour of piano-led compositions from 1972’s Hosianna Mantra forward. This album also marked the start of exploring overtly religious themes rather than a more generally spiritual feeling within the music. The group evolved to include a range of instruments: wind and strings, electric and acoustic alike, combined to convey a mystical aura that made their music spiritual and introspective.

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Popol Vuh influenced many other European bands with their uniquely soft but elaborate instrumentation, which took inspiration from the music of Tibet, Africa, and pre-Columbian America. With music sometimes described as “ethereal”, they created soundscapes through psychedelic walls of sound, and are regarded as precursors of contemporary world music, as well as of new age and ambient.

The band contributed soundtracks to films of Werner Herzog, including the aforementioned Aguirre, the Wrath of God, as well as Nosferatu, Fitzcarraldo, Cobra Verde, Heart of Glass and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, in which Fricke appeared.

Florian Fricke died in Munich on 29 December 2001 and the group disbanded.

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In October 2003 Klaus Schulze wrote:

“Florian was and remains an important forerunner of contemporary ethnic and religious music. He chose electronic music and his big Moog to free himself from the restraints of traditional music, but soon discovered that he didn’t get a lot out of it and opted for the acoustic path instead. Here, he went on to create a new world, which Werner Herzog loves so much, transforming the thought patterns of electronic music into the language of acoustic ethno music. (wkipedia)

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And here´s the third album of Popol Vuh:

Before recording Hosianna Mantra, Popol Vuh founder Florian Fricke found religion (both Hinduism and Christianity), which led to a significant shift regarding the approach towards Popol Vuh’s music. Gone were the synthesizers, the band opting for an acoustic approach, rich in piano melodies and echoed guitars, thus becoming the foundation for the songs found on Hosianna Mantra. There are some links to the first two records, Affenstunde and In Den Gärten Pharaos, and those being the use of the Indian percussion and tambura, used to a certain extent here.

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While In Den Gärten Pharaos was a more abstract affair, Hosianna Mantra, like the title suggests, became a more subdued, trance inducing experience. From the gorgeous opening piano lines of “Ah!” to the weeping slides and soft vocals on “Kyrie” and even the lovely violin leads on “Abschied”, the record does not show any signs of weakness. All the tracks are so well pieced together, designed to create a warm, eerie atmosphere and, in the end, to induce the listener into a mantra. No doubt, the title track is meant to be the centerpiece, building an endless, circular movement comprised of piano, delayed guitar, oboe and dreamy vocals. The free guitar licks successfully create the tantric atmosphere over the low piano rhythm, at one point beautifully intertwining with the vocals and oboe. Words are hard to express the sheer magnificent nature of “Hosianna Mantra”.

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Hosianna Mantra marked a significant shift both in structure and melody for Popol Vuh. The material that followed this masterpiece was more or less based on the blueprint created here. The spiritual nature of this record and the use of exotic instruments combined with classical ones placed Popol Vuh at the forefront of the New Age and contemporary World Music genres that would develop over the years.

In the end, Hosianna Mantra is an amazing, yet overlooked record which gives so much from its rather sparse structure, it’s no wonder it influenced so many bands to come. It is a must listen for fans of New Age and World Music, but also for any avid music fan. (Raul Stanciu)

In other words: An overlooked masterpiece. !

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And I add a rare single from Djong Yun (recorded together with Popul Vuh) from 1972 … another beautiful piece of music !

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Personnel:
Robert Eliscu (oboe)
Florian “Popol Vuh” Fricke (piano, harpsichord)
Conny Veit (guitar)
Klaus Wiese (tambura)
Djong Yun (vocals)
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Fritz Sonnleitner (violin)

Booklet

Tracklist:
01. Ah! 4.46
02. Kyrie 5.23
03. Hosianna – Mantra 10.12

Das 5. Buch Mose:
04. Abschied 3.14
05. Segnung 6.08
06. Andacht 0.48
07. Nicht hoch im Himmel 6.18
08. Andacht 0.49

Composed by Florian  Fricke
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09. Maria (Ave Maria) (B.Fricke) 4.30
10. Du sollst lieben (B.Fricke) 5.05

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The French edition:
French Edition

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Studio der frühen Musik (Thomas Binkley) – Pop Ago (Chansons – Songs – Canciones – Lieder – Canzonen) (1973)

FrontCover1Studio der frühen Musik (Studio of Early Music) was an early music group active from 1960–1980 and based in Munich/Germany.

The leader of the group was Thomas Binkley, and the activity of the group coincided with the years he was teaching at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Core members of the group were Binkley (lute), Sterling Jones (vielle), and Andrea von Ramm (mezzo-soprano, rebec, hurdy-gurdy and harp), who had previously organised an earlier Studio der Frühen Musik in Cologne. To these three members were added a male singer; first the tenors Nigel Rogers 1960-1964, then Willard Cobb 1964-1970, and Richard Levitt (counter-tenor) 1970-1979. The activity of the group ceased when Binkley returned to America to found the Early Music Institute at Bloomington, Indiana in 1979.

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An important predecessor was New York Pro Musica, founded 1952 by Noah Greenberg (1919-1966). But Studio der frühen Musik produced a “radically different sound” anticipated other ensembles such as the Early Music Consort of London of David Munrow and Christopher Hogwood (founded 1967, disbanded in 1976 following Munrow’s death), and the Clemencic Consort founded in 1969 by recorder player René Clemencic. The end of Studio der frühen Musik’s activity coincided with the watershed in medieval performance moving to a cappella performance typified by Gothic Voices founded by Christopher Page in 1980.

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Thomas Binkley (Cleveland, Ohio, December 26, 1931 – Bloomington, Indiana, April 28, 1995) was an American lutenist and early music scholar.

Thomas Eden Binkley studied at the University of Illinois (BM. 1956, PhD. 1959) and the University of Munich (1957–58). He taught at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel (1973–77). He was then founding director of the Indiana University Early Music Institute at Bloomington, Indiana from 1979 till his death from cancer at the age of 63. For twenty years (1960–1980) he led the Studio der Frühen Musik in Munich with Andrea von Ramm (1928–99) and Sterling Jones, producing an extensive discography of medieval music.

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Binkley was effectively house artist for EMI Electrola in the first years of the EMI Reflexe series in Germany. The distinctive Dalíesque covers for the series were designed by Roberto Patelli (b. 1925) an Italian graphic artist resident in Cologne. (wikipedia)

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And here is an album by the ensemble that has already impressed me:

Impressive if only for the number of composers who have fallen completely into oblivion, such as Giacomo Fogliano, Gian Domenico Da Nola, Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Thomas Crecquillon or Heinrich Isaac, to name but a few….

Only John Dowland was already known to me.

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And their compositions are somehow quite complicated … one’s own listening habits are occasionally strained, but at the same time a whole musical cosmos opens up.

The music, supple, intimate and graceful, and at the same time a music with rough edges, occasionally pearly.

A contradiction ? Not for me.

Therefore again a listening recommendation from me … Music beyond any mainstream.

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Personnel:
Thomas Binkley (various instruments)
Sterling Jones (various instruments)
Richard Levitt (vocals)
Andrea von Ramm (vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. L’amor Donna (Fogliano) 2.18
02. Chi La Gagliarda (daNola) 2.31
03. Canta Giorgia (Traditional) 1.44
04. S’il Disse Mai (Tromboncino) 3.15
05. Ave Maria Stelle (Luzzaschi) 1.23
06. Petit Fleur (Crecquillon) 2.56
07. Si Je Languis D’un Martire Incogneu (de Courville) 4.02
08. Si Jamais Mon Ame Blessée (Guédron) 3.46
09. Prelude (Gaultier) 0.43
10. Blond Est Le Filet D’or (Besard) 2.37
11. Ich spring an diesem Ringe (Traditional) 2.53
12. Insbrugh, ich muss dich lassen (Isaac) 2.35
13. La La Hö Ho (Isaac) 1.25
14. Tan Buen Ganadico (del Encina) 1.43
15. Dale Si Le Das (Traditional) 2.58
16. Fantasy (Morley) 1.56
17. Woodycock (Traditional) 2.28
18. Miserere (Traditional) 1.48
19. Adieu For Oliver Cromwell (Dowland) 4.14

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Thomas Binkley