Leo Sayer – Silverbird (1973)

FrontCover1Leo Sayer’s debut album introduced a singer/songwriter (actually he wrote just the lyrics; David Courtney did the music) of some talent, though not remarkable talent. The production screams 1973, with its mainstream pop and hard rock beds and some overlays of symphonic strings, and Sayer sometimes strongly echoes Elton John’s early-’70s work, with some hints of David Bowie as well. He didn’t have the monster hooks of Elton John and certainly not the quirky originality and edgy experimentalism of Bowie, but actually this is a better album than many would remember. For one thing, Sayer was a good, versatile singer with an impressive range and an ability to summon the lung power and also go wispy and tender (as he does at Bookletvarious points within a single track, as on “Goodnight Old Friend”).
Certainly the album is most remembered for “The Show Must Go On,” which gave Sayer his first British hit, though Three Dog Night had the smash with it when they covered it for the American market; Sayer’s version is less ham-handed and more idiosyncratic, particularly in the extended instrumental circus intro. He usually played the part of the sympathetic, slightly confessional singer/songwriter, with a more straightforward keyboard-dominated rock base than many soft rock confessional singer/songwriters had, sometimes tilting toward one side more than the other. “The Dancer,” for instance, is a wistful piano ballad with impressive near-soprano singing, while the far less impressive “Oh Wot a Life” is an awkward attempt at throat-stretching party rock. [The 2002 CD reissue adds “Living in America,” the A-side of the sole single by his pre-solo career group, Patches, and “Quicksand,” an early solo Sayer non-LP B-side; both of these are harder-charging mainstream rock than his usual stuff.
Russ Ballard (guitar, keyboard)
Max Chetwyn (guitar)
David Courtney (piano)
Michael Giles (drums)
Robert Henrit (drums)
Leo Sayer (guitar, harmonica, vocals)
Henry Spinetti (drums)
Dave Wintour (bass)
01. Innocent Bystander 3.02
02. Good Night Old Friend 2.51
03. Drop Back 3.29
04. Silverbird 1.12
05. The Show Must Go On 3.32
06. Dancer 4.30
07. Tomorrow 4.12
08. Don’t Say It’s Over 3.15
09. Slow Motion 1.46
10. Oh Wot A Life 2.53
11. Why Is Everybody Going Home? 4.14
12. Living In America 2.47
13. Quicksand 2.46
14. Let It Be (Lennon/McCartney) 3.40

All songs written by Leo Sayer + David Courtney , except where noted


The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Brandenburg Gate Revisited (1963)

FrontCover1Four of the five selections on Brandenburg Gate: Revisited (1963) are new interpretations of Dave Brubeck (piano) classics scored by the pianist’s older sibling, Howard Brubeck, who is likewise the author of the “G Flat Theme,” which is offered here for the first time. By the time of this 1963 platter, the perpetually touring Dave Brubeck Quartet had played behind a few of the North America’s finest ensembles — commencing with a personal invitation extended by Robert Shaw and the San Diego Symphony in 1956. In fact, these expanded arrangements were actually done live before they were recorded in the studio. A similar fate befell material from Brubeck Plays Bernstein Plays Brubeck (1960), which was the Quartet’s earlier orchestral collaboration. “Brandenburg Gate” has been significantly expanded from the version heard on Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (1958). The selection has developed into a side-long suite that includes substantial emotive counterpoint connecting the moody and contemplative strings and the swinging melodic contributions of Paul Desmond (alto sax), Eugene Wright (bass), and Joe Morello (drums). The subtle tension and liberation that exists between the two arguably disparate aggregates prevent either from overpowering the other.

InTheStudioLikewise, spirited leads and improvisations from Brubeck and Desmond keep the elaborate piece agile and firmly rooted in jazz. “Summer Song” is given a stately update, reflecting the easygoing nature of the Jazz Impressions of the U.S.A. (1956) reading. Desmond once again reels off impressive lines that never detract from the tastefully understated string augmentation. The affective “In Your Own Sweet Way” has evolved from the piano solo that initially graced Brubeck Plays Brubeck (1956). The accompaniment is pronounced as it wafts beneath Brubeck’s spontaneous chord progressions and nimbly executed keyboarding. As previously mentioned, “G Flat Theme” is the only tune debuted on Brandenburg Gate: Revisited. What begins as dark and melancholy dissipates into a mid-tempo groove that drives both Brubeck and Desmond into some very interesting spaces as they quickly adapt their sound to the slightly noir, but highly memorable chorus. “Kathy’s Waltz” benefits from a more thorough examination, as compared to the Time Out (1959) rendering. There is a stately air present on this interpretation that remains conspicuously discreet on the more familiar outing. On the whole, of all the reworkings this one seems to be the most rewarding, especially as Desmond is backed with the lush full-bodied orchestra. (by Lindsay Planer)

Dave Brubeck (piano)
Paul Desmond (saxophone)
Joe Morello (drums)
Eugene Wright (bass)
unknown orchestra

01. Brandenburg Gate (D.Brubeck) 19.55
02. Summer Song (D.Brubeck) 6.26
03. In Your Own Sweet Way (D.Brubeck) 4.56
04. G. Flat Theme (H.Brubeck) 3.55
05. Kathy’s Waltz (D.Brubeck) 3.02