Bert Sommer – The Road To Travel (1968)

FrontCover1.jpgBert William Sommer (February 7, 1949 – July 23, 1990) was an American folk singer, songwriter and actor. He appeared in the musical Hair and at the Woodstock Festival, and released several albums as a singer-songwriter.

Sommer grew up in Queens, New York, learned piano and guitar, and began writing songs when in his teens. He attended Woodlands High School. He became friendly with other young musicians and songwriters in the area, including Michael Brown and Leslie West, and wrote several songs for West’s band, the Vagrants, including their single “Beside the Sea”, co-written with producer Felix Pappalardi and his wife Gail.

In 1967, Sommer joined Michael Brown’s band, The Left Banke, as lead singer, replacing Steve Martin and co-writing their single “And Suddenly” with Brown, but the group soon fell apart following legal threats by Martin’s lawyers. Sommer also wrote “Brink of Death”, recorded by the band Childe Harold. Soon afterwards, he was recruited as a cast member of the musical Hair, soon being promoted to the role of Woof. His “frizzed-out Afro” hair and eyes featured on the playbill for Hair in 1969.

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He was signed by Capitol Records, and in June 1969 released his first album, The Road to Travel, produced by Artie Kornfeld as were his next two albums. Kornfeld’s involvement with the Woodstock Festival led to Sommer being invited to perform there. He was the third act to perform on the opening Friday, August 15, 1969. He sang ten songs, including “Jennifer”, a song inspired by his fellow Hair performer, Jennifer Warnes, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “America”, after which he received the festival’s first standing ovation. However, because he was signed to a rival record label, a recording of his performance was not made publicly available until 2009.

Sommer’s second album, Inside Bert Sommer, was released in May 1970 on the Eleuthera label, a subsidiary of Buddah Records, and featured the single “We’re All Playing in the Same Band”, which reached number 48 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1970.

BertSommer03Sommer continued to perform in and around New York, often opening the bill for major acts such as Ike and Tina Turner and the Byrds. A third album, Bert Sommer, was released on Buddah in 1971 but, like Sommer’s other albums, was commercially unsuccessful. Sommer spent some time in a rehabilitation facility in the early 1970s, and then formed a trio, Sommer, Landis & Roberts, with Gary Roberts (also known as Johnny Rabb) and Rob Landis.

While Sommer continued to write songs, he returned to acting. After being encouraged to audition by music producer Artie Ripp, he appeared as “Flatbush” of Kaptain Kool and the Kongs on The Krofft Supershow in 1976, but did not reprise the role in the second season. In 1977, his fourth album, also titled Bert Sommer, produced in Los Angeles by Ron Dante, was released by Capitol Records, but was again unsuccessful and he was dropped by the label.

He returned to Albany in the early 1980s and continued to perform with Johnny Rabb in a band, The Fabulous Newports. He also continued to record demos in the hope of getting a record deal; one track, “You”, was featured in the films The Patriot and Stella. His last performance was in Troy on June 11, 1990, with Rabb.

Sommer died in Troy, New York on July 23, 1990, after a long battle with a respiratory illness. (by wikipedia)

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Major labels were taking all kinds of chances on untested talent in the late ’60s, but although his name may have been unfamiliar to most in the industry, Bert Sommer was hardly untested. By the release of The Road to Travel, his 1968 debut, he had already written five songs for the Vagrants (founded by a pre-Mountain Leslie West, Sommer’s schoolmate) and sung lead vocals on the Left Banke’s single “Ivy, Ivy” through a friendship with that band’s Michael Brown. The Road to Travel shows that his well of inspiration had not yet run dry. With help from a conglomeration of friends and studio professionals, Sommer proved he was facile in a variety of styles — orchestral pop, acoustic folk, and some of the most sensitive singer/songwriter material heard before the style had fully flowered (with apologies to Tim Buckley).

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All of this was delivered in Sommer’s plaintive voice, although he was more convincing when he really let go than when he tried to rein it in. Anachronistically, he began the LP with the words “And when it’s over” (the title of the opener), moving quickly on the song from eerie Baroque pop to bombastic, brass-led art rock. That was a mere taste of what was to come, encompassing the hippie-dippie end of folk on “Jennifer” (the song Sommer gained raves for at Woodstock), straightforward sunshine pop for “Things Are Goin’ My Way,” and a curiously aggressive falsetto take on art rock for “Tonight Together.” Sommer’s power as a songwriter and performer was clear, but he was incredibly difficult to pin down. That may be what doomed The Road to Travel, but it has an undeniable flair. (by John Bush)

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Personnel:
Sam Brown (guitar)
David Cohen (guitar)
Danny Cooch (guitar)
Ron Frangipane (piano)
Al Giorgoni (guitar)
Paul Griffin (piano)
Artie Kaplan (flute)
Joe Mack (bass)
Hugh McCracken (guitar)
Specs Powell (vibraphone)
Rinie Press (bass)
Al Rogers (drums)
Bert Sommer (vocals, guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. And When It’s Over 3.13
02. Jennifer 2.35
03. Things Are Goin’ My Way 2.29
04. She’s Just A Girl 3.44
05. Tonight Together 2.29
06. The Road To Travel 3.55
07. She’s Gone 3.01
08. Hold The Light 2.53
09. A Simple Man 2.45
10. Brink Of Death 3.21
11. A Note That Read 3.28

All songs written by Bert Sommer

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John Paul Jones – Scream For Help (OST) (1985)

FrontCover1Scream for Help is a soundtrack album by John Paul Jones, released by Atlantic Records on 22 March 1985 to accompany the film Scream for Help (a horror movie). Following the Death Wish II album project, guitarist Jimmy Page was asked by his Berkshire neighbour, movie director Michael Winner, to record a soundtrack for the film Scream for Help in August 1984. Due to other commitments by Page, he instead suggested to Winner that Jones, who had just completed upgrading his 24-track digital recording studio at Devon, was best placed to write and record the soundtrack. In return, Jones asked Page to help record two tracks “Crackback” and “Spaghetti Junction”.

The musical score differs in style from the Death Wish pentalogy of films, with Winner requesting that a minimum 70 piece orchestra backing be used for the soundtrack in addition to Jones’ rock arrangements. Besides Page, folk guitarist John Renbourn assists on guitar, and Yes singer Jon Anderson sessioned on vocals as well as Madeline Bell, for whom Jones had previous produced, composed, recorded, and played all the instruments for her solo album Comin’ Atcha in December 1973. Jones sings lead vocals on “When You Fall in Love”. Jacinda Baldwin (aka Jacinda Jones), Jones’ daughter is co-writer on two tracks. It was his first full-length album release since the break-up of Led Zeppelin. (by wikipedia)

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The score for this otherwise forgotten Michael Winner film was written by former Led Zeppelin member John Paul Jones and performed by Jones with Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, Madeline Bell, and Yes singer Jon Anderson. It is unremarkable, but since it represents Jones’s only recorded work since Led Zeppelin’s demise in 1980, completists may wish to seek it out. (by William Ruhlmann)

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Personnel:
Colin Green (background vocals)
John Paul Jones (keyboards, synthesizer, bass, guitar, vocals on 02. + 08. background vocals)
John Renbourn (guitar)
Graham Ward (drums, percussion)
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Jon Anderson (vocals on 03. + 07.)
Madeline Bell (vocals  on 06. + 09.)
Jimmy Page (guitar on 01. + 04.)
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Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
The Johnny Pearson Studio Orchestra – Orchestra

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01. Spaghetti Junction (Jones) 5.00
02. Bad Child (Jones/Baldwin) 5.45
03. Silver Train (Jones/Anderson) 3.49
04. Crackback (Jones/Page) 4.15
05. Chilli Sauce (Jones) 4.59
06. Take It Or Leave It (Jones/M.Bell) 4.28
07. Christie (Jones) 3.06
08. When You Fall In Love (Jones/Baldwin) 3.35
09. Here I Am (Jones/S.Bell) 4.33

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Jon Hassell – Listening To Pictures (2018)

FrontCover1.jpgNow in his ninth decade, trumpeter, composer, and sonic conceptualist Jon Hassell remains a restless musical explorer. While he hasn’t released an album under his own name since 2009’s Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street on ECM, he’s been working to further the Fourth World concept articulated fully on 1980’s Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics and 1981’s Dream Theory in Malaya. Hassell utilized the aesthetics of American minimalism and married them to strands of electric modal jazz, the various global musics he studied, and electronics. He not only employed these on his own records, but in collaborations with everyone from kd lang and 808 State to Ry Cooder, Björk, David Sylvian, and even Tears for Fears.

Listening to Pictures is subtitled “Pentimento, Vol. 1.” The first word in the term refers to an Italian visual art technique that signifies the reappearance of earlier altered and covered-over images inside a primary work. On these eight tracks, Hassell uses his own performance fragments and samples, then overdubs and samples them ad nauseum onto other manipulated sounds and rhythms, ultimately creating new forms. His primary collaborators here are guitarist Rick Cox, drummer John Von Seggern, and electric violinist Hugh Marsh (all of whom also play “electronics”), as well as guests such as sound sculptor/guitarist Eivind Aarset, drummer Ralph Cumbers (aka Bass Clef), and longtime collaborator, violinist Kheir Eddine M’Kachiche. Opener “Dreaming” finds Hassell’s blurry trumpet hovering over a series of barely discernible piano vamps to offer a noirish, yet gentle rounded melody in tones that never develop past their introductory stage, and don’t need to.

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“Picnic” employs a Roland 808, quivering, quaking drum machines, elliptical sonic frequencies, and washed-out keyboards to affect a reverie that exists in the space between light and darkness. “Al Kongo Udu” and “Pastorale Vassant” both move rhythmically from syncopated ambient jungle to broken beat fractures with sampled African drums rubbing up against rickety synthetic ones. “Manga Scene” blends Hassell’s watery, muted modal trumpet to glitchy beats and ominous, dissonant backdrops.

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The robotic-sounding intro to “Her First Rain” is interspersed with post-bop piano, dubwise bass and drums, squiggles, and loops before the set closes with “Ndeya” (also the name of his new label) and weaves together the tenets of an elusive, seductive Fourth World past with “Pentimento” the present; it’s a “now” that Hassell explains as “…letting your inner ears scan up and down the sonic spectrum, asking what kind of ‘shapes’ you’re seeing, then noticing how that picture morphs as the music moves through Time.” In truth, the listener cannot help but remain in the eternal twilight moments Listening to Pictures introduces. It is a music of sense and memory perceptions, a sonic projection equal to but different from the sources that inspired it. When all are assembled, they constitute a deep, mysterious, and occasionally disruptive journey into shade, texture, nuance, and seductive persuasion. (by Thom Jurek)

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Personnel:
Rick Cox (guitar, synthesizer, electronics)
Jon Hassell (trumpet, keyboards)
Hugh Marsh (violin, electronics)
John von Seggern (bass, drums, electronics)
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Eivind Aarset (guitar, sampler on 08.)
Ralph Cumbers (drum programmin on 02.)
Peter Freeman (bass, electronics on  02., 03. + 07.)
Christoph Harbonnier (basss on 03.)
Christian Jacob (bass on 03.)
Kheir-Eddine M’Kachiche (violin, sampler on 08.)
Michel Redolfi (electronics on 03.)

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Tracklist:

01. Dreaming 6.09
02. Picnic 5.58
03. Slipstream 2.54
04. Al-Kongo Udu 5.12
05. Pastorale Vassant 3.59
06. Manga Scene 5.44
07. Her First Rain 1.38
08. Ndeya 7:07

Music composed by Jon Hassell

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