Woody Shaw With Anthony Braxton – The Iron Men (1977/1981)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Iron Men is an album led by trumpeter Woody Shaw which was recorded in 1977 but not released on the Muse label until 1981. The Iron Men was reissued by Mosaic Records as part of Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions in 2013.

This is a particularly interesting set by Woody Shaw because it teams the trumpeter with the great saxophonist Anthony Braxton and such forward-thinking players as altoist Arthur Blythe, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Joe Chambers. Highlights are versions of Eric Dolphy’s “Iron Man” and Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” that are based on renditions Shaw had recorded with Dolphy back in 1963; the latter has Braxton playing clarinet. A couple of brief free improvisations by the trio of Shaw, Abrams and McBee in addition to Andrew Hill’s “Symmetry” and the trumpeter’s epic “Song Of Songs” round out this continually intriguing and adventurous program. (by Scott Yanow)

This album starts with Eric Dolphy’s “Iron Man” in a hard bop vein with exciting solo work from alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe, trumpeter Shaw, and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams. Michael Cuscuna’s liner notes indicate that Woody Shaw dedicated this LP to “Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill, Jackie McLean,McCoy Tyner, Bobby Hutcherson and all the otheriron men.”

@ Keystone Korner, San Francisco CA 

“Jitterbug Waltz” features Shaw with a more fluid tone on cornet, Anthony Braxton on clarinet, Abrams and bassist Cecil McBee with exciting solo work, in a standard take on Fats Waller’s classic tune. Shaw’s original composition “Song of Songs” lends an air of serious drama; there’s a Spanish bullfight intensity, presenting the trumpeter’s daring and flexible range. Saxophonists Blythe and Braxton follow Shaw’s stirring solo with a duet chorus, Blythe on alto and Braxton on soprano. Together, they weave more excitement into the piece before turning it over to the Abrams, who offers a hailstorm of a piano solo. For two brief trio numbers, “Diversion One” and “Diversion Two,” with piano and bass, Shaw eschews the hard bop idiom and picks up the flugelhorn to float a few examples of his pure, natural tone. Highly recommended. (Jim Santella)


Muhal Richard Abrams (piano)
Anthony Braxton (clarinet, saxophone)
Joe Chambers (drums on 01. + 03..)
Victor Lewis (drums on 02 + 05.)
Cecil McBee (bass)
Woody Shaw (trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn)
Arthur Blythe (saxophone (on 01. + 05.)

01. Iron Man (Dolphy) 6.23
02. Jitterbug Waltz (Waller) 8.25
03. Symmetry (Hill) 8.21
04. Diversion One (Shaw/Abrams(McBee) 2.59
05. Song f Songs (Shaw) 12.48
06. Diversion Two (Shaw/Abrams(McBee) 2.52



Jack DeJohnette’s Directions – New Rags (1977)

FrontCover1.jpgToday’s Rediscovery is an album that, despite never being released officially on CD, is a relatively regular play chez Kelman, getting spun at least a couple times every year. New Rags (ECM, 1977), the third—and, sadly, final—recording by drummer Jack DeJohnette’s Directions group, pares down the quintet of its second album and ECM debut to a quartet, where Cosmic Chicken bassist Peter Warren is replaced by Mike Richmond and keyboardist Warren Bernhardt is eliminated from the lineup after making his single set appearance with the group on Untitled (ECM, 1976).

The Chicago-born drummer is left, on New Rags, alongside guitarist (and fellow ECM label mate) John Abercrombie, lesser known but still busy session saxophonist Alex Foster and Richmond, another name less familiar to casual jazz fans but with a sizeable discography to suggest plenty of name power amongst musicians, It’s an album that, perhaps even more than its broad-scoped predecessor, succeeds in positioning DeJohnette as not just one of jazz’s most impressive drummers—even at this relatively early stage, about a decade into the then 35 year-old drummer’s career, having already clocked up two major gigs with Charles Lloyd and Miles Davis—but as a composer, instrumentalist and bandleader of increasing significance.

DeJohnette and Abercrombie were already good friends by this time, the guitarist having played on the drummer’s two Prestige dates: 1974’s Sorcery, as well as 1975’s Cosmic Jack DeJohnette01.jpgChicken—neither particularly well-received. DeJohnette returned the favour by appearing on Abercrombie’s Timeless—the guitarist’s 1975 ECM leader debut that quickly became a classic for both Abercrombie and the label—while the two began their on-again/off-again collaborative trio with bassist (and fellow Miles Davis alum) Dave Holland, Gateway, with its critically acclaimed eponymous ECM debut the same year.

But if Timeless explored a combination of keyboard-driven electricity and stripped down acoustic elegance, and Gateway found that unique nexus where Holland’s predilection for groove met with the freewheeling trio’s collective improvisational chemistry, New Rags explores three DeJohnette compositions of remarkable diversity, along with Foster’s more harmonically ambiguous but potently swinging “Flys,” and “Steppin’ Through”—the rocking, near (but not quite) fusion powerhouse that closes the album on a supremely fiery note, moving from pedal- to-the-metal intensity with Foster’s opening salvo to more spacious, open terrain, only to return to its unrelenting, riff-driven intro for a solo from Abercrombie. Overdriven and unfettered, it’s one of the guitarist’s best of the set—pushed to even greater extremes by DeJohnette’s cymbal-heavy power groove before the entire quartet brings things down for an ultimate fade-out.

One of DeJohnette’s most enduring qualities as a writer throughout the years has been a wry sense of humor, which has imbued many of his best compositions, including “One for Eric” and “Zoot Suite,” both from the drummer’s eponymous 1980 debut of the twin-saxophone (and occasionally trumpet)-driven Special Edition group, whose four ECM recordings were reissued in one of the label’s Old & New Masters Edition boxes, Special Edition, in 2013. New Rags may wax lyrical on “Lydia,” a gorgeous ballad named after the drummer’s wife that features DeJohnette on piano, but on his episodic title track, DeJohnette drives his group to shift gears seamlessly between ambling free bop, challenging stop/start compositional segues with brief moments of bump-and-grind burlesque…and an irregularly metered calypso ending that may seem like a non sequitur but, ultimately, makes perfect sense in DeJohnette’s stylistically unbound musical universe.

Alex Foster01.jpg

It’s not particularly uncommon for drummers to play piano, but few are as good as DeJohnette, who could easily have focused his energy on that instrument rather than drums with similar success…but we’ll never know, as it’s an instrument he only brings out occasionally. Still, when he does—as he does here on “Lydia” and later on the even more memorable “Silver Hollow”—a standout track on the subsequent debut of his reconfigured New Directions group (with only Abercrombie remaining in the lineup) on its 1978 ECM debut of the same name—he invariably demonstrates a particular penchant for melodic specificity.

The lengthy, open-ended “Minya’s the Mooch”—named after his then-young daughter and a play on “Minnie the Moocher,” made famous by Cab Calloway—opens the album with an elliptical, visceral bass line from Richmond that anchors an atmospheric collection of delicate cymbals and volume pedal-swelling guitar. Foster enters with powerful aplomb, ultimately pushing the group first towards double time energy, but then dissolving into a melée of apparent chaos—except for the cued figure that reveals more method than madness—before a closing section that returns to the more ethereal atmospherics of the intro.

John Abercrombie01.jpg

How the entire group moves through these various passages as one is what makes Directions such a memorable group that, building on the success of Untitled, delivers an even more impressive sophomore effort. What’s less impressive is that both Untitled and New Rags remain unavailable—and would make a perfect double-disc set to bring all of DeJohnette’s albums as a leader on ECM into print on CD. Until then, both albums—both worthy of Rediscovery, but with New Rags beating out Untitled by a hair— are enjoyed, chez Kelman, in a vinyl>CDR transfer that sounds absolutely wonderful on the Tetra Listening Instruments. ECM’s painstaking attention to sonic transparency and pristine clarity is a particularly beautiful thing to behold here, on a record that covers considerable dynamic territory…and is all the better for it.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you know this record, and if so, how do you feel about it?(John Kelman)

Jack DeJohnette (2015).jpg

John Abercrombie (guitar, mandolin)
Jack DeJohnette (drums, piano)
Alex Foster (saxophone)
Mike Richmond (bass)


01. Minya’s The Mooch (DeJohnette) 11.30
02. Lydia (Foster) 3.43
03. Flys (Foster) 6.07
04. New Rags (DeJohnette) 9.08
05. Steppin’ Thru (Foster) 10.29



Mike Richmond01.jpg

Thin Lizzy – Live And Dangerous (1978)

FrontCover1.JPGLive and Dangerous is a live double album by the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, released in June 1978. It was recorded in London in 1976, and Philadelphia and Toronto in 1977, with further production in Paris. It was also the last Thin Lizzy album to feature guitarist Brian Robertson,[a] who left the band shortly after its release.

The band decided to release a live album after their producer Tony Visconti did not have enough time to work on a full studio session. The group listened through various archive recordings from earlier tours and compiled the album from the best versions. Various studio overdubs were made to the live recordings during early 1978 in Paris; exactly how much of the album is overdubbed has been a contentious topic since its release. The album reached No. 2 in the UK album charts, ultimately selling over half a million copies. It has continued to attract critical acclaim and it has appeared in several lists of the greatest live albums of all time.

By the mid-1970s, Thin Lizzy had stabilised around founding members, lead singer and bassist Phil Lynott and drummer Brian Downey, alongside guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. The band had found commercial success with several hit singles and developed a strong live following, including headlining the Reading Festival. Robertson had briefly left the band in 1977 but subsequently returned. The group had planned to ThinLizzy01make a new studio album at the start of 1978. Working with producer Tony Visconti, Thin Lizzy retained commercial success with the album Bad Reputation, and the group wanted to work with him again. However, Visconti had a very tight schedule and had committed to producing several albums for other artists, so Lynott suggested instead that they spend two weeks together compiling a live album from earlier recordings.

The band and Visconti listened to over 30 hours of archive recordings, looking for the best performances to release.[3] The album sleeve notes credit two concerts as the source of the album – Hammersmith Odeon, London, England on 14 November 1976 (as part of the tour for Johnny the Fox, released earlier that year), and Seneca College Fieldhouse, Don Mills, Toronto, Ontario, Canada on 28 October 1977 (as part of the tour for Bad Reputation).[1] Visconti later revealed that shows at the Tower Theater, Philadelphia on 20 and 21 October 1977, a week earlier than the Toronto gig, had also been recorded. The band had listened back to the Hammersmith tapes shortly after recording and agreed that the performances sounded better than the studio versions. Thin Lizzy biographer Mark Putterford believes the majority of recordings on the finished album are from the Hammersmith show. Visconti later said the performance of “Southbound” came from a soundcheck before one of the Philadelphia gigs, with the audience reaction dubbed in from another song.


On this album, the band segues immediately from “Cowboy Song” into “The Boys Are Back in Town”, on the line “a cowboy’s life is the life for me” – the last chord of the former was the first of the latter, although their studio versions were recorded as separate songs.[8] This segue between the two tracks remained a staple of the band’s setlist for the rest of their career, and examples can be found on other live releases. The band had rearranged “Still in Love with You” to be slower and more emotional than the original studio version, and the version recorded on Live and Dangerous was considered by Putterford to be the highlight of Lynott’s musical career.


To promote the album, the group filmed a gig at the Rainbow Theatre, London on 29 March 1978 for a television broadcast. However, this was cancelled and the footage went unaired.

The album was mixed and overdubbed at Studio Des Dames, Paris in January 1978. All sources agree that overdubbing took place on Live and Dangerous, although there is considerable disagreement about the extent of them. According to Visconti, the album was “75% recorded in the studio” with only the drums and audience noise remaining from the original live recordings. Visconti later said the overdubs and production were essential in order that the listener could hear a professional sounding band. He claims to have created some audience sounds from a keyboard-triggered tape loop in a similar manner to a Mellotron or sampling keyboard. Nevertheless, Visconti was happy with the production and believes the end result sounds authentic.


However, manager Chris O’Donnell said the album was 75% live, with overdubs restricted to backing vocals and a few guitar solos to “clean the sound up”. Lynott said that there were a few necessary overdubs, but “anything else would have ruined the atmosphere on those recordings and made a mockery of putting out a live album”. Robertson has been particularly critical over Visconti’s view. He has said the album is almost all live, and the sound levels on stage would make overdubbing impossible due to the lack of acoustic separation between instruments. He claims a recording of “Still In Love With You”, featuring a guitar solo he felt was better than the one at the gig that was eventually released, could not be used due to phaser noise on the bass. From this, he concluded that if the bass could not be overdubbed, nothing else could either.


O’Donnell hired Chalkie Davies, a photographer for New Musical Express for two weeks to photograph the band on a US tour in early 1978 in order to capture enough pictures suitable for the album artwork. The front cover, featuring Lynott in the foreground, was originally supposed to be the back cover as the group wanted equal coverage of all members. O’Donnell disagreed and reversed the front and back photographs at the last minute. The album had a working title of Thin Lizzy Live but Lynott decided that Live and Dangerous was better.

The record sleeve includes a montage photograph in the studio consisting of a mirror, straw, razor blade and a rolled up five pound note (as an overt reference to cocaine consumption). Lynott insisted on adding the picture over the rest of the band’s objections.


Live and Dangerous was released as a double album on 2 June 1978. In the UK, it was released on Vertigo Records and reached a high of No. 2 in the UK album charts, held from the top spot by the Grease soundtrack album. It remained in the charts for 62 weeks[16] and eventually sold 600,000 copies. It was also the first album to be released by Warner Bros. Records in America after the band left Mercury Records in that area. A single from the album, “Rosalie / Cowgirl’s Song” was released in April and reached No. 20 in the UK single charts.

The band began touring to promote the album, but after a one-off gig in Ibiza, Lynott and Robertson had an acrimonious argument. Robertson subsequently quit Thin Lizzy permanently to form Wild Horses with former Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain. He was replaced by a returning Gary Moore, who had already been a band member in 1974 and 1977.


The album was reissued on CD in 1989. The March 1978 footage from the Rainbow Theater concert was released a first time in 1980 on VHS by VCL Video and as a 60-minute edit by Castle Communications in 1994 and titled Live & Dangerous.[21][22] The complete footage was released on DVD in 2007, with other group performances including a show from their farewell tour on 26 January 1983, and four Top of the Pops clips from the 1970s.

In 2009, the live album Still Dangerous was released, which features material from the 20 October 1977 gig at Philadelphia that was used for some of Live and Dangerous. There is some overlap of tracks between the two albums, though Still Dangerous is completely live with no overdubs.

Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 50 among the “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time”.

The album continues to attract critical praise. In 2010 Live and Dangerous was ranked number one in PlanetRock.com’s The Greatest Live Album Top 40. The following year, the British music magazine NME ranked Live and Dangerous at No. 1 in its 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time. In 2015, Rolling Stone put the album at No. 46 in its list of the greatest live albums. The album is included in the 2011 revision of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. (by wikipedia)


Released in 1978, just as the hot streak starting with 1975’s Fighting and running through 1977’s Bad Reputation came to an end, Live and Dangerous was a glorious way to celebrate Thin Lizzy’s glory days and one of the best double live LPs of the 70s. Of course, this, like a lot of double-lives of that decade — Kiss’ Alive! immediately springs to mind — isn’t strictly live; it was overdubbed and colored in the studio (the very presence of studio whiz Tony Visconti as producer should have been an indication that some corrective steering may have been afoot). But even if there was some tweaking in the studio, Live and Dangerous feels live, containing more energy and power than the original LPs, which were already dynamic in their own right. It’s this energy, combined with the expert song selection, that makes Live and Dangerous a true live classic. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)


I usually prefer to listen to studio albums than live albums, but this one, as Made in Japan to Deep Purple, is an exception: it is the best option to get into Thin Lizzy and start to know them. It works like a greatest hits, including the best themes of the band until this album, but offering the listener a high level performance. I’ve read somwehere that it is re-recorded so it isn’t “pure live”, but listening to the result I don’t care a lot, because it’s excellent.
I especially love, for example, the transition from “Dancing in the moonlight” to “Massacre”, the solo in “Emerald” and “Still in love with you”. Lynnot really put sentiment into his singing. (reymonmvc toledo)


Brian Downey (drums, percussion)
Scott Gorham (guitar, background vocals)
Phil Lynott (vocals, bass)
Brian Robertson (guitar, background vocals)
John Earle – saxophone on “Dancing in the Moonlight”
Huey Lewis (as “Bluesey Huey Lewis”) – harmonica on “Baby Drives Me Crazy”

01. Jailbreak (Lynott) 4.33.
02. Emerald (Downey/Gorham/Lynott/Robertson) 4.33
03. Southbound (Lynott) 4,41
04. Rosalie (Seger)/ Cowgirl’s Song (Downey/Lynott) 4.13
05. Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight) (Lynott) / Massacre (Downey/Gorham/Lynott) 6.48
06. Still In Love With You (Lynott) 7.41
07. Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed (Downey/Gorham/Lynott) 3.44
08. Cowboy Song (Downey/Lynott) /  The Boys Are Back In Town (Lynott) 9.43
09. Don’t Believe a Word” Lynott 2:05
10. Warriors (Gorham/Lynott) 3.56
11. Are You Ready (Downey/Gorham/Lynott/Robertson) 2.47
12. Suicide (Lynott) 5.13
13. Sha La La (Downey/Lynott) 5.33
14. Baby Drives Me Crazy (Downey/Gorham/Lynott/Robertson) 6.41
15. The Rocker (Bell/Downey/Lynott) 4.01
16. Live And Dangerous (full album – uncut edition) 1.16.51




Philip Parris Lynott (20 August 1949 – 4 January 1986)


When I passed you in the doorway
Well you took me with a glance
I should have took that last bus home
But I asked you for a dance

Now we go steady to the pictures
I always get chocolate stains on my pants
And my father he’s going crazy
He says I’m living in a trance

But I’m dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

It’s three o’clock in the morning
And I’m on the streets again
I disobeyed another warning
I should have been in by ten

Now I won’t get out until Sunday
I’ll have to say I stayed with friends
But it’s a habit worth forming
If it means to justify the end

Dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

And I’m walking home
The last bus has long gone
But I’m dancing in the moonlight



Van Morrison (feat. Dr. John) – The Wonderland Tapes (1977)

FrontCover1.jpgFor years the best known set of Van’s brief collaboration with Dr John in 1977 has widely circulated only in incomplete form and mediocre sound on a bootleg known as Amsterdam’s Tapes. Now, thanks to the persistence, dedication and collaboration of VLS (vanlose stairway) members and friends, this rare show has finally been assembled from the best sources available to us, complete as broadcast on Dutch FM radio. After 20+ years, we are sure fans will agree that it is about time! Better yet, we have also unearthed the “raw audio source” of that set, taken from the live performance for a TV program called “Wonderland” in Vara Studios, Hilversum, Netherlands. This audio has never before been circulated, and although available only in mono, it will surely delight the attentive listener. –

Thanks to crmass; and to goody for the remaster and for sharing the tracks at Dime.

This is a new remaster (uploaded June 10, 2019) based upon a set that’s been circulating for years, last seen here as of 2017 or so courtesy of, I think, DeathGlider (who’ll definitely be picking up this update, I see…) I got it back in ‘05, courtesy of ‘crmass’ at that time (thanks!).


I would like to sincerely thank VLS so much for this excellent compilation, and all others along the way for these sources – until now, the best presentation of this great program. Many of the FM tracks needed speed/pitch adjustment and are now in tune. Some tracking here and there has been updated a bit, (meaning a total of only 3 marker moves.) Many of those digital noises mentioned towards the end of disc 2 have been greatly reduced or removed, making it easier now to hear some very low volume off-mic dialog if you listen closely. Hope nobody minds. So… NOW… I do believe to my soul it’s the very best… (goody)

A Vanlose Stairway ProductionVery good FM broadcast/video feed;
Goody Speed/Pitch-adjusted Remaster.

Alternate front covers

Mo Foster (bass)
Peter van Hooke (drums)
Dr. John (keyboards, background vocals)
Van Morrison (vocals, piano, harmonica)
Mick Ronson (guitar, background vocals)



From FM broadcast:
01. Hallelujah, I Love Her So (Charles) 2.35
02. Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Johnson) 2.14
03. Fever (Cooley/Blackwell) 3.52
04. Foggy Mountain Top (Carter) 5.02
05. I’ll Go Crazy (Brown) 2.57
06. Baby, Please Don’t Go (Williams) 4.18
07. Santa Rosalia (Traditional) 4.15
08. Announcer 0.38
09. Joyous Sound (Morrison) 2.48
10. You Gotta Make It Through The World (Morrison) 3.14
11. I Just Wanna Make Love To You (Dixon) 5:22
12. Shakin’ All Over (Kidd/Robinson) 4.14
13. The Eternal Kansas City (Morrison) 4:53
14. Announcer 0.21
15. Cold Wind In August (Morrison) 5.56

Video feed; mono:
16. Santa Rosalia (Traditional) 4.53
17. Cold Wind In August (Morrison) 6.14
18. Joyous Sound (Morrison) 3:02
19. You Gotta Make It Through The World (Morrison) 3.20
20. I Just Wanna Make Love To You (Dixon) 5.27
21. Shakin’ All Over (Kidd/Robinson) 4.36
22. The Eternal Kansas City (Morrison) 7.18
23. Cold Wind In August (Morrison) 8.00
24. Hallelujah, I Love Her So 3:29
25. Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Johnson) 2.42
26. Fever (Cooley/Blackwell) 4:18
27. Foggy Mountain Top (Carter) 5.45
28. I’ll Go Crazy (Brown) 3.17
29. Baby, Please Don’t Go (Williams) 5.05



Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra (Zdeněk Košler) – Má vlast (My Country) (Smetana) (1977)

FrontCover1Má vlast (Czech pronunciation: [maː vlast], meaning “My homeland” in the Czech language) is a set of six symphonic poems composed between 1874 and 1879 by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. While it is often presented as a single work in six movements and – with the exception of Vltava – is almost always recorded that way, the six pieces were conceived as individual works. They had their own separate premieres between 1875 and 1880; the premiere of the complete set took place on 5 November 1882 in Žofín Palace, Prague, under Adolf Čech, who had also conducted two of the individual premieres.

In these works Smetana combined the symphonic poem form pioneered by Franz Liszt with the ideals of nationalistic music which were current in the late nineteenth century. Each poem depicts some aspect of the countryside, history, or legends of Bohemia.

Since 1952 the works have been performed to open the Prague Spring International Music Festival on 12 May, the anniversary of the death of their composer.

Vyšehrad (The High Castle)
The first poem, Vyšehrad (The High Castle), composed between the end of September and 18 November 1874 and premiered on 14 March 1875, describes the Vyšehrad castle in Prague which was the seat of the earliest Czech kings. During the summer of 1874, Smetana began to lose his hearing, and total deafness soon followed; he described the gradual, but rapid loss of his hearing in a letter of resignation to the director of the Royal Provincial Czech Theatre, Antonín Čížek. In July 1874 he began hearing anomalous noise and then a permanent buzzing. Not long after the onset he was unable to distinguish individual sounds. At the beginning of October he lost all hearing in his right ear, and finally on 20 October in his left. His treatment was based on maintaining isolation from all sounds, but was unsuccessful. The poem begins with the sounds of the harp of the mythical singer Lumír, and then crosses over into the tones of the castle’s arsenal. This section of the music introduces the main motifs, which are used in other parts of the cycle. A four note motif (B♭-E♭-D-B♭) represents the castle of Vyšehrad; this is heard again at the end of ‘Vltava’ and once more, to round the whole cycle off, at the conclusion of ‘Blaník’.



In the score two harps are required to perform the opening arpeggios. After a dominant seventh chord, the winds take up the theme, followed by the strings, before the whole orchestra is employed to reach a climax. In the next part, Smetana recalls the story of the castle, using a faster tempo which becomes a march. A seemingly triumphant climax is cut short by a descending passage depicting the collapse of the castle, and the music falls quiet. Then the opening harp material is heard again and the music reminds again of the beauty of the castle, now in ruins. The music ends quietly, depicting the River Vltava flowing below the castle.

Conceived between 1872 and 1874, it is the only piece in the cycle to be mostly completed before Smetana began to go noticeably deaf in the summer of 1874. Most performances last approximately fifteen minutes in duration.

Vltava (The Moldau) 
Vltava, also known by its English name The Moldau, and in German Die Moldau, was composed between 20 November and 8 December 1874 and was premiered on 4 April 1875 under Adolf Čech. It is about 13 minutes long, and is in the key of E minor.

In this piece, Smetana uses tone painting to evoke the sounds of one of Bohemia’s great rivers. In his own words:

The composition describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the Cold and Warm Vltava, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Vltava through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer’s wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night’s moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft. The Vltava swirls into the St John’s Rapids; then it widens and flows toward Prague, past the Vyšehrad, and then majestically vanishes into the distance, ending at the Labe (or Elbe, in German).



Vltava contains Smetana’s most famous tune. It is an adaptation of the melody La Mantovana, attributed to the Italian renaissance tenor, Giuseppe Cenci,[6] which, in a borrowed Romanian form, was also the basis for the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah. The tune also appears in an old Czech folk song, Kočka leze dírou (“The Cat Crawls Through the Hole”); Hanns Eisler used it for his “Song of the Moldau”; and Stan Getz performed it as “Dear Old Stockholm” (probably through another derivative of the original tune, “Ack Värmeland du sköna”).

The third poem was finished on 20 February 1875 and is named for the female warrior Šárka, a central figure in the ancient Czech legend of The Maidens’ War. Šárka ties herself to a tree as bait and waits to be saved by the princely knight Ctirad, deceiving him into believing that she is an unwilling captive of the rebelling women. Once released by Ctirad, who has quickly fallen in love with her, Šárka serves him and his comrades with drugged mead and once they have fallen asleep she sounds a hunting horn: an agreed signal to the other women. The poem ends with the warrior maidens falling upon and murdering the sleeping men. It was first performed under the baton of Adolf Čech (sources disagree whether this was on 10 December 1876 or 17 March 1877).

Šárka and Ctirad.jpg

Šárka and Ctirad

Smetana finished composing this piece, the title of which means “From Bohemia’s woods and fields”, on 18 October 1875 and received its first public performance nearly eight weeks later, on 10 December. A depiction of the beauty of the Czech countryside and its people, the tone poem tells no real story. The first part is dedicated to the grandeur of the forest with a surprising fugue in the strings, interrupted by a soft woodland melody of the horns, which is later taken over by the whole orchestra. In the second part, a village festival is depicted in full swing. This tone poem was originally written to be the finale of Má vlast.

This piece, which was finished on 13 December 1878 and premiered on 4 January 1880, is named for the city of Tábor in the south of Bohemia founded by the Hussites and serving as their center during the Hussite Wars. The theme for the piece is quoted from the first two lines of the Hussite hymn, “Ktož jsú boží bojovníci” (“Ye Who Are Warriors of God”).



Blaník was finished on 9 March 1879 and premiered on 4 January 1880. It is named for the mountain Blaník inside which a legend says that a huge army of knights led by St. Wenceslas sleep. The knights will awake and help the country in its gravest hour (sometimes described as four hostile armies attacking from all cardinal directions).

Musically, Blaník begins exactly as Tábor ends, “hammering” out the motto which was left unresolved, but now continuing on, as if in the aftermath of the battle. Thus these last two tone poems of the cycle form a cohesive pair, as do the first two; the High Castle’s theme returns as the Vltava’s river journey triumphantly reaches that same destination, and again returns triumphantly at the end of Blaník.

An army of knights led by St. Wenceslas.jpg

An army of knights led by St. Wenceslas

Once again, the Hussite hymn used in Tábor is quoted, though this time it is the third line which rings out in the march at the end of the piece. The original lyrics to this line in the hymn are “so that finally with Him you will always be victorious”, a reference to the eventual victorious rise of the Czech state. (by wikipedia)

This version was conducted by Zdeněk Košler

Zdeněk Košler (March 25, 1928 – July 2, 1995) was a Czechoslovak conductor, who played an important role in Czechoslovak musical life of the second half of 20th century, notably during the sixties and the eighties. He was particularly well known as an opera conductor.

Zdenek Košler

Zdeněk Košler

Košler came from a musical family. His father was a member of the Prague National Theatre Orchestra, and his younger brother Miroslav was a choirmaster.

After finishing his studies at the gymnasium, he enrolled at the AMU in Prague. In 1948, still as a student, he began to work as a répétiteur at the Prague’s National Theatre. In that time he began also to gain some experience with the baton. In 1949 Košler joined the Olomouc opera, where he conducted works by Leoš Janáček (The Makropulos Affair) and by W. A. Mozart (Così fan tutte, The Marriage of Figaro). In 1959 he won the International Young Conductors Competition in Besançon, France, and in 1963 he won the respected Mitropoulos conducting competition in New York, together with Claudio Abbado and the Argentinian Pedro Ignacio Calderón, after which he became assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein at the New York Philharmonic for one year. From 1962 to 1964 Košler was appointed to the Opera in Ostrava. He worked also with foreign ensembles and opera houses, conducted Richard Strauss’s opera Salome at the Vienna State Opera, performed the complete cycle of Dvořák’s symphonies with the Vienna Symphony. In the late sixties he also became the guest-conductor at the Comic Opera in Berlin. Košler was hired as the second conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and became the principal conductor of the Bratislava opera house in 1971. From 1980 to 1984 he also led the orchestra of the National Theatre in Prague. He retired in 1992.

Zdeněk Košler was well known outside Czechoslovakia,[citation needed] as he recorded works by Mozart, Dvořák and Tchaikovsky in Barking Town Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and made concert tours to Austria, United States, and Canada. He toured most often to Japan, where he performed with various orchestras thirty times. (by wikipedia)

What should I say: This is a real masterpiece in the history of classic music … Listen !!!

Recorded in the Concert Hall of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, March 1977
12 page booklet with liner notes in czech and english

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra.jpg

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zdeněk Košler


01. Vysehrad 15.16
02. Vltava 12.01
03. Sarka 9.44
04. From Bohemia’s Woods And Pastures 12.53
05. Tabor 12.42
06. Blanik 14.38

Composed by Bedrich Smetana




Levon Helm – Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars (1977)

FrontCover1.JPGLevon Helm and the RCO All-Stars is a 1977 album by the short-lived musical group of the same name. It was Levon Helm’s first studio album independent of the Band

Levon Helm was an American singer, musician and actor, best known for his role as drummer for The Band.

Levon Helm was born in rural Arkansas in 1940, and grew up surrounded by blues, country and R&B music. He made the decision to become a musician after seeing bluegrass pioneer Bill Monrow perform, and subsequently took up both guitar and drums – he was playing in local bars and clubs by the time he was 17 years old. After graduating high school he became the drummer for The Hawks, the backing group of rockabilly artist Ronnie Hawkins. With Hawkins he made the move to Toronto, Canada, where southern rockabilly acts were very popular at the time. He stayed with Hawkins for many years, as his mentor recruited a number of young Canadian musicians into the band, which eventually led to the line-up of Helm, guitarist Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel and organist Garth Hudson.
In 1963 the group parted ways with Hawkins, and toured across both the USA and Canada. In 1965 they became the unlikely backing band of Bob Dylan following his move into electric rock music, and they embarked on a world tour with him. However before long Helm had left, disheartened by the negative reaction Dylan’s new music was getting. He returned to Arkansas for a couple of years, but eventually reunited with his bandmates in Woodstock in 1967, where they began to hone a unique new fusion of American roots music styles. Reinvented as The Band, they were signed to Capitol Records, and their debut album Music From Big Pink was a huge hit with the critics. The Band released seven studio albums between 1968 and 1977, with Helm’s distinctive southern vocals a vital ingredient in their sound. Though Danko and Manuel were gifted vocalists as well, Helm got to sing lead on their best-known songs – “The Weight”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up On Cripple Creek”. His unique drumming style was another key ingredient, and it earned him much praise. He also contributed mandolin and guitar.

The Band broke up in 1976, and Helm started work on a solo album. It saw release the next year as Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars, and featured appearances from Paul Butterfield, Dr John, Booker T & The MGs and Fred Carter Jr. Robertson and Hudson also guested on one song. It was certainly nothing ground-breaking or a new, but it was a good album, in a bluesy roots-rock style with definite echoes of The Band (indeed the one song to feature both Robertson and Hudson practically was The Band). The songs were mostly covers, and included numbers by Dr John, Earl King and Chuck Berry.


Ex-Band drummer/vocalist Levon Helm could not have surrounded himself with a more talented group of musicians for his first solo outing — Booker T. and the MGs and Dr. John anchor the RCO All-Stars. But while there is no question that the band can really cook, Levon’s homey Arkansas twang gets a little lost in the mix. In general, though, the songs are buoyed by Paul Butterfield’s blues harp and the crack horn section, especially on the soulful “Rain Down Tears.” (by by J.P. Ollio)

What a line-up !

RCO All Stars.jpg

Paul Butterfield (harmonica, background vocals)
Fred Carter, Jr. (guitar)
Steve Cropper (guitar)
Donald Dunn (bass)
Levon Helm (vocals, drums)
Howard Johnson (saxophone, tuba)
Booker T. Jones (keyboards, percussion)
Tom Malone (trombone)
Lou Marini (saxophone)
Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack (keyboards, background vocals, guitar, percussion)
Alan Rubin (trumpet)
background vocals:
Jeannette Baker – John Flamingo – Emmaretta Marks
additional musicians on 05.:
Jesse Ehrlich (strings)
Garth Hudson (accordion)
Louis Kievman (strings)
William Kurasch (strings)
Charles Miller (saxophone)
Robbie Robertson (guitar)
Sid Sharp (strings)

01. Washer Woman (Rebennack) 3.15
02. The Tie That Binds (Rebennack/Guidry) 4.35
03. You Got Me (Jones) 4.16
04. Blues So Bad (Glover/Helm) 4.16
05. Sing, Sing, Sing (Let’s Make A Better World) (King) 3.51
06. Milk Cow Boogie (Arnold/Traditional) 3.11
07. Rain Down Tears (Glover/Toombs) 5.21
08. A Mood I Was In (Carter) 3.42
09. Havana Moon (Berry) 4.28
10. That’s My Home (Traditional) 3.23



Levon Helm

Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm (May 26, 1940 – April 19, 2012)

Marshall Tucker Band – Carolina Dreams (1977)

FrontCover1Carolina Dreams, released in 1977, was The Marshall Tucker Band’s sixth album and an ode to the band’s home state, South Carolina, USA. Focusing on Western themes, it spawned their biggest hit to date, “Heard It In a Love Song”, which rose to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100, taking the album with it to #22 and #23 on the Country and Pop charts, respectively. They toured early that year to promote the album. A bonus live version of “Silverado” appears on the 2005 reissue which was recorded the year after the death of bassist and founding member, Tommy Caldwell. (by wikipedia)

The Carolina landscape seems to lend itself to dreaming; it’s no wonder that James Taylor wrote in one of his most famous songs that “I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind.” This two-state region, with its rich and fertile soil, its mild year-round climate, its courteous people and rich culture, is a singularly lovely place in which to sit back and dream. For that reason, it seems appropriate that the Marshall Tucker Band gave their fine 1977 album the evocative title of “Carolina Dreams.”

The Marshall Tucker Band came out of Spartanburg, South Carolina – a center (with nearby Greenville) of the Upstate region, and a city with a mill-town heritage that, by 1977, was already in decline. Spartanburg and its environs are worlds away from the coastal gentility of Charleston; Pat Conroy, in one of his books, described “the upcountry of South Carolina” as a place that combines “the Bible Belt, sand-lot baseball, knife fights under the bleachers.”


But it was also a place where the musical heritage of the American South – including both African-American blues and Anglo-Appalachian country music – had long helped the people of the region through lives of hard work and hard times; and the Marshall Tucker Band’s work on this album is steeped in a sensibility that combines blues and country in a musically fruitful manner.

The album begins with “Fly Like an Eagle” — *not* the Steve Miller Band hit from 1976, but rather, for my money, a much better song. It is a crunchy, bluesy, riff-based rocker with high clear vocals from Doug Gray, and a soaring quality that characterizes many of the songs on this album. The song that follows, “Heard It in a Love Song,” was deservedly a big hit (#14 here in the U.S.A., #5 in Canada), and to this day it makes its way onto just about every Southern rock compilation that one can find. What gives this song that lyrical quality that sent it racing up the North American charts? To my way of thinking, it’s Jerry Eubanks’s flute solo. With a few exceptions (Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues, Peter Gabriel in Genesis’ early years), the flute has not had much of a presence in rock music; but here, Eubanks’s flute combines seamlessly with flat-picking, Carl Perkins-style guitar, a lovely piano solo, and effective use of organ in a supporting role. The lyrics are fairly typical – a rambling, roaming rocker really loves the girl he’s with, but tells her he needs to move on – but musically, the song is so well-composed and so well-played that I’m not disposed to quibble.


“I Should Have Never Started Lovin’ You” is slow-paced and bluesy; it unfolds slowly, gently, with effective use of the saxophone. The Toy Caldwell guitar solo in the middle is fairly long, but it complements the song well; in contrast with a lot of songs from the 1970’s heyday of Southern rock, the guitar solo doesn’t overwhelm the song. “Life in a Song” is funky and fast-paced; a kinetic guitar plays the dominant role here, while Hammond organ and a Muscle Shoals-style brass section provide fine support. “Desert Skies,” another slow and bluesy number, achieves something different by deploying guest star Charlie Daniels’s fiddle to establish a wistful, country-and-Western quality, in a manner that looks back to the earlier MTB album “Searchin’ for a Rainbow” (1975).


“Never Trust a Stranger,” with lap steel guitar and walking bass backing up a chunka-chunka guitar sound, keeps that Western sound going, as further emphasized by the song’s “outlaw” lyrics; but this song, with its minor-key delivery, has more of a foreboding quality, and once again Eubanks’s flute playing shines. The country influence is comparably important on the slow-paced, mellow “Tell It to the Devil”; but what stands out on this song is the piano, which switches back and forth seamlessly between barrel-house and gospel sounds. The harmonies, as throughout this album, are strong, and flute and acoustic guitar develop some lead melodies together very nicely. And, as a CD extra, this album offers a live version of “Silverado,” recorded in 1981 at the Winter Garden Theater in Dallas; it’s a fast-paced, riff-based number, heavy on the snare drum, with strong Hammond organ fills; if the guitar solo seems somewhat disorganized, hey, that’s live rock-and-roll!


Today, Spartanburg is probably best known for three things. It is home to a large BMW factory; its Wofford College is the training-camp home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers (whose panther-head logo cleverly incorporates an outline of the states of North and South Carolina); and it gave the Marshall Tucker Band to the world. The “Carolina Dreams” album, the only MTB studio album to go platinum, shows this classic Southern rock band at their best. (Paul Haspel)


Tommy Caldwell (bass, background vocals)
Toy Caldwell (lead guitar, steel guitar)
Doug Gray (vocals)
Jerry Eubanks (flute, saxophone, background vocals)
George McCorkle (guitar)
Paul Riddle (drums)
Charlie Daniels (fiddle, background vocals on 05.)
Paul Hornsby (keyboards)
Jaimoe (percussion)
Chuck Leavell (piano on 04.)

Leo LaBranche – Horn section arrangements and trumpet on “Life In A Song” and “I Should Have Never Started Lovin’ You”
Dezso Lakatos – Tenor sax as part of the horn section.


01. Fly Like an Eagle (Toy Caldwell) 3.05
02. Heard It in a Love Song (Toy Caldwell) – 4:55
03. I Should Have Never Started Lovin’ You (Toy Caldwell/Gray/McCorkle) 6.50
04. Life In A Song (Eubanks/McCorkle) 3.23
05. Desert Skies (Toy Caldwell) 6.23
06. Never Trust A Stranger” (Tommy Caldwell) 5.14
07. Tell It To The Devil (Toy Caldwell) 6.27



Still on the road: