Neil Diamond – The Jazz Singer (OST) (1980)

FrontCover1Neil Leslie Diamond (born January 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter and actor. He has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He has had ten No. 1 singles on the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts: “Cracklin’ Rosie”, “Song Sung Blue”, “Longfellow Serenade”, “I’ve Been This Way Before”, “If You Know What I Mean”, “Desirée”, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “America”, “Yesterday’s Songs”, and “Heartlight”. 38 songs by Diamond have featured in the Top 10 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts.

Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, and he received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. In 2011, he was an honoree at the Kennedy Center Honors, and he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

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The Jazz Singer is an album by Neil Diamond from 1980, which served as the soundtrack album to the 1980 remake of the film The Jazz Singer. The soundtrack was released in November 1980 originally on Capitol Records, instead of his then-usual Columbia Records, because the film was produced by EMI Films, owned by the parent company of the label for which the soundtrack was released. The soundtrack was re-released in February 1996 on Columbia Records in the United States and Sony elsewhere. After Diamond signed with Capitol Records, this album was reissued by Capitol globally in 2014.

The film’s reviews were negative, earning Diamond the first Razzie for Worst Actor at the 1st Golden Raspberry Awards, but made a modest profit at the box office, grossing almost double its budget. However, its soundtrack was a huge success and became Neil Diamond’s biggest selling album in the United States, selling over 5 million copies there and reaching #3 on the pop albums chart. This would mark the second time a Neil Diamond soundtrack outperformed the movie it came from (after Jonathan Livingston Seagull). Three songs from the album became top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Love on the Rocks”, “Hello Again” and “America” reaching Nos. 2, 6, and 8, respectively. (wikipedia)

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Neil Diamond’s 1980 screen turn as a charismatic singer torn between Jewish tradition and pop music stardom spawned this phenomenally successful soundtrack album — six million copies and counting. Diamond’s 21st century resurgence as a walking item of kitsch has sparked renewed interest in the bombastic melting-pot jam “America,” as well as his signature late-career ballad “Hello Again.” In addition, the lite FM favorite “Love on the Rocks” is classic, raw-throated Neil. But beyond these notables, The Jazz Singer is an album of passable pop songs that stand on the edge of disco and in the grip of melodrama. The hyper “You Baby” is dressed up with an audio clip marking the film’s embarrassing black face sequence, while the album’s midsection sags with songs that shine like Sunset Strip billboards, yet lack any real substance.

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Swelling strings and lovely lyrics abound, but it all seems directionless, as if Diamond’s just going through the motions. Similarly, Jewish traditionals like “Kol Nidre/My Name is Yussel” are important as thematic elements. But removed from the film and in the context of open-collared, glitzy numbers like “Hey Louise,” their reverence is off-putting. As it’s aged, The Jazz Singer has come to mark the moment when Diamond fully embraced his soft rock audience and completely turned his back on the ambition and spine-tingling vocal presence of his early career. That decision certainly proved to be an economic winner, but it ignored the fact that his most resonant performances really tear into a song with true mirth. The Jazz Singer’s big hits have this quality — a fact not lost on a new generation of listeners who revel in Diamond’s powerful voice and showmanship. But the album’s bulk is as wooden as Neil’s acting. (by Johnny Loftus)

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Personnel:
Richard Bennett (guitar)
Vince Charles (percussion)
Neil Diamond (vocals, guitar)
King Errisson (percussion)
Tom Hensley (keyboards)
Dennis St. John (drums)
Alan Lindgren (synthesizers, piano)
Reinie Press (bass)
Doug Rhone (guitar, background vocals)
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background vocals:
Donny Gerard – Marilyn O’Brien – Linda Press – H.L. Voelker – Luther Waters – Oren Waters
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choir:
Timothy Allan Bullara – Jeremy C. Lipton – Dale D. Morich – Yoav Steven Paskowitz – Boyd H. Schlaefer – Mark H. Stevens – David Teisher – James Gregory Wilburn

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Tracklist:
01. America (Diamond) 4.17
02. Adon Olom (Traditional) 0.33
03. You Baby (Diamond) 2.59
04. Love On The Rocks (Diamond/Bécaud) 3.38
05. Amazed And Confused (Diamond/Bennett) 2.53
06. On The Robert E. Lee (Diamond/Bécaud) 2.03
07. Summerlove (Diamond/Bécaud) 3.17
08. Hello Again (Diamond/Lindgren) 4.03
09. Acapulco (Diamond/Rhone) 2.49
10. Hey Louise (Diamond/Bécaud) 2.59
11. Songs Of Life (Diamond/Bécaud) 3.33
12. Jerusalem (Diamond) 3.04
13. Kol Nidre/My Name Is Yussel (Traditional) 1.38
14. America (Reprise) (Diamond) 2.20

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Steve Winwood – Arc Of A Diver (1980)

LPFrontCover1Stephen Lawrence Winwood (born 12 May 1948) is an English singer, songwriter and musician whose genres include progressive rock, blue-eyed soul, rhythm and blues, blues rock, pop rock, and jazz. Though primarily a vocalist and keyboard player, Winwood also plays a wide variety of other instruments; on several of his solo albums he has played all instrumentation, including drums, mandolin, guitars, bass and saxophone.

Winwood was a key member of The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and Go. He also had a successful solo career with hits including “While You See a Chance”, “Valerie”, “Back in the High Life Again” and two US Billboard Hot 100 number ones, “Higher Love” and “Roll with It” charting 20 years after the start of his recording career. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Traffic in 2004.

In 2005 Winwood was honoured as a BMI Icon at the annual BMI London Awards for his “enduring influence on generations of music makers”. In 2008, Rolling Stone ranked Winwood No. 33 in its 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Winwood has won two Grammy Awards. He was nominated twice for a Brit Award for Best British Male Artist: 1988 and 1989. In 2011 he received the Ivor Novello Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors for Outstanding Song Collection.

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Arc of a Diver is the second solo studio album by singer/multi-instrumentalist Steve Winwood, released in 1980. Winwood played all of the instruments on the album.

Featuring his first solo hit, “While You See a Chance” (which peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States), this was Winwood’s breakthrough album as a solo artist. It peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart, establishing him as a commercially viable act.

The cover artwork for the album is by Tony Wright. He took inspiration from Jazz by Henri Matisse, notably VIII: Icarus.

The album was recorded at Winwood’s Netherturkdonic Studios, built at his farm in Gloucestershire; he played all the instruments, wrote all the music, and produced and engineered it himself.

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Reviewing for The Village Voice in June 1981, Robert Christgau credited Winwood for overdubbing all his self-performed instruments, but still found his brand of “British-international groove” more atmospheric than song-oriented and ultimately “lulling”. Robert Palmer was more enthusiastic in The New York Times, saying that Winwood has transformed himself into a “rock traditionalist” with the album. While highlighting “Dust” and the album’s title track as “first-rate lyrics”, Palmer said that “Winwood’s impressive playing and arranging and utterly distinctive vocals make several of his collaborations with Will Jennings, especially the brooding ‘Night Train,’ almost as memorable.” In a retrospective review for AllMusic, William Ruhlmann wrote of the album, “Utterly unencumbered by the baggage of his long years in the music business, Winwood reinvents himself as a completely contemporary artist on this outstanding album, leading off with his best solo song, “While You See a Chance.””

The album was also included in the books 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. and it was voted number 455 in Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums 3rd Edition (2000). (wikipedia)

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Personnel:
Steve Winwood (vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, mandolin, bass, drums, percussion, drum machines)

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Tracklist:
01. While You See A Chance (Winwood/Jennings) 5:12
2. “Arc of a Diver” Winwood, Vivian Stanshall 5:28
3. “Second-Hand Woman” Winwood, George Fleming 3:41
4. “Slowdown Sundown (Winwood/Jennings) 5:27
Side twoNo. Title Writer(s) Length
5. “Spanish Dancer (Winwood/Jennings) 5:58
6. “Night Train (Winwood/Jennings) 7:51
7. “Dust” Winwood, Fleming 6:20

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Sea Level – Ball Room (1980)

FrontCover1Sea Level was an American jazz fusion band from Macon, Georgia that mixed jazz, blues and rock and existed between 1976 and 1981. Initially it was an offshoot of The Allman Brothers Band, but as tensions grew between the loss of two of its founding members and personal grievances between Gregg Allman and other bandmates and associates, Sea Level took on a life of its own as an independent band.

After the initial breakup of the Allman Brothers Band when Gregg Allman and Dicky Betts left, most of the remaining members who evolved into Sea Level were the trio “We Three” comprising bassist Lamar Williams, drummer Jaimoe and Chuck Leavell (piano, keyboards, vocals). The trio would occasionally open shows for the group in 1975 and 1976. With the Allmans disbanding in 1976, the trio added guitarist Jimmy Nalls and named the band based on a phonetic pun of their new bandleader Chuck Leavell’s name: “C. Leavell.” They toured relentlessly, experimenting and refining their sound, eventually signing with Capricorn Records (home of the Allman Brothers) and recording their self-titled debut album in 1977.

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After the release of their first album, the group expanded to a septet with the additions of Davis Causey (guitar), George Weaver (drums, percussion) and Randall Bramblett (saxophones, keyboards and vocals). That configuration recorded the group’s second album, Cats on the Coast, in 1978 (with the leadoff track, “That’s Your Secret”,[1] reaching #50 on the Billboard Hot 100). By the time of the third album, On the Edge, Jaimoe and Weaver had both left, replaced by Joe English. The sextet of Bramblett, Causey, English, Leavell, Nalls and Williams recorded the fourth album, Long Walk on a Short Pier (1979), unreleased in the United States for nearly twenty years, adding percussionist Matt Greeley for their fifth and final album, Ball Room, issued on Arista in 1980. Their greatest hits album (CD) wrapped up their body of work, minus a handful of appearances on various compilation albums (mostly Southern Rock). They were also featured on a 1978 live Southern Rock album which included a live version of “Grand Larceny.”

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Leavell later emerged as a much sought-after session musician and producer, touring with Eric Clapton and eventually becoming a “permanent” session player touring with the Rolling Stones.

In 1998, he issued his debut solo LP, a Christmas album called What’s in That Bag? and more recently Forever Blue that includes solo versions of two classic Sea Level compositions: “Whole Lotta Colada” and “Song for Amy.” He also released Southscape, an album of Southern anthems that hearkens back to his Southern roots. (wikipedia)

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Ball Room was the last album released by Sea Level. All previous albums were done for Capricorn records, but since they went bankrupt, this album was made for the Arista label. Sea Level was a Chuck Leavell affair. So you know you won’t have to expect the rocky side of southern rock. Instead we get the rather sophisticated side of things. And singing most songs, again, is Randall Bramblett. Where they used to rely very much on jazzy, fusion skills, this leans towards the trends set in the early 80’s. I quite like this a lot, and I hope you will too… (by Skydog)

Yes, I do … enjoy this very special band …

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Personnel:
Randall Bramblett (keyboards, saxophone, vocals)
Davis Causey (guitar)
Joe English (drums)
Matt Greeley (percussion, vocals on 07.)
Chuck Leavell (keyboards, vocals)
Jimmy Nalls (guitar, slide-guitar)
Lamar Williams (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Wild Side (Causey/Bramblett) 4.06
02. School Teacher (Pridgen/Bramblett) 3.24
03. Comfort Range (Causey/Bramblett) 4.03
04. Anxiously Awaiting (Leavell) 4.39
05. Struttin’ (Williams) 4.16
06. We Will Wait (Causey/Bramblett) 3.59
07. You Mean So Much To Me (Causey/Bramblett) 3.48
08. Don’t Want To Be Wrong (Leavell) 4.19
09. Bandstand (Causey/Bramblett) 4.34

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Lamar Williams died from lung cancer in 1983.

Jimmy Nalls, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, died on June 22, 2017

Nick Simper´s Fandango – Future Times (1980)

FrontCover1Nicholas John Simper (born 3 November 1945) is a bass guitarist, who was a co-founding member of Deep Purple and Warhorse. In the 1960s he began his professional career in Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, The Flower Pot Men, Lord Sutch’s Savages, etc.

Simper was born in Frogmore House Maternity Home, Norwood Green, Southall, Middlesex. Prior to co-founding Deep Purple in 1968, Simper played for a number of bands, including The Renegades (1960–61), The Delta Five (1961–63), Some Other Guys (1963–64), Buddy Britten & The Regents renamed Simon Raven Cult (1964–66) and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. Unfortunately within a few months of joining, Kidd and Simper were involved in a car crash that took Kidd’s life. After recovering Simper briefly reactivated The Pirates (1966–67) before joining the Garden, the backing band for The Flower Pot Men (1967–68), where he played alongside Jon Lord. He also had a brief spell with Lord Sutch’s Savages.

Simper was fired from Deep Purple in mid 1969, when new singer Ian Gillan requested that bassist Roger Glover join as well.

DeepPurpleAfter his departure, he briefly worked with Marsha Hunt before forming his own band Warhorse, that recorded two albums for Vertigo. Warhorse was managed by Ron Hire, originally part of HEC Enterprises, the original investors in Deep Purple. During this time Simper also played on a Lord Sutch live album, along with Ritchie Blackmore, Keith Moon and several other luminaries.

For Warhorse, as with so many bands, the important breakthrough of a big selling album hadn’t occurred. There was very strong interest from Warner Bros, with their senior A&R rep (Dave Dee) doing his utmost to sign the band to the label. At Warner Bros expense, they went into the studio and recorded two tracks but in the end it came down to a straight choice between Warhorse and The Heavy Metal Kids.

By 1974 crippling finances signalled the end for the band. Warhorse’s last gig in late ’74 was at Polhill College, Bedford. Unfortunately their 2000-Watt Midas P.A. broke down and despite the best efforts of their roadie and managers it couldn’t be made to perform properly. They tried, and performed a B.B.King song (Three O’clock in the Morning) to see if they could manage some kind of performance, but it was impossible and they made their apologies to the audience and left.

WarhorseSimper and guitarist Pete Parks spent the next three years writing, recording and initially formed a new band, called Nick Simper’s Dynamite (1975) that released one, now very rare single.

On 9 October 1976 Simper took part in the Johnny Kidd 10th Anniversary Memorial Show at the Edwardian Club at the Loughborough Hotel in Brixton.

With no financial backing, along with Parks, Simper managed to get Nick Simper’s Fandango (1977–83) off the ground and released two albums. Around the same time Frankie Reid formed the band Flying Fox (1977–84) with Carlo Little, Simper and Parks to play rock ‘n’ roll whenever they were free from commitments from their other bands.(by wikipedia)

“Slipstreaming” was the second album by Nick Simper´s Fandango:

The debut album was released on the Shark label in Germany and finally picked up by Gull in England where it achieved a moderate amount of success. On the basis of the first album’s sales another album, Future Times was recorded in 1980 but this one was only released in Germany. With the lack of promotion and low sales on the second album, Fandango decided to call it a day and folded in 1983.

Slipstreamig (the first album) gives us a good dose of the best hard rock of the ’80s, for moments close to heavy metal, with a crushing rhythmic, the spirit of Ritchie Blackmore flying over the Parks style and scratchy throat of Proops provided the adecuate rocker tone. Future Times is more varied, more soft in their sound, with some “poppy” times and even not deprive us of some ballads, even if it is more conventional that Slipstreming, but still has good moments. (by Gillan)

Or: a pretty good, solid Rock album from the period !

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Personnel:
Pete Parks (guitar)
Mac Poole (drums)
Jim Proops (vocals)
Nick Simper (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Pull Out And Start Again (Proops/Simper) 5.11
02 .Get Down, Lay Down (Proops/Simper) 5.37
03. She Was My Friend (Proops/Simper) 4.47
04. Future Times (Proops/Simper) 4.48
05. Undercover Man (Parks/Proops/Simper) 5.44
06. Something’s Burning (Davis) 4.49
07. Hard Drink And Easy Women (Proops/Simper) 3.42

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Jack Green – Humanesque (1980)

FrontCover1Jack Green (born 12 March 1951 in Glasgow, Scotland) is a Scottish musician and songwriter.

Green played with T. Rex between 1973 and 1974, then with Pretty Things between 1974 and 1976, recording Silk Torpedo and Savage Eye. After Phil May walked out on the Pretty Things he carried on with Peter Tolson, Gordon Edwards and Skip Alan in Metropolis. He also was a member of Rainbow for three weeks in late 1978.

He launched a solo career with the album Humanesque in 1980, followed by Reverse Logic in 1981, Mystique in 1983 and Latest Game in 1986.

He joined with former T-Rex members Mickey Finn and Paul Fenton in Mickey_Finn’s_T-Rex (1997-1999).

Green is now living in Ryde, Isle of Wight, where he teaches guitar, and owns a budget film production company.

A new album The Party At The End Of The World is scheduled for release on 3rd February 2020. (by wikipedia)

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Known to UK rock and pop fans through his involvement with the Pretty Things, Green relocated to Canada to build his solo career. Though now regularly consigned to the ‘where are they now?’ columns in the country of his birth, a sequence of albums for RCA Records in Canada have produced a cult following in that territory. Humanesque, which featured Ritchie Blackmore of Rainbow on one track, and Essential Logic are two collections that married melodious pop hooks with Green’s own rock guitar licks. Latest Game saw him move to FM/Revolver, but distribution of the record in the UK failed to excite much critical interest despite Green’s reputation and stature in Canada. (by allmusic.com)

And Humanesque is Jack Green’s debut album. The track “I Call, No Answer” features Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple as a guest artist on lead guitar. (by wikipedia)

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I’ve never heard of Jack Green before, but the albums looked like fun, and the date is 80, so these are most definitely going to be guitar driven singer/songwriter tunes, but how good will they be? I don’t know if they will lean toward new wave or Americana folk guitar. But I’m game to hope for the first. Just from the design from Humanesque, it looks angular and fun. I like his style on the back too.

“Murder” starts as a bass-heavy70’s rock song, like foreigner or something a bit smoky with a touch of danger. It is a good album starter, because the whole song feels like it is building to something, but it never quite gets there. So, in effect, it’s building up the rest of the album.
“So Much” is introduced with a new wave sounding organ and drums. The vocals make PromoPosterthe song feel like a Tom Petty track. But in the chorus, the vocals take on more of an Elvis Costello or Graham Parker feel. And the energetic vocal outburst of ‘alright’ reminds me of Mike Viola, but the comparison really ends there.
“Valentina” is a slower, smooth guitar ballad. The style of the slide guitar in short bursts; a technique not used as much anymore, dates the song, and gives it a bit of a confident and dangerous mood.
“Babe” simplistically bounces and rocks out from the get go with its use of complex but light guitar hook and simple drum beat. It is an immediately fun, catchy song, and then first small taste you get of the chorus solidifies the song as a rollicking pop song, very similar to Elvis Costello’s style. It is repetitive, but a fun melody is still a fun melody. The verse is just a build up to get to the exceptional chorus, which then becomes all you want to hear in a loop.
“Can’t Stand It” has an angry Bryan Adams-like presentation in the chorus. Again, the drums and instrumental usage is sparse, but efficient. The songs feel like they have a lot of empty space, which is actually a positive nod to the production, as the songs still feel complete.

“I Call, No Answer” continues with the smoky, mysterious and confident guitar play, and the vocals are no different in their urgency or Bryan Adams, “Run To You” tone.
“Life on the Line” slows the record down a bit with its reggae rhythm. It still has a solid JackGreen02electric guitar presence in the verse, but the tempo is relaxed, despite the high anxiety title. “’Bout the Girl” takes the stripped down guitar rock song to the extreme. It has a catchy upward tempo for the verse, and the chorus takes the opportunity to rock out a bit more, Big Star harmonic style.“Though It Was Easy” is a slower reflective song. It still feeds a bit of a punch with the parallel and layered bass and guitar, but the vocals give it that reminiscent feel. “Factory Girl” has a start stop guitar that makes me think of “867-5309/Jenny.” But there is not that much energy in the song. In fact, the tempo is much slower and the song struts along at its own, hurry-free pace.
“This Is Japan” ends the album as sparse and relaxed as the opening track offered an insurmountable build. After the title is spoke/sung, a tacky oriental keyboard plays in repeat a couple of times, and here and there throughout the slow struggling song. The song does finish off the album nicely though. (thriftstoremusic.blogspot.com)

In other words: Pretty good Power-Pop-Rock from this period.

And in 2020 he released another solo-album called “The Party At The End Of The World”.

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Personnel:
Brian Chatton (keyboards)
Mel Collins (saxophone)
Andy Dalby (guitar)
Ian Ellis (bass)
Jack Green (guitar, vocals, bass)
Mac Poole (drums)
Pete Tolson (guitar)
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Ritchie Blackmore (guitar on 06.)

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Tracklist:
01. Murder (Green/Adey) 3.19
02. So Much (Green/Adey) 4.50
03. Valentina (Green/Adey) 4.22
04. Babe (Green) 3.30
05. Can’t Stand It (Green/Adey) 3.36
06. I Call, No Answer (Green) 3.27
07. Life On The Line (Green/Adey) 4.03
08. ‘Bout That Girl (Green) 2.59
09. Thought It Was Easy (Jack Green/Jackie Green) 2.45
10. Factory Girl (Green/Adey) 2.54
11. This Is Japan (Green/Adey) 3.13

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Jack Green in 2020

 

Jack Bruce – Live At Rockpalast (1980)

FrontCover1And now I´ll start with a real great edition:

Jack Bruce (Cream) was guest at Rockpalast in 1980 at the first time – on the occasion of the 7th Rockpalast Night, broadcasted to millions of people all across Europe Live via Eurovision. The Lineup was Jack Bruce & Friends: nobody less than Billy Cobham (Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke) on drums, Clem Clempson (Humble Pie, Colosseum) on guitar and David Sancious (Bruce Springsteen, Santana, Eric Clapton, Sting) on keyboard and guitar. It’s fascinating to watch and listen to four equitable and brilliant musicians in their blind comprehension on stage. As Jack Bruce And Band he presented a further concert in 1983 at Zeche/Bochum. Again with David Sancious and this time Bruce Gray on drums. To complete this boxset there is another extraordinary Jack Bruce solo concert from 1990 at Live Music Hall in Cologne. The Rockpalast Legacy of an unique and legendary artist! (Press release)

It is no exaggeration to state that Jack Bruce was probably the most inventive bassist of the twentieth century. He straddled the worlds of jazz, blues and rock seamlessly, and his bass guitar playing was unprecedented in its sheer imaginative breadth and power. Crucially, he was also a vocalist of incredible range and dynamism. His contribution to Cream surely needs no elaboration. As a rock star he was a veritable human dynamo, but as a jazz musician he was extraordinary too. He played a pivotal role on Carla Bley’s seminal work Escalator Over The Hill (JCOA, 1971), where he also played bass guitar alongside his old friend John McLaughlin who had previously appeared on Bruce’s pukka jazz album, Things We Like (Polydor, 1970; Atco, 1971). Bruce died, at the age of 71, on 25 October 2014, yet his memory and music are still very much alive, as this magnificent box set demonstrates.

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Following the CD and DVD package Rockpalast: The 50th Birthday Concerts (MIG, 2014) and the earlier DVD set Jack Bruce At Rockpalast (Studio Hamburg Fernseh Allianz, 2005) this is the first CD release of these earlier German concerts, but they’re also accompanied by the DVD discs.

As CD1 opens to the familiar strains of “White Room,” what immediately hits the listener is the thumping resonance of Bruce’s long scale bass guitar which showed no signs of diminishing since his departure from Cream over a decade before. Punctuating the more rock-based numbers such as “Hit And Run” there are the subtle gems which demonstrated Bruce’s unique and exceptional talent not just as a musician but as a composer. “Theme For An Imaginary Western” from Songs For A Tailor (Polydor, 1969) is one such example as is “Post War” from Harmony Row (Polydor, 1971). Then, fairly obviously, is the quintessential rock anthem for the ages, “Sunshine Of Your Love.”

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The first two CDs capture Bruce’s 1980 concert with the same line-up that appeared on I’ve Always Wanted to Do This (Epic, 1980). The set is populated by seven of the numbers from that album, including “Hit And Run” and “Facelift 318,” but undoubtedly the most impressive number, as found on CD2, is an extended version of the electrifying “Bird Alone” (dedicated to Charlie Parker) which runs to twice the length of the original. Here, Bruce introduced more of his trademark twists and turns which so infused his earliest, and arguably, most memorable albums. But in addition to those tracks and five Cream numbers, there’s also Billy Cobham’s high-voltage instrumental “X Marks The Spot.” (by Roger Farbey)

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Personnel:
Jack Bruce (bass, vocals)
Clem Clempson (guitar)
Billy Cobham (drums)
David Sancious (keyboards, guitar)

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Tracklist:

CD 1:
01. White Room (Bruce/Brown) 5.47
02. Post War (Bruce/Brown) 7.44
03. Hit And Run (Bruce/Brown) 4.39
04. Running Back (Bruce/Brown) 4.26
05. Facelift 318 (Bruce/Brown) 3.47
06. Theme From An Imaginary Western (Bruce/Brown) 5.15
07. X Marks The Spot (Cobham) 7.43
08. Dancing On Air (Bruce/Brown) 8.40

CD 2:
01. Out To Lunch (Bruce/Brown) 5.52
02. Living Without Ja (Bruce/Brown) 3.21
03. Politician (Bruce/Brown) 7.18
04. Bird Alone (Bruce/Brown) 12.29
05. Sunshine Of Your Love (Clapton/Bruce/Brown) 7.48
06. N.S.U. (Bruce) 3.53
07. Spoonful (Dixon) 8.04

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Levon Helm – American Son (1980)

FrontCover1American Son is a studio album by American country rock musician Levon Helm, who is most famous for his work as drummer for the rock group the Band. It was released in October 1980 on MCA Records and was Helm’s third studio album. It has been generally considered Levon Helm’s best solo work until the release of Dirt Farmer in 2007.

Helm played the part of Loretta Lynn’s father in 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter and was asked to record a version of Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” for the film’s soundtrack. The session went well, and producer Fred Carter, Jr., decided to cut more tracks. Using a band of veteran Nashville session players, Carter and Helm recorded 20 tracks over two weeks, half of which ended up on American Son. (by wikipedia)

While recording a few songs for the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, in which he played Loretta Lynn’s father, Levon Helm and friends just kept the tape rolling. American Son offers ten songs (the single “Blue Moon of Kentucky” b/w “Working in a Coal Mine” offers two more) from those productive sessions. A band of Nashville veterans replaces the superstar lineup of Helm’s first two albums. The resulting record has a relaxed groove that kicks in with “Watermelon Time in Georgia” and doesn’t let up. The terrific “Hurricane” evokes the Band’s second album, while “Violet Eyes” and “China Girl” are highlighted by engaging harmonies. American Son is considered by many to be Levon’s best solo album. (by J.P. Ollio)

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After much digging through used bins I came across a copy of Levon’s American Son – his third solo album (not released on CD) a few months ago and I have been listening to it regularly since. It really is very good, especially side 2 (side 1 starts strong, but I am less enthusiastic about the last few). So you can have better sense of where this opinion is coming from, you should know that I found both of the first two solo albums from Levon to be pretty ho-hum. Pleasant but no thrills. But this one really is worth hunting down. It never slips below adequate and at times (i.e. “Watermelon time in Georgia” – the opener to side one, and the fantastic three song sequence closing side two “Nashville Wimmen”/a sublime “Blue House of Broken Hearts” and a charming “Sweet Georgia Wine”) it really does have the “base of the backbone thrills” that I once complained Levon’s solo work lacks. (Well, I take it back now.)

The album is much more of a country effort than the first two albums. The production/arrangements by Fred Carter Jr. are much simpler and more effective than the horn-laden Duck Dunn production of Levon Helm. (Carter was the Ronnie Hawkins guitarist whose slot Robbie moved into when Carter went off to Nashville session work.) Carter plays lead guitar, some Nashville session people fill in behind him. (Also Levon in his book says that the Cates came down to pitch in. I think it is one of the Cate brothers singing harmony on “Blue House of Broken Hearts”. Whoever it is, he is fantastic!)

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Among the many things that stand out about this album is the drumming. Levon is really doing very interesting things. (I am not usually prone to notice drumming, so it says something that I noticed here.) I remember reading in a drumming magazine interview (with some Really Famous Drummer – can’t remember who) some time ago which described Levon as a remarkable drummer in part because of a unique syncopation of the bass drum – an “independent right foot thing”. I had no idea what he was talking about, but after listening to American Son, I do. The bass drum is off carrying a beat that has just a heartbeat’s syncopation relative to everything else. Really effective. Normally, I guess, this is less obvious because of three possible things:

Playing with a distinctive bass guitarist like Rick or Duck Dunn masks the distinctive bass drum.
Sometimes – like on the Muddy Waters Woodstock Album – Levon is trying to just power a song forward in a simple way, and so he just leaves aside the fancy tricks.
Maybe these sessions just took place on one of Levon’s best weeks.

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I might add that for all I know, the bullet Levon put in his butt, severing all sorts of nerves and stuff, may have ended his his ability to manage the bass drum with this kind of finesse – so this may be the only place to hear Levon at his drumming peak.

The circumstances of the recording of this album were apparently this: Levon went to the Bradley Barn recording studio in Nashville (where Ronnie Hawkins, with Levon and assorted sessionmen had recorded Ronnie Hawkins Sings the Songs of Hank Williams over twenty years earlier) to record “Blue Moon of Kentucky” for the Coal Miner’s Daughter soundtrack. Things really clicked in the studio, so as Levon put it, they decided to “put some hay in the barn” by recording a bunch of less-known standards. (None of the songs is original, unless you count “Stay With Me” written by producer Carter.) The musical chemistry is infectious: even the weaker songs are redeemed by the lively and subtle musicianship of Levon, Fred Carter, and whoever else is playing. (by James Tappenden – from the Usenet newsgroup alt.music.the-band, December 1995.)

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Personnel:
Beegie Adair (piano)
Kenneth Buttrey (drums)
Jerry Carrigan (drums)
Buddy Emmons (pedal steel-guitar)
Steve Gibson (guitar)
Levon Helm (drums, vocals, harmonica)
Mitch Humphries (organ, background vocals)
Bobby Ogdin (keyboards)
Buster Phillips (drums)
Hargus “Pig” Robbins (piano)
Clifford Robertson (organ)
Billy Sanford (guitar)
Steve Schaffer (bass)
Jerry Shook (guitar, mandolin)
Henry Strzelecki (bass, background vocals)
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background vocals:
Todd Cerney – Buzz Cason

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Tracklist:
01. Watermelon Time In Georgia (Howard) 3.45
02. Dance Me Down Easy (Henley/Burnette) 2.51
03. Violet Eyes (Kimmel) 3.11
04. Stay With Me (Carter) 3.02
05. America’s Farm (Rogers) 3.07
06. Hurricane (Stegall/Harris/Schuyler) 4.01
07. China Girl (New/Silbar) 3.15
08. Nashville Wimmin (Howard) 4.08
09. Blue House Of Broken Hearts (Martin/Cerney) 3.29
10. Sweet Peach Georgia Wine (Reynolds) 3.48

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

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Nuclear Blues (1980)

FrontCover1Nuclear Blues is an album by the band Blood, Sweat & Tears, released in 1980. This was the band’s eleventh studio album and their first release for MCA/LAX Records. Nuclear Blues was produced by Jerry Goldstein, who had previously been known for his work with the band War. Even though it had only been three years since they released their last album Brand New Day, the band contained a new line-up with David Clayton-Thomas being the only remaining member from that period.

This album failed to make it on the Billboard Album Charts. This incarnation of Blood, Sweat & Tears disbanded the following year; although various incarnations of the group have existed and toured in the years since, to date this remains their final studio album.

Nuclear Blues was reissued in Germany in 1985 on the Platinum label under the title Latin Fire. (by wikipedia)

This 1980 edition of rock’s longest-running horn band is definitely not your father’s Blood, Sweat & Tears. Frontman David Clayton-Thomas is still on board, but everybody else is new.

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The musical emphasis has mostly shifted, from pop/soul with a jazz flavor to out-and-out fusion jazz, such as “Agitato,” and the lengthy and often quite lovely “Spanish Wine” suite, with only an occasional lead vocal (a radically re-arranged cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression”). Big exceptions include the title tune, in which Clayton-Thomas vents his paranoia about Three Mile Island, and an impassioned, if relatively straightforward, cover of the old blues standard “I’ll Drown In My Own Tears.” (allmusic.com)

A highly artistic suite on Side B, relatively accessible songs on Side A – this looks like Mirror Image (1974), which may well be my all time favourite Blood, Sweat & Tears album. But it doesn’t sound like that. Nope – Nuclear Blues was released in 1980, so it was technically the Eighties, but there is nothing ’80s-like on this album. I guess in the B, S & T universe the combined 1960s/1970s were meant to last forever.

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Whereas the aforementioned Mirror Image really flirted with contemporary pop features (like “Love Looks Good on You”), Nuclear Blues does something more timeless… or more 1960s. The title track is funky, but here that adjective has nothing to do with funk as in disco funk; actually it has more to do with classic R&B. “Manic Depression”, then, is a Jimi Hendrix cover of course. I really like the idea of a parallel universe in which covering Hendrix was a relevant (or even hip?) thing back in 1980. Loyally to the good ol’ B, S & T, the version doesn’t sound like Hendrix at all. “I’ll Drown in My Own Tears” is a cover of a blues standard. It is basically nice, though overlengthy. David Clayton-Thomas sings the lead on the vocal tracks, but as you see, those aren’t very numerous.

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The rest is jazz fusion, often with a Spanish twist. I appreciate it, but I am not so heavily into it. In fact, my rating is primarily for “Nuclear Blues”; otherwise the album is just decent, though it contains no bad tracks. I kind of like the feel that doesn’t feel forced at all. It is like the guys had just got together and made another album, which has actually ended up being quite highly artistic and so on. (by fairyeee)

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Personnel:
David Clayton-Thomas (vocals)
Bruce Cassidy (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Vern Dorge (saxophone, flute)
Bobby Economou (drums)
David Piltch(bass)
Robert Piltch (guitar)
Earl Seymour (saxophone, flute)

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Tracklist:
01. Agitato (Cassidy) 5.54
02. Nuclear Blues (Clayton-Thomas) 4.24
03. Manic Depression (Hendrix) 4.17
04. I’ll Drown In My Own Tears (Glover) 7.22
05. Fantasy Stage (Clayton.Thomas/Piltch) 5.41
06. Suite: Spanish Wine 15.09
06.1. Introduction: La Cantina (Piltch) 2.15
06.2. Theme: Spanish Wine (Cassidy) 1.02
06.3. Latin Fire (Cassidy/Economou/Piltch/Martinez/Dorge/Seymour) 2.22
06.4. The Challenge (Cassidy/Economou/Piltch/Martinez/Dorge/Seymour) 2.15
06.5. The Duel (Cassidy/Economou/Piltch/Martinez/Dorge/Seymour) 2.20
06.6. Amor (Cassidy/Economou/Piltch/Martinez/Dorge/Seymour) 3.16
06.7. Reprise: Spanish Wine (Cassidy) 1.42

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Yes – Drama (1980)

LPFrontCover1Drama is the tenth studio album by the English progressive rock band Yes, released on 18 August 1980 by Atlantic Records. It was their first album to feature Trevor Horn as lead vocalist, as well as keyboardist Geoff Downes. This followed the departures of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman after numerous attempts to record a new album in Paris and London had failed. Drama was recorded hurriedly, because a tour had already been booked before the change in personnel. The album marked a departure in the band’s musical direction with more accessible and aggressive songs, and featuring the use of modern keyboards, overdriven guitar, and a vocoder.

Drama was released to a mostly positive critical reception, with most welcoming the band’s new sound. It peaked at No. 2 in the UK and No. 18 in the US, though it became their first album since 1971 not to reach gold certification by the RIAA. “Into the Lens” was released as the album’s sole single. Yes toured the album with a 1980 tour of North America and the UK, and were met with some negative reactions during the UK leg over the new line-up change. At its conclusion, Yes disbanded. The album was remastered in 2004 with previously unreleased bonus tracks, and it was performed live in its entirety for the first time in 2016. (by wikipedia)

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For this one album, ex-Buggles Geoffrey Downes and Trevor Horn were drafted in to replace Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. It rocks harder than other Yes albums, and for classically inclined fans, it was a jarring departure; but it was a harbinger of Yes and Asia albums to come. A newly emboldened Chris Squire lays down aggressive rhythms with Alan White, and Steve Howe eschews his usual acoustic rags and flamenco licks for a more metallic approach, opting for sheets of electric sound. Prime cuts include the doom-laden “Machine Messiah” and the manic ska inflections of “Tempus Fugit.” Despite the promise of this new material, the band soon fell apart; Horn went into production, Howe and Downes joined Asia, and Squire and White toyed and then gave up on a pair-up with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, which was to be titled XYZ (i.e., Ex-Yes and Zeppelin). (by Paul Collins)

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Personnel:
Geoff Downes (keyboards, vocoder)
Trevor Horn (vocals, fretless bass on 05.)
Steve Howe (guitar, mandolin, background vocals)
Chris Squire (bass, background vocals, piano on05.)
Alan White (drums, percussion, background vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. Machine Messiah” 10:22
02. White Car 1:21
03. Does It Really Happen? 6:27
04. Into The Lens 8:30
05. Run Through the Light 4:41
06. Tempus Fugit” 5:11

All songs by Geoff Downes, Trevor Horn, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White

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David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980)

FrontCover1.jpgScary Monsters (and Super Creeps), also known simply as Scary Monsters, is the 14th studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on 12 September 1980 by RCA Records. It was Bowie’s final studio album on the label and his first following the Berlin Trilogy, which consisted of Low, “Heroes” and Lodger (1977–1979). Though considered very significant in artistic terms, the trilogy had proven less successful commercially.[2] With Scary Monsters, Bowie achieved what biographer David Buckley called “the perfect balance” of creativity and mainstream success; as well as earning critical acclaim, the album peaked at No. 1 and went Platinum in the UK while successfully restoring Bowie’s commercial standing in the US. Scary Monsters would later be referred to by some biographers as Bowie’s “last great album” and a benchmark for later releases, although some give this distinction to Let’s Dance (1983).

Although the album is commonly referred to as Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), in keeping with the song title, and the album title as written on the front and back covers of the LP is Scary Monsters . . . . . and Super Creeps, the album is identified simply as Scary Monsters on the LP spine and disc label.

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According to co-producer Tony Visconti, David Bowie’s method on Scary Monsters was somewhat less experimental and more concerned with achieving a commercially viable sound than had been the case with his recent releases; to that end the composer spent more time on his own developing lyrics and melodies before recording, rather than improvising music in the studio and making up words at the last minute. Aside from one cover, Tom Verlaine’s “Kingdom Come”, all tracks would be credited to Bowie alone, unlike the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ where there was an increasing amount of input from his collaborators. (by wikipedia)

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David Bowie returned to relatively conventional rock & roll with Scary Monsters, an album that effectively acts as an encapsulation of all his ’70s experiments. Reworking glam rock themes with avant-garde synth flourishes, and reversing the process as well, Bowie creates dense but accessible music throughout Scary Monsters. Though it doesn’t have the vision of his other classic records, it wasn’t designed to break new ground — it was created as the culmination of Bowie’s experimental genre-shifting of the ’70s. As a result, Scary Monsters is Bowie’s last great album. While the music isn’t far removed from the post-punk of the early ’80s, it does sound fresh, hip, and contemporary, which is something Bowie lost over the course of the ’80s. [Rykodisc’s 1992 reissue includes re-recorded versions of “Space Oddity” and “Panic in Detroit,” the Japanese single “Crystal Japan,” and the British single “Alabama Song.” (by Stephen Thomas Erlewin)

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Personnel:
Carlos Alomar (guitar)
Dennis Davis (drums)
David Bowie (vocals, synthesizers, mellotron, piano, synth-bass, sound effects, saxophone)
George Murray (bass)
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Roy Bittan (piano on 02., 04. + 06.)
Andy Clark (synthesizer on 04., 05., 07. + 09.)
Robert Fripp (guitar on 01. – 03.,  05., 08.)
Chuck Hammer (guitar synthesizer on 04. + 06.)
Michi Hirota (voice on 01.)
Pete Townshend (guitar on 09.)
Tony Visconti (guitar, background vocals on 02 . + 03.)
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background vocals:
Lynn Maitland – Chris Porter

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Tracklist:
01. It’s No Game (No. 1) (Bowie/Miura 4.17
02. Up The Hill Backwards (Bowie) 3.12
03. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (Bowie) 5.09
04. Ashes To Ashes (Bowie) 4.22
05. Fashion (Bowie) 4.46
06. Teenage Wildlife (Bowie) 6.49
07. Scream Like A Baby (Bowie) 3.35
08. Kingdom Come (Verlaine) 3.41
09. Because You’re Young (Bowie) 4.51
10. It’s No Game (No. 2) (Bowie) 3.43
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11. Space Oddity (Single B-side, rerecorded acoustic version, 1979) (Bowie) 4.53
12. Panic In Detroit (Rerecorded version, 1979, previously unreleased) (Bowie) 2.55
13. Crystal Japan (Japanese single A-side, 1979; instrumental) (Bowie) 3.06
14. Alabama Song (UK single A-side, recorded 1978) (Brecht/Hauptmann/Weill) 3.51

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David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016)