Radio String Quartet – Celebrating The Mahavishnu Orchestra (2007)

FrontCover1.jpgHiding political tics behind faux-formalist boilerplate, pop aesthetes accused them of imposing Solidarity and Agent Orange on their musical material, but in fact such subjects signaled an other-directedness as healthy as Michael Stipe’s newfound elocution. Admittedly, with this one beginning “The world is collapsing around our ears,” I wondered briefly whether “Losing My Religion” was about music itself, but when Stipe says they thought about calling it Love Songs, he’s not just mumbling “Dixie.” Being R.E.M., they mean to capture moods or limn relationships rather than describe feelings or, God knows, incidents, and while some will find the music too pleasing, it matches the words hurt for hurt and surge for surge. The Kate Pierson cameos, the cellos, and Mark Bingham’s organic string arrangements are Murmur without walls–beauty worthy of DeBarge, of the sweetest soukous, of a massed choir singing “I Want To Know What Love Is.” (Press release)

This must surely be one of the most unusual releases in ACT’s distinguished canon. The idea of a classical string quartet playing the fusion era compositions of guitarist John Mclaughlin is initially mind-boggling but it all works surprisingly well. So well in fact that the project has won the endorsement of McLaughlin himself who demonstrates his approval by supplying the albums liner notes.

The seeds of the project were sown in 2000 when Austrian composer and accordionist Klaus Paier asked violinist Bernie Mallinger to assemble a string quartet to play on Paier’s CD “Moviemento”. The album was a considerable success and was nominated for an “Amadeus Award”.

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Mallinger’s string quartet acquired a life of it’s own and over the course of several personnel changes and numerous projects the group metamorphosed into the radio.string.quartet. The modish name hints at Mallinger’s willingness to reach beyond the classical repertoire and to embrace more diverse and contemporary styles of music.

He is joined in the radio.stringquartet by fellow violinist Johannes Dickbauer who studied classical violin in Salzburg and Vienna but also has an aptitude for jazz.
Cynthia Liao, another classically trained player is on viola, with Asja Valcic, from Zagreb completing the quartet on cello. Both Liao and Valcic have expressed their enjoyment of playing in the group and of the challenges and freedoms it offers them musically.

Mallinger had been a fan of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and was intrigued by the way Mclaughlin integrated the violin of Jerry Goodman (later succeeded by Jean Luc Ponty) into a jazz-rock context. He felt that re-arranging Mclaughlin’s music for string quartet would bring out the melodic and harmonic aspects of Mclaughlin’s compositions, qualities that were sometimes hidden by Mahavishnu’s somewhat bombastic approach. Mallinger’s arrangements reveal the structures within Mclaughlin’s compositions and bring out the beauty of tunes such as “A Lotus On Irish Stream”.

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This is not to say that the string quartet’s playing lacks energy. Indeed at times they play with a verve and intensity (as on “The Dance Of Maya” and “Birds Of Fire”) that I have never previously encountered from this instrumental line up. There is a great interaction between the players and a drive that also brings out the rhythmic qualities of Mclaughlin’s music. These string players play pizzicato and utilise their bows to create the kind of percussive effects that would be unthinkable in classical music but which are totally appropriate in this context. Mclaughlin’s complex compositions represent a considerable technical challenge to the players and they respond brilliantly. The arrangements by Mallinger and Klemens Bittman are superb and must have been a real labour of love.

Although Mclaughlin incorporated a string quartet into the second incarnation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra the results were surely nothing like this. Radio.string.quartet have put their own stamp on the music and created a different type of fusion as classical discipline combines with the spirit of jazz improvisation to create something unique. There are even a few folk inspired flourishes for good measure.

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The project is a total success on it’s own terms and is a superb blend of passion and precision. However it is very intense and hearing the whole album in one sitting represents a considerable challenge to the listener. Although the album may be less of a commercial prospect than label mates E.S.T. it is to ACT’S credit that they continue to foster such adventurous music.

Fans of Mclaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra should find this album fascinating and hopefully enjoyable. Others like myself, who found Mahavishnu rather too bombastic and OTT will welcome the opportunity to view Mclaughlin’s compositions in a new light. It may even inspire me to revisit the original Mahavishnu recordings, which go back some thirty-five years, heaven help us all.

Radio.string.quartet performed this music to considerable critical acclaim at the 2006 Berlin Jazz Festival. They subsequently performed it at London’s Vortex Jazz Club in May as part of ACT’s fifteenth anniversary celebrations, but I’ve not heard any feedback regarding that concert as yet. On the evidence of this recording it must have been a very interesting evening. (by Ian Mann)

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Personnel:
Johannes Dickbauer (violin)
Bernie Mallinger (violin)
Cynthia Liao (viola)
Asja Valcic (cello)

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Tracklist:
01. Open Country Joy 3.58
02. A Lotus On Irish Stream 6.18
03. Vital Transformation 4.55
04. The Dance Of Maya 6.37
05. Dawn 5.03
06. Dream 5.06
07. Thousand Island Park 3.04
08. Meeting Of The Spirits 5.33
09. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters 4.59
10. Hope 1.44
11. Birds Of Fire 5.01
12. You Know, You Know 5.15
13. Sanctuary 6.52
14. Resolution 2.31

Music composed by John McLaughlin

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When I was first given the demo CD of the recordings of the compositions I wrote for the “Mahavishnu Orchestra” performed by the radio.string.quartet.vienna, I imagined something of dubious quality.
Remember, these compositions were written for an electric jazz-fusion group 34 – 35 years ago, and while the 2nd version of Mahavishnu Orchestra had a string quartet within the group, the drums, bass and electric guitar were always there and very present.
From the first note I was struck by the way this group had ‘appropriated’ my music and made it their very own. They even got the atmosphere which was present all those years ago. The other aspect that touched me deeply was the importance they attach to improvisation, and they do improvise!
The quartet is also not without humour: just listen to that version of “Celestial Terrestrial Commuters”…
This is no ordinary string quartet. The love of, and the dedication they have to their respective instruments is marvellous, and the fact that they have taken what was electric jazz-fusion music, fused it with their training in ‘classical’ music, and conserved the ‘electric’ atmosphere is outstanding.
Throughout the listening of this recording, the radio.string.quartet.vienna brought me back to the wonderful days of the Mahavishnu Orchestras with true enjoyment. Thank you! (John McLaughlin)

 

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings – Nobody Sings Dylan Like Gill ‘n’ Dave (2019)

FrontCover1.jpgIf you saw Gillian Welch and David Rawlings on the Oscars this year, you know they’re amazing. You may not know they are also amazing interpreters of a certain Nobel Prize-winning singer-songwriter. They were featured often on my 40-volume Dylan cover collection “Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan,” but when I heard that the Dave Rawlings Machine had covered “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” at a San Francisco concert last year – opening the show with the first half of the song, and closing it with the second half – I decided it was time to give them their own NSD collection. A year later, here it is.

As always, thanks to the tapers – they are the true heroes of the ROIO world – and to Gill and Dave for daring to test their mettle on these incomparable songs. As you might remember, in the summer of 2015 Gill ‘n’ Dave did a 50th anniversary tribute at the Newport Folk Festival to the historic show at which Dylan first plugged in. Surprisingly, it has never turned up on any of the download sites I frequent, though there is a barely listenable/watchable version on YouTube. If you have a better version to offer, please do; if you don’t want to bother with the nuts and bolts of uploading, let me know and I’ll do it for you.

A few of these songs are featured on other NSD sets, but these are different versions. Finally, please allow me to dedicate this collection to my friend and fellow Dylan fan Erik, who first introduced me to Gill ‘n’ Dave’s music in 1996 by giving me a copy of “Revival” and telling me I’d love it. I did, and I still do. (jeffs98119 at dime)

Various dates and venues. Mix of audience and soundboard recordings
between 1996 and 2018

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Dave Rawlings & Gillian Welch (Oscar 2019)

Personnel:
Dave Rawlings Machine (on 01., 03., 05., 07., 11. + 13.)
The Esquires (on 02. + 09.)
Gillian Welch & David Rawlings (on 04., 06., 08., 10. + 12.)

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Tracklist:
01. Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts (1) (Mar 1, 2018, Fillmore, San Francisco, CA) 7.36
02. Gotta Serve Somebody (Sep 27, 1999, Radio Cafe, Nashville, TN) 7.31
03. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (Oct 4, 2007, Tangier Restaurant, Los Angeles, CA) 5.00
04. I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine (Aug 21, 1996, Acoustic Coffee House, Nederland, CO) 3.42
05. As I Went Out One Morning (Sep 24, 2014, Moore Theatre, Seattle, WA) 5.32
06. Billy (Nov 18, 1998, Off Broadway, St. Louis, MO) 6.13
07. Oh, Sister (Mar 8, 2018, McDonald Theater, Eugene, OR) 5.10
08. Goin’ to Acapulco (Oct 13, 2004, McDonald Theatre, Eugene, OR) 5.53
09. Quinn The Eskimo (Sep 27, 1999, Radio Cafe, Nashville, TN) 3.29
10. Odds And Ends (Aug 2004, WXPN Studios/World Café session, Philadelphia, PA) 2.58
11. Queen Jane Approximately (Jun 20, 2014, Town Park, Telluride, CO) 10.28
12. Mr Tambourine Man (Oct 3, 2015, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA) 6.07
13. Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts 2 (Mar 1, 2018, Fillmore, San Francisco, CA) 5.05

All songs written by Bob Dylan

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Various Artists – Endless Highway -The Music Of The Band (2007)

FrontCover1Endless Highway: The Music of The Band, a tribute to The Band, was released on January 30, 2007.

As a rule, tribute records are problematic; there are some tunes that shine, others that are interpreted as if the performer has no idea what the original artist was about. Amazingly, that’s not so on Endless Highway: The Music of The Band, despite a wider ranging roster than is usually proffered. This is also a celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s brilliant film The Last Waltz commemorating the Band’s farewell concerts in San Francisco. The array here is simply dazzling. Recordings artists from across the popular music spectrum participate: there are the jam bands like the Allman Brothers, Widespread Panic and Blues Traveler; there are indie rockers like Guster, My Morning Jacket, and Death Cab for Cutie; big modern country names like Josh Turner and Lee Ann Womack; modern adult alternative popsters like Rosanne Cash, Bruce Hornsby and Jack Johnson; unclassifiable rockers like Gomez; and modern-day folkies like Jackie Greene and Steve Reynolds, with the Roches on the set, too. And while Bob Dylan isn’t here, Jakob is, in duet with Liz Wright on a gorgeous reading of “Whispering Pines.”

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But then, this whole thing works. Guster’s reverent and moving read of “This Wheel’s on Fire,” opens the set; it’s a beautiful place to start because it’s followed in true Band fashion by Hornsby’s swinging, funky rendition of “King Harvest,” only to be underscored by My Morning Jacket’s “It Makes No Difference.” It’s true that nobody could sing this song like Rick Danko, but it’s played with such understated passion and tension that it’s as necessary a cover as there ever has been. While everybody refers to the Staple Singers cover of “The Weight,” Lee Ann Womack brings the song back to its country roots with a vengeance It’s still a back porch gospel tune, but Womack underscores the rural grit in the tune.

Wow! Gomez count the Band among their many influences and have been playing its songs for over a decade. Their version of “Up on Cripple Creek” is a testament to this. It’s not radically re-interpreted, but as an English band, these cats get the hip and greasy funkiness in the original and bring it out. The live version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” sung by Gregg Allman, is slow, ragged, and close to stunning. One would have to say that the Roches have been destined by God to cover “Acadian Driftwood.” While it is inextricably linked to the Band’s drummer Levon Helm, the Roches add a completely different spin on this with their wistful, female take on the dislocation, exile, and regret.

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Rosanne Cash’s “Unfaithful Servant” is one of the finest moments here and shows a great empathy for Robbie Robertson’s lyric writing. Yeah, Josh Turner’s deep hillbilly reading of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” which the Band incomparably covered, is wonderful and nails the simplicity in Dylan’s narrative as well as having a backing band that idles up to the Band’s instrumental acumen. The set closes with a darkly interpreted version of “Rockin’ Chair” by Death Cab for Cutie. The sense of loss, reverie, and loneliness underscores Robertson’s intent, and the understated horns evoke the longing for Dixieland emphatically. In fact, there is only one cut here that doesn’t work — Jack Johnson’s — his utter lack of feeling in “I Shall Be Released” is unforgivable for one of the greatest prison songs ever penned by Dylanand definitively recorded by the Band. Johnson’s lack of lyricism and forced innocence do not ring true for the material. Otherwise, Endless Highway is not only a fitting tribute to the Band, but a necessary one and a blueprint for how it should be done. (by Thom Jurek)

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Tracklist:
01. Guster: This Wheel’s On Fire (Dylan/Danko) 3.25
02. Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers; King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” (Robertson) 4.03
03. My Morning Jacket: It Makes No Difference (Robertson) 6.18
04. Jack Johnson with Animal Liberation Orchestra: I Shall Be Released (Dylan) 4.12
05. Lee Ann Womack: The Weight (Robrtson) 4.48
05. Gomez: Up On Cripple Creek (Robertson) 4.38
06. The Allman Brothers Band: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Robertson) 5.04
07. Blues Traveler: Rag Mama Rag (Robertson) 3.19
08. John Hiatt & North Mississippi Allstars: Ain’t No More Cane (Robertson) 4.16
09. Jakob Dylan: Whispering Pines (Manuel/Robertson) 4.04
10. Animal Liberation Orchestra: Ophelia (Robertson) 3.40
11. Joe Henry: Bessie Smith (Robertson) 3.55
12. Jackie Greene: Look Out Cleveland (Robertson) 3.13
13. Death Cab for Cutie: Rockin’ Chair (Robertson) 5.26
14. Gov’t Mule: The Shape I’m In (Robertson) 7.48
15. Steve Reynolds: Stage Fright (Robertson) 3.44
16. Rosanne Cash: The Unfaithful Servant (Robertson) 4.56
17. Widespread Panic: Chest Fever (Robertson) 6.33
18. Josh Turner: When I Paint My Masterpiece (Dylan) 5.03
19. The Roches: Acadian Driftwood (Robertson) 5.22

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The Band, 1969

Richard Galliano (feat. Gary Burton) – L’Hymne à l’Amour (2007)

FrontCover1.jpgRichard Galliano studied piano and accordion at the age of 4 with his father Lucien Galliano, accordionist and teacher.
Particularly gifted and invested, he quickly entered the Nice Conservatory, directed at that time by organist Pierre Cochereau, and followed courses in harmony, counterpoint and trombone.
He won first prize in 1969 for this instrument.

He arrived in Paris in 1975 and met Claude Nougaro, becoming his friend, his accordionist and conductor until 1983.
The author and composer found each other. They get along beautifully.
From this close collaboration will be born many songs that are part of the heritage of French song, such as Allée des brouillards, Des voiliers,Vie Violence…

The second decisive meeting took place in 1980, with the Argentinean composer and bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla.
Astor strongly encouraged him to create the French “New Musette”, as he himself had
previously invented the Argentinean “New Tango”. (by

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This project sounds natural for vibist Gary Burton. But to imagine a vibraphonist playing with an accordonist – it seems only Burton could have pulled it off. Drummer Clarence Penn and bassist George Mraz provide sympathic support through this heavily romanticized material.

On the opening of Astor Piazolla´s “Milonga Is Coming” Gallianp´s subtle swept couches Burton´s quiet lines. Eventually joined by the rest of the group both solists weave in and out of the song´s dreamy, melancholy mood. The formal nature to this programm continues with Piazzolla´s spritely “Triunfal”.

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The song starts and stops, its moments of reflection balanced by the urge to move vigorously. On Bach´s “Sinfonia 11 In G-Moll”, Burton seems at home with the music´s counterpoint, as Galliano´s lead statement to this waltz alternates with the vibist´s soloing, this swing feel turning it into a lovely occasion for jazz.

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Ballads include the titel track and “Waltz For Debby”, which the group gives an uplifting arrangment. It´s a delight to hear such virtuosic improvisors together. Galliano and Burton have chops galore, but instead of showing off, they are seduced by the material. (by John Ephland)

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Personnel:
Gary Burton (vibraphone)
Richard Galliano (accordion)
George Mraz (bass)
Clarence Penn (drums)

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Tracklist:
01. Milonga Is Coming (Piazzolla) 8.29
02. Triunfal (Piazzolla) 3.51
03. L’hymne à l’amour (If You Love Me) (Piaf/Monnot) 7.30
04. Sinfonia 11 In G-Moll, BWV 797 (Bach) 4.28
05. Soledad (Piazzolla) 6.59
06. Para Jobim (Galliano) 5.15
07. Operation Tango (Piazzolla) 8.28
08. Romance Del Diablo (Piazzolla) 5.50
09. Waltz For Debby (Evans/Lees) 5.55
10. Il Postino (Bacalov) 4.47

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Biréli Lagrene – Gipsy Project – Just The Way You Are (2007)

frontcover1Biréli Lagrène (born 4 September 1966) is a French jazz guitarist. He came to prominence in the 1980s for his Django Reinhardt-influenced style. He often performs in swing, jazz fusion and post-bop styles.

Lagrène was born on 4 September 1966 in Saverne, Alsace, France, into a Romani family and community. His father and grandfather were guitarists, and he was raised in the gypsy guitar tradition. He started playing at age four or five, and by seven was improvising jazz in a style similar to Django Reinhardt’s, whom his father admired and wanted his sons to emulate. In 1980, while still in his early teens, he recorded his first album, Routes to Django: Live at the Krokodil (Jazz Point, 1981).

During the next few years, Lagrène toured with Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucía, and John McLaughlin, all of them guitarists, and played with Benny Carter, Benny Goodman, and Stéphane Grappellii. He joined Larry Coryell and Vic Juris in New York City for a tribute to Reinhardt in 1984, and went on tour with Coryell and Philip Catherine. He also performed with Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, the Gil Evans Orchestra, Christian Escoudé, and Charlie Haden. In 1989 he performed in a duo with Stanley Jordan.[1]

Lagrène recorded Gipsy Project (Dreyfus, 2001) and Gipsy Project and Friends (Dreyfus, 2002). With his usual cohorts Diego Imbert (double bass) and Hono Winterstein (rhythm guitar), the latter session featured Henri Salvador and Thomas Dutronc (son of Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc). (by wikipedia)

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Guitarist Bireli Lagrene has long built upon the tradition that began with the Gypsy swing of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France with virtuoso guitarist Django Reinhardt. On this outing, Lagrene continues in the tradition while changing the instrumentation, incorporating drums, sax, and occasionally piano, but he also expands the repertoire to include modern songs written after Django’s death. “After You’ve Gone” and “I’ll See You in My Dreams” all fit like a comfortable pair of well-worn shoes, while Lagrene adds a friendly vocal to “All of Me” and digs up an old Reinhardt original (“Feerie”) that gives the leader a chance to show off his chops. Lagrene also arranged several strong originals written by his musicians. His swinging treatment of George Benson’s “Before You Go” features tenorist Franck Wolf in a breezy arrangement, while Lagrene switches to electric guitar for a laid-back setting of “Flamingo.” Even Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” is successfully transformed into swing, though Lagrene’s loungy “Tim and Zoe” features electric guitar and synthesizer in the style of George Benson’s crossover recordings, a total misfit at the end of an otherwise flawless CD. (by Ken Dryden)

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Personnel:
André Ceccarelli (drums)
Diego Imbert (bass)
Biréli Lagrène (guitar, vocals)
Hono Winterstein (guitar)
Franck Wolf (saxophone)
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Roberto Jermaine Landsberger (piano on 14.)

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Tracklist:
01. After You’ve Gone (Creamer/Layton) 4.19
02. Just The Way You Are (Joel) 6.50
03. Lune de miel (Winterstein) 3.52
04. I’ll See You In My Dreams (Kahn/Jones) 3.21
05. All Of Me (Marks/Simmons) 4.33
06. Féérie (Reinhardt) 2.56
07. It’s impossible (Manzanero) 5.31
08. Cap’tain Ferber (Wolf) 3.23
09. Guet-apens (Imbert) 3.05
10. Flamingo (Anderson/Grouya) 3.57
11. Before You Go (Benson) 5.29
12. Lolita (Winterstein) 5.11
13. Love Me Tender (E. Presley/Matson) 5.00
14. Tim & Zoé (Lagrène) 7.15

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Albion – Broken Hopes (2007)

FrontCover1.jpgAlbion is a Neo Prog band from Poland with female vocals. Very beautiful and melodic compositions in a nice atmosphere. “Albion” mixes short and long compositions, and sometimes the influence of bands like MARILLION become very clear. Close to the powerful neo Progressive rock, ALBION reminds of MARILLION, IQ and JADIS, with a Steve HACKETT style of guitar sound and subtle keyboard parts.

ALBION came into existence in 1992 when members of two dissolving bands from Cracow decided to start a new band. At the beginning the band consisted of the following four members: Jerzy Antczak (guitars), Krzysztof Malec (keyboards), Paweł Konieczny (drums) and Tomasz Kaczmarczyk (bass guitar).

After a short period of time joined Anna Batko taking the role of the vocalist.
This lineup started to work on the material which was to appear on ALBION’s first release. It was issued in 1994 under the title “Survival Games” by Art-Rock but only on a cassette (it was reissued next year on CD without the permission of the band by an italian label Mellow Records). During the recording process the bass guitarist Tomasz Kaczmarczyk left the band and his part was played by Paweł Konieczny who at this moment took the bassist’s role leaving the drums to Grzegorz Olszowski.

After the release of the cassette the band got a new manager Aleksander Król who, along with Sick Records Europe, decided to issue the band’s new material on a cassette and CD. The selftitled album was issued in 1995. After this release ALBION took part in many festivals and concerts in Poland.

When composing pieces for the next album another changes in the lineup took place – Grzegorz Olszowski was replaced by Rafał Paszcz behind the drums and the vocalist’s role passed to Katarzyna Sobkowicz. The album “Wabiąc cienie” appeared only after 10 years in 2005 issued by Lynx Music… (by progarchives.com – thanks to Bartłomiej Ślązak)

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Albion seems to have some problem keeping a stable line up through their short career so far. Only original members remaining are guitarrist Jerzy Antczak and keyboards player Krzysztof Malec. Fortunatly they still have singer Katarzyna Sobkowicz-Malec on vocals (who joined them for their second official CD). Former drummer Rafal Paszcz is listed as a guest musician. Unlike their line up thought, the quality of Albion´s music only grew since it inception. If Albion (1995) was good and Wabiac Ciene (2005) was very good, Broken Hopes reaches the excellency leavel.

The group has matured both as players and as songwriters. Their music sounds like an interesting mix of early Quidam and latter day Satellite, with some strong Pink Floyd overtones. But make no mistake, they have their own sound and Katarzyna Sobkowicz-Malec is a gifted and unique singer, in a country that seems to have some of the finest prog female vocalists in the world nowadays. Oddly enough, guest bassist Krzysztof Wyrwa is one fo the best features in this CD, with fine bass runs throught the whole CD.

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The arrangements are varied and tasteful, with lush keyboards passages and some great guitar licks and solos. Those guys do understand about writing songs and make their music emotional and creative. The CD is a little short for my liking, but the band did not waste a single note, something really hard to hear lately. The second track is the 11 minute epic The Place, one of the most beautiful prog songs I ever heard. I get chills down my spine every time I hear it. This tune alone is worth the price of the CD.

I´m glad to say Albion more than fulfilled their promising start. Broken Hopes was one of the best new releases in 2007. Fans of early Marillion, Pendragon, Quidam, Satellite, etc. should not miss this terrific work. Highly recommended for any music lover. (by Tarcisio Moura)

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Personnel:
Jerzy Antczak (guitar)
Krzysztof Malec (keyboards)
Katarzyna Sobkowicz-Malec (vocals)
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Aretha Chmiel (saxophone)
Rafal Paszcz (drums)
Krzysztof Wyrwa (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. XX / XXI 1.02
02. The Place 11.56
03. Once Upon A Time 5.58
04. This Is It 2.43
05. Angel 4.56
06. I Am 5.45
07. Turks Fruit 5.56
08. This Is The Way Where We Go 8.24
09. Near The End 3.59

Music: Jerzy Antczak – Krzysztof Malec – Katarzyna Sobkowicz-Malec
Lyrics: Jerzy Antczak

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Air – Pocket Symphony (2007)

FrontCover1.jpgPocket Symphony is the fourth full-length album by French duo Air. The album was released in March 2007 and features collaborations with Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon. Pocket Symphony also incorporates some of the Japanese instruments Godin recently learned to play from an Okinawan master musician: the koto (also referred to as a Japanese floor harp) and the three-string, banjo-like shamisen. However, a press release claims that “conventional instruments continue to play a great role” in the duo’s music. The album features art by Xavier Veilhan.

The first single from this album, “Once Upon a Time”, can be heard on the group’s MySpace page.

Pocket Symphony debuted on the US Billboard 200 at number 40, with about 17,000 copies sold in its first week. As of 2012 it has sold 77,000 copies in United States according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The name Pocket Symphony stems from the groundbreaking 1960s song “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys. At the time of its release, bandleader and chief composer Brian Wilson often described the track to journalists as a “pocket symphony”.

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Ever since Moon Safari was hailed as an instant classic, Air have swung back and forth between the experimental and accessible sides that Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel united so perfectly on their debut. 10,000 Hz Legend might have been too grandiose and aggressively experimental for some Air fans, but Talkie Walkie sometimes felt as if the duo was presenting the most widely palatable version of their music possible. On Pocket Symphony, Dunckel and Godin find a balance between pretty and inventive that they haven’t struck since, well, Moon Safari, even though it isn’t nearly as immediate — even by Air’s standards, this is an extremely introspective and atmospheric album.

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It’s beyond clichéd to call the duo’s music filmic; nevertheless, “Space Maker” and “Night Sight” play like the album’s opening titles and ending credits, bracketing a set of songs that are sadder and wiser than anything Air has done since The Virgin Suicides (particularly “Lost Message,” which could have easily appeared on that soundtrack). Made around the same time Dunckel and Godin were working with Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon (who also appear here) on Charlotte Gainsbourg’s 5:55 and Dunckel was recording his solo project Darkel, Pocket Symphony could be seen as part of a loose trilogy; if so, it’s more in line with 5:55’s moody romanticism than Darkel’s hyper-pop (where, apparently, any lighter-hearted tracks along the lines of Talkie Walkie’s “Alpha Beta Gaga” or “Surfing on a Rocket” ended up).

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However, Pocket Symphony doesn’t feel as serenely untouchable as some of Air’s previous work, and these darker cracks and wrinkles give it character. These songs are often unsettling, but gently so, like dreams that are still vivid but hard to explain upon waking. The Neil Hannon-sung “Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping” is the most obvious example of Pocket Symphony’s fever dream atmosphere, but there are plenty of others: “Photograph,” a quintessentially sensuous Air track, gives the impression of something a little sinister occurring just out of frame; “Redhead Girl” is a lush meditation on unrequited love so paralyzing that time itself stops. The entire album deals with toxic love and its fallout, but Dunckel and Godin alternate between romanticizing heartbreak and showing just how dreary it can be — although, skilled mood-makers that they are, they manage to make dreary sound pretty romantic, too. The deceptively delicate single “Once Upon a Time” darkens its fairy tale imagery with the fact that once upon a time might be never, while the outstanding “One Hell of a Party,” which features Jarvis Cocker on vocals, presents a breakup as a hangover (a sentiment Cocker also explored brilliantly on Pulp’s This Is Hardcore).

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Pocket Symphony pairs Air with producer Nigel Godrich, which is an inspired choice — not just because Godrich has a similarly atmospheric touch and adds lots of fascinating sonic details, but because he helps Air keep the album intimate, not polished into a state of distant perfection. “Left Bank,” which blends humming with a cello and captures Godin’s acoustic guitar so clearly it sounds like he’s strumming it behind you, is a gorgeous example of how well this collaboration works. The Japanese influence on Talkie Walkie and Air’s music for Lost in Translation is deepened on Pocket Symphony, with shamisen and koto (which Godin spent a year learning to play) adding to its ethereal beauty, particularly on “Mer du Japon.” Musically and thematically, this is some of Air’s most elegant, mature music; it does what it does so compellingly that any attempts to be “poppy” would miss the point. (by Heather Phares)

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Personnel:
Jean-Benoit Dunckel (synthesizer, piano, vocals, vibraphone, samples, drum machine, percussion)
Nicolas Godin (guitar, bass, keyboards, koto, drums, percussion, vocals, solina)
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Tony Allen (drums)
Jarvis Cocker (vocals)
Neil Hannon (vocals)
Magic Malik (flute)
Joey Waronker (drums, percussion)
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String arrangements:
David Richard Campbell – Joby Talbot

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Tracklist:
01. Space Maker (Dunckel/Godin) 4.03
02. Once Upon A Time (Dunckel/Godin) 5.02
03. One Hell Of A Party (Dunckel/Godin/Cocker) 4.03
04. Napalm Love (Dunckel/Godin) 3.27
05. Mayfair Song (Dunckel/Godin) 4.19
06. Left Bank (Dunckel/Godin) 4.07
07. Photograph (Dunckel/Godin) 3.51
08. Mer du Japon (Sea of Japan) (Dunckel/Godin) 3.05
09. Lost Message (Dunckel/Godin) 3.32
10. Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping (Dunckel/Godin/Hannon) 3.36
11. Redhead Girl (Dunckel/Godin) 4.33
12. Night Sight (Dunckel/Godin) 4.21

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Dave Cousins – The Boy In The Sailor Suit (2007)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Boy in the Sailor Suit is the second solo studio album by Dave Cousins.

Back in the early 1970s, I was a fairly strong fan of the Strawbs, an English progressive folk band. But over the years, I drifted away from prog and into jazz. Then with the advent of the internet, I began to get back into prog, discovering new bands and rediscovering some that never actually went away. The Strawbs are just one of those and along with that comes exploration into the solo work of Dave Cousins, the lyrical and compositional heart of that band.
Cousins’ work has never been for the masses. His distinctive voice is an acquired taste and the depth of his compositions are beyond the understanding of those who have Van Gogh’s ear for great music. However, the cognoscenti will find The Boy In the Sailor Suit to be a rare treat indeed.

Backed by his Blue Angel Orchestra, Cousins draws deeply from his seemingly bottomless well of talent. Almost fifty minutes of music take the listener all over the musical map from folk to hard rock and much that’s in between.

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My favorites are: the fiddle-powered rocker Never Take Sweets From A Stranger; Mellow Moon, the dreamy sound of which evokes the South Pacific; the neo-psychedelic hard rock of Mother Luck; the old-time string band jazz of Wish You Were Here; Skip to My Lou, a square-dance number with ominous undertones; Lonely Days, Lonely Nights with its swinging fiddle-driven beat; and Hellfire Blues, a pulsating, swinging number featuring fiddle evocative of the late Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and a searing guitar that gives it some real blues sting.
The CD comes with a booklet containing lyrics and pictures and despite its relatively short duration, is worth every penny I paid. Whether you are an old Strawbs/Dave Cousins fan who has drifted away over the years, or are just someone looking for something new and interesting to listen to then consider getting The Boy In The Sailor Suit. Old fans will hear that Cousins has rarely sounded better than here and new fans will be scrambling to acquire his back catalogue. (by Kurt Harding)

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Personnel:
Miller Anderson (guitar)
Dave Cousins (vocals, guitar)
Chas Cronk (bass)
Ian Cutler (fiddle)
Chris Hunt (drums)
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Tony Attwood (organ on 09.)
Chris Ball (piano on 10.)
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background vocals:
Elizabeth Tophill – Frances Tophill

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Tracklist:
01. Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (Cousins) 4.39
02. Mellow Moon (Cousins) 6.17
03. The Smile You Left Behind (Cousins) 3.05
04. Calling Out My Name (Cousins) 5.08
05. Mother Luck (Cousins) 4.14
06. Wish You Were Here (Cousins) 5.16
07. Skip To My Lou (Cousins/Conrad) 4.47
08. Lonely Days, Lonely Nights (Cousins/Conrad) 4.52
09. Bringing In The Harvest (Cousins) 4.34
10. Hellfire Blues (Cousins) 5.41

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Heidi O’Gara Jellison – Christmas Harp – Elegant Expressions of Christmas with Celtic & Concert Harps (2007)

FrontCover1.jpgHeidi O’Gara Jellison is one of the foremost harpists in Middle, her musical prowess apparent whether a featured soloist or a background performer. Heidi is a full-time professional harpist, her focus dedicated to her performing and teaching career. Her singular focus on a harp career sets her apart as a devoted, attentive professional who prides herself on proper preparation for every performance, and a willingness to tailor each event to her client’s specific wishes.

Heidi possesses a vast array of experience, ranging from performances as a featured artist to providing background music at a client’s special event. She specializes in wedding ceremonies and receptions, prenuptial dinners, bridal showers, corporate events, holiday get-togethers, cocktail parties…any special occasion that would be enhanced by lovely harp music!

Heidi O’Gara Jellison holds a Master of Music degree in Harp Performance from the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, Houston, Texas, where she studied with Paula Page, principal harpist with the Houston Symphony. Mrs. O’Gara Jellison received her undergraduate degree, also in Harp Performance, from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio, where she studied with Alice Chalifoux and Yolanda Kondonassis, both internationally celebrated harpists. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Heidi began studying the harp at the age of nine with Omaha Symphony principal harpist, Mary Walter Bircher.

O'Gara03.jpgHeidi resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where she teaches at Trevecca Nazarene University, Middle Tennessee State University, and Free Will Baptist Bible College, maintains a studio for private lessons, directs the Music City Harp Ensemble, and freelances throughout Middle Tennessee. She is Principal Harpist Tennessee Philharmonic, and performs regularly with the Nashville and Knoxville Symphony Orchestras. Mrs. O’Gara Jellison has also played with the Houston Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Omaha Symphony. Heidi was Principal Harpist with the Roanoke Symphony, Bowling Green Symphony, Charlottesville University Symphony Orchestra; directed the Roanoke Youth Harp Ensemble; was the Harp Instructor at the University of Virginia, Hollins University, and Liberty University.

During the summer, Heidi O’Gara Jellison can be found in the mountains of Virginia at the Wintergreen Music Festival. She has also toured Europe with the North Carolina School of the Arts International Program, and has attended the National Orchestral Institute at the University of Maryland and Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute. For fourteen successive summers, Heidi attended the world- renowned Salzedo Harp Colony in Camden, Maine. Heidi founded Music City Harp Ensemble in 2005, and ensemble for students ages 8 to adults of all ages. (harpgigs.com)

And here´s her beautiful Christmas album …a harp, soft and gentle … sounds like peace on earth! And this is the most important Christmas message !

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Personnel:
Heidi O’Gara Jellison (harp)

Tracklist:
01. Ding! Dong! Merrily on High 2.02
02. The First Noel 3.05
03. O Christmas Tree 2.59
04. O Come All Ye Faithful 2.49
05. Bring A Torch, Jeannette, Isabella 1.47
06. We Three Kings of Orient Are 4.45
07. O Thou Joyful 1.29
08. The Huron Carol 2.23
09. Christians Awake!
10. Fum, Fum, Fum 1.41
11. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear 2.17
12. Silent Night 3.00
13. Jesu Bambino 2.56
14. Pat-a-Pan 1.50
15. On This Day, Earth Shall Ring 2.47
16. Shepherds Left Their Flocks A-Straying 1.59
17. Brightest And Best 2.31

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Ken Peplowski Gypsy Jazz Band – Gypsy Lamento (2007)

CDFrontCover1.jpgThis is a gypsy combo of the Django Reinhardt persuasion, rather than being fully-crazed wedding party cacophony. In fact, reedman Ken Peplowski makes matters even more specialized by concentrating on a preponderance of slow plodders rather than the frenetic hurtling that many gypsy jazz guitar outfits now prefer. The album’s cover is slightly strange. Two pseudo-brides in billowing white silk cavort with a pair of goats. Is this what gypsy life entails?

Half of the compositions are written by the old Belgian guitar master Reinhardt, with Peplowski flanked by guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli and Howard Alden, which is certainly an impressive way to be surrounded. This is a world where reeds are not always invited, but Peplowski smoothly slides in his clarinet and tenor saxophone, delivering some of the most sensitive solos of his career. Pizzarelli and Alden opt for steely picking, bright with a percussive attack, but it sounds like it’s the former who’s taking most of the solos.

The playing, arrangements and production qualities make this a disc to savor, even though it would benefit from a few more briskly trotting numbers. Peplowski’s oozing clarinet closeness on “Anouman” sinks the listener into a less familiar Reinhardt tune. Next up, his tenor tone on “Crepuscule” is magnificent; sounding like the mic is buried deep inside its velvet-lined bowels.

Violinist Aaron Weinstein isn’t around much, but when he’s soloing, the impact is noticeable. He’s half slick sluice, half hot friction. The guitars engage in a dialogue during “I’m Confessin,'” the leader layers up both of his horns on “Please,” conversing with himself, while it’s just Peplowski and Pizzarelli together for the closing “Time On My Hands.” This album is an oldster’s reflection, but this is no bad thing. Peplowski burns up frequently during other sessions, so a reclined set makes for a pleasurable change. (by Martin Longley)

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Personnel:
Howard Alden (guitar)
Ken Peplowski (saxophone, clarinet)
Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar)
Chuck Redd (drums)
Frank Tate (bass)
Aaron Weinstein (violin)

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Tracklist:
01. Topsy (Durham/Battle) 7.19
02. Anouman (Reinhardt) 4.42
03. Crepuscule (Reinhardt) 4.55
04. Tears (Reinhardt) 4.26
05. I’m Confessin’ (Neuburg/Dougherty/Reynolds) 7.34
06. Minor Swing (Reinhardt) 4.36
07. Solitude (Ellington) 4.24
08. Nympheus (Reinhardt) 5.19
09. Please (Robin/Reinger) 4.15
10. Nuages (Reinhardt) 5.33
11. I’ve Had My Moments (Donaldson) 4.26
12. Time On My Hands (Youmans) 2.46

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