Andreas Oberg – My Favorite Guitars (2008)

FrontCover1.jpgAndreas Oberg honors several of the most recognized guitarists in jazz through this contemporary outing, where his guitar speaks for generations and his smooth approach appeals to a broad audience. A full studio orchestra complements much of the program as Oberg’s guitar floats effortlessly over the gathering.

An appealing Brazilian atmosphere pervades on “Aqui, Oh,” where the leader’s wordless vocals ride waves of warmth that wash over his acoustic guitar with pleasurable results. Oberg enjoys a fluid technique where notes run clear and distinct. When keyboard player Kuno Schmid steps forward, the contrast between his muddy cascades and the guitarist’s clearly-defined runs is magnified.

With Oberg’s ballad “Endless Love,” acoustic guitar takes over with a folksong approach while the studio orchestra colors from a distance. With “Funky Tango” and “Waiting for Angela,” it’s the background instrumentation from the keyboards and the orchestra that occupy much of the focus. Oberg enjoys a better stride when paring it down and allowing his guitar to shine.

Elsewhere, as on “Uptown Downtown,” “Villa Hermosa” and “Here to Stay,” the guitarist finds his niche as he fits comfortably into Pat Martino’s bag with all points covered. He’s at his best when improvising alongside the small group and excluding the lush orchestra Oberg01and surround-sound keyboard swirls. (Jim Santella)

Swedish jazz guitarist Andreas Öberg has been quoted as saying that one of his desires is to “make music that can appeal to people who don’t like jazz.” Many hardcore jazz musicians become nervous and apprehensive when they hear other improvisers talking about commercializing jazz in some fashion or making jazz more accessible to rock, pop or R&B fans; they think of all the robotic elevator music that smooth jazz/NAC radio stations have played in the ’80s, ’90s and 21st century. But My Favorite Guitars is an album that, despite its commercial appeal, isn’t going to win over the Kenny G./Najee/Richard Elliott crowd. Öberg isn’t trying to be the Dave Koz of the guitar — far from it. Actually, the best stylistic comparison on this 64-minute CD — which finds Öberg paying tribute to other guitarists — would be the pre-Breezin’ CTI albums that Creed Taylor produced for George Benson (one of Öberg’s main influences) in the late ’60s and early ’70s. At times, Taylor was guilty of overproducing, but when he achieved the right balance of jazz and commercial considerations, he soared as a producer — and My Favorite Guitars achieves that type of balance. This 2008 release isn’t in a class with Benson’s best CTI releases, but it’s definitely respectable. Although Öberg brings a strong sense of groove to the table, he has plenty of room to stretch out and improvise whether he is paying tribute to Benson on “The Changing World,” Django Reinhardt on “Troublant Bolero,” Pat Metheny on “Here to Stay,” or Wes Montgomery (another major influence) on “The Trick Bag.” My Favorite Guitars won’t appeal to jazz purists or bop snobs, but it has integrity and demonstrates that an improviser can reach out to pop and R&B fans and still maintain an improvisatory, jazz-oriented focus. (Alex Henderson)

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Personnel:
Kevin Axt (bass)
Tamir Hendelman (keyboards)
Andreas Öberg (guitar)
Marian Petrescu (keyboards)
Harish Raghavan (bass)
Kuno Schmid (keyboards, bass)
Vic Stevens (drums, percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. Funky Tango (Salinas) 5.32
02. Troublant Bolero (Reinhardt) 6.13
03. Waiting For Angela (Horta) 5.43
04. Aqui, Oh (Horta) 5.15
05. Uptown Down (Martino) 4.00
06. AM Call (Öberg) 6.24
07. The Changing World (Benson) 4.38
08. The Trick Bag (Montgomery) 5.11
09. Here To Stay (Metheny) 5.13
10. Endless Love (Öberg) 5.13
11. Villa Hermosa (Pat Martino) 6:34
12. Valdez In The Country (Hathaway) 4.44

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Saravah Soul – Same (2008)

FrontCover1Exploding out of the rich cultural mix in the melting-pot of London’s underground music scene comes the half-Brazilian, half-British, Afro-Brazilian Funk sound of Saravah Soul. Fronted by fiery break dancer Otto Nascarella, the intensity of their live shows has earned them a reputation for wild performances and a rapidly expanding fan base. Their self-titled first album caused an international stir amongst record labels eager to sign them, and the band seems set on an unstoppable rise.

Formed by Otto Nascarella, Saravah Soul was created to showcase a highly addictive style of late 60’s Brazilian soul-funk and samba, to create an exciting and original live flavour. Talented front man Nascarella, from Curitiba Brazil, combines the showmanship of James Brown with modern breakdance styles, whilst playing guitar and pandeiro; bass virtuoso Matheus Nova has performed with the likes of Brazilian samba divas Elza Soares and Alcione. Kiris Houston on Keys and guitar has worked with top soul artists including Jocelyn Brown and Estelle. Eduardo Marques is one of the most in demand Brazilian drummers in London, and works with top Brazilian artists, such as Ed Motta. Percussionist/flautist Jack Yglesias is legendary on the contemporary funk scene, having played with The Poets of Rhythm, Lee Fields, The Soul Destroyers, Quantic Soul Orchestra and Spanky Wilson.

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The horn section is led by the sax player Marcelo Andrade, who plays also on Jazzinho (freestyle records). Saravah Soul’s debut 7” single “Nao Posso Te Levar A Serio” was released in February 2008, followed by the album in March. The official album launch party was a festive, samba-fuelled affair at the Jazz Café in London, whipping up a frenzy with visceral Brazilian percussion and complete with a Rio Carnival-style march through the crowd. Saravah Soul headlined the legendary Jelly Jazz’s 15th birthday party in May 2008 and played a handful of festivals around the country over the summer. 2010 saw them release their second album, Cultura Impura and continue their ruthless touring … (by tru-thoughts.co.uk)

Enjoy this funky trip …

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Personnel:
Marcelo Andrade (saxophone, vocals, flute)
Graeme Flowers (trumpet)
Kiris Houston (keyboards, guitar, vocals)
Eduardo ‘Dudu’ Marques (drums, vocals)
Otto Nascarella (vocals, pandeiro on 05., guitar on 05. + 07.)
Matheus Nova (bass)
Chris Webster (trombone)
Jack Yglesias (percussion, flute & vocals on 01., 05., 07.)
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Luzmira Zerpa (background vocals on 01., 04. + 06.)

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Tracklist:
01. Oil Is Thicker Than Blood (Yglesias/Nascarella/Saravah Soul) 4.37
02. Nao Posso Te Levar A Serio (Nascarella/Saravah Soul) 4.21
03. It’s Doing My Head In (Yglesias/Nascarella/Saravah Soul) 4.18
04. Arroz Com Feijao (Nascarella/Saravah Soul) 5.51
05. Funk E Saravah (Saravah Soul) 3.47
06. Roubada (Nascarella/Nova/Saravah Soul) 4.26
07. Role De Bike (Yglesias/Nascarella/Saravah Soul) 3.54
08. Supersossego (Nascarella/Yglesias/Saravah Soul) 4.55
09. Homesick (Nascarella/Saravah Soul) 3.08
10. It’s Doing My Head In (Instrumental) (Nascarella/Yglesias/Saravah Soul) 4.18

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Leonard Cohen – Live In London (2009)

FrontCover1.jpgLeonard Cohen’s first UK tour in 15 years has been captured on this album and was recorded at one of his London O2 Arena shows, on July 17, 2008.

Part of the reason Cohen, who was 73 at the time, went on tour in 2008 was to rebuild his finances after being swindled by his manager Kelley Lynch. Sylvie Simmons explains in her 2012 biography on Cohen that Lynch “took care of Leonard’s business affairs…[and was] not simply his manager but a close friend, almost part of the family.” However, Simmons notes that in late 2004, Cohen’s daughter Lorca began to suspect Lynch of financial impropriety, and when Cohen checked his bank accounts, he noticed that he had unknowingly paid a credit card bill of Lynch’s for $75,000 and also found that most of the money in his accounts was gone (including money from his retirement accounts and charitable trust funds). Cohen would discover that this theft had actually begun as early as 1996 when Lynch started selling Cohen’s music publishing rights despite the fact that Cohen had no financial incentive to do so at the time. Cohen, who was on a five-year retreat at the Zen center Mount Baldy near Los Angeles at the time, remained oblivious.

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On 8 October 2005, Cohen sued Kelley Lynch, alleging that she had misappropriated over US $5 million from Cohen’s retirement fund leaving only $150,000. Cohen was sued in turn by other former business associates. These events placed him in the public spotlight, including a cover feature on him with the headline “Devastated!” in Canada’s Maclean’s magazine. In March 2006, Cohen won a civil suit and was awarded US$9 million by a Los Angeles County superior court. Lynch, however, ignored the suit and did not respond to a subpoena issued for her financial records. As a result, it has been widely reported that Cohen may never be able to collect the awarded amount.

In the meantime, Cohen published a book of poetry, prose and drawings called Book of Longing in 2006 and produced Anjani’s 2006 album Blue Alert (he also provided lyrics for the songs). Cohen was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Lou Reed in 2008. In his book Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life, biographer Anthony Reynolds observes that throughout the ordeal, Cohen remained calm: “In public, at least, Cohen did seem remarkably sanguine about the loss. He was never angry or accusatory, and his stock answer to the calamity was the dry one-liner, ‘It’s enough to put a dent in your mood’ but when pushed he admitted, ‘I don’t know what helped me deal with it…I guess it just hasn’t hit me yet.'”

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Cohen, who had always professed to interviewers how much he enjoyed the discipline imposed by hard work, recognized the economic necessity of getting back on the road and announced a tour in January 2008. The first show took place at the Fredericton Playhouse in New Brunswick. Cohen played dates in Canada and Europe to enthusiastic crowds who were delighted to see him on stage again.

The album was long listed for the Polaris Music Prize.[8] Cohen’s humility and self-deprecating sense of humor is evident in the between-song banter throughout the London performance, with him telling the audience, “It’s been a long time since I stood on a stage in London. It was about 14 or 15 years ago. I was 60 years old, just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then I’ve taken a lot of Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Effexor, Ritalin, Focalin. I’ve also studied deeply in the philosophies of the religions but cheerfulness kept breaking through.” (by wikipedia)

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As more than one writer has pointed out, in 2008 and 2009 Leonard Cohen’s loss became his audience’s gain. After spending five years living as a monk in a Buddhist monastery during a sabbatical from music, Cohen discovered in 2005 that his former business manager had embezzled nearly all his savings, and two years later, in order to put his finances back in order, he warily agreed to an international concert tour, his first in nearly a decade and a half. Given the circumstances that prompted Cohen’s return to the stage as well as his age — 73 when the tour began — one would have the right to wonder just how enthusiastic the great songwriter would be about meeting his audience again. But judging from Live in London — a two-disc set recorded during a rapturously received appearance at London’s O2 Arena on July 17, 2008 — these concerts have unexpectedly given Cohen a chance to remind the world of his strengths as a musician and a performer, and he’s embraced the opportunity with joy.

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The notion of Leonard Cohen playing a 20,000-seat arena may seem a bit surprising (at least in America), but Cohen and his nine-member supporting ensemble give 25 songs from his catalog a treatment that fills them out enough to work in a massive room (at least compared to the intimate arrangements of his early work) without crushing the nuances of gentler numbers like “Who by Fire” and “Suzanne,” while “The Future” and “Democracy” sound just as big as they need to be. There’s sometimes a bit too much David Sanborn in Dino Soldo’s horn solos, but otherwise the band is superb — especially Javier Mas on banduria, laud, archilaud, and guitar, and the vocal ensemble of Sharon Robinson, Charley Webb, and Hattie Webb — and despite the craggy, weathered state of Cohen’s voice, he sounds sure and committed from the first moment to the last, often finding notes that seem elusive at first, and his performance here is genuinely engrossing. It’s also surprisingly witty; Cohen may have a reputation as one of the most dour performers in contemporary music, but his between-song patter is charmingly droll, and he finds a passion and a humanity in his songs that sets them apart from their studio counterparts.

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Cohen sounds genuinely moved by the affectionate reception he receives from his audience, and he seems determined to give them a show to match their loyalty, and with his band (who he frequently lauds during the performance) he truly gives of himself; if this isn’t quite the strongest live performance Cohen has released for public consumption, it’s certainly the warmest and the most emotionally resonant. Perhaps fate forced Leonard Cohen’s hand to stage the tour documented in part on Live in London, but it seems that fate knows just what it’s doing, and this album eloquently demonstrates how much Cohen still has to offer, and how clearly his music still speaks to him (and us). (by Mark Deming)

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For over four decades, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most important and influential songwriters of our time, a figure whose body of work achieves greater depths of mystery and meaning as time goes on. His songs have set a virtually unmatched standard in their seriousness and range. sex, spirituality, religion, power – he has relentlessly examined the largest issues in human lives, always with a full appreciation of how elusive answers can be to the vexing questions he raises. But those questions, and the journey he has traveled in seeking to address them, are the ever-shifting substance of his work, as well as the reasons why his songs never lose their overwhelming emotional force. documentaries, awards, tribute albums and the ongoing march of artists eager to record his songs all acknowledge the peerless contribution Cohen has made to what one of his titles aptly calls The Tower of Song.

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In 2008 Leonard Cohen embarked on his first tour in 15 years. quickly recognized as musical folklore in the making, 29 of the original dates sold out almost immediately, leaving fans and critics alike hailing the show as a once in a lifetime experience. The Live in London release fully captures and recreates the extraordinary show from that tour that earned Cohen more than 80 five-star reviews for his performances. (by roughtrade.com)

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Personnel:
Roscoe Beck (bass, background vocals)
Leonard Cohen (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Rafael Bernardo Gayol (drums, percussion)
Neil Larsen (keyboards, accordion)
Javier Mas (banduria, laud, archilaud, guitar)
Bob Metzger (lead guitar, pedal steel guitar, background vocals)
Sharon Robinson (vocals)
Dino Soldo (saxophone, clarinet, harmonica, keyboards, background vocals)
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The Webb Sisters:

Charley Webb (guitar, background  vocals)
Hattie Webb (harp, background vocals)

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Tracklist:

CD 1:
01. Dance Me To The End Of Love (Cohen) 6.20
02. The Future (Cohen)) 7.20
03. Ain’t No Cure For Love (Cohen) 6.17
04. Bird On The Wire (Cohen) 6.15
05. Everybody Knows (Cohen/Robinson) 5.53
06. In My Secret Life (Cohen/Robinson) 5.03
07. Who By Fire (Cohen) 6.35
08. Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Cohen) 3.48
09. Anthem (Cohen) 7.21
10. Introduction 1.30
11. Tower Of Song (Cohen) 7.07
12. Suzanne (Cohen) 3.47
13. The Gypsy’s Wife (Cohen) 6.43

CD 2:
01. Boogie Street (Cohen/Robinson) 6.57
02. Hallelujah (Cohen) 7.20
03. Democracy (Cohen) 7.09
04. I’m Your Man (Cohen) 5.41
05. Recitation (Cohen/Larsen 3.54
06. Take This Waltz (Cohen/Lorca) 8.38
07. So Long, Marianne (Cohen) 5.25
08. First We Take Manhattan (Cohen) 6.16
09. Sisters Of Mercy (Cohen) 4.56
10. If It Be Your Will (featuring The Webb Sisters) (Cohen) 5.23
11. Closing Time (Cohen) 6.15
12. I Tried To Leave You (Cohen) 8.34
13. Whither Thou Goest (Singer) 1.27

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Leonard Norman Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016)

Jack Bruce & Robin Trower – Seven Moons (2008)

FrontCover1.jpgThe duo made two joint recordings in the early 1980’s, and teamed up again for this record, this time with British drummer Gary Husband (Level 42). What makes Seven Moons such a success is that Bruce and Trower each play to their strengths, Bruce brings his distinctive croon/moan to bluesy, riff-oriented tunes dominated by Trower’s playing. They conjure a power trio sound which touches on Cream and Hendrix yet draws from their own deep, dark wells of experience.

Jack Bruce must have enjoyed his 2005 get-together with Cream so much that, when Clapton and Baker were unwilling to continue the collaboration, he rang up Robin Trower to renew the brief power trio fling they had in the mid-’80s. The Trower-Bruce pairing had released only two albums, B.L.T. and Truce, and was dormant since 1982, so this 2007 reunion was somewhat of a continuation of the project, albeit one separated by a quarter century. The results impressively continue where Truce left off, as Bruce brings his distinctive croon/moan to bluesy, riff-oriented tunes dominated by Trower’s silvery guitar runs. Gary Husband fills the drum slot adequately if inconspicuously, but his contributions are mixed so far under Bruce’s vocals and Trower’s guitar that they are secondary. The previous two releases called in Trower’s old Procol Harum lyricist Keith Reid and Bruce collaborator Peter Brown to write the words, but Bruce and Trower pen these 11 songs without outside assistance. Most tunes such as “Lives of Clay,” a barely concealed rewrite of Cream’s “Politician” lick, revisit familiar territory, and clearly these guys are not out to expand any boundaries.

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Bruce, who has had serious medical problems since they last recorded, sounds terrific — strong and vibrant, even if a few tunes such as the minor-key ballad “I’m Home” seem somewhat clunky. This disc’s “So Far to Yesterday” recalls Trower’s “Twice Removed from Yesterday” both in its title and general mood. The yin/yang pairing keeps Bruce’s more oblique jazz influences in check and does the same for Trower’s space rock instincts, yielding a throwback that fans of both artists’ previous work should enjoy. Trower’s patented Hendrix-styled guitar adds a psychedelic edge to songs that generally stick to a midtempo lope and never blast out with Cream’s insistent power, which can be somewhat frustrating to anyone who would like to hear these guys let loose. Still, there are enough strong moments on Seven Moons to recommend it, especially to those who enjoyed the duo’s previous work 25 years ago. (by Hal Horowitz)

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Put Simply: Seven Moons demonstrates a blazing performance by two masters of Rock & Blues, who’ve once again hit their strides and maintain their creative force and drive…in their 60s!!

As echoed by many, I’m a huge Jack Bruce/Robin Trower fan. And though I appreciated ‘some’ of the duo’s former efforts (Truce/BLT/No Stopping) those records never garnered repeated listening. Perhaps it was the thinned-out 80s sound; perhaps it was because Jack’s voice and style was definitely ‘different’ during that period (see: I’ve Always Wanted To Do This)…whatever the case, I never loved those albums.

Cut to 2007/2008. Jack (as evidenced by the Cream reunion, but also on his recent solo efforts) has re-captured the power in his voice, and his playing remains as powerful and driving as ever. Trower, whose playing has always entranced me, adds drive, punch, and creativity to every note, every solo. Put that together with Gary Husband (who’s drummed on several of Jack’s older releases) and you’ve got yourself a power-trio in the best sense of the word.

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The fact that this album was mostly cut live is evident throughout. You really ‘feel’ like you’re in the room with them; you ‘feel’ their enjoyment, and this is simply something that you just don’t hear everyday.

On a recording note, this album is brilliantly done. Again, just listen to the title track to hear what I mean. It’s clean, loud, up-front, and mastered to perfection. If the songs weren’t so darned catchy, I’d love this album *simply* for the recording.

So, if you want to hear what these legends are doing now, pick up this release. It may be classic old-school to some, but it’s inherently new, absolutely bluesy, and downright hot. Follow that path, to the Land of the Seven Moons. (Jason A. Levine)

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Personnel:
Jack Bruce (bass, vocals)
Gary Husband (drums)
Robin Trower (guitar, vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. Seven Moons (Bruce/Trower) 4.40
02. Lives Of Clay (Bruce/Trower) 5.02
03. Distant Places Of The Heart (Bruce/Trower) 5.24
4. She’s Not The One (Bruce/Trower) 2.55
05. So Far From Yesterday (Bruce/Trower) 3.33
06. Just Another Day (Bruce/Trower/Watts) 5.29
07. Perfect Place (Bruce/Trower) 3.47
08. The Last Door (Bruce/Trower) 5.08
09. Bad Case Of Celebrity (Bruce/Trower) 4.05
10. Come To Me (Bruce/Trower) 4.44
11. I’m Home (Bruce/Trower) 3.12

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Chick Corea & Gary Burton – The New Crystal Silence (2008)

FrontCover1.jpgThe New Crystal Silence is a 2008 live jazz album by Chick Corea and Gary Burton. It was released in a 2-disc set. The first disc was recorded May 10 & 12, 2007 at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. The second disc was recorded on July 7, 2007 at Bjornsonhuset in Molde, Norway, except for the track “Señor Mouse”, which was recorded July 13, 2007 at the Auditorio de Tenerife in Canary Island, Spain.

The album peaked number eleven in the Billboard Top Jazz album charts[4] and also won the Grammy awards for the Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group. (by wikipedia)

When Crystal Silence first appeared in 1972 on the ECM label, its cover photograph depicted a stellar shot of the sun, which appeared to be setting. That duet album featured two already-seasoned jazz veterans who were in their thirties, and had been part of many of the developments in the music for a decade. Corea’s credits included Miles Davis, his own Return to Forever, the “Is” sessions, Circle, and many others; Burton’s included tenures with George Shearing and Stan Getz as well as Larry Coryell. But the duet album they recorded for ECM was so utterly striking and arresting because it highlighted not only an entirely new way of playing duets between piano and vibes — which had been done previously and well by others — but a new way of hearing them as well.

Corea-Burton_composite.jpgAfter 35 years, five duet records, and countless tours together, the pair revisit the notion of the duet in two different contexts on this delightful, compelling double-disc package from Concord. The first disc finds the pair playing live in Sydney with that city’s symphony orchestra conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer and arranged by Tim Garland. The program includes five tunes, all of them composed by Corea. While it is disconcerting on first thought as to how an orchestra could add to the special intuitive communication this duo has developed since its first accidental performance at a festival in 1971, those fears disappear quickly after the orchestra’s intro, when Corea’s piano makes its entrance and Burton responds. It’s striking there was so little rehearsal time, and that Garland’s arrangements are so spot-on and attuned to the intricacy of what happens harmonically between these two. “Duende” opens the set with an enormous introductory sweep that feels more like a crescendo, but it gives way within two minutes to the exploration of extrapolated minors when Corea plays a single note that initiates his speaking voice on the piano. Burton answers and moves them into another direction, painting from the inside and pulling on certain notes as he quotes a melody that feels strangely like “The Shadow of Your Smile.” Then the pair are off, the orchestra brooding and shimmering behind them, opening up spaces where there would be tension in such a focused space of minor keys that sweep this way and that way, and then they engage fully with the orchestra. This continues through “Love Castle” and the speculative intro to “Brasilia,” which feels like a question. The rhythmic interplay is built layer upon layer, however sparely by the harmonic striations of vibes and piano as strings hover and cautiously seem to follow into a much more romantic and exotic flight of fancy.

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Of course, the title track, while seemingly an entirely new piece when played with this symphony, is no less limpid than its predecessor. The compositional notion is simply eased into more tentatively, but the interpolations between Burton and Corea are even cannier than one might expect. Everything begins in shade and shadow and is revealed in the full light of day. The set ends with a driving rendition of “La Fiesta,” begun with an intensely intricate series of counterpoint exchanges between the pair.

Disc two contains a live performance from the Molde Festival in Norway, with one cut, “Señor Mouse” (also from the Crystal Silence debut), recorded in the Canary Islands. Far more breezy but perhaps more taut and far less tentative, the set starts off with Corea’s “Bud Powell,” and Burton shines with his solo, moving through the lyric phrases as Corea punches in spaces with tough, jaunty chord masses. It swings like crazy before giving way to a stellar reading of Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debby.” The melody, instantly recognizable in Corea’s hands, is nonetheless a bit heavier in touch, but that’s what makes it sound new as well.

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The solo he opens with carries the basic lyric frame in his two-handed chords and runs before Burton slides the melody in solo, as expressive and intimate as one could ever hope for before it opens wide and sings. This happens on the other standards here as well, the deeply emotive reading of “I Loves You, Porgy,” with Burton’s solo as tender as a singer emoting the words, and “Sweet and Lovely,” where the pair just dig in and let the tune guide them on a wonderfully engaging, swinging ride through its harmonic possibilities. The other four Corea tunes here include a very different version of “La Fiesta” as a set closer; “No Mystery,” which is more mysterious in some ways because of its use of arpeggios, space, and counterpoint; and the all-too-brief rhythmic invention of “Alegria.” The bottom line, of course, is that this set, as different as its two mirroring discs are, is nearly magical in both its intensity and creativity, and in its wonderfully relaxed manner of walking through the deep passageways of improvisation. Anyone who is a fan of the duet recordings between these two should own this. Anyone not familiar should check out the ECM disc first, and then move straight here, filling in the gaps later. They are wonderful counterparts to one another and immensely satisfying listens. (by Thom Jurek)

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Personnel:
Gary Burton (vibraphone)
Chick Corea (piano)
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Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer

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Tracklist:

CD 1:
01. Duende (Corea) 10.54
02. Love Castle (Corea) 12.41
03. Brasilia (Corea) 9.38
04. Crystal Silence (Corea) 14.09
05. La Fiesta (Corea) 13.35

CD 2:
01. Bud Powell (Corea) 7.55
02. Waltz For Debby (Evans) 8.03
03. Alegria (Corea) 5.49
04. No Mystery (Corea) 9.12
05. Señor Mouse (Corea) 9.10
06. Sweet And Lovely (Arnheim/Daniels/Tobias) 6.56
07. I Love Porgy (Gershwin/Heyward) 4.09
08. La Fiesta (Corea) 10.41

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The Pete Best Band – Hymans Green (2008)

FrontCover1.jpgRandolph Peter Best (born Scanland; 24 November 1941) is an English singer, songwriter and civil servant. He is best known as an original member and the first drummer of the Beatles. After he was dismissed from the group in 1962 he started his own band, The Pete Best Four, and would later join many other bands over the years. He is one of several people who have been referred to as the Fifth Beatle.

Best was born in the city of Madras, then part of British India. After Best’s mother, Mona Best (1924–1988), moved to Liverpool in 1945, she opened the Casbah Coffee Club in the cellar of the Bests’ house in Liverpool. The Beatles (at the time known as the Quarrymen) played some of their first concerts at the club.

The Beatles invited Best to join on 12 August 1960, on the eve of the group’s first Hamburg season of club dates. Ringo Starr eventually replaced Best on 16 August 1962 when the group’s manager, Brian Epstein, exiled Best under the direction of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, following their first recording session at Abbey Road Studios in London.

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After working in a number of commercially unsuccessful groups, Best gave up the music industry to work as a civil servant for 20 years, before starting the Pete Best Band. He has been married for over 50 years to Kathy Best; they have two daughters, Beba and Bonita, and four grandchildren.

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Haymans Green is a 2008 album by The Pete Best Band, released by Lightyear Entertainment and distributed in the US and Canada by EMI. Pete Best plays drums, and co-wrote most of the tracks. Reviews of the album have been mostly favorable, and almost all reviewers agree that the album sounds influenced by The Beatles, a band which Pete Best was a member of between 1960 and 1962.

The album’s cover shows the section of the Hamburg-era photograph of The Beatles featuring Best’s face that was removed as part of the collage design for the Beatles’ Anthology 1 album. (by wikipedia)

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As we become increasingly aware of the need to protect our non-renewable natural resources, it becomes obvious that the musical community is not making adequate use of the dwindling supply of former Beatles, and as Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr can hardly be expected to keep the world supplied with Beatles-related material forever, another onetime member of Liverpool’s finest, Pete Best, has stepped forward to help remedy this situation. Sure, Best was given his walking papers by the Beatles about three weeks before they cut their first single for Parlophone, but he still counts as a former member of the band, and Haymans Green is his fifth album since returning to active duty in 1992, a few years before the release of the Beatles’ Anthology 1 made him a very wealthy man and convinced him there was a disturbing gap between demand for Beatles solo recordings and the current supply.

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Haymans Green is the most Beatles-sounding album from a former Beatle to emerge since Paul McCartney became aware of his advancing maturity, but what’s remarkable is that it recalls not the rough-and-tumble rock & roll of their early days playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg, but the ambitious pop of Revolver through Abbey Road, as if Best wants to prove to the world he could have helped make Sgt. Pepper’s or the White Album if someone had given him the chance. Best also had a hand in writing the 11 songs on Haymans Green, something he’s never done before, but guitarist Phil Melia and guitarist and keyboardist Paul Parry are also credited on all the tracks, and Pete’s brother Roag Best (who doubles with him on drums) also pitches in on eight of the selections, so this falls a bit short as a defining personal statement.

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It also says a certain amount about Best’s role in the Beatles that he’s surrounded himself with people who write, play, and even sing like John, Paul, and George; 46 years after he stopped being a Beatle, he’s still defined by the sound of his former bandmates even on his own solo album, as if he has nothing to say as a musician besides “I knew them when.” As a Beatles pastiche, Haymans Green isn’t quite up to the inspired appropriation of Utopia’s Deface the Music or anything by the Rutles, but the quality is at least a couple steps up from Best’s clumsy covers of beat-era material on his previous albums, and it is doubtless more satisfying than whatever Jimmy Nicol or Andy White have in the works. (by Mark Deming)

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Personnel:
Pete Best (drums)
Roag Best (drums, percussion)
Tony Flynn (guitar, vocals on 04. + 09.)
Phil Melia (guitar, harmonica, vocals on 03.)
Paul Parry (guitar, keyboards, vocals)

… but who the fuck was the bayy player ???

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Tracklist:
01. Come With Me (R.Best/Melia/Parry) 2.24
02. Step Outside (P.Best/R.Best/Melia/Parry) 3.58
03. Round And Around (P.Best/R.Best/Melia/Parry) 2.38
04. Grey River (P.Best/R.Best/Melia/Parry) 3.19
05. Gone (P.Best/R.Best/Melia/Parry) 2.34
06. Dream Me Home (P.Best/R.Best/Melia/Parry) 3.47
07. Everything I Want (R.Best/Melia/Parry) 3.38
08. Beat Street (R.Best/Melia/Parry) 2.06
09. Broken (P.Best/R.Best/Melia/Parry) 3.57
10. Red Light (P.Best/R.Best/Melia/Parry) 4.01
11. Hayman’s Green (P.Best/R.Best/Melia/Parry) 3.05

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Three brothers: Pete Best with brothers Rory Best and Roag Best

Helix – A Heavy Mental Christmas (2008)

FrontCover1.jpgA Heavy Mental Christmas is a CD released by heavy metal band Helix in 2008. It is Helix’ 11th full-length studio album and 20th album released overall. It is a Christmas album featuring both standards and original music. It was released in Walmart stores in Canada in October 2008 through Universal Music and GBS Records. /by wikipedia)

Ahh, Christmas albums by rock bands! To me, the current wave all started with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. However, it is undeniable that Twisted Sister’s version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” also changed the playing field, giving them their biggest hit in decades. It meant that any metal band could record Christmas songs now.

So Helix’ Brian Vollmer, no stranger to Christmas music (check out his Raising The Roof on Mary Immaculate disc) decided to record some Helix versions in that hot summer of August 2008. Yes, Christmas music is often recorded in summertime — that’s how they get it on the shelves for December. The effect this has on the music is worth questioning. It must be hard getting inspired to go caroling when it’s beach weather.

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A Heavy Mental Christmas is not a bad Christmas album if you’re a metal fan. I wouldn’t nessesarily play this for grandma, but for people who already enjoy metal versions of Christmas songs, it’s a good listen. It’s not really my thing, personally. I loathe Christmas music in general (too many years working retail) and metal versions are not something I really get into. Having said that, with Vollmer’s excellent delivery here, these songs do shine. They are enjoyable, the band is in top shape, and all the songs are classics or traditionals except one original, “Christmas Time Is Here Again” by Brian’s friend and collaborator Steve Georgakopoulos. (Obviously, this isn’t the Beatles song “Christmas Time Is Here Again”.) Like some other Helix albums, this one clocks in at under 30 minutes, so be aware. Only one song clocks in over 3 minutes.

The Helix band pictured on the sleeve is not entirely the band playing on the CD. Drummer Brent “Ned” Neimi, bassist Paul Fonseca, and guitarist Rick VanDyk (ex-Zero Option) are present, but long-timer guitarist Jim Lawson is not. (He lived in Sudbury, far from the London recording studio where this was made.) Instead you will find the wonderful guitar stylings of the aforementioned Steve Georgakopoulos (say that five times really fast), who played Ace Frehley in the London-based KISS tribute band Alive. Steve also played guitar on the previous Helix album, the excellent Power Of Rock And Roll, although he has never been an official member of the band. Either way, he’s a great writer and player, and he does have a Frehley-like vibe to his shredding.

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Highlights: The slick metal blues of “A Wonderful Christmas Time”. The Lennon classic “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” which to me is kind of sacred territory. It’s hard to sing a song that John Lennon made famous, but Vollmer does so successfully. And then there’s the original tune, “Christmas Time Is Here Again” which is really just a vintage Helix rocker with Christmas lyrics. Musically it could have been on Long Way to Heaven, but there’s no mistaking the lyrics. “Santa’s coming to the show!” announces Brian.

So, to sum up:

I loathe Christmas music,
but I love Helix,
and this is still a pretty good album.

I think rock fans out there will like it a lot. The running time doesn’t bother me personally, as the album does not overstay its welcome and I have paid more money for less music before. If you’re a Helix fan, this album is a must to have. It’s just fun, and it has balls. It was somewhat of a landmark for them, while it is only their 11th studio album, it was their 20th official release overall, and certainly that is worth celebrating.

If you want more Helix Christmas tunes, check out their 7″ single for “All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup”. (by mikeladano.com/)

And I add this rare and very special christmas single as a bonus.

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Personnel:
Rick van Dyk (guitar, background vocals)
Paul Fonseca (bass, background vocals)
Steve Georgakopoulos (guitar)
Brent “Ned” Neimi (drums, background vocals)
Brian Vollmer (lead vocals)
+
Aaron Murray (keyboards on 08.)
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background vocals:
Doug Weir – Gord Prior

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Tracklist:
01. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (May/Marks) 2.37
02. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (Marks) 1.59
03. Santa Claus Is Back In Town (Leiber/Stoller) 2.24
04. A Wonderful Christmas Time (McCartney) 2.36
05. Jingle Bell Rock (Beal/Boothe) 1.57
06. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (Lennon/Ono) 2.54
07. Sock It to Me Santa (Honaker/Lagassa) 2.18
08. Jingle Bells (Pierpoint) 2.38
09. Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr) 2.59
10. Christmas Time Is Here Again (Georgakopoulos/Prior/Vollmer) 3.08
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11. All I Want For Christmas Is The Leafs To Win The Cup (Vollmer/Kelly) 2.38

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