Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nat Adderley - Little Big Horn! (Riverside, 1963; 1998)


While it probably isn't in the Top Ten lists of any expert jazz critics, Nathaniel "Nat" Adderley's Little Big Horn! remains one of my absolute favorite albums from that particular genre. The outstanding cornetist never received the full amount of respect he deserved due primarily to living under the shadow of his better-known (but, in my opinion, musically less interesting) elder brother, saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. Nat probably didn't help matters by playing a somewhat obscure instrument, even though I find the cornet's warmer tone to be more sonically pleasing than that of its more popular cousin, the trumpet. And when I talk about cornetists with more knowledgeable jazz record collectors, they almost always seem to state a preference for Don Cherry. Well, to each his or her own.

L TO R: JUNIOR MANCE, NAT ADDERLEY, & KENNY BURRELL

This album is particularly impressive not only because it's an example of mid-1960s jazz at its finest but also because all eight performances were composed or co-composed by Adderley. For this material, he couldn't have chosen a better group of backing musicians: pianist Junior Mance's trio (with a rhythm section of bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Mickey Roker) in addition to alternating guitarists Kenny Burrell and the criminally underrated Jim Hall. A variety of musical moods are achieved on Little Big Horn!, with Nat's strong gospel influence plainly making itself evident on many tracks. Things start swinging from the very start on "El Chico," while the more uptempo "Broadway Lady" sounds like it was cut from a similar jazz fabric. I'm most partial to the really driving numbers such as "Foo Foo," "Half-Time" (check out the mono single edit here) and "Hustle with Russell." Back in the day, jazz fans probably would have sub-categorized such material as what was then referred to as"funk," even though this term would later become more widely applied to the music of James Brown, Sly Stone, P-Funk, and their ilk. As on any five-star jazz album, the more rhythmic tracks are nicely balanced by soothing exercises in mellowness, and "Loneliness," "Little Big Horn," and "Roses for Your Pillow" do the honors here.

JIM HALL

1. El Chico
2. Foo Foo
3. Loneliness
4. Little Big Horn
5. Half-Time
6. Broadway Lady
7. Roses for Your Pillow
8. Hustle with Russell

NAT LOOKING RATHER JOLLY

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dion - Sit Down Old Friend (Warner Brothers-Seven Arts, 1970)


I'll admit that I'm not the world's biggest Dion fan, but that's largely because his early doo-wop stuff really isn't my thing. Even so, the material that he recorded during the mid 1960s through the mid 1970s qualifies as one of the most impressive bodies of work by any musician. In my estimation, he turned the corner toward the end of his tenure with Columbia after a fabled meeting with John Hammond, Sr. during which the Italian kid from the Bronx was introduced to the Mississippi Delta blues of Robert Johnson. Predictably, the artistry of his music substantially increased while the frequency of his hits suffered the opposite fate. From that point, consistently great things happened in the recording studio - including Dion's brief much-deserved return to the charts in 1968 with "Abraham, Martin and John" - up to and including the Phil Spector-produced Born to Be with You.


Sit Down Old Friend was the first of his albums for Warner Brothers and represents one of the most remarkable transformations witnessed in the history of popular music. This LP's beautifully sparse and melancholy acoustic folk solo numbers are about as far removed from "A Teenager in Love" as one can possibly get. Dion's already sublime vocals were never in better form; here they sound like a gentle force of nature. And for those who don't already know what an excellent guitar player he is, you're in for a really nice surprise. Consisting mostly of his own compositions, the track list features 11 exquisite songs of varying subject matter: the religiously-themed but never preachy "Natural Man," "If We Only Had Love," "Let Go, Let God," and "Sit Down Old Friend"; gorgeous love songs such as "I Don't Believe My Race Is Run," "Little Pink Pony," and "Just a Little Girl" (with the latter two concerning one of his daughters); the superb wholly original white boy blues of "Jammed Up," "Sweet Pea," and "King Con Man"; and an inspired Willie Dixon cover ("You Can't Judge a Book") thrown in for good measure. Although not a huge commercial success, Sit Down Old Friend is nothing short of a masterpiece, filled with performances that are among Dion's finest and powerful enough to make grown men cry.

A CONTEMPLATIVE-LOOKING DION MODELS HIS
SHORT-LIVED MUSTACHIOED/
STRIPED TANK TOP LOOK

1. Natural Man
2. I Don't Believe My Race Is Run
3. Jammed Up Blues
4. Little Pink Pony
5. You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover
6. If We Only Have Love
7. Sweet Pea
8. Just a Little Girl
9. Let Go, Let God
10. King Con Man
11. Sit Down Old Friend

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - Country Blues Troubadors 1938-1948 (JSP, 2004)


Please don't let me be misunderstood in this mildly critical review. There is some fantastic music on this box set. Indeed, if you're particular to blues recorded post-Robert Johnson and before the era of electric amplification, many of these selections are indisputable period classics. However, this collection is not exactly what it seems to be. While it does contain a staggering number of performances by harmonicist Sonny Terry and guitarist Brownie McGhee, only approximately 20 of the 125 sides included here actually feature the two performing together. Interestingly enough, McGhee is heard playing in the company of the considerably lesser-known harp blower Jordan Webb just as often, if not more so, throughout the tracks on this anthology. Much of this is explained by the fact that Sonny and Brownie didn't really start to become viewed as an inseparable duo until the advent of the postwar folk and blues revivals. (In reality, let's not forget there was quite a bit of animosity between the two that frequently manifested itself in the form of arguments and onstage insult exchanges.) Nevertheless, the material that appears on this set displays an impressive diversity of styles ranging from folk songs to Piedmont blues to gospel to early East Coast R&B. The performances also boast an impressive cast of supporting musicians, including Champion Jack Dupree, Blind Boy Fuller, Stick McGhee, Buddy Moss, and Ralph Willis.

So what is there to gripe about? A couple of minor things, actually. These JSP boxes - this one included - sometimes suffer from the same problem that affects the various multi-volume Complete Recorded Works series on Document. That is, it can be a tedious experience to listen to them in their entirety in one sitting, unlike the more engaging and thoughtfully-sequenced albums on Yazoo. To put it another way, I'd rather hear these songs individually incorporated into a 1930s-1940s blues mix instead of in their present arrangement. While the sound quality on JSP releases is generally superior to their Document counterparts, the same cannot be said about the personnel notes since it's not always clear as to who's playing what on this collection. Those two items aside, there is much to enjoy on Country Blues Troubadors so long as you're not expecting every track to be a Sonny and Brownie duet recording.

Disc A
SONNY TERRY
1. Mountain Blues
2. The New John Henry
3. Fox Chase
4. Lost John
5. Train Whistle Blues
6. New Love Blues
7. Harmonica Blues
8. Harmonica and Washboard Breakdown
9. Harmonica Stomp
10. Harmonica and Washboard Blues
11. Forty-Four Whistle Blues
12. Blowing the Blues
13. Touch It Up and Go
BROWNIE McGHEE
14. Picking My Tomatoes
15. Me and My Dog Blues
16. Born for Bad Luck
17. I'm Callin' Daisy
18. Step It Up and Go
19. My Barkin' Bulldog Blues
20. Let Me Tell You 'Bout My Baby
21. Poison Woman Blues
22. Back Door Stranger
23. Be Good to Me
24. Not Guilty Blues
25. Coal Miner Blues

Disc B
BROWNIE McGHEE
1. Step It Up and Go No. 2
2. Money Spending Woman
3. Death of Blind Boy Fuller (alternate take)
4. Death of Blind Boy Fuller
5. Go to Find My Little Woman
6. I'm a Black Woman's Man (alternate take)
7.
I'm a Black Woman's Man
8. Dealing with the Devil
9. Double Trouble (take 1)
10. Double Trouble (take 2)
11. Woman I'm Done
12. Key to My Door
13. Million Lonesome Women
14. Ain't No Tellin'
15. Try Me One More Time
BROTHER GEORGE AND HIS SANCTIFIED SINGERS
16. I Want to See Jesus
17. Done What My Lord Said
18. I Want King Jesus
19. What Will I Do (Without the Lord)
BROWNIE McGHEE
20. Key to the Highway 70 (take 1)
21. Key to the Highway 70 (take 2)
22. I Don't Believe in Love
23. So Much Trouble
24. Goodbye Now
25. Jealous of My Woman

Disc C
BROWNIE McGHEE
1. Unfair Blues
2. Barbecue Any Old Blues
3. Workingman's Blues
4. Sinful Disposition Blues
5. Back Home Blues
6. Deep Sea Diver
7. It Must Be Love
8. Swing, Soldier, Swing (take 1)
9. Swing, Soldier, Swing (take 2)
SONNY TERRY
10. John Henry
11. Fox Chase
12. Fox Chase
13. The Red Cross Store
14. Sweet Woman
15. Fox Chase
BROWNIE McGHEE AND SONNY TERRY
16. That the Stuff (Watch Out)
17. Knockabout Blues (Carolina Blues)
18. Easy Ridin' Buggy
19. Women Lover Blues
SONNY TERRY
20. Run Away Woman
21. Shake Down
BROWNIE AND STICKS McGHEE
22. Movin' to Kansas City
23. Railroad Blues
24. Rocks in My Bed
25. Tennessee Shuffle

Disc D

BROWNIE AND STICKS McGHEE
1. Precious Lord Hold My Hand
2. If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again
BROWNIE McGHEE
3. Rum Cola Papa
4. Mean Old Frisco
5. Sportin' Life Blues
6. Worried Life Blues
7. Brownie's Guitar Boogie
8. Lovin' with a Feeling
9. Night Time Is the Right Time
10. Bad Blood
11. I Don't Care
12. Big Legged Woman
13. B.M. Blues
14. Evil but Kindhearted
15. Seaboard and Southern
16. Dissatisfied Woman
17. How Can I Love You
18. Hello Blues
SONNY TERRY
19. Whoopin' the Blues
20. Leavin' Blues
21. Riff and Harmonica Jump
22. All Alone Blues
BROWNIE McGHEE
23. Me and My Dog
24. Pawnshop Blues
25. The Way I Feel

Disc E
BROWNIE McGHEE
1. Go on Blues
2. Auto Mechanic Blues
3. I'm Talking About It
4. Dollar Bill
5. Country Boy Boogie
SONNY TERRY
6. Harmonica Rag
7. Screamin' and Cryin' Blue
8. Beer Garden Blues
9. Worried Man Blues
BROWNIE McGHEE
10. Aunt Jane's Blues
11. Mabelle
12. So Long Baby
13. Poor Boy Blues
SONNY TERRY
14. Custard Pie Blues
15. Early Morning Blues
16. Crow Jane Blues
17. Hot-Headed Woman
BROWNIE McGHEE
18. Wrong Man Blues
19. Married Woman Blues
20. Robbie-Doby Boogie
21. My Fault
22. Brown Mule Blues
23. Hard Bed Blues
24. My Bulldog Blues
25. Gin Headed Woman

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kim Weston - Kim Kim Kim (Volt, 1970)


Would you believe that one of my all-time favorite male-female duet performance happens to be Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston's "It Takes Two"? In fact, I think that song is one of the greatest singles from Tamla/Motown's classic mid-1960s period. While Gaye would go on to have considerable success as a Barry Gordy-affiliated artist until the early 1980s, Weston never seemed to receive the commercial success that a singer of her talent deserved. By 1967, she left the label on bad terms and spent time recording for MGM, People, and Stax/Volt for the remainder of the decade. Despite the quality of much of this material, none of her singles or albums made an impact on the charts. Weston, however, did enjoy a bit of a renaissance during the 1980s in the UK thanks to Northern Soul fans who have always held her in high esteem.


Kim Kim Kim was the singer's lone album for Stax/Volt and dates from 1970, although I've also seen 1971 listed as the year of its release. Very much a product of its time, the record was part of the label's more ostensibly Afrocentric "Mikim Series," whose logo was a black woman in attire similar to what Weston sports on the cover of this LP. Despite outward appearances, this is not really a Black Power album. With production from Isaac Hayes, Al Bell, and Clarence Pauling, much of the material unsurprisingly has a pronounced late 1960s-early 1970s Memphis feel to it, although you can still hear traces of the Motown Sound on certain numbers as well. Overall, this is a fantastic LP with a very nice variety of songs that has yet to receive its just due. Magnificently orchestrated tracks such as "You Just Don't Know" (dig the punchy bass guitar throughout), "The Love I've Been Looking For," "What Could Be Better," "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby," "Buy Myself a Man," and "Penny Blues" perfectly balance the heavier almost-funk sounds of "Love Vibrations," "Soul on Fire," and "Brothers & Sisters (Get Together)," with the last item being Kim Kim Kim's lone example of a racial and politically-themed piece. Further adding to the album's eclectic nature, "Got to Get You Off My Mind" harkens back to Weston's days in Detroit, while "The Choice Is Up to You (Walk with Me Jesus)" finds her capably handling gospel.

KIM WESTON PERFORMS AT WATTSTAX IN 1972 WHILE JESSE
JACKSON GIVES THE BLACK POWER SALUTE IN THE BACKGROUND

1. You Just Don't Know
2. The Love I've Been Looking For
3. What Could Be Better
4. When Something Is Wrong with My Baby
5. Love Vibrations
6. Buy Myself a Man
7. Got to Get You Off My Mind
8. Soul on Fire
9. Brothers and Sisters (Get Together)
10. Penny Blues
11. The Choice Is Up to You (Walk with Me Jesus)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fred Neil - The Sky Is Falling: The Complete Live Recordings 1963-1971 (Rev-Ola, 2004)


The Sky Is Falling is a really good concept: Take Fred Neil's spottiest release, the part-live/part-half-baked-duets-with-other-musicians Other Side of This Life, and enhance it by including four rare live tracks that were originally featured on obscure mid-1960s Greenwich Village folk anthologies. The original album bore all the hallmarks of a contractual obligation by a performer who had long ago become disenchanted with the music industry. Nonetheless, an artist of Neil's caliber seems to have been incapable of making a record that was truly bad. The primary fault of Other Side of This Life is its patched-together feel. While those aforementioned bonus tracks don't make The Sky Is Falling any more of a cohesive product, they do present the listener with four more superb recordings of vintage Freddie Neil.

FRED NEIL WITH BUZZY LINHART (ON VIBES) ET AL.

This CD's first six tracks were recorded at a small club in Woodstock circa 1970 with old friend Monte Dunn on second guitar and consist of material that Neil had initially featured on his earlier albums for Elektra and Capitol. Put simply, this is post-Greenwich Village folk music at its finest. The next five selections, however, primarily sound like little more than demos. While there are some high points, these tracks all possess a pronounced unfinished feel and hardly qualify as essential. Luminaries such as Stephen Stills, Bruce Langhorne, Dino Valenti, Harvey Brooks, and Les McCann provide instrumental support to various degrees on "Come Back Baby," "Prettiest Train," "Felicity,"
"Ba-De-Da" and "Ya Don't Miss Your Water," with one-time partner Vince Martin and Gram Parsons respectively contributing vocals on the last two songs. Had these performances been more fully-realized, they could have been fantastic. As for the bonus tracks, "Linin' Track," "The Sky Is Falling" (a cousin of "Blues on the Ceiling" perhaps), "That's the Bag I'm In" (all originally included on the 1963 release Hootenanny: Live at the Bitter End), and "Raindrops" (an early version of "Yonder Come the Blues" that first appeared on A Rootin' Tootin' Hootenanny from the following year) are all extraordinary and further demonstrate Neil's ability to captivate an audience.

IN THE STUDIO WITH BRUCE "MR. TAMBOURINE
MAN" LANGHORNE AND OTHER ASSOCIATES


1. The Other Side of This Life

2. Roll on Rosie

3. The Dolphins

4. That's the Bag I'm In

5. Sweet Cocaine

6. Everybody's Talkin'

7. Come Back Baby

8. Ba-De-Da

9. Prettiest Train

10. Ya Don't Miss Your Water

11. Felicity

12. Linin' Track

13. The Sky Is Falling

14. That's the Bag I'm In

15. Raindrops Falling


ON THE STREETS OF GREENWICH VILLAGE
LOOKING LIKE
HE'S HOMESICK FOR FLORIDA

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Fallen Angels - The Great Society Sucks: Halloween 1968 (Cicadelic, 2011)


While the US capital was not exactly a hotbed of countercultural and mind-expanding musical activity during the latter half of the 1960s, Washington DC, like many other American cities during the same period, was large enough to support a scene that featured at least a few interesting underground bands. First and foremost among such groups, the Fallen Angels occupy a rightful place in the psychedelic pantheon. Even though the first of their two Roulette albums is only so-so, their sophomore effort It's a Long Way Down qualifies as an absolute masterpiece and one of the greatest East Coast underground LPs of its time.

JACK BRYANT & WALLY COOK

A live album by the Fallen Angels from their 1968 prime is something that most fans could only dream about. Then, out of nowhere, this CD appeared earlier this year, albeit to mixed reviews. Despite not necessarily being a revelatory listening experience, The Great Society Sucks - Halloween 1968 (the title refers to Lyndon Johnson's social reform programs, not the group from San Francisco) still possesses many fine moments and is likely to be the only concert recording by this band ever available. For people who were fortunate enough to have seen the Fallen Angels in person, these performances might come off as disappointing - at least that's the vibe I've been getting while reading reviews of this disc. However, for those of us born too late or in the wrong part of the country, it serves as a decent-to-good document of what these guys were like onstage.

L TO R: JACK LAURITSEN (GUITAR), HOWARD DANCHICK
(KEYBOARDS), JACK BRYANT (BASS & VOCALS), WALLY
COOK (LEAD GUITAR), & JOHN "THUMPER" MOLLOY (DRUMS)

The Great Society Sucks
consists of material from the group's repertory ("Everything Would Be Fine," an early single, as well as "No Way Out" and "Poor Old Man," respectively from their first and second LPs), obligatory covers ("Fat Angel," "Ballad of a Thin Man," "Season of the Witch," "Signed DC," and "All Along the Watchtower"), and a couple of free-form political freakout rants (the title track and "Pegasus the Pig for President"). Not surprisingly, the Angels for the most part do best with their own songs. Their renditions of Donovan and Dylan compositions are hardly embarrassing but might come off as somewhat uninspired only because such tunes are overly familiar to most connoisseurs of 1960s psych. On the other hand, the version of Love's "Signed DC" that appears here is truly transcendent and perhaps the finest moment in this set. Despite a mid-performance disturbance caused by an altercation in the audience, the band launches back into things as if nothing happened. Regarding the political pieces, you had to be there, I guess.

L TO R: WALLY COOK, JOHN MOLLOY, & PROBABLY
ORIGINAL RHYTHM GUITARIST CHARLIE "C.J." JONES

Other reviewers have criticized the sound quality of this recording. It's not great, but as someone who has listened to bootlegs of live shows from the 1960s for years, I find it to be acceptable, all things considered. Nevertheless, I do have a couple of issues with The Great Society Sucks. First, I would like to have heard a greater amount of material from the Roulette LPs, especially more songs from It's a Long Way Down. Perhaps the band felt that the audience (which seems strangely subdued throughout the proceedings) would respond more favorably to cover versions of songs by more popular artists. Second, it would have been nice if the booklet notes contained any information about this particular show itself. Although we can deduce that the concert date must have been October 31, 1968 or thereabouts, no mention is made about where it took place. All the same, a less-than-perfect live album by the Fallen Angels is better than no live album at all.

1. Everything Would Be Fine

2. The Great Society Sucks

3. Fat Angel (Fly Fallen Angel)

4. Pegasus the Pig for President

5. No Way Out

6. Ballad of a Thin Man

7. Season of the Witch

8. Signed DC

9. Poor Old Man

10. All Along the Watchtower


Monday, September 5, 2011

Hard Time Blues - St. Louis 1933-1940 (Mamlish, 1970s)


If Don Kent's Mamlish label had been half as prolific as Nick Perls's Yazoo Records, the company would have received a lot more recognition for its equally fine reissues of prewar blues sides than it has. In total, the outfit released only 14 titles (versus the 79 albums featured in Yazoo's original 1000-series), but every one is well worth owning - if you can find them. Back in my college days (and before the internet made searching for rare vinyl a considerably easier task), a record collector friend and I would constantly lament over the near impossibility of finding Yazoo, Mamlish, and Origin Jazz Library albums in the bins of our favorite used record stores. However, as he astutely pointed out, it's not as if casual music buyers were likely to procure such items, decide they didn't like them, and then trade in the discs for cash or credit. By his reasoning, the people purchasing these esoteric LPs were probably prewar blues freaks like ourselves who were not likely to part with their carefully researched acquisitions unless they were in dire situations.

BLIND TEDDY DARBY

With the exception of 78-collecting cognoscenti, few people realize the importance of St. Louis in the history of prewar blues, especially during the Great Depression. However, as the liner notes for this record point out,
St. Louis survived, and indeed bid fair to dominate the blues industry in the years immediately following 1933. Memphis and Atlanta, both of which produced a large number of artists playing within a recognizable musical framework, were effectively dried up by the customary practices of the times. Two very important factors prevented St. Louis from meeting a similar fate: its close proximity to Chicago, where the major companies had studios, and the proven salability of St. Louis artists. Lonnie Johnson, Walter Davis, Roosevelt Sykes and Peetie Wheatstraw each recorded over 150 sides before the war, not including accompaniments.
While the three pianists mentioned above are represented by some of their finest-ever performances ("Just Thinking," "Drunken Gambler," and "Third Street's Going Down" respectively), Hard Time Blues - St. Louis 1933-1940 also shines the spotlight on the city's guitarists and less-celebrated singers. Moreover, what this collection makes abundantly clear is that the Gateway to the West was home to some of the best blues guitar-piano pairings in the entire country. Charley Jordan and Peetie Wheatstraw perfectly complement each other on "Tight Time Blues" and provide vocalist Mary Harris with superb accompaniment on "Happy New Year Blues." Elsewhere, the "Devil's Son-in-Law" tickles the ivories alongside singer Leroy Henderson and pickers Casey Bill Weldon (whose Hawaiian-style playing is instantly recognizable) and Blind Teddy Darby on the engaging "Good Scuffler Blues" while switching over to guitar and teaming with pianist Jimmy Gordon behind Alice Moore on "
Blue Black and Evil Blues." The rollicking "Pitty Pat Blues" gives Darby the opportunity to take lead billing (albeit under the pseudonym "Blind Squire Turner" on the original 78) on a duet with little-known piano player Tom Webb. "Don't Love That Woman" serves as an excellent solo vehicle for quintessential St. Louis bluesman Henry Townsend to display his considerable singing and guitar-playing talents, whereas the excellent "Grinder Blues" features him alongside the Sparks brothers, vocalist Milton and pianist Aaron. The latter was one of at least two other blues piano players to adopt the sobriquet "Pinetop," as he's billed on the Big Maceo-ish "Work House Blues." The Depression period piece "Times Are So Tight" finds Aaron backing the melancholy vocals of the obscure Charlie McFadden, although the song is not quite as anthemic as this album's title track by the equally mysterious Lane Hardin. On the considerably rural-sounding "California Desert Blues," the same singer-guitarist sports an eerie falsetto that is nearly the equal of Skip James's in terms of emotional impact.


1. Hard Time Blues - Lane Hardin
2. Workhouse Blues - Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks
3. Happy New Year Blues - Mary Harris
4. Drunken Gambler - Roosevelt Sykes
5. Don't Love That Woman - Henry Townsend
6. Tight Time Blues - Charley Jordan
7. Just Thinking - Walter Davis
8. Pitty Pat Blues - Blind Teddy Darby
9. Third Street's Going Down - Peetie Wheatstraw
10. Blue Black and Evil Blues - Alice Moore
11. Times Are So Tight - Charlie McFadden
12. Good Scuffler Blues - Leroy Henderson
13. Grinder Blues - Milton Sparks
14. California Desert Blues - Lane Hardin

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Turkey: A Musical Journey - Traditional Songs, Dances & Rituals (Nonesuch, 1975)


Long before world music even existed as a category, Nonesuch Record's Explorer Series was putting out extraordinary albums of material by musicians hailing from some of the most exotic places on the planet - or at least exotic by American standards. And how's this for convoluted? The Explorer Series was essentially an imprint of an imprint since Nonesuch was originally a subsidiary of Elektra that label founder Jac Holzman had established to re-release classical recordings at cut-rate prices. Most, if not all, of the Explorer titles seem to have been produced in a similar fashion. That is, the albums consist of performances originally recorded in foreign countries by local labels or globetrotting musicologists and then licensed to Nonesuch for release in the United States. In many respects, the Explorer Series was the 1960s-1970s equivalent to Sublime Frequencies.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The liner notes of Turkey: A Musical Journey: Traditional Songs, Dances & Rituals indicate that it is "a production of EZGI Records, Istanbul." My educated guess is that this LP contains music that had been recorded over the course of many years, if not decades, and had previously been released in some capacity by that company or perhaps by other Turkish labels. Regardless of the performances' origins, the 15 tracks assembled here provide a fascinating cross section of - what else? - traditional songs, dances, and rituals from Anatolia. The recordings by the Karayilan Duo, Mustafa Kandirali & ensemble, Orhan Gencebay, the Konya Folklore Group, Binali Selman, Sezai Ulukaya, and the anonymous "Singer" present various aspects of folk music intended for dancing. To my ears, "Silifke'nin Yogurdu/Meydan Oyunu" and "Erzurum Bas Bari/Ikinci Bar" are reminiscent of material by the Master Musicians of Joujouka, while many of the other cuts by the aforementioned artists would not sound out of place on a belly dance LP. "Dost," a wandering minstrel (asik) tune by Ali Izzet featuring saz (or, more accurately, baglama), puts me in the mind of Kaleidoscope at their most Middle Eastern or the Alex Oriental Experience.
The best way that I can come up with to describe "Siksara Oyun Havasi" would be "Anatolia meets Appalachia." Listen to the furiously bowed kemence (a small three- or four-stringed violin) and the guy calling out the dance moves, and you'll hear what I mean. The hypnotic "Mevlevi Music" is comprised of three religious performances unique to the Turkish Sufi sect better known as the whirling dervishes and sound as ancient as the order's 13th-century inception. The trio of titles by the Istanbul Radio Concert Ensemble present the listener with instrumentals done in a classical suite style in addition to a love song written by the legendary Tamburi Cemil Bey. The closing track provides an example of the martial (mehter) music unique to the Janissaries, who were among the most elite soldiers of the Ottoman Empire. That prominent booming giant kettle drum (kos or timbal) alone must have instilled great fear in the armies of their European opponents, but now you can listen to the same thing in the comfort and safety of your home.


1. Silifke'nin Yogurdu/Medan Oyunu - Karayilan Duo
2. Dost - Asik Ali Izzet
3. Saba Zeybek/Tavas Zeybegi - Mustafa Kandirali & ensemble
4. Misket - Orhan Gencebay
5. Konyalim - Konya Folklore Group
6. Erzurum Bas Bari/Ikinci Bar - Benali Selman
7. Siksara Oyun Havasi - Caller, with Ferhat Ozyakupoglu
8. Kavalla Oyun Havasi - Sezai Ulukaya
9. Mevlevi Music
10. Arabesque Ciftetelli
- Mustafa Kandirali & ensemble
11. Aslan Mustafa Oyun Havasi - Singer
12. Nihavent Pesrev - Istanbul Radio Concert Ensemble
13. Sevdim Seni Ey Isvebaz
- Istanbul Radio Concert Ensemble
14. Nihavent Longa
- Istanbul Radio Concert Ensemble
15. Mehter Music

Hey Baby, You Know There Got to Be Some Changes Made


I know that I've taken off most of this summer and that my posting frequency ain't what it used to be. Much of that has to do with work taking up a lot more of my time. When I first started this blog in January 2009, there wasn't much happening with my sales job on account of the lousy economy. I had an abundance of spare time on my hands, and I figured that blogging would be a worthwhile free activity in which I could engage myself. Even though I'm not convinced that the US has completely emerged from the Great Recession, my business has picked up substantially during the last two years and eight months. This has allowed me to acquire a lot more albums for my record and CD collection, but not as much opportunity to write about them.

As some of you also know, my wife and I went on a fantastic vacation in Malta during the end of July and early August, and it took me awhile to get back into the swing of things. Additionally, I've been working on upgrading my desktop's sound system, which has been one big pain in the ass. I'm not a very technically-minded person, so I inadvertently knocked the computer out of commission for a couple of weeks, leading to even more delays. However, I'm pleased to announce that everything is up and running again, and I hope to resume blogging with more regularity.

That said, I'm going to have to start doing things a little differently in order to keep Record Fiend going. One of my goals for this blog was to have it serve as a platform for my writings and as a way to get noticed by magazine and book publishers. I'm very pleased that my little place on the interwebs has succeeded in this fashion. It has directly or indirectly been responsible for some of my work appearing in printed media, with more probably on the way. Because I now have other writing projects that are keeping me busy - not to mention the fact that I'm a painfully slow writer - I'm going to have to cut down on the size of my posts and keep them at two paragraphs or fewer. Some of my favorite music bloggers take the "less is more" approach and write everything that needs to be written in just a few sentences. I wish that sort of thing came to me more easily, but I'll find a way to make it happen. Hopefully, the end result will be shorter entries but more frequent posting.

The other thing that I'm going to be doing differently from now on is archiving my albums in FLAC format only. With technology advancing as rapidly as it does nowadays, the storage capacity of electronic devices is increasing at an exponential rate. Large files are no longer as much of an issue for media devices and file-sharing services, so I'm not doing any more MP3s. I regret if this bothers anyone, but it requires little effort to convert files from FLAC to MP3 if you have a strong preference for compressed audio. Moreover, FLAC files sound way better than MP3s (as long as you have the proper audio setup) and can easily be converted to WAV format if you're really old-school and want to burn an album's worth of material onto a CD-R. The primary upgrade that I did to my computer was installing a 24-bit sound card, so all vinyl rips going forward will feature deeper and better sound. However, for those of you who care about such things, I'll be doing all recordings at 44.1 kHz. Some people brag about their 24-bit, 96 kHz vinyl rips, but everything I've read indicates that particular sampling rate is excessive and largely pointless.

Finally, I'm going to start using RapidShare exclusively for archiving my files because they offer free unlimited storage with no restrictions on file size. As usual, everything you need to know will appear in the comments section of each post. What you do with that information is entirely your decision and responsibility. (Update - September 6, 2011: I decided to start using MegaUpload as well, but please don't ask me to use any other file-hosting services.)

Addendum: A friend of mine who is much more technically astute pointed out that those who want to burn 24-bit FLAC files onto a CD-R so they will play like a conventional CD will first need to convert them to 16-bit WAV format. Most decent audio software will allow you to do this, although I don't know if this is an option with free versions of such software. For example, Pyro Audio Creator LE (which is what I use to convert WAVs to FLACs or MP3s) makes it possible to change the bit depths of files with the Encoder function. Similar varieties of software should allow you to do the same thing. For those who want to play 24-bit FLAC files on their computer, any media player will do. However, you will need to have a 24-bit sound card as well as good speakers to hear the difference in audio quality. Computers with 16-bit sound cards will play 24-bit files at 16 bits without any difficulties. Audiophiles who
would rather not use their computers as a sound system and who have the technical know-how can convert 24-bit FLAC files to 24-bit WAVs and then burn them onto an audio DVD as long as their DVD player will play audio DVDs . For more details on working with 24-bit audio files, go this site, which features some good basic information. And finally, for those who want to turn 24-bit FLACs into MP3s, I'm pretty sure that you can convert them to this compressed audio format without first changing them to 16-bit FLACs or WAVs. If you don't already have software that will make the FLAC-to-MP3 conversion, I suggest downloading Free MP3/WMA/OGG Converter if money (or lack thereof) is an issue for you.