Sunday, June 26, 2016

MPB'day

It's Sunday and time for the last post of June! This one's in honor of one of my personal favorite Brazilians.
How much is a Brazilian? In this case, a whole lot. Today's honoree has been at the music thing for 50 years, and the accompanying political activism just as long. Not too many people have gone to #1, then been exiled by a military coup, and then returned to assume the post of Minister of Culture of their home country.
He helped invent a whole style of music from that part of the world as well, did I mention that? Música popular brasileira didn't really exist before this gent and his friends made it up, pretty much out of whole cloth, bossa nova and psychedelic electric guitars. Caetano Veloso (he'll have his day on this page shortly), Gal Costa, Os Mutantes, Tom and Tim Maia will be heroes of the genre forever, but no one figure of MPB looms larger than today's birthday boy.
Tropicália pioneer, Green Party official, world ambassador of the music of Brazil, recording artist and touring bandleader. 74 years old today, and still going strong at all of it. When you talk about lives led by example, it doesn't get much more exemplary than Gilberto Gil, born this day in 1942.
I was taken to see him play at the Paramount Theater here in Oakland a couple of years ago on my birthday, a day which I'll not soon forget. The band was so smokin' I think my clothes caught on fire. He's been out touring with Caetano Veloso, just the two of them and a couple of guitars... I sure hope they come to the Bay Area, and bring fire extinguishers.
If you don't know Gil and his life's accomplishments still ongoing, it's definitely time to get hip. Allow me to help you out with two items that represent two sides of the man: one is a compilation I made of his late '60s/early '70s rock- and funky fusion-oriented cuts, and the other is a concert from one of his acoustic ensembles, remastered by me, playing a bunch of his most iconic tunes in front of an enthusiastic and mesmerized Swiss festival audience about 20 years ago.
The comp has been in my phone for a while and is kind of self-explanatory. The 1995 Lugano set is one of my favorite tapes of one of my favorite artists, so I dusted it off and fixed what I always felt needed fixing, making an A- experience soundwise into what approaches A+, official-releaseworthy SQ. The vocals in this (what sounds like a DAT and claims to be 1st gen) recording were largely buried in what was otherwise a really nice mix, with a bassy/boomy quality to them that really obscured what Gil is singing about.
So I set about excavating this aspect, figuring out where I could use some precisely-applied Graphic EQ and Graphic Dynamics adjustment in Sound Forge 9 to restore the vocals to more balanced audibility and the overall sound of it to a less flat, more sparkling vintage. All whilst taking care not to Frankenstein a mostly all-acoustic performance into too artificialized of a sound-field. I also adjusted the channel that was 2db lacking at the very beginning whilst Mr. Sounddude (Ms. Soundchick? sorry for the pronouns) was twiddling the mix into focus, which IMO really helped the vocals at the start.
Gilberto Gil
1969-1995

I.
Gilberto Gil
Babylon
(1969-1977)

01 2001
02 Essa e Pra Tocar No Radio
03 O Canto da Ema
04 A Bruxa de Mentira (with João Donato)
05 Maracatu Atomico
06 Oma Lao
07 Babá Alapalá
08 Babylon
09 Brand New Dream
10 Sarará Miolo (with Nara Leão)
11 Tipo África (with Brazil Very Happy Band)
12 Jeca Total
13 É
14 Ela
15 Ha, Ha, Ha (with Chico Batera e A Cozinha Manteca)
16 Iansa
17 Volkswagen Blues

Total time: 1:19:47

504 MB FLAC here
180 MB 320K mp3s here

II.
Gilberto Gil Acoustic Group
Estival Jazz
Piazza Della Riforma
Lugano, Switzerland
7.1.1995

01 Saudade de Bahia
02 A Novidade
03 Refazenda
04 Realce
05 Parabolicamará
06 Diabinho Maluco 
07 Tempo Rei
08 Expresso 2222
09 Chiclete com Banana
10 Aquele Abraço 
11 Palco
12 Toda Menina Baiana 
13 Sampa
14 Madalena

Total time: 1:04:15 

Gilberto Gil - vocals, guitar
Celso Fonseca - guitar, vocals
Lucas Santana - flute
Arthur Maia - double bass, bass, vocals
Edu Szajnbrum - percussion, vocals
Jorge Gomes - drums, guitar, mandolin

1st generation soundboard, sounds like a DAT; claims to be 1 gen from the master
remastered by EN, June 2016
419 MB FLAC here
Like I said these two tapes go together well, and illustrate two of the many sides of this guy for those both familiar with his extraordinary body of work and those not so familiar. I hope you pull one or both of them down and let them light up your Sunday like a birthday cake's candles, in celebration of #74 of the amazing Gilberto Gil! Long may he ride.--J.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Woo, You're 'The One'

This is probably not the greatest news with which to start the weekend, but it's 2016. We should by now presume our pioneers will proceed past this plane apace, leaving us passengers perceiving a petrichoral patter of misty melancholia and reflective rainy recollection, even if the surroundings are sunny and sanguine at the surface. Or, I hate to fuck up your Friday, but here we go again.
If you haven't heard by now, perhaps the greatest living American musician is no longer, I'm afraid. This was an expected departure, and an end to physical suffering, so in that sense it is something of a marginal relief, if it can be such. But in the broader sense of overwhelming grief at the passing of one of the absolutely essential architects of the music of our lifetimes, today is one of the saddest days yet.
In these last months we have lost some of the true iconics, this is certain. None looms larger or leaves as big of an imprint on the soundscape of our Earth than Bernie Worrell -- who died after a battle with lung cancer at the age of 72 this morning -- but not before doing as much as any single musician you could name to invent and define the framework of Funk, and really the possibilities we take for granted in all of modern music.
The second ever person to receive a standalone, keyboard-inclusive MiniMoog -- the first, Keith Emerson, left us but a few short months ago -- Bernie Worrell used it to completely alter how music and grooves are constructed. The first to begin to record the trademark bass parts of hit songs -- with the now-standard elephantine-obese bottom and piercing, space-noodle highs --  entirely on a synthesizer, the Wizard of Woo completely revolutionized how we hear our music and the role of keyboards and synthesizer technology in what people create. Directions he illustrated provide a kind of thematic Instruction Manual for the Funk.
 
If he'd have just invented and implemented the Flash Light bassline upon the unsuspecting dancefloor booty-motorists of the world, he'd have firmly punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame, high atop the mythical musical Olympus of our minds -- not the one in Cleveland, although he's in that one too -- but his contributions only begin there. How many records did he transform, just by his technical and compositional presence? 
The third-eye-opening organ solo that begins (what's for me, the best) Funkadelic LP America Eats Its Young... what he means to the Talking Heads' Fear of Music & Remain In Light-era, and all those unequallable T-Heads tours of the early 1980s... all the projects with Bill Laswell, Les Claypool, countless seminal records and performances... his own albums, always designed to contain All the Woo In the World and indispensable... and then, the crowning P-Funk grooves for which he supplied some of the most vital melodic ignition and dance-floor propulsion. 
Bernie Worrell was, is and will always be Not Just Knee Deep in terms of status as one of the serious foundational figures of it all. You know that song you and the rest of the human race have loved since birth, that starts with that ridiculous keyboard riff -- possibly the catchiest, filthiest sequence of notes ever played on a synthesizer -- and then the lady asks "Whatcha gonna do when you get outta jail?" And the answer is "I'm gonna have some fun!"? Yeah, I thought so.
Even though I never myself met Bernie, I want to say this to my friends that knew and loved him: That the feeling you have now will pass, and will be replaced by the lasting knowledge that your friend came into our world and performed molecular, genetically altering feats of positive DNA mutation that, it could be argued, have gone a long way towards saving our species from itself.
He leaves this place in a demonstrably better condition than the one in which he found it, and the positive influence of the work he and his cohorts undertook helped provide the melodic weight to and the sonic vocabulary of dance music as we know it. These trails, now blazed, cannot and will not ever again go untrodden, like a Soul Train Line moving to eternity
I'd say to those people who knew him personally and are mourning his loss this evening to let the natural grief and the additional sadness around all the extracurricular conflict and pain be tempered by the internal recognition that what he (and his friends, living and dead, ethical and not) have accomplished will last forever plus one day, far outliving the transitory aspects of some of the participants' human limitations.
P-Funk and the universe that came down from the Mothership to accompany it in its propagation of the feeling of good stands as one of the pillars upon which a life worth living on this Earth is now fashioned by the people of all the corners of this world, and who knows what others. If you're looking for what it means to have lived a life, it doesn't get much better or more impactful than that, does it?
What Bernie helped give birth to -- I don't have to go into the inalienable fact that it forms the bedrock foundation of a great deal of the music that goes on on this planet, do I? You can't have two, three and four without One -- and what he leaves us with amounts to an unquantifiable treasure trove of possibilities that will go on to infinity and beyond.
When his wife Judie announced last week that he had been cleared for takeoff and was headed home, I set about organizing three unissued and undeniably incendiary sets taped -- by some very proficient audio engineers armed with soundboard access and some expensive microphones -- during the Bernie Worrell Orchestra tours of a few years ago, cobbling them into a kind of tribute, farewell box set that I have had on continuous loop for the last week as I've thought about what his music means to me.
Knowing this day would unfortunately soon have to come, I smoothed out some of the warts and misnamed files and eventually pieced this 5-and-a-half-hour Funkadelicacy together into a somewhat adequate form by which to worthily remember him, and offer it here to commemorate the life of Bernie Worrell and to wash over your weekend with widespread Woo Everlasting.
Bernie Worrell Orchestra
Get Your Hands Off
Tourbox, 2012-2014
 
I.
Wormtown Music Festival
Camp Kee-Wanee
Greenfield, MA
9.14.2012

01 intro jam
02 Woo Together
03 Watermelon Man
04 Funkentelechy
05 band intros
06 All The Things You Are
07 Thugs
08 Y-Spy/Super Stupid
09 Get Your Hands Off

Total time: 1:22:44
disc break is after Track 04

Bernie Worrell - keyboards, vocals
Andrew Kimball - guitar, vocals
Kyle Cadena - guitar, vocals
Scott Hogan - bass, vocals
Glen Fittin - percussion, vocals
Evan Taylor - drums
Ofer Assaf - tenor saxophone
Shlomi Cohen - alto saxophone
Justin Mullens - trumpet

II.
Quixote's True Blue
Denver, CO
4.8.2013

01 intro jam/
02 Woo Together
03 So Uptight (Move On)
04 BWO Is Landing
05 Thugs
06 Bernie's clavinet solo/
07 Y-Spy/
08 Super Stupid
09 band intros
10 (Quixote's) Mothership Connection
11 Come Together/
12 Take Me to the River
13 Get Your Hands Off
14 encore jam/Red Hot Mama

Total time: 1:44:52
disc break goes after Track 08

Bernie Worrell - keyboards, vocals
Andrew Kimball - guitar, vocals
Kyle Cadena - guitar, vocals
Scott Hogan - bass, vocals
Glen Fittin - percussion, vocals
Evan Taylor - drums
Nicole Scorsone - violin

III.
Highland Brewing Company
Asheville, NC
6.5.2014

01 Bernie's intro
02 Woo Together
03 So Uptight (Move On)/band intros
04 BWO Is Landing
05 Thugs
06 Take Me to the River/
07 Genius of Love/
08 Red Hot Mama
09 Get Your Hands Off/
10 Super Stupid
11 I'd Rather Be with You
12 Mothership Connection
13 encore break
14 Three Blind Mice/
15 Come Together

Total time: 2:15:22
disc break is after Track 08

Bernie Worrell - keyboards, vocals
Andrew Kimball - guitar, vocals
Evan Taylor - drums
Kory Stanbury - saxophones, percussion, vocals
Dorian Duffy - bass
Nick Montoya - keyboards + effects

3 incredibly well-captured, multichannel mixing-desk+mics matrix-mix mashups masterminded by JohnD and Corey -- tweaked and slightly edited to be free of dead air and more OS & disc-break friendly by me -- and all zipped together
1.74 GB FLAC here
Despite the idea that we knew it was coming, this moment is still really rough; hopefully these sets will provide a kind of New Orleans funeral, like a soundtrack to saying goodbye to a powerful and legendary figure with the appropriate celebratory overtones that are in order when we lay someone this monumental to rest after a life so toweringly well lived. Pull 'em down and keep funkin' forever, as the man himself says to the ecstatic assembled in one of these mammoth, galactically unkin' shows that serve almost like a Greatest Hits, valedictory series of performances when taken together. So long Bernie, and thanks for all the Funk.--J.
4.19.1944 - 6.24.2016
everybody's got a little light
under the sun

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cyndi 'Land

Here comes the second of my two b'day posts celebrating two unusual ladies you'd maybe never dream you'd see on this page.
Yesterday we had one of the eminent modern songstresses... today we have yet another, this time one that's been around probably longer than you realize.
She started as half of an underrated new wave band at the turn of the eighties, and I remember hearing that LP -- Blue Angel -- at the beginning of high school, way before her first solo LP hit and blew up the world. She has the kind of voice that only requires one syllable and it couldn't be anyone else, so I recognized her immediately even though it was several years later.
I remember her as one of the first music people to stand for AIDS research and for those who were afflicted with what was then a death sentence, in the 1980s. She has raised millions and millions of dollars since the onset of the epidemic back then.
Her music is beloved by millions as well, and even Miles Davis made a hit out of one of her songs, claiming her voice and tone reminded him of his horn. I remember watching the Joni Mitchell tribute on TNT in 2000 and her absolutely stealing the show, bringing the house to its feet with a stunning, extended version of Joni's "Carey". 
Surely one of the most underrated, yet beloved, performers of our lifetimes, it'd be a tedious cliché to say that there is but one Cyndi Lauper, a woman who makes me proud to be from Queens.
A four-octave range doesn't hurt, that's for sure. What makes Cyndi Lauper unique to me is her ability to take a song that at the surface may seem trite or somewhat lightweight, and wring nuanced meaning from it by dint of what must be one of the most recognizable and one-of-a-kind voices ever. Also, she writes amazing ballads, with several -- Time After Time and True Colors, especially -- that will live forever as standards to be covered by dozens of artists.
She is 63 today... not even that old for someone that started singing professionally in the late 1970s. To celebrate accordingly, I have broken out the pre-FM, radio station reel of Cyndi at the Agora in Cleveland -- giving a classic WMMS-FM "Coffee Break Concert," remember those? -- just as her first record was exploding at the end of 1983. Look out for her take on Prince's When You Were Mine, most of her first record, as well as a cut from the Blue Angel LP!
Cyndi Lauper
Agora Ballroom
Cleveland, OH
12.14.1983

01 intro/She Bop
02 When You Were Mine
03 I'll Kiss You
04 interview
05 Money Changes Everything
06 Time After Time
07 band intros
08 He's So Unusual
09 Yeah Yeah
10 Witness
11 I'm Gonna Be Strong
12 Girls Just Want to Have Fun
13 Oh What a Thrill
14 Maybe He'll Know/outro

Cyndi Lauper - vocals, recorder, ukelele, Linn Drum
Kenni Hairston - keyboards, melodica, vocals
John McCurry - lead guitar, vocals
John K. - bass, Chapman stick
Sandy Gennaro - drums

Total time: 54:07

pre-FM sourced 'Coffee Break Concert' from WMMS-FM in Cleveland, OH
362 MB FLAC here
This is a vintage, pristine sounding set I used to suitably irritate my death-metal loving, idiot roommate for a solid hour yesterday, so I am sure it will do the trick for your Wednesday musings... what can I say? Girls just wanna have fun, amirite? Cyndi actually rewrote that song, which was given to her to record with that melody but words she found misogynistic and silly. So she changed them. The rest is history! I hope you enjoy this set, and that Cyndi Lauper lives another 63 years of history, doing as she does.--J.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lanaversary: Grant's Past

OK, I've been slacking on this page doing other things, but let's fire off three posts in four days, beginning with the first of two lovely ladies you might not ever think you'd see up here but whom are as deserving as anyone. Besides, this blog is such a total sausage fest, I oughtn't ever hesitate to up the Female Quotient when presented with a logical opportunity.
This post is also unique, as it concerns a contemporary artist who is still in her prime, turning just 31 years young today. It also should serve as a counterweight to all the negative press she seems to attract, often from people reviewing her records as if they are in some sort of competition to write the most idiotic, misogynist things whilst having listened to the music they are writing about wholly zero times. This lady gets a ton of hate, why I can't fully grasp.
She's been at this over a decade, you know. Just not under the name she became a million-seller using, which is itself largely a constructed character like something out of David Bowie as interpreted by Donna Summer's Bad Girls and conducted by Ennio Morricone. Her new record is like a dream, with no tunes that exceed around 15 BPM and extensively quoting everyone from Dylan to Nina Simone. I love it.
She was born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant on this day in 1985, and even made several albums under that and other names. She is a licensed drug and alcohol rehab counselor... even though the character she is playing sings a whole lot about drugs, alcohol, and their consumption. She's been Lizzie Grant, May Jailer, and maybe even a few other monikers, but the world knows her as Lana Del Rey, possibly Joshy's favorite modern popular recording artist under 40.
She has quite a story, and a deep well of tunes most people have never heard. Possibly hundreds, in fact. Before she hit it huge as LDR and had #1 records and headlined huge outdoor festivals around the world, she made and leaked dozens of demos and songs on various social media platforms, becoming a master of the modern science of keeping your name in the news between albums.
She probably thinks a lot of these songs are throwaways but any 12 of them, blown up in the more expansive, cinematic production she favors, would make a hit record, if you ask me. Sometimes she'll leak a song or a demo and then work hard to scrub any trace of it from circulation on the web. She's at once so accessible in what she does and simultaneously so mysterious and unorthodox, it's no wonder it took the public a while to focus in on her stuff.
How her music -- especially her latest one, Honeymoon, which as I said is all languid, lopingly slow torch songs swathed in Inside the Taj Mahal-type reverb -- is thought of as "pop music" is testimony to the art of mischaracterization, as practiced by the thoroughly earless modern music scribe. Pay no attention to them and perhaps their moms with kick them out of the basement.
As for Miss Del Rey, her air of mystery is only heightened by the fact that she rarely tours or plays live, sticking mainly to festivals like here in California this summer, where she will headline the Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park in SF and the 1st Ohana Festival in August down south in San Onofre State Park. I have tix to the latter, and am going with a friend who is obsessed with her and who introduced me to her music. And yes, I can't wait!
To celebrate the occasion of her 31st today, I have got two items: one is her set from the renowned Glastonbury Festival in the UK from a couple of years ago and the other is one of her leaked, unreleased albums -- this is a full hour of songs thought to have been recorded from 2010-2013 -- that only exists in the public domain in MP3 format, embellished by a few bonus cuts of other leaked tunes I believe to be among her very finest.
Lana Del Rey
2010-2013

1.
Die for Me
unreleased tracks, 2010-2013 

01 Driving In Cars with Boys
02 Prom Song (Gone Wrong)
03 Chelsea Hotel No.2
04 Hundred Dollar Bill
05 Put the Radio On
06 Dangerous Girl
07 Push Me Down
08 Heavy Hitter
09 Never Let Me Go
10 Serial Killer
11 Live or Die
12 Velvet Crowbar
13 I Don't Wanna Go
14 Paradise
15 Last Girl On Earth
bonus tracks:
16 Because of You
17 Children of the Bad Revolution
18 Every Man Gets His Wish
19 Hit and Run
20 True Love On the Side

Total time: 1:18:20

175MB 320K mp3s here

2.
Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts
Pyramid Stage
Worthy Farm
Pilton, UK
6.28.2014

01 Cola
02 Body Electric
03 Blue Jeans
04 West Coast
05 Born to Die
06 Ultraviolence
07 Young and Beautiful
08 Summertime Sadness
09 Ride
10 Video Games
11 National Anthem

Total time: 53:28

Lana Del Rey - vocals & piano
Tom Marsh - drums, drum programming
Blake Stranathan - guitars, vocals
Byron Thomas - piano, vocals
CJ Alexander - bass & keyboards
 
mkv file of the original, 720p webstream
1.30 GB here
I took the liberty of remastering the unreleased tracks slightly to make them all play as one CD, for those still into the plastic format. Some of the tunes were kind of overmodulated and fuzzy, so I did my best to fix them up where I felt it was needed, without massive alterations. Anyway if you love Lana this post is for you -- let's dedicate it to my superfriend who hipped me to her; he knows who he is and how I feel about him -- and if you don't or have allowed asstastic critics to define what she's about in your head without ever having gone to the source, I'd advise pulling these down and dipping a toe or ten into the pool before your body starts writing checks your mind cannot cash. Oh yeah... and HBD to the incredible LDR, born this day in 1985, a year I actually remember!--J.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hats Off to Harper

I know this probably isn't what you're thinking of right now, and to be honest, neither am I. But I refuse to let this world, or the mordantly homocidal assholes with which it seems to be filled, stop me from sharing and giving and honoring the people whom I believe to be the very best our species and culture have to offer, even if it is amidst the horrifying, unconscionable anti-LGBT terrorism this morning in Orlando, Florida.
Today is the 75th birthday of one of my all-time favorite songwriters. He has been around 50 years. You might not recognize him, but his influence and sociopolitical stance in his songwriting makes him one of the most influential of the last half century.
He hasn't had an easy time. Just two years ago, he was accused of bedding an underage groupie in the early 1970s and writing a song about it, and the authorities' knives came out. He was acquitted and the charges were dropped. His subject matter in his songs has often made him a target of such people, whom I cannot imagine are big fans of what his tunes say.
You might not know one single song of his, but if you've ever listened to the Pink Floyd classic Have a Cigar -- surely one of the most vicious indictments of the music industry ever put to wax -- then you know a little bit about who he is and how respected he is amongst his peers, themselves some of the most revered musicians of our epoch.
Led Zeppelin wrote a song that mentioned him by name... it's the title of this post. Some of the very finest and most brilliant songs of the last 50 years -- his 1970 LP, Flat Baroque and Berzerk, is in my top ten ever -- have been written and sung by Roy Harper. He doesn't fuck around. People who are white guys and can write jawdropping songs -- ones that only get more true as time goes by -- called I Hate the White Man usually don't.
The only other analogous artist of his age I can think of that operates in somewhat of a similar sphere is Leftist songwriter and erstwhile Soft Machinist Robert Wyatt. Both are veteran warriors who have never hesitated to speak truth to power through the power of song. 
Both are somehow still standing after battling the changing winds of public opinion and taste. Both have never, ever deviated from their inner compasses and expressing the most volatile and challenging subject matter through their work. As we've seen this year, when they finally leave us, our world will be left with holes that can never been filled. They are to be treasured then, and of course celebrated while they are still around. That's why I do this shit. It isn't easy on days like this, but that's why.
If you don't know Roy, I want you to pull down what I will share today and learn who he is and what he's about. Then I want you to go to his website and buy all his albums immediately. If you do know him and have his records, you'll already be scrolling to the links.
I don't really know what to say today; obviously as a gay man I am barely able to focus on this and I apologize for not being more articulate in my Royal praise for this most exquisite player and writer. Let's just get to what I plan to share because ultimately, life isn't about death, slaughter and mindless killing but living, loving and most honorably, sharing. That's what Roy Harper has been trying to tell us for 50 years. I can add little but to agree completely.
Roy Harper
1969/1978
 
1.
"Plastic Fantastic"
NRK-TV Studios
Oslo, Norway
Autumn 1969

01 One For All
02 The Garden of Gethsemane
03 Hell's Angels
04 How Does It Feel
05 Forever

Total time 31:28

Roy Harper - vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica

FLV file of a 2016 NRK-TV webstream rebroadcast

2.
Burgerzentrum Neue Vahr
Bremen, Germany
1.25.1978

01 Girl From The North Country
02 Another Day
03 I Hate the White Man
04 South Africa
05 The Game
06 Forget Me Not
07 One Man Rock and Roll Band
08 When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease

Total time: 57:00

Roy Harper - guitar and vocals

digital FM master of an analog 2012 Nordwestradio rebroadcast, with most of Track 08 substituted from a different master analog FM capture

both shows zipped together
891 MB here
This is all I can say right now, as I am speechless and a little numb, so please just take today to celebrate Roy Harper -- born this day in 1941 -- and if you don't know who he is, to find out. He has equals, but no songwriter of the last 50 years can surpass him.--J.
I thought you had passed
but you caught me at last