Posts Tagged ‘Instrumentals’

Steve Dawson: Rattlesnake Cage

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

SteveDawson_RattlesnakeCageOutstanding blues, folk and jazz solo acoustic guitar

Canadian guitarist Steve Dawson has often treated his concert audiences to solo acoustic performances, but his albums have always supported his picking with a full band. On his latest album, Dawson gives listeners an opportunity to hear a conversation between his imagination, fingers and guitars (including 6- and 12-strings, traditional wood bodies and a National tricone), unadorned by other instruments or even vocals. Listeners will quickly realize how easily the rich particulars of a guitar’s sound are subsumed by other instruments, and that freed from the competition of a band, each guitar sings with a unique and detailed voice.

In these eleven performances, Dawson keeps meticulous time, but the tempos and changes flow from each song’s internal rhythms. Dawson is a well-rounded player who weaves together blues, folk, country and jazz, finger-picking ragtime on “The Medicine Shows Comes to Avalon,” playing slide on “Flophouse Oratory,” and adding lovely rolling lines on “Butterfly Stunt.” His originals range from contemplative to up-tempo, ending the album with the 12-string “The Alter at Center Raven.” Fans of Fahey, Kottke and Cooder will recognize Dawson as a kindred soul. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

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OST: Toomorrow

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

OST_ToomorrowOlivia Newton-John on the doorstep of stardom in 1970

This 1970 soundtrack to a blink-and-you-missed-it Don Kirshner-produced film would likely have remained a quick blip on the pop landscape, had the like-named group, film and soundtrack not featured a young Olivia Newton-John. At the time of the film’s release, John was still a year away from breaking through internationally with the Dylan-penned “If Not for You,” but she already had plenty of experience under her belt. She’d recorded a terrific cover of Jackie DeShannon’s “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine” and was gaining notice from club performances when Kirshner (who’d found success assembling the Archies and Cuff Links after being booted as the Monkees’ producer) brought her into the group.

The film was part of a deal Kirshner struck with James Bond producer Harry Saltzman, and after funding troubles sank the picture’s prospects, it was shelved shortly after release. The soundtrack album was released concurrently on RCA, but given the film’s vanishing act, the vinyl quickly followed suit. The group released a follow-up single and B-side on Decca, but Newton-John was soon off to the beginning of her superstar solo career. Real Gone’s first-ever reissue of the soundtrack, struck from the original master tape, includes the album’s original dozen tracks.

The film stars Toomorrow as the only band with the “curative vibrations” that can save an alien race dying from a lack of emotion. The screenplay is filled with late ’60s tropes, faux hipster dialog and science fiction cliches, which, of course, makes it worth screening. But the project seems to have really been a launching pad for the group, as had been the Monkees television show and the Archies’ animated series; unfortunately, there was no commercial lift-off. The soundtrack, written and produced by veteran pop songsmiths Mark Barkan (“She’s a Fool,” “Pretty Flamingo,” “The Tra La La Song”) and Ritchie Adams (“Tossin’ and Turnin'”), is an amalgam of bubblegum sounds that include pop, soul and lite psych, hints of folk and country, and is threaded lightly with primitive synth.

Olivia Newton-John is featured on the Motown-inflected “Walkin’ on Air” and the closing “Goin’ Back.” She’s also sings harmonies and takes a verse on the title theme. Guitarist Ben Cooper provides lead vocal for the space-age garage-rocker “Taking Our Own Sweet Time,” the pop-blues “Let’s Move On,” and the hippie themed “HappinessValley.” A trio of instrumentals includes Hugo Montenegro’s bachelor pad-styled “Spaceport,” and orchestral arrangements of “Toomorrow” and “Walkin’ on Air” that sound as if they’re drawn from a commercial production music library. This doesn’t measure up to ONJ’s later hits, but as a quirky start to her career, it’s great find for fans. Real Music’s reissue includes a six-panel booklet with extensive liner notes and full-panel front- and back-cover reproductions. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Hypercast #2: In Memoriam 2013

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

A collection of music from some of the artists who passed away in 2013.

Ray Price Heartaches by the Number
Tompall Glaser Drinking Them Beers
Richie Havens High Flyin’ Bird
The Standells (Dick Dodd) Dirty Water
Game Theory (Scott Miller) Jimmy Still Comes Around
Ten Years After (Alvin Lee) I’d Love to Change the World
Sammy Johns Chevy Van
Junior Murvin Police and Thieves
Bobby “Blue” Bland Cry Cry Cry
Jewel Akins The Birds and the Bees
Eydie Gormé Blame it on the Bossa Nova
Bob Brozman Stack O Lee Aloha
Bob Thompson Mmm Nice!
Divinyls (Chrissy Amphlett) I Touch Myself
Annette Funicello California Sun
The Doors (Ray Manzarek) Light My Fire
Slim Whitman I Remember You
Noel Harrison Suzanne
The Velvet Underground (Lou Reed) Pale Blue Eyes
George Jones I’ve Aged Twenty Years in Five
Patti Page Tennessee Waltz
Cowboy Jack Clement I Guess Things Happen That Way
JJ Cale After Midnight
Ray Price For the Good Times

OST: Running Wild – The Life of Dayton O. Hyde

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

StevePoltz_RunningWildSteve Poltz soundtrack for a documentary on Dayton O. Hyde

Steve Poltz’s soundtrack for Suzanne Mitchell’s documentary Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde, features eight new lyrical songs interspersed among seventeen short instrumentals. Poltz wrote his songs after visiting with Dayton Hyde at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary he’d founded in 1988. The instrumentals tend to atmospheric and contemplative, though a few longer tracks, “Happier Hour” and “El Centro,” are full-band arrangements; the former is a bouncy country tune, the latter a growling rocker. Hyde’s background as a cowboy, rancher, rodeo rider, photographer and author were perhaps the only possible path to his ultimate role as a savior of wild horses.  His accomplishments are extensive, often extending far beyond his personal well-being, and his gratitude is both deep and widespread.

Poltz employs country, rock and blues, collaborating with director Mitchell to fine-tune his songs to the film’s take on its subject’s character. The only track not written by Poltz is Lily Kaminsk’s “Phantom Love,” a haunting, lo-fi pop ballad performed by her band She Rose, and originally released in 2012. Poltz is a prolific artist and well-traveled troubadour, having released more than a dozen solo albums, including a disc full of answering machine recordings and a live CD/DVD package. But with all that under his belt, this is his first venture into soundtracks, and the flexibility of his style turns out to be well suited to both the needs of a film soundtrack and the strong character and fine shadings of this story’s protagonist. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Dick Schory: Re-Percussion

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

DickSchory_RePercussion

Dick Schory was a classically trained percussionist who worked for the Ludwig drum company. He recorded a highly regarded string of panoramic stereo space-age bachelor pad LPs, based on his original concepts for percussion ensembles. Though he started with a base of traditional drums, cymbals, gongs and xylophones, he also employed world percussion, repurposed everyday objects, and large orchestras. This 1957 release, originally on the Concert Disc label, is focused on percussion, along with piano, bass and guitar, and should really be heard in full CD (or analog LP) fidelity for maximum impact; though it’s unclear if Essential’s CDR-on-demand is produced from full-fidelity transfers (which themselves may or may not have been made from original master tapes) or from the parallel MP3 digital downloads. This will still be enjoyable at lower bit rates, but may not stand up to the audiophile quality amplification it deserves. [©2013 hyperbolium dot com]

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The Percussive Arts Society
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Space Age Pop

Various Artists: Surf-Age Nuggets

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Various_SurfAgeNuggetsMonster wave of obscure ‘60s surf gems

It’s no accident that this deluxe 4-CD set uses the word “Nuggets” in its title; this is an apt reference to Lenny Kaye’s landmark 1972 compilation of psychedelic and garage rock. An even better touchstone, however, is Bomp’s follow-on series of Pebbles releases, which dug deeper into the world of one-off local and indie releases. In that sense, Surf-Age Nuggets is the Pebbles (with a touch of Las Vegas Grind) to earlier anthologies of major label releases, hit singles and nationally-known acts. Producer James Austin (who previously helmed Rhino’s Cowabunga! The Surf Box), focuses here on the impossibly rare and ephemeral: obscure singles that barely managed local distribution, with just a hint of rarities from a couple of well-known names. The result is a magnificent musical essay on the scene that flourished in the wake of surf music’s brief rise to commercial popularity.

Dozens of earlier collections have explored this DIY wave, but never in the luxuriousness of this set. Not only are the discs stuffed with 104 tracks (including a sprinkle of period radio spots and a 16-minute bonus montage hidden at the end of disc four), but the collection is housed in a wide 11 x 6 hardcover with a 60-page book of liner, song and band notes, full-color photographs and reproductions of picture sleeves, posters, period ads, comics and other ephemera. Although the material was sourced primarily from early ‘60s vinyl, unlike the first-state (that is, pops-and-clicks intact) condition of many collections of vintage singles, mastering engineer Jerry Peterson worked some very special voodoo in cleaning up the digital transcriptions. The complete lack of surface noise is a bit eerie, but the results remain largely true to the powerhouse mono vibe of a vintage 45.

The selections are guitar-centric, beat-driven and up-tempo; a formula whose thousands of variations have yet to get old. This is the sound of four guys getting together in a garage, working up covers and a couple of originals, scoring a gig and getting a crack at recording. Being true to the period, what’s here isn’t all strictly surf music; there’s plenty of reverb-drenched Dick Dale-styled staccato picking, but instrumental rock was a bigger lineup into which musicians crowded from every state. California surf bands provided inspiration, but the twang of guitar slingers like Duane Eddy, Link Wray and Lonnie Mack also held sway. Most of these acts had brief careers, but this collection is more than a set of surf songs; it’s a soundtrack to an era in which surf culture captured the national attention, even among those who didn’t surf or listen to surf music. This is a document of a time when radios had only an AM band, and teen culture was on the rise. Paddle, turtle, hangout and catch this tasty wave! [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Booker T. & The M.G.s: Green Onions

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Booker T. & The M.G.s’ 1962 debut LP couldn’t possibly live up to the invention and excitement of its title single, but it doesn’t have to, as even without the catchy hooks of their hits, the band’s soul grooves cut deep. With only three originals (“Green Onions,” the cooler variation, “Mo’ Onions,” and the exquisite late-night organ blues, “Behave Yourself”), the Stax house band was left to pull together cover songs from a wide variety of sources. They give instrumental hits by Dave “Baby” Cortez (“Rinky-Dink”) and Phil Upchurch (“Can’t Sit Down”) solid shots of Memphis soul, and though Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore” could be the last slow dance of the evening in a restaurant’s cocktail lounge, Steve Cropper’s guitar still manages to add some flavor. More impressive are his chops on Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” and Jones’ soulful chords and lightning-fast single notes on “Lonely Avenue.” The original track lineup closes with a wonderful take on the jazz tune “Comin’ Home Baby,” with both Jones and Cropper shining brightly. The 2012 reissue includes a 12-page booklet featuring full-panel front- and back-cover shots, Bob Altshuler’s original liners and new notes from Rob Bowman. Also included are hot live takes of “Green Onions” and “Can’t Sit Down,” recorded in stereo in 1965 and originally released on Funky Broadway: Stax Revue Live at the 5/4 Ballroom. Though Booker T. & The M.G.s are best known for their hits (e.g., The Very Best Of) and the Stax singles they powered for others, their original albums hold many lesser-known charms that will delight ‘60s soul fans. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Bikini Machine: Let’s Party with Bikini Machine

Monday, May 28th, 2012

60s-styled fuzz-guitar soundtrack-ready instrumentals

Bikini Machine seems to have been teleported into the present from the soundtrack of a mid-60s American International Pictures film. Drawing their name (as well as a vocal drop used in their title song) from the 1965 film Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, there’s a healthy dose of Davie Allan and the Arrows in their beat-heavy instrumental go-go rock. Given that the film was originally slated to be a musical (you can hear some of the vocal tunes cut from the film in the Shindig television special The Weird Wild World of Dr. Goldfoot [1 2 3]), it’s only fitting that a band would eventually find retro inspiration here. The fuzz guitars, primitive keyboards and wordless vocals give the tunes a space-age bachelor pad dimension that suggests the great UK production library music, cinema soundtracks (including ample hints of blacksploitation soul) and instrumental knock-offs of the mid-to-late ‘60s, all driven by really snappy drumming. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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Various Artists: Cameo Parkway Holiday Hits

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Holiday odds and sods from the legendary Cameo Parkway vault

With the departure of Gordon Anderson from Collectors’ Choice, and the apparent sidelining of the label’s activities, their reissue program for the Cameo-Parkway catalog has moved with Anderson to his new label, Real Gone. This eighteen-track set of holiday-themed material combines tunes from two of the label’s stars, Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker and two of the label’s fine doo-wop groups, the Cameos and Jaynells. The track-list features a number of fun one-offs, including Bob Seger’s rock ‘n’ soul “Sock it to Me Santa,” Toni Sante’s Spanish-language girl group “Donde Esta Santa Clause?,” and a funny Bob Dylan lampoon, Bobby the Poet singing “White Christmas,” as introduced by a Bobby Kennedy impressionist. There are also two versions of “Auld Lang Syne,” one in ragtime style by Beethoven Ben (in actuality, label co-founder Bernie Lowe), and one as bluegrass by The Lonesome Travelers, featuring the legendary Norman Blake on mandolin!

Less interesting are seven cuts split between the big band instrumentals of the Rudolph Statler Orchestra and the orchestral sounds of the International Pop Orchestra. Neither unit has anything to do with the Cameo Parkway house band sound (though, to be fair, neither do the Lonesome Travelers), and the arrangements are generic. This set was previously issued by ABKCO as Holiday Hits from Cameo Parkway, and it’s reissued here with the addition of the B-side “Jingle Bell Imitations,” in which Rydell and Checker run through the styles of Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Fats Domino, Frank Fontaine and the Chipmunks. It’s a shame Cameo Parkway never gathered Checker, Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons, Tymes and others to record a proper holiday album. Still, if you factor out the instrumentals, there are many fine rarities here to add to your holiday playlist. Nicely mastered mono on 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, and stereo elsewhere. The booklet includes terrific liner notes by Gene Sculatti and discographical details. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Arthur Lyman: Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas)

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Vibraphone master gives holiday classics an exotica twist

Together with Martin Denny, vibraphonist Arthur Lyman defined the Hawaii-based instrumental style known as “exotica.” After recording the seminal Exotica album with Denny’s combo, Lyman struck out on his own, recording numerous jazz-flavored exotica albums for the Hi-Fi and Life labels, including the classic Taboo in 1958. This holiday entry was originally released in 1964, and features Lyman’s exquisite mallet work on a dozen titles. In Lyman’s hands, these classic Christmas songs take on an island languor you’re unlikely to hear in others’ versions, but it’s not all drifting and dreaming, as Lyman’s combo turns up the tempo on a few stagey romps. If you’ve tired of the crooners and rockers, Lyman’s brand of Polynesian pop-jazz will provide you a sheltered cove for the holidays. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]