Posts Tagged ‘Instrumentals’

Various Artists: Blue Moon of Kentucky – Instrumental Tribute to Bill Monroe

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Instrumental tribute to the Father of Bluegrass

Mike Scott leads an all-star line-up, including Adam Steffey, Bryan Sutton, Rob Ickes, Aubrey Haynie, Mike Compton, Tim Stafford and Ben Isaacs, on this instrumental tribute to the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. Twelve of these tracks were previously released as a gift shop item on the Maple Street label, but with six additional performances and broader distribution from Rural Rhythm, this release welcomes the 100th anniversary year of Monroe’s birth. Shorn of bluegrass vocal harmonies, the instrumentalists have plenty of room to solo, and they do so with great finesse. There’s some requisite hot picking, but more interesting are the ballads and mid-tempo numbers on which the melodic beauty and subtle instrumental tones aren’t overwhelmed by frenetic tempos. The lazy fiddle that introduces “Blue Moon of Kentucky” gives way to some fine mid-tempo playing, “Kentucky Waltz” is as relaxed and warm as an outdoor summer’s dance, and Scott, Ickes and Haynie trade wonderfully slow, lost-in-thought solos on “Precious Memories.” This is a sweet tribute to the musical roots of bluegrass and a fitting marker for Bill Monroe’s hundredth birthday anniversary. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Barney Kessel: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Kessel reinterprets Mancini’s film soundtrack

Those seeking Barney Kessel’s legendary jazz stylings should look elsewhere. As a guitarist in the ‘50s, Kessel was renowned for his cool, bop-inspired playing in small quartets on sessions with the Contemporary label. But in the early ‘60s he signed with Reprise and embarked on a series of pop records. This was hardly new territory for Kessel, as he’d been backing pop musicians for years, and was a first-call guitarist for pop titans like Phil Spector; but as a front-man, this was a break from the jazz sessions he’d previously led. On his debut for Reprise, Kessel reinterpreted Henry Mancini’s soundtrack for Breakfast at Tiffany’s with a septet that included the superb playing of Paul Horn on saxophone and flute. This is a fair distance from the harder jazz Kessel had been recording, but not nearly as out-and-out pop as his next album, Bossa Nova. Here he leans on the jazz roots of Mancini’s compositions and swings some original solos on “The Big Blow Out” and “Loose Caboose.” Surprisingly, the soundtrack’s centerpiece, “Moon River,” is rendered pedestrian here, as if Kessel couldn’t find anything new to say with it. This album is likely to disappoint those seeking hard-bop, in line with the guitarist’s earlier works, but if you seek a variation on the original soundtrack, this is worth hearing. This album is also available on CD as a 3-fer with Bossa Nova and Contemporary Latin Rhythms. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Barney Kessel: Bossa Nova

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Swinging easy with a twangy guitar and a Latin beat

Those seeking Barney Kessel’s legendary jazz stylings should look elsewhere. As a guitarist in the ‘50s, Kessel was renowned for his cool, bop-inspired playing in small quartets on sessions with the Contemporary label. But in the early ‘60s he signed with Reprise and embarked on a series of pop records. This was hardly new territory for Kessel, as he’d been backing pop musicians for years, and was a first-call guitarist for pop titans like Phil Spector; but as a front-man, this was a break from the jazz sessions he’d previously led. This bossa nova inspired entry from 1962 finds Kessel mostly taking a back seat to sharp, lounge-inspired band orchestrations. His guitar playing here is twangy pop, with no jazz inflections or blue notes, and the repertoire of standards is given Brazilian beats. The horn charts are tight, and when Kessel does pick, he sounds great – but this isn’t a jazz album, or even a guitar album; it’s a pop instrumental album in league with contemporaneous works by Neal Hefti, Billy Strange, Lalo Schifrin, John Barry and others. This is a sizzling, swinging treat if you approach it on its merits, rather than as a lesser entry in Barney Kessel’s catalog of guitar recordings. This is also available on CD as a 3-fer with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Contemporary Latin Rhythms. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Lonnie Mack: For Collector’s Only

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

A ferocious rock ‘n’ soul ‘n’ blues guitar classic from 1963

This reissue of The Wham of That Memphis Man is the way that many listeners first met the savagely powerful guitar playing of Lonnie Mack. Originally released in 1963 on the Fraternity label, the album was re-sequenced and reissued with two extra tracks by Elektra in 1970. It’s since been reissue on CD, both in this stereo lineup, and in the original mono. The latter is more brutally powerful for its center-channel punch, but either configuration will astound you with Mack’s breathtaking, reverb-powered, tremelo-bar bent guitar playing. The album opens with Mack’s original “Wham!,” quickly gaining momentum until the song becomes an unstoppable locomotive. Mack picks wildly as the bass and drums stoke the beat and the rest of the band hangs on for dear life. Mack’s take on Dale Hawkins’ “Susie-Q” is just as deft, as he alternates between rhythm and lead, masterfully picking long twangy phrases that circle back to the root riff.

Mack’s first solo recording for Fraternity, an improvised cover of “Memphis,” is perhaps his most impressive, as he double-picks and ranges up and down the length of the fret board. No doubt Chuck Berry must have been impressed; Duane Allman, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others certainly were, as they taught themselves from these performances. Beyond Mack’s virtuosity as a guitarist, he was also a soulful vocalist who drew on the blues for Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What’s Wrong,” on gospel for the testimony of “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way,” and on both for the pained “Why.” For Collector’s Only adds two mono bonuses to the original Wham’s eleven tracks, the blues classic “Farther On Up the Road” and the flaming, original instrumental “Chicken Pickin’.”  Mono or stereo, original line-up or expanded, this is a true classic from 1963. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Jack Nitzsche: The Lonely Surfer

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Solo debut of legendary pop arranger

Producer, arranger, soundtrack composer and songwriter Jack Nitzsche had only brief chart fame under his own name, with the title track of this album having reached #39 on the singles chart in 1963. But it was under the names of the Crystals, Ronettes, Ike & Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones and dozens of others that his memorable arrangements, orchestrations, and in the case of the Seachers’ “Needles and Pins,” songs, had their most significant impact on the pop market. For his full album follow-up to the fluke hit single, Nitzsche penned a handful of original tunes and charted new orchestrations for pop standards and movie themes, including a swinging run at Elmer Bernstein’s theme from “The Magnificent Seven” and a dramatic rendering of “More,” the theme from Mondo Cane. He borrows his own hook from “Needles and Pins” for the Mexicali-tinged “Puerto Vallarta,” and the string line of “Theme for a Broken Heart” seems to be drawn from Jagger & Richards’ “Blue Turns to Grey.” There’s plenty of low twanging baritone guitar and tympani throughout, demonstrating Nitzsche’s mastery of weaving together pop and orchestral elements. Apart from the title track, a cover of Lee Hazlewood’s “Baja” (which was a contemporaneous hit for the Astronauts), and the bass-twanging “Beyond the Surf,” there’s nothing here that really even feints towards surf music. The album closes with a morose arrangement of “Da Doo Ron Ron” so deeply at odds with the joy of the Crystals’ hit single as to be virtually unrecognizable. This is a pleasant album of orchestral pop, but other than the title track, not nearly as memorable as Nitzsche’s arrangements for Spector and others. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Jack Nitzsche Tribute Page

The Avalanches: Ski Surfin’

Monday, January 17th, 2011

1960s L.A. studio players cut some rockin’ instrumentals

The Avalanches were a one-off studio group formed around Los Angeles studio players Billy Strange and Tommy Tedesco on guitar, future Bread main-man David Gates on bass, and legendary Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine. The original instrumentals offered here (in addition to the themed covers, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Winter Wonderland”) are the sort of studio rockers that populated dozens of mid-60s albums and exploitation film soundtracks. Strange and Tedesco blaze away in their respective twangy and fuzz-soaked styles, and the rhythm section burns down the slopes. There’s little here that’s really surf music, aside from a few moments of half-hearted staccato picking; the occasional jabs of pedal steel suggest Alvino Rey and the electric piano leans to the soul rave-ups of Ray Charles. But mostly this sounds like incidental music from a low-budget AIP teen-film. And that’s a complement. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Les Baxter: Space Escapade

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Lush string scores from Les Baxter

This is indeed the sound of an escapade in space, if it were to be accompanied by sprightly melodies and lush, string-heavy arrangements whose vibrations somehow transcended the vacuum of outer space. Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, arranger/conductor Les Baxter lent his touch to all manner of musical trends, including exotica, jazz, folk, show tunes and film soundtracks. This 1958 entry plays up the theme of outer space with its cover art and song titles, but musically it’s akin to Baxter’s intricate orchestral music rather than the space age pop of Esquivel or the piano early experimentation of Ferrante & Teicher. The percussion and the pizzicato of “The Commuter” sound more like a busy day in New York than a Mars fly by, and “Saturday Night on Saturn” suggests the oppressive, syncopated work of Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” rather than the idle living of a modern society. Like many of Baxter’s albums, this is perched on the edge of kitsch; but also like many of Baxter’s albums, the listener’s ears are rewarded by the quality of the maestro’s orchestrations. Those who picked up El’s 2009 mono CD will be happy to learn that this MP3 collection is in full-spectrum, space-age stereo. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Tristeza: Paisajes

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Lush, thoughtful, enveloping post-punk instrumentals

Less than a year after their release of Fate Unfolds, Tristeza returns with a new full-length album of enveloping post-punk prog-rock instrumentals. Their press release name checks Spacemen 3, Felt and Talk Talk, but the strains of Televsion, Can, Stereolab and Tuxedomoon are also strong. The opening “Raise Your Gaze” threatens to transition from space into a blinding cacophony, but pulls back as the tune burns off the last of its fuel. James Lehner and Luis Hermosillo (drums and bass, respectively) provide the impulse drive, with the guitars adding a psychedelic overlay. The group adds syncopation and a Latin rhythm to “A Traves de los Ojos de Nuestras Hijas” (a title that alludes to the group’s collection of five daughters), but its funky bass line keeps things quite modern. The repetitive figures suggest post-punk instrumentalists like Pell Mell, but the intricacy of the playing reaches to jazz and prog-rock – but freed of the bombast that often sunk the latter. This is lush, melodic, rhythmic, thoughtful and enveloping. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Raise Your Gaze
Tristeza’s Home Page

Teenage Fanclub meets Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011


Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and Euros Childs (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) are pleased to announce details of their debut album together as Jonny. Inter-twining the musical DNA of two of Britain’s most gifted songwriters, Jonny’s debut album proclaims the advent of an irresistibly infectious new strain of psychedelic pop. The self-titled, co-written album will be released via digital download on February 1st and in stores on April 12.

Blake’s Teenage Fanclub and Childs’ Gorky’s toured together in 1997, and when Blake contributed guitar and vocal harmonies to Gorky’s bitter-sweet How I Long To Feel That Summer In My Heart in 2001, Euros remembers “it just felt like he was part of the band… from that point on it always felt like we might do something together in the future, it just took a few years to actually get it organized”. Euros eventually made it up to Norman’s house in Glasgow in 2006 to record “what we thought was an EP”, and the duo played a handful of rapturously received live shows, before finally getting down to putting a whole album together early in 2010.

The album artwork (image above) is also revealed to be the inspiration behind their unusual name. Blake came across the image on a friend’s website “and thought it would make a great record sleeve… and name for a band.” “Sleeve first, band-name after”, confirms Childs, “that’s always the best way.”

To kick things off, Jonny are giving away a free, four-track download EP of non-album songs.

MP3 | Gloria
MP3 | Beach Party
MP3 | Continental
MP3 | Michaelangelo

Liberace: A Brand New Me

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Liberace tackles pop hits of the late ‘60s

Despite the graphics of the album’s cover, Liberace’s 1969 album of  then-contemporary covers remains truer to his theatrical piano style than the flower-power of his material. While these orchestrated tracks may not have garnered a younger audience, it was a canny idea to forage for new material among modern songs. Many of the tunes, such as B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park,” and the Classics IV’s “Traces” were already crossover hits, and thus familiar to older listeners; hipper selections, such as CS&N’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” provided an interesting challenge for Liberace, and the suite form fit his classical background. The arrangements mix classical orchestration with soulful strings and fuzz-rock backings, often overshadowing Liberace’s piano. Still, his trademark cascades can be heard paying out Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” and things almost get crazy on the title track. When Liberace does step to the fore, such as on the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere” and “Something,” his style is terrifically florid. A larger dose of piano would have elevated this further above the era’s generic easy listening collections, but even in limited quantities, Liberace’s playing adds his unique signature. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]