Posts Tagged ‘Spoken Word’

Timothy Leary: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

Rare 1967 acid-trip guide with an east-west musical soundtrack

It’s hard to imagine a more fitting album for an acid guru than a soundtrack to a film that no one’s seen, and that some speculate was never shown. A like-named film reportedly documented the first LSD trip of psychologist, and Leary’s fellow Harvard psychedelic researcher Ralph Metzner; but on record, Leary’s acid-journey guidance is accompanied by a blend of eastern and western instrumentation that includes guitar, tablas, the sitar-like veena, voices, chanting, sound effects and studio manipulations. Originally released in 1967 by the Mercury label, the album’s essence was further fuzzed by a 1966 release with the same title, but different content.

The earlier album’s spoken word ruminations on drugs, philosophy and religion are put into practice here, as Leary guides Metzner to let go of his consciousness limiting baggage – “the chess game of [his] life” – so as to fully embrace the mind expansion that lay ahead. Leary leads Metzner to focus on the metaphysical as the backing sounds flow in nameless and timeless patterns, and he bids Metzner to “float beyond fear.” Leary’s acid guru recitations are buoyed by the backing music and sounds, and Leary’s fourth wife, Rosemary Woodruff, echoes Leary and provides additional guidance.

The profundity of Leary and Woodruff’s acid insights likely depend on the level of your intoxication, but whether you now find them serious or silly, they prove to an interesting artifacts. The backing tracks are mostly placed behind narration, but the music is interesting, with “Freak Out,” “Re-Entry”and “Epilogue” suggesting the trip the instrumentalists might have taken on their own. Primarily a period piece, there is something truly entrancing about this album. It’s not something you’ll put on your iPod for the gym, but you might pull it down form the shelf to freak out your friends or enjoy a simulated trip. Real Gone’s 2019 limited edition reissue was dropped on “kaleidoscopic” multicolor vinyl for extra psychedelic effect. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

 

Various Artists: Afterschool Special – The 123s of Kid Soul

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

various_afterschoolspecialthe123sofkidsoulInfectious collection of 1970s kid soul

In the same way that “A Hard Day’s Night” launched a thousand rock bands, the Jackson Five launched a wave of family and kid bands that rolled on for decades. A few – including the Osmonds, DeFrancos and New Edition – found fame, but many more issued obscure records that have become crate diggers’ rarest finds. The archival Numero Group label has pulled together a collection of this delicious bubblegum soul, packed tightly around the seminal kid soul year of 1973. The track list reaches back to 1970 for the Folkways-released “James Brown” (CD/LP only) and the topical “I’m Free, No Dope For Me,” hits its choreographed stride with Magical Connection’s 1972 “Girl Why Do You Want to Take My Heart,” and is fully consumed by 1973.

Jimi HillIronically, just as the Jackson Five’s chart results were fading, their influence was blooming in charming, adolescent lead vocals and propulsive soul backings on obscure indie labels. Among the jewels are the Scott Three’s “Runnin’ Wild (Ain’t Gonna Help You)” and Next Movement’s “Every Where You Go,” but you can also hear the Jacksons’ impact in Jimi Hill’s Memphis-tinged “Guessing Games” and Leonard (Lil’ Man) Kaigler’s frantic “You Got Me Believing.” The sounds of the Dells and Dramatics and some harder funk backings are also here, but the kid vocals always bring your ears back to Michael Jackson in his early prime. By the mid-70s you can hear the beat of disco in “I Love You Still” and jazz-funk in “Love Got a Piece of Your Mind,” but it’s still sweet as candy.

Greer BrothersThere are a few actual hitmakers here. Chicago’s Brighter Side of Darkness reached the Top 20 with “Love Jones,” appeared on Soul Train and released a full album on the 20th Century Fox label (coincidentally, also the home of the DeFranco Family). But their follow-up indie single “Because I Love You” failed to click and the group quickly faded. The Next Movement never hit the top of the charts, but after a scattering of singles in the ‘70s and ‘80s they landed in Las Vegas where they continue to perform to this day. Numero Group has put together a brilliant collection (including a terrifically potent cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and the original protest song “We Don’t Dig No Busing”) and magnified it with detailed liner notes, rare photos and label reproductions. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Jack Kerouac with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims: Blues and Haikus

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Period performances of Jack Kerouac with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims

Although Jack Kerouac was the “voice of his (beat) generation,” it was his his writing – rather than his speaking – voice that’s well-known. His three albums of spoken word poetry and prose, two from 1959 and one from 1960, received little circulation or critical notice upon their initial issue, and have only been spottily reissued ever since. Rhino’s 1990 box set The Jack Kerouac Collection included all three albums, as does the recent The Complete Collection, and individual album reissues have been available as imports. Rock Beat now adds domestic reissues of Kerouac’s first two albums (originally released on the indie Hanover-Signature label), Poetry for the Beat Generation and Blues and Haikus.

Where Poetry for the Beat Generation was an impromptu session with Steve Allen tinkling piano melodies behind Kerouac’s recitations, Blues and Haikus is more of a conversation between Kerouac and his accompanists, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. Rather than reciting across background music, Kerouac trades riffs with Cohn and Sims, each responding to the tone, rhythm and content of the other. Even Cohn’s piano sounds more responsive to Kerouac than did Allen’s improvised backings. Kerouac sounds more comfortable in this environment; as Gilbert Millstein’s original liner note suggest, this second effort is less tentative and more authoritative than Kerouac’s previous recorded outing. Kerouac even feels free enough to warble part of “Hard Hearted Old Farmer,” and his expressiveness transcends his limitations as a singer.

This is more polished effort than was Poetry for the Beat Generation, and in that sense, it’s also more performed than simply exhaled. Each is worth hearing, particularly if you’re a fan of Kerouac’s writing, but this one is the more musical experience, and one that you’re more likely to return to. Like its predecessor, this album drew little attention or sales upon its original release, and became a collector’s item over the years. But with Kerouac’s legacy having only grown over the decades, it’s available once again to fans. RockBeat’s reissue augments the album’s original four tracks with two lengthy bonuses from the original sessions, and includes the original liner notes by New York Times reviewer (and early Kerouac proponent) Gilbert Millstein. If you’ve enjoyed reading Kerouac’s writing, you’ll be further enlightened by the voice and rhythm he gives to these readings. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen: Poetry for the Beat Generation

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Period performances of Jack Kerouac reciting poems to the piano of Steve Allen

Although Jack Kerouac was the “voice of his (beat) generation,” it was his writing – rather than his speaking – voice that became well-known. His three albums of spoken word poetry and prose, two from 1959 and one from 1960, received little circulation or critical notice upon their initial issue, and have only been spottily reissued ever since. Rhino’s 1990 box set The Jack Kerouac Collection included all three albums, as does the recent The Complete Collection, and individual album reissues have been available off and on as imports. Rock Beat now adds domestic reissues of Kerouac’s first two albums (originally released on the indie Hanover-Signature label), Poetry for the Beat Generation and Blues and Haikus.

Poetry for the Beat Generation teams Kerouac with jazz pianist (and television personality) Steve Allen for fourteen poems, several of which were unpublished at the time. The album was inspired by an impromptu pairing of Kerouac and Allen atNew York’s Village Vanguard, and the subsequent single-take studio session lasted only an hour. Allen’s improvised backings are lyrical and nearly sentimental in their melodiousness, more background late-night tinkling than challenging bop. Kerouac’s recitations roam more freely, powered by the strength of his rhythmically riffed words. His poems are percussive stories that break through any regulation of punctuation, paragraph or stanza, and his New England-accented voice is animated and rye.

Originally recorded for Dot, the album was dropped by label-head Randy Wood, reportedly due to concerns about the edginess of the content. But having your counter-culture expression suppressed in the 1950s wasn’t exactly news, and the album quickly found distribution through an independent label. Yet even with Kerouac’s literary fame in full flower (he’d published On the Road in 1957 and The Subterraneans and The Dharma Bums in 1958), his debut album was little known, and for many years, a rarity. RockBeat’s reissue includes the album’s original fourteen tracks and liner notes by New York Times reviewer (and early Kerouac proponent) Gilbert Millstein. If you’ve enjoyed reading Kerouac’s writing, you’ll be further enlightened by the voice and rhythm he gives to these readings. [©2012 Hyperbolium]