Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Makaton Chat - Strange Beach

Makaton Chat were a four-piece band from Stockton, UK, who released one single (Federal State Chance, 1982) and one album (Strange Beach, 1983) on Trans Records. Band members were:

  • Anthony Lindo: lead vocal, keyboards
  • John Hodgson: keyboards, vocal
  • Paul Fowler: drums
  • Richard Holmes: bass

On Strange Beach they are joined by:

  • Sally Jones: saxophones
  • Roy Neave: guitars
  • Steve Graham: guitars
I would classify their music as "UK alternative pop," somewhere along the lines of Haircut 100. There are a few really stunning tracks on Strange Beach (Dormant Skyline, Lines, Festival), and several more good ones, ten tracks in all. Get the vinyl rip here or here. I'm not sure when Makaton Chat broke up; there are a couple live clips on YouTube from 1986:

These performances show the band as a five-piece; does anyone know who the guitarist was for that gig (Dovecot Arts Centre, 1986)?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Urbie Green - Green Power

"The superb Urb on reverb," it says on the back. The concept for this Project 3 Total Sound Stereo album from 1971 is to have master trombonist Urbie Green use some effects on his trombone. The effects are tape reverb (on "Spirit in the Dark") and the "King-Vox Ampliphonic Unit" on "Green Power," "Comin' Home Baby," and "Sidewinder." The Ampliphonic Unit "electronically duplicates each of his notes one octave lower," so the three tracks it's used on have an extra fat trombone sound. "Green Power," Green's sole original composition on the album, is also the funkiest, with tasty breakbeat drumming by... well, the drummer isn't credited, but it's probably Grady Tate, who is the only drummer credited on any of the tracks. The liner notes have a track-by-track breakdown; they are so informative (and amusing) that I've transcribed them here:

Spirit in the Dark A piano chord, a tentative statement by Urbie, and before you know it, everybody is swinging: "funk" style! Urbie wanted to come as close as possible to the feeling established by Aretha Franklin on this tune, while imparting his own interpretation to it. Notice how subtly Urbie leads the rhythm section in and out of double time feelings. The "mysterious" tape-reverb sections were conceived by Urbie, who also had a hand in its execution, along with engineer Don Hahn.

A Time for Love Don Heitler on electric piano (left) and Dick Hyman on organ (right) provide an intimate setting for Urbie's very personal and beautiful rendition of this Johnny Mandel masterpiece. Urbie's control of the instrument and his superb phrasing combine to make this an unforgettable performance. The tune fades out in a mist of delicate tones from the two keyboards.

Green Power This is Urbie's own composition, and it takes someone of Urbie's abilities to play it! Urbie uses the specially amplified trombone on this tune, which electronically duplicates each of his notes one octave lower. As usual, Urbie is "all over the horn", and his exciting performance here includes some remarkable "triple-tonguing" sections. The electric piano solo is by Dick Hyman, and the unusual musical and percussive effects emanating from your left channel are from Vinnie Bells' guitar.

Easy Come, Easy Go Dick Hyman's Lowrey organ, recorded in stereo, together with Jule Ruggiero's driving fender bass line and Grady Tate's "shuffling" drums pave the way for Urbie's commanding trombone. Solo work is shared by Urbie and Dick Hyman. As the tune closes, listen to Urbie hit a series of high "B♭'s" (almost two octaves above middle "C") and then effortlessly jump down three octaves for the final note!

Comin' Home Baby Urbie uses a larger ensemble on this tune and on "Lumps." Adding to the power here is Marion Milam on trumpet, George Opalisky on soprano sax, Jay Leonhart on fender bass, Tony Mottola and Howie Collins on guitar and Kathy Preston vocalist. After the first rocking chorus of this tune, Urbie switches to amplified trombone for an incredible display of the technique of articulation. Dick Hyman's organ solo is followed by a free for all jazz chorus. As the tune draws to a close, Urbie plays a masterful cadenza. Some additional ensemble "wailing" is climaxed by a long unison "fall-off".

Secret Love A Latin flavored rhythmic feeling (bossa-rock) is established in the introduction and forms the background for Urbie's handling of the tune. Urbie plays this tune with a mute, which gives a new sound "color" to the album. Notice the marvelous counterpoint of Russell George's repeated bass notes in the first chorus. A brief drum break by Grady Tate announces Urbie's jazz chorus. Dick Hyman is featured on the organ and his jazz work is wonderfully compatible with Urbie's.

This Is All I Ask Urbie's mellow trombone sings out the introduction of this Gordon Jenkins standard. As the first chorus begins, Dick Hyman's piano interlude tastefully embellishes Urbie's phrasing. A subtle but insistent rhythmic pulse (established by Julie Ruggiero on fender bass, Grady Tate on drums and Don Heitler on organ) carries through both choruses until Urbie's cadenza brings the tune to a close.

Sidewinder The combination of Russell George's fender bass, Grady Tate's drums and Dick Hyman's electric piano establishes the perfect feeling for this tour-de-force by Urbie. Urbie is playing the specially amplified trombone, which magnifies the power of his unique playing. Also featured in this arrangement are Dick Hyman on electric piano and Vinnie Bell, whose guitar solo is punctuated by Urbie's insistent rhythmic accompaniment.

Isn't It Odd This lilting bossa nova (in waltz time!) is the product of the creative mind of composer, Dick Hyman, whose piano playing begins the arrangement. Urbie glides his golden sound through the melody with supreme control. Also "gliding" (or is it "sliding"?) is the rhythm section as it wends its way through an ingenious structure of chords and rhythmic accents. Vinnie Bell's guitar provides the sitar-like sounds in the second chorus, as well as the "waterfall" effect of the introduction.

Lumps Dick Hyman, composer of this tune, starts off on the electric piano (right) and is answered on the left by Howie Collins' guitar. Urbie's melodic phrases are answered by the ensemble in like manner. The addition of Phil Bodner on baritone sax adds to the power. Urbie plays an incredible three and one half octave fall off at the end of the chorus. Solo work is again shared by Urbie and Dick Hyman throughout the tune which rocks its way into the fade ending.
(Yes, they did spell "fender" with a lower-case "f" throughout.) In case you didn't figure it out from the liner notes, Dick Hyman is all over this album with plenty of electric piano and organ pyrotechnics. The Project 3 label was not known for anything funky, so it's pretty surprising to hear a few of these tunes "swinging 'funk' style," as the notes say. Green's trombone prowess is amazing; he really can make the horn seem to speak, with as much expression as a singer. The "ampliphonics" may have been just a gimmick, but they're are fun to listen to for three tracks. Get the vinyl rip here or here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ronald Shannon Jackson - Mandance

Very few drummers are also bandleaders, but the bands that Ronald Shannon Jackson has put together (as The Decoding Society) are smokin', and none moreso than the lineup of 1982's Mandance:
Henry Scott, trumpet and flugelhorn (tracks 3-7)
Zane Massey, saxophones (tenor, alto, soprano)
Vernon Reid, guitars and banjo
Melvin Gibbs, electric bass
Reverend Bruce Johnson, electric bass
David Gordon, trumpet (tracks 1, 2, and 8)
Lee Rozie, saxophone (tracks 1, 2, and 8)

And of course Jackson on drums throughout. As someone who grew up listening mostly to rock music, when I ventured into jazz I naturally gravitated toward jazz with a rock edge, and this is one of the rockingest jazz albums I've ever heard. They just don't let up! The list of musicians that Jackson has collaborated with is a veritable Who's Who of free jazz and its modern variants: Ornette Coleman, James Blood Ulmer, Albert Ayler, Bill Frisell, Peter Brötzmann, Bill Laswell, and Albert Mangelsdorff, to name a few, not to mention the players on this spectacular disc. The tracks are:
01-Man Dance
05-The Art of Levitation
06-Belly Button
08-When Souls Speak
09-Alice in the Congo

Originally released on vinyl by Island's Antilles imprint, this rip is from the Japanese CD release on Polystar @192kbps; get it here or here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Blue Rondo - Bees Knees & Chickens Elbows

For their second album, Bees Knees & Chickens Elbows, Blue Rondo a la Turk dropped the "a la Turk" from their name, several band members, and everything that made their sound distinctive, i.e. the postpunk edge and the retro big-band sound. What's left sounds like countless other mildly funky British blue-eyed soul bands of the day. The original concept shines through a bit in "Masked Moods" with its smoky lounge vibe, and the rest of the songs are pleasant enough to listen to, but the spark is gone. The band had already broken up anyway by the time the album came out in 1984, so Bees Knees stands more as a last gasp than a document of an evolving band. I wish I could sound more positive about it, but I can still feel the disappointment I felt in 1984 when I got the record home and put it on the turntable. Maybe you will like it, though; get the vinyl rip here or here.

I had a request for Blue Rondo's Too Soon to Come album: that is simply a compilation of tracks from their two original albums with no new material, so if you grab the two album rips here, you've got everything that's on Too Soon to Come.

Blue Rondo a la Turk - Chewing the Fat

What if Pigbag had been led by Desi Arnaz, and he sang in English? That's what Chris Sullivan's band Blue Rondo a la Turk sounded like. With a postpunk take on Latin rhythms, a full horn section (see here for the complete band lineup), and vintage zoot-suit fashions, Blue Rondo in 1982 prefigured the swing craze that would reach full force over a decade later. (Oddly, they did not sound anything like Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk.") Sullivan was quite the dandy; see this profile of him in which he details his fashion history, and even takes credit for starting the New Romantic fashion movement. To be fair, he is also a skilful songwriter, singer, and a painter as well: he painted the album cover art. Chewing the Fat, released in 1982, is full of infectious Latin grooves and more straightforward pop fare. High points include a fantastic cover of Luther Ingram's "I Spy for the FBI" and the originals "Klacto Vee Sedstein" (a single) and "They Really Don't;" even a bit of Spandau Ballet shows through in the guitar intro to the single "The Heavens are Crying." The UK and German releases of the album differ slightly: the German version includes the 1981 single "Me and Mr Sanchez," while the UK version replaces that with its B-side, "Sarava." I have the UK version, so that's what I've presented here, but I also have the 45 so I've added "Me and Mr Sanchez" at the end. The full track list is:
01 Change
02 I Spy for the FBI
03 Coco
04 The Heavens Are Crying
05 The Method
06 They Really Don't
07 Sarava
08 Klacto Vee Sedstein
09 Carioca
10 Me and Mr Sanchez

I found a Blue Rondo TV performance clip (of "Carioca:) on YouTube: just to the left of Chris Sullivan (your left, his right) in the center ring is Christos Tolero, who as far as I can figure was the Paul Rutherford of the group, with his trademark Mephistophelean mustache and goatee:

Get the Chewing the Fat vinyl rip here or here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Recipe - Skinny-Dipping

Dave Henderson's liner notes from Recipe's 1986 album on Dead Man's Curve are informative enough to be reproduced here verbatim:
A cold night on Singles duty for Sounds magazine and nothing is shaking -- not even the leaves on the trees. Recipe's debut opus, 'Upriver', slips neatly from its nice cheerful sleeve. It breaks the ice. It moves mountains. It doesn't give me a headache. And, how? How? How come it isn't on the radio at any God-given moment (and every God-given moment).

Further investigation reveals that Recipe had a previous 45 called 'Waterglide'. It's similarly impressive. Douglas Benford (a Recipe) tells me all about it. His cohort, Kevin, is part of Always (they are great, too). Both are on Inertial (an Uxbridge label).

Always sign to El. Nothing happens. Recipe sign to Survival, a single and video are released ... still superb. Nothing happens. Time goes on (as it does) and eventually Always do release something on El, but Recipe are homeless.

Enclosed on this magnificent piece of plastic are the life and times of Recipe. Herein you can study those first recordings, get to grips with their Survival smash. Hear the track that they contributed to Food's 'Imminent 2' and get a lot of other wonderful tracks thrown in for good measure.

If you don't buy this, don't come running to me when your deadliest rival tells you that it's the hippest thing this side of life. Hey, we told you so, everyone doesn't have to be deaf.

Listen in good health.

The Survival single is "Outboard", and the Imminent 2 track is the lovely "Home's Over." The LP contains ten songs plus eight excerpts of other songs interspersed throughout. I have ripped those to separate tracks, as on the LP, and have preserved the playing order. (So it only makes sense to listen to the whole album start to finish!) I would love to see a CD reissue that includes the excerpted songs in their entirety, but I won't hold my breath. Recipe's sound is not far from Furniture, which is not surprising given both bands' origins on the great Survival Records label. So if you like Furniture, give Recipe a whirl; get the vinly rip here or here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Living In Texas - Cowboy Dream

1987 saw Living In Texas switching to the Big Beat label to release their Cowboy Dream mini-LP, which continued the blunting of their former hard-edged sound, despite the addition of a second guitarist, Jeffrey Wallace. The disc opens with "The Yellow Rose of Texas," in which the band takes their name literally for a bit of western-style doo-wop (!). The earlier fire breaks through in parts of the second track, "The Civilised World," and again on side 2 in their cover of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life." "Cowboy Dream," presented in two versions, flirts with a reggae beat, and "Julia's Child" revisits the slow-burn goth style of some of their earlier songs. And that's it, there are just six tracks on this record. It's not bad by any means, but it's a far cry from the boisterous glory of Glad, Bad, Sad & Mad. Get Cowboy Dream here or here. (Cover art is again by guitarist Daniel Glee; I don't usually include the back cover but I did this time because Glee's work there is the mostly lively part of the record.)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Various Artists - Four from the Madding Crowd

Here is a compilation on Gary Levermore's Third Mind label from 1986, Four from the Madding Crowd, the "four" referring to the four bands contained on the album: Royal Family and the Poor, Bushido (Levermore's band), Intimate Obsessions, and Ohama Meets Dania. The first Royal Family & the Poor track is an extended version of the title track from their second Factory album (and is the best orchestrated of all their songs), and "Dog Star" was originally available only on this album; both songs were included on the CD reissue of We Love the Moon. Of the Bushido songs, "Time" and the instrumental "Chance Meeting" are exclusive to this album, as are all three instrumental tracks by Intimate Obsessions. Ohama Meets Dania is the Calgary (Canada)-based duo of synth man Tona Ohama and singer Dania George; their two long synthpop tracks were included on their 1986 album Love Only Lasts a While. The full track list is:
01 Royal Family & the Poor - We Love The Moon
02 Royal Family & the Poor - Dog Star
03 Bushido - Recalled To Life
04 Bushido - Chance Meeting
05 Bushido - Time
06 Intimate Obsessions - Mishima
07 Intimate Obsessions - Baruch
08 Intimate Obsessions - Confessions of a Mask
09 Ohama Meets Dania - Lonely Hearts Dance
10 Ohama Meets Dania - Take Me Dancing

Get the vinyl rip here or here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Various Artists - Imminent 2

In 1985 and 1986 the Food Ltd. label released four compilation albums entitled Imminent 1-4. Each one was a superb sampling of UK indie acts of the day, cutting across all styles and genres of rock music. A rip of the first one, featuring exclusive tracks by Eric Random and Brilliant, among others, is available at the excellent but seemingly abandoned blog Dirk Wears White Sox. A rip of the second volume is available right here. On Imminent 2 we get skronk from Biting Tongues and Gasrattle, a shimmering synthpop ballad from Recipe, an early demo from 400 Blows, Karl Blake riffing on Bad Company (!) with the Shock Headed Peters, an extended soundscape from UV Pop, some hard Sheffield throb from Hula, grebo from Zodiac Mindwarp, and more noisy rock from the rest of the bunch. Some tracks are unavailable elsewhere, I think, though I'm not going to research each song. Here's the full list:
01 Kill Ugly Pop - Church of Bloody Deception
02 Biting Tongues - The Boss Toyota Trouble
03 UV Pop - Zuitar
04 Gasrattle - Beach Party
05 Recipe - Home's Over
06 Living In Texas - Hate Me More II
07 Shock Headed Peters - Head Thorax Abdomen
08 400 Blows - Strangeways
09 Sting-Rays - Never Had It So Good
10 Hula - Bad Blood
11 Deep Freeze Mice - Here Comes the Sun Explosion
12 Zodiac Mindwarp - Drug Shoes
Get the vinyl rip here or here. The LP came with a poster, too:

Onyx - four-song cassette, 1982

One of the great lost bands of the new wave era is Boston-area Onyx, unmentioned in any online music guide, unrepresented in the online music marketplace but for a single 7" 45 of "Call of the Wild" b/w "S.O.S." on GEMM (as of this writing). Between 1981 and 1983 they released just two singles and a four-song cassette that included two songs from the single releases, all on their own Nu-Age label. They sound like a three-piece: acoustic drums (sometimes phase-shifted), a heavy electric bass that serves as the lead instrument, and keyboards that create a spacey atmosphere; the overall effect is of a more beat-heavy Krautrock. The female vocalist does not sing, but whispers or recites a narrative over the driving instrumental backing. "S.O.S." is particularly infectious:

Presented here is a rip of the cassette, the full track listing being:

  1. S.O.S.

  2. Robot World

  3. Jet Set

  4. Planet X

Total playing time is about 23 minutes. I don't have the actual cassette handy, so the picture above is just a reconstruction; there was no cover art. Update 9/3/08: I found the tape! The actual cassette is now pictured above.

Update 3/7/09: The two Onyx 45's are now posted here.

Update 1/6/11: see comments for new links.