Thursday, March 21, 2019

Led Zeppelin - 1975 - Deus Ex Machina

Led Zeppelin
1975-03-17 and 1975-03-21
Seattle, WA
Seattle Center Coliseum



Deus Ex Machina (14 CD version)
EVSD 993-1006
July 2017 release


1975-03-17 Soundboard Master
EVSD 993-995


0101 Rock And Roll
0102 Sick Again
0103 Over The Hills And Far Away
0104 In My Time Of Dying
0105 The Song Remains The Same
0106 The Rain Song
0107 Kashmir
0201 No Quarter
0202 Trampled Underfoot
0203 Moby Dick
0301 Dazed And Confused
0302 Stairway To Heaven
0303 Whole Lotta Love
0304 Black Dog


1975-03-17 Audience Master
EVSD 996-998


0401 Rock And Roll
0402 Sick Again
0403 Over The Hills And Far Away
0404 In My Time Of Dying
0405 The Song Remains The Same
0406 The Rain Song
0407 Kashmir
0501 No Quarter
0502 Trampled Underfoot
0503 Moby Dick
0601 Dazed And Confused
0602 Stairway To Heaven
0603 Whole Lotta Love
0604 Black Dog


1975-03-21 Soundboard Master
EVSD 999-1002


0701 Rock And Roll
0702 Sick Again
0703 Over The Hills And Far Away
0704 In My Time Of Dying
0705 The Song Remains The Same
0706 The Rain Song
0707 Kashmir
0801 No Quarter
0802 Since I've Been Loving You
0803 Trampled Underfoot
0901 Moby Dick
0902 Dazed And Confused
1001 Stairway To Heaven
1002 Whole Lotta Love
1003 Black Dog
1004 Communication Breakdown
1005 Heartbreaker


1975-03-21 Audience Master
EVSD 1003-1006


1101 Introduction
1102 Rock And Roll
1103 Sick Again
1104 Over The Hills And Far Away
1105 In My Time Of Dying
1106 The Song Remains The Same
1107 The Rain Song
1108 Kashmir
1201 No Quarter
1202 Since I've Been Loving You
1203 Trampled Underfoot
1301 Moby Dick
1302 Dazed And Confused
1401 Stairway To Heaven
1402 Whole Lotta Love
1403 Black Dog
1404 Communication Breakdown
1405 Heartbreaker


Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, WA – March 17th, 1975

There have been many releases of this show in the past sourced from two audience tapes, but Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before? was the debut of the complete professional recording.  Unlike the Nassau Coliseum and Baton Rouge soundboards, Seattle is very clean and enjoyable sounding.  John Paul Jones’ bass is a bit high in the mix, but overall it is closer in timbre to the Dallas recordings.    

The first night is very good and is sometimes neglected in comparison to the more well known second Seattle show on March 21st.  Plant’s voice, which had been quite weak at the beginning of the tour is very strong and he’s able to unleash some impressive vocal dynamics.

A rather negative review was published in the newspapers.  “Squeeze all the air out of a three-hour Led Zeppelin concert at the Coliseum and you might have an hour of music and visual effects worth your attention.  Nevertheless, a sellout crowd that broke four plate-glass doors and brought a two-feet-deep stack of counterfeit tickets gust to get into the place, sat spellbound, despite the fact that ushers and police relieved them of the equivalent of a green garbage dumpster full of booze.  Led Zeppelin’s appeal might be explained by the fact that they’re known in the trade as a ‘street band,’ meaning that their following precedes critical attention by about two years.”

Although calling Zeppelin a “street band” is a bit condescending, the author does correctly point out that the band were ahead of the critics in the seventies.  The appeal is best summed up by Donna Gaines when she writes in Teenage Wasteland that Zeppelin brought grace to bleak suburban landscapes.  A trip to the record store to buy a Zeppelin LP was a trip to Camelot by restoring dignity to an otherwise humiliating life.  

The setlist in 1975 was all about journey, movement and travel, dramatically carrying along the listener.  Robert Plant himself emphasizes this ethic repeatedly on this (and other tours). Opening with the fanfare “Rock And Roll” segueing into “Sick Again,” a short commentary upon their previous tour, Plant sets the stage, joking with the audience how they’re happy to be back in Seattle “a town of great fishermen, including our drummer,” and that they  will offer “a cross section” of their catalogue. 

“Over The Hills And Far Away,” which “sums up the looking ahead and wondering,” follows.  Instead of being a travelogue, it sets an anticipatory mood for things to come.  The melody came out of various “White Summer” improvisations in 1970 and the solo lifted (more or less) from “Immigrant Song,” two other tunes with strong connotations of movement and change.

The newspaper article called “Kashmir” a “spooky tune” which has some distortion in this recording.  But the epics come off very well.  John Paul Jones’ piano solo in “No Quarter” sound meandering in the audience recording, but sounds much better on the soundboard.  Page’s dramatic crescendo is one of the high points of the night.

Plant begins to babble before “Trample Underfoot,” rambling on about the meaning of the song and offering soccer scores, telling Seattle “Wolverhampton Wanderers seven, Chelsea One. Trampled Underfoot.”

Before “Dazed And Confused,” while Plant is giving his long introduction, someone throws something on stage.  He reacts by singing the first line of Max Bygraves 1954 novelty tune “You’re A Pink Toothbrush.”  (Could we assume a toothbrush was thrown onstage?)  The song (sort of) gives this release a title.

“Dazed And Confused” reaches thirty-five minutes and includes the “Woodstock” snippet.  By this time in the tour the song began to take life past the previous tour’s improvisation to be a much more deliberate, slow, and drawn out affair.  Some may call it self-indulgence, but Page is taking his time to explore ideas more fully.  

“Stairway To Heaven” closes the show and the encores include “Whole Lotta Love,” with a long “Licking Stick” interlude, segueing into “Black Dog.” 


Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, Washington – Friday March 21, 1975

Well it’s finally here, Empress Valley’s “Soundboard Revolution” delivers the incredible second night in Seattle on Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American tour in amazing soundboard quality. After months of anticipation and more than a few delays we can finally put the concert on our players and listen to what for many, including myself, thought they would never hear. For me the second night in Seattle is a must have recording, it is a cornerstone to ones collection and just as important as the Fillmore West April 1969, Blueberry Hill September 1970, Vienna March 1973, or the LA Forum June 21 and 23, 1977 recordings, it’s just that damn good. We all know the story, the rocky start to the 1975 tour found the band not in the best of shape, but there were always inspired moments in even the most average of shows. The more they played the better they got, so much that by the time the band hit the West Coast they were starting to fire on all cylinders. The concerts were very long, incredible heavy and full of self indulgent posturing from the entire band, for me this is what I love about the tour.

In typical EV fashion, the concert was released in three formats, I chose the one that made most financial sense, The Standard Edition features both soundboard and audience recordings of the gig on 8 CDs packed in a box similar to the recent History Lesson DVD package, the set also includes a 24 page booklet filled with live shots, certainly a package worthy of historic concert. Like many, I have several versions of this concert on CD, EV’s Dinosaur In Motion and Tarantura’s Blow Jobs are both housed on my shelves and this concert does make its way into my player at least a couple times each year. Enough rambling, let’s dig in and get this thing playing…


... First off, push play and turn this sucker up. This is strictly a soundboard recording, it is virtually complete, only thing missing is the introduction and someone found that there is a cut at 12:50 in Moby Dick where 12 seconds is lost, other than that it’s all here. The sound is perfectly balanced, many of the 75 boards have over powering bass frequencies, not this one, in my opinion this is the best sounding 75 board since Flying Circus. My only real complaint of the sound is that the cymbals are a bit strong during the first couple songs. Soundboard recordings can be good and bad, you get clear and detailed sound but without the ambience of the audience and hall reverberation, it tends to show more warts, this is certainly true here. Typical with EV is the way they overlap segues into the next disc, they do so on this title, it doesn’t bother me but I do not usually put this on any devices where it would play continually.

Rock and Roll is very powerful, Page is fluent from the start, no BS you feel the band is on from the moment he breaks into the riff, even Plant sounds good and that’s saying a lot as his vocals took a song or two to get warmed up. For 1975, this is as good as it gets! The transition into Sick Again is fluent, no hiccups and the band nail the song as well.

Over The Hills And Far Away gets a nice ovation, even through the crowd is low in the mix you sense that they are very lively, in fact this gives a quite different perspective from the audience source where you have the distance. Great version of Over The Hills, John Paul Jones’ bass provides a nice fat backbone, his timing is perfect with Bonham’s drumming, they are one as well. Page’s solo, while not the best from the tour, is very good. There are a couple times you expect him to get caught up in the strings, yet he keeps going and going. Only thing I am left wondering is who Samantha was.

In My Time Of Dying is one of the best of the American tour, to listen to the detailed sounds of Page’s slide wanderings with Jones’ intricate bass playing and Bonham’s punctuating drumming and many times he is pushing Page to quicken the pace, just really superb playing from the band.

The Song Remains The Same and The Rain Song, the former is a really strong version crackling with energy and the band hammer down, great Page solo. Rain Song is good, but I find the heavy “I felt the coldness of my winter” section to be under whelming, Page seems to be having trouble and leaves it flat.

Kashmir, great version, I prefer the 75 versions with Page playing the Les Paul that provides a thicker sound, he also plucks a bit of White Summer as Plant is chatting away, a prelude towards the future!

No Quarter, John Paul Jones is the star on this song, his fills on the piano are very impressive to hear, he is in a jazzy mood and if I closed my eyes at times it sounds like I was hearing some free form jazz improvisation by the Grateful Dead, just listen to what the band is doing starting at the 18:30 mark, it’s out there!  Page is playing well and his solo is fluent but he never gets into the killer zone and seems content to let Jones’ star shine. Certainly one of the more unique versions.

Since I’ve Been Loving You, second of three versions from 75 is really good with Plant’s somewhat rough vocalization lending to the “blues” atmosphere created by the band. The song is part of their DNA, while not as intense as let’s say 1971 or as blistering as the 73 versions, the song retains a powerful musical force.

Trampled Underfoot, are there bad versions from 75? Me thinks not. This is one song that smokes every night, the instrumental passages are the best. Page, Jones, and Bonham lock and deliver some of the best fast paced boogie you’ll ever hear.

Moby Dick, John Henry Bonham has never sounded better, the drums are crystal clear in this recording and he feels like he is right in front of you, John played well during 1975 and this is a testament to his prowess, 26 minutes of pure unadulterated Bonzo! As for the cut, if some crazed fan would have never dug into it, you would never know it was there, but when you know it and listen to it, you can hear the slight change in his pattern.

Dazed And Confused, dedicated to the balances of law and order, we now know that a fan had given Page a guitar at some point prior to the show, a guitar he took from his teacher who promptly wanted it back. This song has been the focal point of my love for this concert since I first heard it on vinyl years ago. Clocking in at 40 minutes, the song is certainly top on most lists for 1975. All the pre oriental riffs playing is just as I hoped it would be, it is wonderful to have it in this quality, Page does have some guitar issues and can be heard tuning his guitar during the Woodstock portion. The bow solo is mysterious and the fast section lives up to expectations, Jones’ bass is a bit prominent during the latter parts of the song, James’ playing still overshadows the mix and is out of this world…”Master Guitarist Jimmy Page!”

Stairway To Heaven, dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, whose name seems to inspire the band as they take this song to the next level, simply a stunning version of the classic. Jimmy’s guitar solo is stunning and propels the song to great heights, the instrumental fury of the rhythm section matches his playing in complete synchronicity.

Whole Lotta Love from 75 for me just don’t really do it for me, although the late March versions are the exceptions, the initiation of almost complete versions of The Crunge minimally fill the endless boogie jams of the past, that being said this WLL > Crunge is pretty good, not as good as the versions that would be played in a few days time in LA, Plant throws in a few lines from Lickin’ Stick for good measure just prior to the Theramin section.

The transition into Black Dog is great, Bonham does a drum fill that lead into the iconic riff, Plant pushes his vocals a bit with good results, the call and response with the audience gives you a feeling of the atmosphere of the event…electric! Communication Breakdown is furious! Raw and just a blistering version with Page in full domination mode, just fantastic! He drives the band straight into Heartbreaker, Jones and Bonham have his back, one would think John’s extremities would be the consistency of jelly but he just hammers his kit relentlessly, an incredible segment of encores to end a most magical evening.



March 21, 1975: Audience Source 

The audience recording has had numerous releases, early vinyl titles like 207.19 and 214 (Rock Solid Records), compact disc titles like Seattle Supersonic (No Label 2017.19-214), Hammer Of The Gods (Last Stand Disc LSD 82/83/84/85), No Quarter (H-Bomb 93020104-7), Dinosaur In Motion (Empress Valley EVSD 172-178), Blow Jobs (Tarantura TCD 42-1/2/3/4), and Long Drive To Seattle (The Chronicles Of Led Zeppelin TCOLZ 004-007) name just some of them.

The audience recording is the two source mix, the very good audience source is used through about half of Stairway To Heaven, the lesser source is used for the remainder and to fill a few small gaps in the first. EV has not used the same one they used on Dinosaur In Motion, but a new fresh master. I also dug out Tarantura’s Blow Jobs set, for the best title to this point. When compared to the old Dinosaur title, this new mix is brighter and just a bit louder with a richer sound. When compared with the Blow Jobs title, it has that brightness but is clearer and less harsh sounding and the mastering on Deus Ex Machina is excellent, and for what I want to hear based upon the two older titles, superior in my opinion. After several listens of the new soundboard, one would think that it would make the audience source obsolete, nonsense, this recording is like an old friend, and now we have a “definitive” version of the audience recording and for me a worthy addition to this set.


The packaging is nice, four full color gatefold sleeves wonderfully adorned with live shots and OBI’s hold each of the recordings. The 24 page booklet is great, there is an aerial view of the Seattle Center Coliseum that is great to have as I enjoy that kind of stuff, only thing missing would have been a pic of a ticket stub. There is a separate leaflet asking us to not copy and distribute, something that stems from the fact that this title showed up a day or so before its release on a well known torrent site, this also again opens up the opinionated conversation about pricing and free trading and the likes. The fact that I bought this title shows that I do contribute to supporting the label in the Soundboard Revolution, if they make money we get more, and I would like to see more. We have a tease of the 9/28/71 show, who wouldn’t like to hear that? Nonetheless, the four gatefolds, booklet and leaflet are housed in a box with an OBI the same as many of their recent titles, in all typically nice packaging and fitting for a show of such importance. Took a while, I have neglected other titles I want to get waiting for this as it was not cheap, but in the end a very worthy investment.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Led Zeppelin - 1975 - Snowblind

Led Zeppelin
March 20, 1975
Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver
British Columbia, Canada 


Snowblind / Empress Valley Supreme Disc  EVSD 564-566

101. Rock And Roll
102. Sick Again
103. Over The Hills And Far Away
104. In My Time Of Dying
105. The Song Remains The Same
106. The Rain Song
107. Kashmir

201. No Quarter
202. Trampled Underfoot
203. Moby Dick

301. Dazed And Confused
302. Stairway To Heaven
303. Whole Lotta Love
304. Heartbreaker


The final two weeks of March, 1975 represent offer some of the heaviest Led Zeppelin concerts on record.  Not only do the shows from the Pacific Northwest and Los Angeles all push three and half hours, but they all have interesting variations and improvisations unique to these performances. 

About once or twice a year a new soundboard recording from Led Zeppelin’s mid-career tours surfaces.  Last summer the March 17th, 1975 Seattle show surfaced on Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before? (Eelgrass EGL-20241/42/43) and was very enjoyable.  Snowblind, the latest soundboard to come out, documents the marathon Vancouver show on March 20th.

The second night in Vancouver on March 20th has been in circulation for more than twenty years in a fair to good audience tape and can be found on Pleeease (Silver Rarities SIRA 126/127/128) and three box sets grouped with the first night, Physical Vancouver Farewell (Tarantura (#PV-001,002,003,004,005,006), Ladies And Gentlemen (Sanctuary TMOS-97501-6) and Prisoners of Rock & Roll (TDOLZ Vol. 92 & 93).

Like the other tapes from this week, Snowblind is an excellent and very enjoyable soundboard recording.  In general it is well balanced between the instruments, but it is nice for emphasizing the rhythm section.

These two shows were almost cancelled because of a strike by radio station CKLG-FM.  The press reported that “CUPE local 1004 (Canadian Union of Public Employees) at the PNE and two other unions involved would have boycotted the concert if CUPE local 686, representing the CKLG strikers, had so wished. But CUPE spokesman Ole Johnson said the concert is ‘definitely on….We felt it was in the best public interest to allow the concert to be held,” he said, “We aren’t interested in hurting the over 20,000 people who have already bought tickets.”

Zeppelin were slagged in the press for this performance.  Don Stanley, reviewing the shows in the Vancouver Sun, begins his review by saying  “some groups are humbled and damaged by the Pacific Coliseum’s hockey rink vibes.  A Led Zeppelin show in enhanced.”  The proceeds to slag the music, saying it “is as impersonal as the faceless multitudes that disappear in the haze at the top of the blues, as ugly as the process of frisking girls at the turnstiles, or the rows of fat, competent bouncers before the stage.  Zeppelin fans include well-meaning critics who don’t want to lose touch with the masses, and intellectuals at parties who mouth words such as ‘atavistic.’  But I think it’s fair to say that the typical Zeppelin fan, the….is a teen-ager as much interested in the event as the music.”

“Musically, Led Zeppelin are all their fans could desire:  numbingly direct, loud enough to rattle the brain pan, and  mysterious, or at least portentous.

He then goes on to attack the band themselves.  He calls John Bonham’s solo “boredom refined to torture!”  Page’s weaknesses are “awkward transitions, which mar even the masterful ‘Stairway To Heaven,’ and of course the heavy handed approach which make Led Zeppelin record unnatural and forces.”  And ripping into Plant, he calls him a “poser, who holds on to the belt buckle of hi slow-slung jeans as though to prompt the fantasies of jaded groupies.”  John Paul Jones escapes his attack.  It is striking that even at the height of their popularity both Led Zeppelin and their fans were subject to such attacks in the press.

Despite the review, this is one of the better shows from the tour made even more enjoyable with this fantastic new recording.  The audience tape only hints at the prowess the band showed this night and the good times they had.

The tape picks up right at the beginning of “Rock And Roll” (the announcement of the “Canadian return of Led Zeppelin” is omitted), and after the segue into “Sick Again” Robert Plant rambles on a bit “amidst the perfect smells that are rising towards the stage, we’re gonna try and maintain coherence ourselves, while you, while you get stoned and stoned and stoned, unless it’s just my nose.”

“Over The Hills And Far Away” from Houses Of The Holy follows, sounding extremely fluent in the song’s improvised middle section.  This is one of the songs that really improved as the tour progressed from the disjointed versions in Chicago.

Page’s adventurous spirit can be heard in the following song “In My Time Of Dying.”  Although the arrangement of this piece normally remained the same from night to night, at about the seven minute mark Page throws in a reference to a tune who wrote in 1970 titled “Flashing Lights” which appeared on the Lord Such And Heavy Friends album.  He also throws in a short reference to the unreleased “Jennings Farm Blues” here as he does in the “Flashing Lights” studio recording. 

The intensity of the performance seems to cause some commotion up front.  Plant addresses the “amateur wrestling in the audience” before mentioning roadie Benji Lefevre’s sickness and dedicating “The Song Remains The Same” to him. 

Before they play “Kashmir,” their new epic from Physical Graffiti, Plant mentions the disastrous show in Vancouver on July 18th, 1973 (which could be heard on No Firecrackers (Electric Magic EMC-009A/B)).  “I think the last time we came here was about two years ago, eighteen months ago.  Was anybody here then? It was quite a peculiar show actually.  … Something strange happened to me that evening. I found the light show to be amazing, and I wondered what the name of the group was. So I should dedicate this to that state of mind. Long may it come at my moments of ease.”  The song almost falls about four minutes in, but they pull it together with Plant joking “wasted, wasted land … EVERYONE WASTED!” 

“No Quarter” reaches twenty-five minutes this night.  Unlike other performances, Jones’ piano improvisation is both creative and purposeful.  He plays a gentle little melody pregnant with expectancy and hope before Bonham comes in with drums and Page on guitar.  Jones returns to that theme later in the song, after Page’s guitar solo leaves the audience devastated. 

“Dazed And Confused” is the other epic marathon, reaching almost thirty-five full minutes.  Page favors a pastoral melodic tune before the “Woodstock” section, and the long improvisation is very intense. 

The encores begin with the short reference to “Whole Lotta Love.”  In the ensuing improvisation Page plays the riff that he would later use for “Ozone Baby,” recorded in Stockholm in 1978 and released in 1982 on the final Led Zeppelin album Coda.  Page then plays the theremin, gets into some heavy-metal funk and leads the band into “Heartbreaker” (instead of the expected “Black Dog.”)  The rest of the band seem caught off guard by the change, but quickly get into it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Led Zeppelin - 1975 - Snow Jobs

Led Zeppelin
March 19, 1975
Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver
British Columbia, Canada 


101. Rock And Roll
102. Sick Again
103. Over The Hills And Far Away
104. In My Time Of Dying
105. The Song Remains The Same
106. The Rain Song
107. Kashmir

201. No Quarter
202. Trampled Underfoot
203. Moby Dick

301. Dazed And Confused (Includes Woodstock)
302. Stairway To Heaven
303. Whole Lotta Love
304. Black Dog


The tremendous excitement for the April 8th release of Snow Jobs on Empress Valley ran on several different levels. First and foremost it is a brand new, uncirculated soundboard recording from the 1975 US tour. Any new soundboard is exciting, but the track record for the boards from this particular year from Earl’s Court, New York, St. Louis, Dallas and San Diego is very strong with a lively and well-balanced sound.

Like St. Louis a fair to good but incomplete audience source has circulated before, but Snow Jobs promised the complete show with the missing encore. And finally, Zeppelin’s trip to the great northwest to Seattle and Vancouver produced some of the strangest and most exciting and enjoyable shows from this inconsistent tour. This is the era where Zeppelin played some of their longest (some say self indulgent) with “No Quarter” and “Moby Dick” routinely reaching the half hour mark and “Dazed & Confused” at its longest reaching forty minutes.

For all these reasons the arrival of this soundboard, the latest in Empress Valley’s “soundboard revolution”, is one of the best releases on this label and certainly the best Zeppelin release so far this year. The soundboards from 1975 sound so much better than the 1973 ones and it has been speculated because they used reel-to-reel tapes instead of cassettes.

Whatever the case may be, this has wide separation with a great balance between instruments and ambient audience noise. John Paul Jones’ bass is higher in the mix compared to the other 75 boards, but not overwhelming nor distorted but provides great counterpoint to Page and Bonham making this a fascinating listen. One of the functions of the bass is to elicit a visceral reaction to the music and this soundboard is an excellent example of that effect.

Snow Jobs is the first time this concert has ever been released on its own. The audience recording has been released three times and each has been in expensive and hard to find box sets paired with the following night’s tape.

This release has caused many to pay more attention to this show and give a re-evaluation as one of the best nights on the tour with particular attention upon the developing epics. Both “No Quarter” and “Dazed & Confused” were truly places for on-stage experimentation by the band. Sometimes, like “No Quarter” in the preceding show in Seattle, really goes nowhere. But on this night the improv comes together very well with Page in a very abstract mood.

“Dazed & Confused” is similarly very experimental with Page extending the soft transition into “Woodstock”. He falls a bit right after the violin bow solo hitting upon a theme that really goes nowhere before hitting upon the bombastic notes signaling the beginning of the “Dazed & Confused” solo. Later in the piece he plays call and response games with Bonham at about the half hour mark that is interesting.

The encores, which have never been heard before, are standard for this tour. There is an almost full version of “The Crunge” played with Plant hitting some high notes. The jamming after the theremin bit becomes so intense that Plant tries to lead the band into James Brown’s “Lickin’ Stick” (“Mama, come here quick” is as far as he gets) but wisely gets out of the way of Bonham who is thrashing the hell out of this drum kit before leading the band into “Black Dog”.

The first three hundred copies came with two unnumbered bonus discs with the incomplete audience source. This was released before on Physical Vancouver Farewell (Tarantura PV-001~6), Ladies And Gentlemen (Sanctuary TMOS-97501-6), and Prisoners Of Rock And Roll (TDOLZ Vol. 92 & 93). EV sounds more compressed and constricted compared to the Sanctuary release. It contains the same cuts and is missing “Stairway To Heaven” and the encores.

It comes packaged in a single cardboard sleeve. The focus of Snow Jobs is all on the excellent soundboard recording so the bonus discs are a nice touch but far from essential. To say this is worth having is an understatement. The interest and discussion about this release has catapulted it already into the legendary status and is a must own.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Led Zeppelin - 1975 - Haven't We Met Somewhere Before?

Led Zeppelin 
March 17th, 1975
Seattle Center Coliseum
Seattle, WA



EVSD "Haven't We Met Somewhere Before?"
 
101. Rock And Roll
102. Sick Again
103. Over The Hills And Far Away
104. In My Time Of Dying
105. The Song Remains The Same
106. The Rain Song,
107. Kashmir

201. No Quarter
202. Trampled Under Foot
203. Moby Dick

301. Dazed And Confused
302. Stairway To Heaven
303. Whole Lotta Love
304. Black Dog



The 1975 Pacific North West run has always been a personal favorite of mine when it comes down to live recordings of Led Zeppelin. I love those four snow filled nights. So, since we have excellent sounding soundboards for all four shows. I decided to give it a go and post it here to celebrate the 44th anniversary! 

There have been many releases of this show in the past sourced from two audience tapes, but Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before? is the debut of the complete professional recording.  Unlike the Nassau Coliseum and Baton Rouge soundboards, Seattle is very clean and enjoyable sounding.  John Paul Jones’ bass is a bit high in the mix, but overall it is closer in timbre to the Dallas recordings.    

The first night is very good and is sometimes neglected in comparison to the more well known second Seattle show on March 21st.  Plant’s voice, which had been quite weak at the beginning of the tour is very strong and he’s able to unleash some impressive vocal dynamics.

A rather negative review was published in the newspapers.  “Squeeze all the air out of a three-hour Led Zeppelin concert at the Coliseum and you might have an hour of music and visual effects worth your attention.  Nevertheless, a sellout crowd that broke four plate-glass doors and brought a two-feet-deep stack of counterfeit tickets gust to get into the place, sat spellbound, despite the fact that ushers and police relieved them of the equivalent of a green garbage dumpster full of booze.  Led Zeppelin’s appeal might be explained by the fact that they’re known in the trade as a ‘street band,’ meaning that their following precedes critical attention by about two years.”

Although calling Zeppelin a “street band” is a bit condescending, the author does correctly point out that the band were ahead of the critics in the seventies.  The appeal is best summed up by Donna Gaines when she writes in Teenage Wasteland that Zeppelin brought grace to bleak suburban landscapes.  A trip to the record store to buy a Zeppelin LP was a trip to Camelot by restoring dignity to an otherwise humiliating life.  

The setlist in 1975 was all about journey, movement and travel, dramatically carrying along the listener.  Robert Plant himself emphasizes this ethic repeatedly on this (and other tours). Opening with the fanfare “Rock And Roll” segueing into “Sick Again,” a short commentary upon their previous tour, Plant sets the stage, joking with the audience how they’re happy to be back in Seattle “a town of great fishermen, including our drummer,” and that they  will offer “a cross section” of their catalogue. 

“Over The Hills And Far Away,” which “sums up the looking ahead and wondering,” follows.  Instead of being a travelogue, it sets an anticipatory mood for things to come.  The melody came out of various “White Summer” improvisations in 1970 and the solo lifted (more or less) from “Immigrant Song,” two other tunes with strong connotations of movement and change.

The newspaper article called “Kashmir” a “spooky tune” which has some distortion in this recording.  But the epics come off very well.  John Paul Jones’ piano solo in “No Quarter” sound meandering in the audience recording, but sounds much better on the soundboard.  Page’s dramatic crescendo is one of the high points of the night.

Plant begins to babble before “Trample Underfoot,” rambling on about the meaning of the song and offering soccer scores, telling Seattle “Wolverhampton Wanderers seven, Chelsea One. Trampled Underfoot.”

Before “Dazed And Confused,” while Plant is giving his long introduction, someone throws something on stage.  He reacts by singing the first line of Max Bygraves 1954 novelty tune “You’re A Pink Toothbrush.”  (Could we assume a toothbrush was thrown onstage?)  The song (sort of) gives this release a title.

“Dazed And Confused” reaches thirty-five minutes and includes the “Woodstock” snippet.  By this time in the tour the song began to take life past the previous tour’s improvisation to be a much more deliberate, slow, and drawn out affair.  Some may call it self-indulgence, but Page is taking his time to explore ideas more fully.  

“Stairway To Heaven” closes the show and the encores include “Whole Lotta Love,” with a long “Licking Stick” interlude, segueing into “Black Dog.” 



Saturday, March 16, 2019

Tohru Aizawa Quartet - 1975 - Tachibana

Tohru Aizawa Quartet
1975
Tachibana


01. Philosopher's Stone 10:09
02. Sacrament 11:22
03. La Fiesta 9:55
04. Dead Letter 10:11
05. Samba de Orfeu 6:06

Tohru Aizawa: Piano
Kyoichiroh Morimura: Tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, composer
Kozo Watanabe: bass
Tetsuya Morimura: drums, composer


Used as a business card by the man who funded the recording in his basement and after whom the album is named, Tohru Aizawa Quartet’s Tachibana is one of the rarest Japanese jazz records of all time. Featured on BBE’s new J-Jazz compilation, Tony Higgins tells the bizarre story behind this real-life holy grail.

On 30th March 1975, four young college students gathered in the presence of a wealthy local businessman, Ikujiroh Tachibana, in the town of Numata, Gunma Prefecture, about 90 miles north of Tokyo. The four amateur musicians were there to record their first and only album, an album that would remain forgotten for the next forty years. After labouring in obscurity for decades, the record has become one of the most revered and sought after artefacts in the esoteric world of Japanese modern jazz, emblematic of the fanatical culture and desire for perfection that pervades it.

It is a world that has been given a fresh take on new BBE compilation J-Jazz: Deep modern jazz from Japan 1969-1984, which features Tohru Aizawa Quarter’s track ‘Dead Letter’ from Tachibana. This album has all the necessary components of such cultish impulse: mysterious and vague details about its origin, brief existence, superb craftsmanship and skill, and scarcity of the object…

But what is the story of this album, why is it so special, and how has it become a central totem in the wallet-bashing world of Japanese jazz collectors?

Let’s go back to March 1975 and the grand house of Ikujiroh Tachibana in Numata, Japan. Tachibana was a successful businessman and member of a prestigious family who could trace its lineage back to seventh century Japan. The Tachibana clan were, for several centuries, a powerful aristocratic family with close links to the imperial court, and the clan emblem or mon ? is used on the cover to the album.

Not only was Tachibana a respected and well-known local figure, he was also a big jazz fan. He would frequent local jazz clubs and bars and sometimes travel to nearby towns such as Maebashi and Isezaki – as well as Tokyo – to catch visiting American artists like trumpeter Charles Tolliver and pianist Mal Waldron, alongside home grown talent. One such band was the Tohru Aizawa Quartet, a group started in 1969 by two brothers, Kyochiro and Tetsuya Morimura.

Kychiro was a saxophonist and music student who later became a teacher, and Tetsuya was a drummer and law student. A few years younger than pianist Tohru Aizawa, they joined forces after hearing Aizawa perform at a music festival held in the medical school in Maebashi. (Aizawa, born in 1950, had moved there from Tokyo to study medicine. He would eventually graduate top of his class). Suitably impressed by Aizawa’s skills on the keys, the Morimura bothers decided to form a group and were joined by bass player Konzoh Watanabe, a fellow law student of Tetsuya Morimura.

They began gigging at local jazz spots, gaining something of a residency at Mokuba, a jazz spot in Maebashi owned by Kohichi Negishi. It was here that the group built a small but loyal following, among them local businessman and jazz fanatic, Ikujiroh Tachibana. He suggested that they make a record and he would finance it. Moreover, he would use the finished LP as a business card to promote himself and the band.

Quite what the recipients made of this was not recorded, but a few quizzical looks were no doubt shared. According to Aizawa maybe as few as 150-200 copies were manufactured, although nobody really knows, and it’s probably safe to assume several copies were discarded straight after being received. Unsurprisingly, using an LP as a business card didn’t catch on.

In the original album sleeve notes, reference is made to a handwritten note from Aizawa explaining the motivation for the group:

“We just created music we wanted to create. We are aware that music takes a different shape dependent on the ear of the listener. There are people who can appreciate it and others for whom it’s just noise – just a load of notes clumped together. We know it’s not to everyone’s taste but decided to push on and create for it for ourselves.”

The album opens with ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ written by drummer Tetsuya Morimura. For a teenage amateur player to compose and perform such an accomplished and impressive piece is a testament to the talent that the band contained. Testuya’s saxophonist brother Kiyoshiro describes the recording and the influences that went into the session:

“We thought it would be a nice memento so we went to Mr. Tachibana’s hall to record the album. It was recorded by someone from Trio Kenwood Records. At this hall, there was a Steinway full concert grand piano, and Mr. Tachibana invited famous musicians such as Zoot Sims, Eiji Kitamura and others to do concerts there. It was not a recording studio so they had difficulty getting the balance right. Just like any other live show that we regularly did, we had fun doing it. I don’t remember doing re-takes, so I think it was mostly done in one take. It was not commercially sold. I think it was given out by Mr. Tachibana in place of a business card. I listened to a lot of John Coltrane, Sadao Watanabe, Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter. My brother, Tetsuya, listened to a lot of Tony Williams and Elvin Jones.”

‘Philosopher’s Stone’ is followed by ‘Sacrament’, an epic modal composition by saxophonist Kiyochiro Morimura that fans of Pharaoh Sanders and late-era John Coltrane will appreciate. After an extended intro the band drop into a heavy, churning groove, Morimura’s saxophone scorching above the volcanic rhythm section. Aizawa’s own composition ‘Dead Letter’ is featured on the J-Jazz compilation. He says the track “just came out naturally, a spiritual outflow of myself.”

Although he has many other compositions to his name, this is the only one ever recorded. Thus far, all but ‘Dead Letter’ remain unheard outside of the lucky few who saw the band perform 40 years agoas. ‘Dead Letter’ is a performance of great bravura, a propulsive attack of rhythmic power and textural depth, redolent of McCoy Tyner at his most impactful. Aizawa’s own influences range from Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Chick Corea (Corea’s ‘La Fiesta’ is one of the two covers on the album) to Japanese jazz piano master, the late Masabumi Kikuchi.

The album finishes with a furious burn through the classic ‘Samba de Orfeu’, at such a speed it’s astonishing the band hold it together. An example of nascent talent, it’s hard not to ponder on the potential in a band that left just a single physical manifestation of their work.

The artwork on the album was designed by Kohichi Negishi, owner of the Mokuba jazz spot in Maebashi where the band often played. A portrait of the band’s sponsor, the avuncular Tachibana himself, leaning with drink in hand, graces the inside of the gatefold sleeve. It is accompanied by a typically polite ‘thank you’ and a greeting in which he remarks at “how polished the record is for a band that rehearsed and played in between their studies”. He goes on to say that “they get better each time he hears them and is always moved by their performances”. Tantalisingly, he also states he “wants to create more records and find hidden gems” but no more recordings of the Tohru Aizawa Quartet were ever made. By the time the record was issued as Tachibana’s business card, Aizawa and the elder Morimura were hard at work with no time to devote to their music.

In the case of Tohru Aizawa himself, he went on to work as a doctor at his family hospital in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, where he continues to work today specialising in diabetes. He still plays piano occasionally but never again recorded. The other members did continue in music to some degree, albeit for only a few more years. Kyoishiroh Morimura played with the groups Sing Out and the Kenji Yoshida Quintet; sibling Testuya released a solo live recording album called Akai Tori Concert (Red Bird Concert) which featured Japanese jazz icon Sadao Watanabe as a guest. But none of their projects ever matched the intensity or mystery of Tachibana.

To Mr. Tachibana and the Tohru Aizawa Quartet, arigatou gozaimasu.

Alux Nahual - 1986 - Centroamerica

Alux Nahual - 1986 - Centroamerica

01. Desde El Aire (4:05)
02. En El Camino (4:53)
03. Cada Noche (4:31)
04. Torres De Papel (5:15)
05. Ven (3:49)
06. Bizcocho Sin Hogar (3:42)
07. Lo Que Siento Por Tí (4:05)
08. Centroamérica (7:14)

- Álvaro Aguilar / Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar
- Plubio Aguilar / Bass Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Ranferí Aguilar / Electric Guitar, Charrango, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Orlando Aguilar / Drums, Percussion
- Paulo Alvarado / Violoncello, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
- Jack Schuster / Violin, Mandolin, Lead Vocals
- Oscar Conde / Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards, Backing Vocals


This is the last album from the first period of Alux. It probably had something to do with it being the last album with Jack Schuster and Orlando Aguilar. We got five average to boring songs opening the album and 3 really good songs closing the album. The dullness of the first five songs comes from the conventional structures and arrangments. This time their aproach to the 80's doesn't work as well.
Desde el aire: energetic opener with andin instruments which then becomes rocking. The lyrics are about how there shouldn't be frontiers in Latin America as we have much in common. It's ok.

En el camino: slow song about being on the road. Driven by e-piano and vocals, it's quite soothing, but not much more.

Cada noche: For me, Plubio's compositions have always been either normal to weak songs. (Even though his playing is always superb, I love his tone). Weak drums, and keyboard arrangements make this is a poor contribution. Again I agree with jampa, despite all of its wrongs, it's kind of catchy.

Torres de Pape": I think it's supposed to be kind of a proggy song, since it has an unconventional structure, but it doesn't work for me. Again it's very rocking, but quite cliched also in the lyrics department.

Ven: A ballad by Ranferí. Acoustic guitar, cello arrangments (sadly too far below the mix). I like it more than the previous songs, mostly because I like Ranferí's vocals. I like the sax performance as well.

Bizcocho sin Hogar: This is really a surprise, it's a completely unique song in Alux's repertoire. Jack Schuster is an Entomolygist from the U.S. with a love for country and "gringo" (american) folk. He was always the oddest one in the group, since he dressed like a cowboy, as you can see in the album cover. Anyway he's an excellent musician and that is shown in his only composition for Alux Nahual. This song starts with a very dark piano and drifts between charleston, country, rock and blues with having a prog tinge. The kazoo and the fact that Schuster has a strong gringo accent make it sound extremely funny. The first time that I heard I couldn't beleive it (It also had to do with Schuster being my biology teacher). Its sounds maybe something like Steve Hackett has tried to do on many albums with his silly songs (Ballad of The Decomposing Man, etc.). My theory is that the song is about his deceased wife (RIP), but it could also be about nothing at all, since the lyrics are about eating in a bakery and it discusses several baking products. (WTF?)

Lo que siento por tí: A classic Alux ballad. I like it because I'm symphatetic to the subject of the song, since it has happened to me. The lyrics speak of falling in love with a friend and not being able to keep it in secret so you end up telling them. (Almost always it ends up with screwing the relationship.) It has to be noted how with each record they are refining the ballad form, which it would find it's peak (IMO) in "Americamorfosis".

Centroamérica: Like in previous albums, Alvaro Aguilar treats us with this massive and epic song about the political situation in Central America. This is really the central piece of the album, and it overshadows all the other songs (except "bizcocho"). It deserves a detailed analysis. It starts with an intro in electric piano, which is then joined by bass and drums in something that sounds like march. Then we get the classic Alux arrangements with flute, cello and violin. The first verse is then sung only with the company of electric piano then joined by all the instruments, again sounding very millitary like, which is ironic, because the song is a critique to militarization. The chorus is very epic with all the backing vocals and the scales played in violin. Then we're treated what is the last duet of cello and violin (just like the arrangements in the first album). The second verse becomes even more martial, since the snare drum carries it. The song is all a crescendo, and by this point we're joined by all the instruments. For the bridge, an excellent riff is played on the piano and everyone builds on it. As usual, a slower section follows, with the flute on the spotlight. For the closing the final message of peace is sung and we get a reprise of the bridge with plenty of arrangements. Maybe the structure is what you can predict from Alvaro (it is just like Hombres de Maiz and Conquista), but everything is just great that it doesn't matter that is the same structure.


 This is the last formal symphonic album from Alux Nahual. Their next production become a lot heavier and simple, been more alternative rock with very few of their traditional sound on the first four albums. This one is very average for my taste, with just a couple of outstanding tracks. lets see, song by song...
"Desde el Aire" is kind of typical sound from Alux, remains their trademark sound of epic symphonic-acoustic rock assamble... this song in particular is quite less complex but keeps the focus on the lyrics, the union of Central America and the brotherhood of this countries... good song, but not great...

the next song is quite an obscure one... many people do not like it, is one of my favorites of the album, but I guess the arrangments are just meant to fit the song, there's no solos, just a regular assamble of the instruments without any highlight... the lyrics are about leaving your love behind to get on tour... interesting and kind of touching...

"Cada Noche" is a very 80's song, good interesting arrangments, but very bad lyrics. I don't mind about loving an engaged women, but hell... sometimes I find myself singing a long the chorus... jejeje.. it's catchy... and has one of the best sax solos from Alux... average song to me...

"Torres de Papel" is another average song from Paulo Alvarado. His songs have always some kind of a child melodic line... you know, very singnable, very sticky... very 80's still... talking about bad politics... still today, it's a reallity... good song, but not great...

The next song is a love song, dificult to "get it" from the beggining but grows with every listen. The lyric is a poem wrote for someone I don't know who... a regular song for my taste...

Well... track 6 is one raritie... one of their greatest material... "Bizcocho sin Hogar" is the only song compose from Jack Shuster... it has some kind of country-charleston vibe, with great rock fussion... the lyric is quite funny, also the singning because Shuster don't talk spanish well... so, at the end is a funny song... but a huge arrangment that shows all the capacity of arguments that the band had under the sleeve... great song...!!!

The next one is somewhat typical, a very touching love song using just two acoustic guitars and a string pad... one of their best lyrics... one of their classic and must dedicated love songs in last 20 years between lovers... GREAT SONG....

The last one... Centroamerica... is one masterpiece....!!! and epic cleaver song about the war conflicts in Central America caused by URSS and USA in our countries... it has a huge symphonic assamble with violin, flaute, cello, piano an electric guitars... this is an oustanding song... one of the greatest... and gives the album a complete new level... without this piece, the album maybe where less interesting...

Alux Nahual - 1984 - Hermanos De Sentimiento

Alux Nahual
1984
Hermanos De Sentimiento


01. Dime Que Has Olvidado (3:15)
02. Aquí Está Tu Tierra (4:03)
03. Juego Nuclear (4:10)
04. Lejos De La Ciudad (9:21)
05. Mira El Sol Brillar (4:15)
06. Hermanos De Sentimiento (4:41)
07. Al Diablo El Diablo (4:14)
08. El Mensaje (0:19)
09. El Espíritu Del Duende (5:40)
10. Juego Nuclear (Extra) (4:08)

- Álvaro Aguilar / Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar
- Plubio Aguilar / Bass Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Ranferí Aguilar / Electric Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Orlando Aguilar / Drums, Percussion
- Paulo Alvarado / Violoncello, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
- Jack Schuster / Violin
- Oscar Conde / Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards, Backing Vocals


"Hermanos de Sentimiento" is probably the album form Alux Nahual that I've played the most. Why? Because it's very diverse and has 3 of my top 5 Alux songs. This album can be considered their most experimental and proggy, but it also has some low points. The first major change in Alux's sound is in this album, becuase the violin/cello duets are gone and replaced by extensive use of synthesizers and sax. This change on the arrangments gives the overall sound a more 80's vibe. Although for some proggers this can mean disaster, this is not the case in "Hermanos". Let's go song through song.

Dime que Has Olvidado: The opener is love ballad, much in the vein of Mujer, from the previous album. The difference is that this ballad is driven by electric piano and the whole band performs it. I like it very much, I've always liked love songs by Alux, I think they are very well executed and get to the point. Plus the lyrics are always a plus.

Aquí Está Tu Tierra: This is a rock song about migration, something that is very prevalent in central american countries. The song driven by acoustic guitar and Alvaro's vocals. A fun song with meaningful lyrics that applied to then and today. I also like it very much.

Juego Nuclear: The much maligned reggae song is the debut of Oscar Conde in vocals and composing in the context of Alux. It's very 80's sounding with synthesizers and that "white reggae" sound, like The Police. I don't mind the song very much, it can be fun sometimes, but it's clear that is a very silly song.

Lejos De La Ciudad: Where did this thing come from? It's the first and only composition by the drummer, Orlando Aguilar, and Alux's song that aligns the most with prog canons. The song begins with a synthesizer intro, and then the first theme is played with acoustic guitar, and some instrument like electric violin. The theme is reprised by the flute with the backing of cello and bass. The drums and bass come in for the second theme with a nice groove. Then the electric guitar plays a very rocking, almost metal, riff. The riff is repeated several times. After every repetition a variaton comes, with flute, sax, or more guitar. Then we get an acoustic guitar solo. After that, there's an atmospheric part, that reminds me of "Posada", from their first album. The third theme is played with electric guitar and percussion. Then comes a denser jam with many instruments. The finale is a reprise of a previous theme. This is surely one of my favorite songs by Alux.

Mira El Sol Brillar: After the behemoth that was "Lejos De La Ciudad", comes a song that used to be my favorite from the "Aluxes" for a long time. It's very 80's sounding, being driven by synths, but what makes it stand out are the arrangements. Piano, sax, violin, bass and all the drum fills give this song another dimension. Ranferí's singing is fits the song quite well. Dynamics are great in this song. Sadly, the violin is only in the background, and we can only feel how Jack Schuster is spending less and less time in the spotlight.

Hermanos de Sentimiento: This is supposed to be a team effort, with very good instrumental sections. Even so, the vocal parts and the guitar tone sound too much like generic 80's latin hard rock for my taste. The subject of the song is also very trivial, which is the preparing for a concert. Only the ending redeems this dull song, because it's a very intense interplay of all the intstruments

Al Diablo El Diablo: Excellent intro with a good bass solo and then a nice guitar/bass interplay. And that's it! The song then transforms in to more of generic 80's hard rock with awful, awful lyrics. The lyrics are about the devil speaking through the amplifiers of a perfomer and the performer responding: "go to hell, devil! I love god!"

El Mensaje: This is just 19 seconds of backwards talking, that's supposed to be a pun on those who used to play their vinyls backwards to try to find "hidden messages" in songs. I've never actually heard what the message is, because I've got the CD version, and I can't play it backwards. I suppose it somehow works after the "diabolical" message of "Al Diablo El Diablo".

El Espíritu Del Duende: This is the most mystical song from the repertoire of Alux, courtesy of Paulo Alvarado. Helped by reverb, folky instrumentation and references and mayan references in the lyrics this song makes is to the one of the greatest acomplishments by Alux. The song starts with cello, and acoustic guitar playing in 3/4. The flute handles the melodic theme beautifully. Percussion is sparse, just some cymbals. Then we are treated with an excellent cello solo. After that there's a small part in 5/4 with something that sounds like a clock for percussion, acoustic guitar and synths. A folkish flute backed by e-guitar comes in. After that, Álvaro and Paulo sing a capella the concept of the song. The counterpoint is extremely beautiful A vocal part is then led by electric piano and folkish percussion. Álvaro and Paulo reprise the concept of the song wiht different lyrics. Then comes an electric piano jam, that I wish were longer. I just wish they would have done something more in this style in their later albums.

Juego Nuclear (Extra): WTF? It's the exact same song as "Juego Nuclear", there's nothing extra at all! Silly songs can be tolerated and even enjoyed once, but twice? This time the song becomes annoying and makes the album fall to its lowest point

The sillyness of "Al Diablo El Diablo" and the repetition of "Juego Nuclar", plus the dullnes of hermanos keep this album from being a masterpiece. Even so, I think this is overall my favorite album by Alux Nahual, having excellent songs and exploring new ground without ever losing the Alux ethos. They would try to reprise the formula and sound for the next album, but it wouldn't work as well.


 Well, This is and outstanding album, but with a little shadows on it... very 80's proggy... and it's great...
The first two tracks are the singles, very conventional and became classics from the band, but this version are way more complex and symphonic than the "new" versions later more popular... Both are beautiful and interesting, with well thought lyrics. Good songs.

Then comes "Juego Nuclear", guess the song sound kind of funny, but still the song works great. Have a great solo from the guitar and Cello and Violin unisons... interesting but the voice of Conde really doesn't fit... so, it's ok... and the subject is the conflict of the Cold War... I don't see nothing wrong with it... It's history now...

The "Lejos de la Ciudad" song it's a great song... outstanding and very prog... with a lot of interesting phrases and very long. The mood on this song always reminds me my trips around the little towns of the country (Guatemala), so, It really makes my feel "Away from the City", that's the meaning of this instrumental track... great journey....

The next two songs, I've always listen to it together... "Mira el sol Brillar" and "Hermanos de Sentimiento" are great group achievements... Both complex and upbeat driven songs... with great arrangements from all the instruments... Raul is right, Shuster became less and less involved in the process through the albums, wich is sad... but the songs are great... not silly... just about having fun while playing good stuff... very proggy still...

The next song, "Al diablo el diablo" is a heavy song, with a great bass intro, suppose to be a little dark... it's about the devil offering success in change of the soul... I don't mind... really... neether you... jejeje... the next song is "El Mensaje", the message, in english, and is Conde speaking "in first place, we are not satanic... and second, if you keep playing the disc backward with your finger you will ruin it... see... you ruin it... you ruin it... you ruin it..." it's a joke about the hidden messages that can be listen in the vynil discs when you play it backwards... funny...

then, the song "El espíritu del Duende" is a very symphonic song, with touching lyrics about the childhood and the dreams. It's kind of a strange but beautiful song. One of my favorites.

The album suppose to end here... but remember it was a vynil album, so, they have about 4 minutes free on one side of the vynil... so they put again "Juego Nuclear" on it as a "Extra Track"... and when the silly guys of DIDECA made the CD version, they just copy it... the way it was... without removing the last track... something very silly honestly.... jejeje..

But well... this album is great about arrangments and performance... creative, fresh, fun and touching... so... why I give it just 4 stars... the sound... hell... some of the tracks sounds so rough... it's the drums... the tums sounds so up in the mix... and sometimes gets saturated... it's sad... because this album with a good recording and mix, must be one of the greatest albums in latin rock history... still rocks... This is one of their best efforts...

Alux Nahual - 1982 - Conquista

Alux Nahual
1982
Conquista


01. Intro / Passacaglia Maestosa / Bar-Rocko (4:39)
02. Mujer (4:34)
03. El Mensaje Del Mago (6:06)
04. Conquista (Seguimos Vivos) (7:09)
05. Hoy (5:46)
06. Retorno De La Alegría (5:14)

- Álvaro Aguilar / Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar
- Plubio Aguilar / Bass Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Ranferí Aguilar / Electric Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Orlando Aguilar / Drums, Percussion
- Paulo Alvarado / Violoncello, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
- Jack Schuster / Violin
- Oscar Conde / Saxophone, Flute, Chirimía, Keyboards


 Alux Nahual's second album is pretty much on the same vein as their debut. Even so, it doesn't sound repetitive. On the contrary, the symphonic passages are on a more developed level and more focused. Nonetheles, parts on the album can be considered the first hints of a change on Alux's style.
Again, we start off with an instrumental, "Barrocko". The title is a mix between the words baroque and rock, which describes the music on the track. The beginning is an ominous piano and violin (electric violin?) playing a "passacaglia", which is a form of composition from the baroque. Then it all ends suddenly and we can hear only the sound of a person drinking. After that we get circa 3 minutes of rock & roll jam with solo spots for every instrument. The jam is very influenced by American music, the influence probably coming from Jack Schuster. This instrumental doesn't work as well as "Cola de Golondrina" from the previous album, but is still much fun to listen.

Then we get Alux's first minimalist ballad written by Alvaro Aguilar (I don't count "La Fábula Del Grillo Del Mar" from their debut as a minimalist ballad because it sounds more like a band effort and is more symphonic) In "Mujer" we only get Alvaro's voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar and cello. This is a love song, which I like, but isn't progressive or interesting. It's just very emotional.

Now, it starts to pick up, because "El Mensaje Del Mago" is the first highlight of the album, in my opinion. Here, the addition of Oscar Conde starts to pay off in beautiful arrangements by the flute and sax. Also very present are the cello and violin by Paulo and Jack. The song itself is mystical and fits well with the voice of Ranferí, which is quite soothing, tranquil and with a higher range, offering a nice contrast to the baritone voice of Alvaro. The only mistake of this track is the ending, with a musical box that is totally out of place.

The apex of the album, for me, is the title track. "Conquista" has a mystical and somber introduction with guatemalan instruments: chirimía (a flute-like instrument) and tun (percussion). After the intro, comes the real start of the song. The brothers Alvaro and Plubio teamed up to write an excellent rock composition, with plenty of symphonic arrangements, an excellent riff and a strong message about how the Spaniards conquered America. The drumming is also very tasteful in this track.

The next song, "Hoy", drags down the album in my humble opinion. Actually it isn't a bad song, not at all. It's nicely arranged like all the other symphonic songs. The thing is that whenever I hear it, I can't help to be reminded of Stairway To Heaven by Led Zep. In fact, I've played Stairway To Heaven in my guitar while listening to this song and it's pretty much the same thing. To worsen things, the structure is also very alike: a quiet intro, a rocking part, a guitar solo (with the exact chords of the rhythm guitar from Stairway) and a quiet outro.

Fortunately, the closer of the album is an original sounding piece composed by Paulo Alvarado. "Retorno De La Alegría" is a piece centered on the electric piano, with Paulo's soft vocals. Actually, the vocals and the whole song makes me feel happier whenever I listen to it, which is coherent with the title (translation: return of joy). Excellent bass and drums on this song, which carry the changes of the song swiftly along with the piano. There's only a minor mistake: the guitar is mixed too loud in one part.

"Conquista" isn't as naïve as their debut, but it has some mistakes which drag down the album. I can see how other people could give the title of symphonic masterpiece to this and not the debut, but I give it four solid stars, a bit less than their first one.


This second album continues the same characteristics from the previous one, with the improve of a better sound in the recording and the aport of Oscar Conde, who'll become one of the most active members of the band. He brings the sound of Flaute and sax in this album, and latter he played keyboards and some guitars also. The albums songs keep the symphonic basis, still with a lot of violin and guitar solos through the whole album. "Barrocko" is a great instrumental song. What shows this album is the good time the have playing some interesting music. You can feel all the freshness of the songs, a lot of good vibe throughout and well written songs as well. The best song of this short album (it only last 33 minutes) is "Conquista", another of their trademarks epic songs, with a great balance between rock of the 80's, Folk-fussion and symphonic phrases. The rest of the album have a lot of diversity and interesting experimentation with a lot of grooves. You should give the album a listen. You will enjoy it. Maybe the only thing that doesn't makes this album better is the short that it is, 'cause only have six songs. Still, the production is great, dinamic and very interesting for people who likes to study music

Alux Nahual - 1980 - Alux Nahual

Alux Nahual 
1980
Alux Nahual


01. Cola de Golondrina (3:59)
02. A Ti (4:06)
03. Un Poco De Paz (3:20)
04. Un Minuto De Ilusión (7:20)
05. La Fábula Del Grillo Y El Mar (5:58)
06. Posada (4:07)
07. Hombres De Maíz (7:23)

- Álvaro Aguilar / Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar
- Plubio Aguilar / Bass Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Ranferí Aguilar / Electric Guitar, Lead & Backing Vocals
- Orlando Aguilar / Drums, Percussion
- Paulo Alvarado / Violoncello, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
- Jack Schuster / Violin


 Alux Nahual (that's Spirit of the Goblin in mayan language) made their debut in 1981 and quickly became one of the most succesfull bands in the country. Their unique musical style completely separated them from the rest of the bands at the time, but far from getting disregarded by the public they attained a massive following of fans and admirers from all over Central America. Their distinctive approach to music is what makes them so very hard to categorize. Even though they are included in Crossover Prog, I would rather describe their sound as Prog Folk but that's just my opinion. Alux Nahual is really a fusion of different genres and styles blending rock music with mayan folk, blues, flamenco and many others.
The album opens with the instrumental "Cola de Golondrina", a fiery piece filled with violin and acoustic guitar that shows the great talent of all the members. "A Ti" and "Un Poco de Paz" are both sung numbers and both display the folkier side of the band. The first gem of the album comes then with "Un minuto de Ilusion". All the instruments blend togheter perfectly to create great memorable melodies until the very end. The next song, "La Fabula del Grillo y el Mar" is simple in structure but it's beauty lies in the story it tells and the message one can learn from it. Finally, the last two pieces "Posada" and "Hombres de Maiz" bring the album to it's climax. The first one is slower and melacholic but perfectly executed. The later being the apex of the album, with high speed playing, swift tempo changes and wonderfull atmosphere. The best way to close the album. The only thing I regret is the raw sound quality of the recording but even so, it doesn't take away anything from the music.

If you want to get to know the band this would be the ideal place to start. I highly recommend it to Prog Folkers but Alux Nahual has a particular way of pleasing anyone, no matter what type of music they listen to.

 This is a great album. It shows quite well the origins of this emblematic band. Is heavly oriented to the symphonic elements, with a lot of violin solos and usuall unisons between guitars, bass and cello. It's a very interesting album for people who likes to dive into a fresh atmosphere, music with sense and soul without a doubt. The first track, "Cola de Golondrina" is one great effort, mixing folk-fussion elements with symphonic and regular rock phrases. Great instrumental song. Other two standout tracks are "Un minuto de Ilusión" and "Posada". Both, nearly instrumental, 'cause the lyrics are quite short and give just what the song requieres to have an idea of the subject. Posada, speccially brings some interesting concept 'cause is based on a traditional phrase played in the Christmas hollidays with turtle percussion. The songs follows with guitar and violin solos. Maybe the best song of the album is the last one, "Hombres de Maíz", a seven minute song with a lot of symphonic parts. A very thoughtfull song that talks about the social life in Latin America. Great album, way above the average of the most latin rock, well written and with a lot of soul a meaning trhough the whole piece...

Heavy on the strings, which is always something I enjoy in my prog rock.  I have to say that I was somewhat surprised by the relative lack of traditional Central American influence here.  Judging from the band's name I expected something along the lines of Luis Perez' imagined pre-Columbian soundscapes.  That would have been welcome but I definitely appreciated the somewhat more conventional, if classical tinged, prog folk-rock the band provides just as much.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Hal Blaine - 1967 - Psychedelic Percussion

Hal Blaine 
1967
Psychedelic Percussion




01. Love-In (December) 2:18
02. Freaky (January) 2:23
03. Flashes (February) 2:23
04. Kaleidoscope (March) 2:20
05. Hallucinations (April) 2:23
06. Flower Society (May) 2:27
07. Trippin' Out (June) 2:36
08. Tune In-Turn On (July) 2:14
09. Vibrations (August) 2:15
10. Soulful (September) 2:21
11. Inner-Space (October) 2:18
12. Wiggy (November) 2:12

Electronics – Paul Beaver
Keyboards, Organ, Electric Piano – Mike Lang
Percussion – Emil Richards, Gary Coleman
Written-By, Arranged By, Producer, Percussion, Drums, Gong, Xylophone, Organ, Bongos, Congas, Timpani – Hal Blain
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Calling Hal Blaine a drummer is like calling Elvis Presley a singer. Blaine may not be a household name, but trust me, if your thirty or over, you have heard tons of his work.
And there is tons. In the 1960s and 1970s, if you were a vocal group in LA and did not have a permanent band, chances were you were using Hal on drums. The Fifth Dimension, The Mamas and the Papas, the Association, the Carpenters, The Monkees, Tommy Roe: Blaine has a body of work so big, I just gave you a pinky nail. Turn on any oldies station for an hour, and it is almost a sure thing you will hear Blaine at work. And if you are an old FM guru, listen now to any of the above music.
You may not like the groups, but the drumming is top tier. Listen to Blaine blaze with Joe Osborn on bass on the 5Ds "Let The Sunshine In," and in a different context, his playing could be a funk jazz jam worthy of any progressive band from the era.
Psychedelic Percussion is all the proof you need that Blaine was far hipper than the top forty hits he banged out all the way to the bank. This `1967 Dunhill album in a sense seems like a novelty album, but I prefer the word project.
The drums and sound effects are a product of era, but LISTEN to this guy. His flexibility, his speed, his light but potent touch shows him to be one of the best around, and not just in terms
of skill. He is tuneful, melodic, and has an incredible feel for his drums as a MUSICAL instrument, not a percussive one.
We can all as listeners and musicans and music writers learn a hell of a lot from ANY record Hal Blaine played on, but if your not ready to disect the finer points of 1960s LA top forty, although you should be, start with Psychedelic Percusion.


You’ve gotta love this! A dozen, two-and-a-half minute drum excursions peppered with all manner of psychedelic trimmings – from spacey, echoed sound effects to dissonant, disembodied accompaniment. Having originally missed out on this LP in the 60s, I’ve never had any clue if drummer Hal Blaine’s Psychedelic Percussion was just a marketing concept or if Hal was actually, personally influence by the drug culture – breathing Brian Wilson’s air as much as he did for all those years. But, you’ve gotta suspect the former, as Hal’s 1963 solo album was timely titled, Deuces, T’s, Roadsters and Drums, and his 1966 effort was Drums! Drums! A Go-Go. Making it apparent that Blaine was intent on keeping thematically current with whatever fickle trend was passing by. Still… this record is a bona-fide trip! These days, of course, we all live in a drum ‘n’ groove-driven culture. Raw beats backdrop a lot of what we hear on TV and in movies. But in the 60s, people were still largely expecting “songs” when they bought an album, so this one must have confounded non-connoisseurs. Modern ears will surely be more adept. Twelve tracks, each between 2:14 and 2:37 in length, and all aptly demonstrating Blaine’s drum chops in “psychedelic” settings, with electronics provided by Paul Beaver (of Beaver & Krause). Drums, Drums, Drugs might have worked as a title, too. There are a few different LP covers for this release, including a bland 2008 CD reissue with Hal in a bow tie, and a close-up variant of the very cool original Dunhill LP jacket you see above. For you purists, this is a vinyl rip