Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims - 1956 - Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims

Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims
Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims

01. Just Blues
02. Violets For Your Furs
03. Down Home
04. Almost Like Being In Love
05. Wee-Dot
06. Too Close For Comfort

Bass – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Drums – Ed Thigpen
Piano – Jutta Hipp
Tenor Saxophone – Zoot Sims
Trumpet – Jerry Lloyd

Recorded on July 28, 1956 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey

The title is Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims, but it should be the other way around.

No knock on Jutta Hipp. She's great—a lively, fluid pianist who really could have been a big player in the 1950s bop scene if she hadn't suddenly disappeared and dropped out, forever. This is her date—a 1956 recording with a wonderful hard bop quintet. And if she weren't totally overshadowed by Zoot Sims, listeners might say, "Wow, that's the album where she really broke out." 

Except she really is overshadowed by Zoot Sims, who is a non-stop dynamo on every single track. He's one of those rare tenors who play equally well on speedy bop numbers and smoky ballads. It's not that Hipp isn't interesting; it's that Sims is more so. He dominates the album, partly because he takes the lead solo every time, and therefore sets the pace, and partly because he's a whirlwind of interesting sounds. 

Hipp was a virtual unknown at the time, and a rarity—a German and a woman who could play bluesy piano like Horace Silver. Sims, by contrast, was famous from various big bands and as one of Woody Herman's "Four Brothers." They make an unlikely pair, but they play well together. 

The album starts with a generic blues jam called, appropriately, "Just Blues." The credits say Sims wrote this, but it sounds entirely improvised to me—like one of those Jazz at Philharmonic things, where everyone riffs on the same blues chords for 10 minutes. It's fun. 

The CD continues with Sims on a smoldering version of the ballad "Violets for Your Furs." It says something that he's equally captivating on the blues and ballads. An upbeat bop number called "Down Home" follows, and then, two cuts later, a wonderful take on "Wee Dot," the ultimate hard bop tune recorded definitively by the The Jazz Messengers only two years earlier. The Hipp-Sims version won't make you forget Art Blakey and Clifford Brown, but it's marvelous in its own way. 

The only down side? The weak performance of trumpeter Jerry Lloyd. He tries so hard to keep up and doesn't even come close. On the solos, he spits out short phrases, stops, tries again, stops, and never quite gets it. And he's so low in the mix that you wonder if he was playing in the back of the room or if Rudy Van Gelder forgot to give him a mic. 

The CD ends with a fast romp on the George Gershwin classic "'S Wonderful." It's a joyous rendition, so I feel guilty complaining that I can't hear the original melody anywhere. I guess they're playing on the Gershwin chords, but I wouldn't want to vouch for it. Still, much fun. 

Anyway, get this CD. I don't know if it's Zoot Sims best ever, but I can't imagine there are many better than this. 

Walt Dickerson Quartet - 1966 - Jazz Impressions Of Lawrence Of Arabia

Walt Dickerson Quartet
Jazz Impressions Of Lawrence Of Arabia

01. Theme From Lawrence Of Arabia 2:45
02. That Is The Desert 5:09
03. Motif From Overture Part I 3:56
04. Motif From Overture Part II 3:49
05. Arrival At Auda's Camp 2:20
06. Nefud Mirage Part I 4:35
07. Nefud Mirage Part II 4:19
08. The Voice Of The Guns 3:28

Bass – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Drums – Andrew Cyrille
Piano – Austin Crowe
Vibraphone – Walt Dickerson

Recorded March 21 & 25, 1963 at Gotham Studios, NYC

Once in a while it's nice to listen to a different take on a familiar score. Here's one we're very familiar with, as it's a favorite, but we've never heard it like this before. This was a big deal movie with a famous score. Jack Marshall & Shelly Manne covered the theme, as did The Ventures. The Walt Dickerson Quartet, with the killer rhythm section of Henry Grimes and Andrew Cyrille plus Austin Crow on piano, fo a swinging take on it after two different intros, one in a middle eastern style and another in a loungey Martin Denny sort of style. (Who is Austin Crow?)

Grimes anchors "This Is the Desert" with a looping bass figure that provides a hypnotic environment for the rest of the band to solo.

Then there's a two-part "Motif from Overture", the first part being a waltz run through a suggestion of Jarre's opening music for the film and the second being more free. This is really almost a unique record in its combination of material and execution and everybody's playing is amazing.

"Arrival at Auda's Camp" is immediately familiar though with such different instrumentation and feel that you might do a double take to reconcile the recognizable theme with his up-tempo jazz rendition.

After that comes another two-part piece, "Nefud Mirage". The first part is a strong and energetic modern jazz workout while the second half, is much more spacious and atmospheric, even balladic in places.

The record concludes with "The Voice of the Guns", kicked off with some machine-gun snare playing by Cyrille and with impressive bass work by Grimes throughout.

This quartet is just fantastic and it's a thrill to hear them do something like this!

Re-issued in 1968 as Vibes in Motion

Solomon Ilori And His Afro-Drum Ensemble - 1963 - African High Life

Solomon Ilori And His Afro-Drum Ensemble
African High Life

01. Tolani (African Love Song) 7:44
02. Ise Oluwa (God's Work Is Indestructible) 5:39
03. Follow Me To Africa 5:30
04. Yaba E (Farewell) 5:30
05. Jojolo (Look At This Beautiful Girl) 7:17
06. Aiye Le (The Troubled World) 3:25
07. Gbogbo Omo Ibile (Going Home) 11:47
08. Agbamurero (Rhino) 13:54
09. Igbesi Aiye (Song Of Praise To God) 13:22

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Hosea Taylor (tracks: 1 to 6)
Bass – Ahmed Abdul-Malik (tracks: 1 to 6)
Bass – Bob Cranshaw (tracks: 7 to 9)
Congas – Chief Bey (tracks: 1 to 6)
Bass – Montego Joe (tracks: 1 to 6)
Congas, Drums, Percussion – Chief Bey (tracks: 7 to 9)
Congas, Drums, Percussion – Ladji Camara (tracks: 7 to 9)
Congas, Drums, Percussion – Roger Sanders (tracks: 7 to 9)
Congas, Drums, Percussion – Sonny Morgan (tracks: 7 to 9)
Congas, Shekere, Cowbell – Robert Crowder (tracks: 1 to 6)
Congas, Xylophone, Cowbell – Garvin Masseaux (tracks: 1 to 6)
Sakara Drum, Cowbell – Josiah Ilori (tracks: 1 to 6)
Drums – Elvin Jones (tracks: 7 to 9)
Guitar – Jay Berliner (tracks: 1 to 6)
Piano – Coleridge Perkinson (tracks: 7 to 9)
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Hubert Laws (tracks: 7 to 9)
Trumpet – Donald Byrd (tracks: 7 to 9)
Guitar, Vocals, Talking Drum, Whistle – Solomon Ilori

Recorded on April 25, 1963 (#1-6) and October 30, 1964 (#7-9) at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

The Nigerian-born Ilori arrived in the US in the late '50s and recorded the first six tracks on this album—the original African High Life release—in 1963. They're pleasant, if unspectacular, palm-wine highlife outings from the West African tradition, distinguished by some masterful drumming, but diminished by strangely inept alto saxophone contributions. (Saxophonist Hosea Taylor is more convincing on flute, but even here, he's eclipsed by Ilori's pennywhistle, winningly showcased on the Irish sea shanty-derived "Follow Me To Africa.")

The separation between the drums isn't great on the recording, and there's too much tinny top on the call and response vocals—but traditional West African music wasn't engineer Rudy Van Gelder's main area of expertise, and recording technology in the early 1960s wasn't what it is today. By the time the final three tracks here were recorded, Van Gelder had it down more sympathetically.

Each of these three tunes runs approximately thirteen minutes and includes extended horn, traps and African drum solos. Elvin Jones' thrilling and uplifting interaction with the drum choir of Ilori, Chief Bey, Roger Sanders, Ladji Camara and Sonny Morgan is a feature of the mid-tempo groove of "Gbogbo Omo Ibilie" and the hotter and more intense "Agbamurero." Their dialogue continues on the cool-down closing tune, "Igbesi Aiye," which gets into some fine cross-rhythmic work.

Donald Byrd (trumpet) and Hubert Laws (tenor saxophone and flute) both contribute convincing modal solos to each tune, giving a taste of the aesthetic Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane would develop later in the decade.

Ilori went on to work Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. It's taken forty years to release these latest tracks, but they're resoundingly well worth the wait.

One of Blue Note's less typical releases and a real suprise that is now thankfully available again thanks to the superb Connoisseur Series.While a very strange release in that it is by an African drummer playing High-life with hints of jazz,a little digging suggests it is not completely out of character.Blue Note had released a number of cross-cultural drum based LP's via Art Blakey.These however explored the link between Latin and Jazz rhythms.What also makes this reissue so special is the inclusion of three extra tracks that came from a different session and have never seen the light of day before.Normally I am against such measures and am often driven to distraction by inclusion of endless alternate takes that seem to mar the RVG series.The CD however always seem to delve that bit deeper and bring new gems to the table.In this case the three extra tracks make the CD essential.While the original LP is a fine example of jazzy high life featuring some inspired drumming and vocal chanting it is these extra tracks that stand out.They also feature some well known faces unlike the original line up.There is Donald Byrd,Elvin Jones & Bob Cranshaw adding a heavy jazz feel to the superb drum work of Ilori and his friends.The tracks consist of three long pieces that blend heavy modal passages of playing with the driving drum patterns of the high-life genre.The results are wonderful and makes for some great summer music.It was this sort of experimentation and forward thinking (remember this came out in 1963) that made Blue Note such a huge influence in shaping modern music as it is today.

Art Blakey & The Afro-Drum Ensemble - 1962 - The African Beat

Art Blakey & The Afro-Drum Ensemble
The African Beat

01. Prayer By Solomon G. Ilori
02. Ife L'Ayo (There Is Happiness In Love)
03. Obirin African (Woman Of Africa)
04. Love, The Mystery Of
05. Ero Ti Nr'ojeje
06. Ayiko Ayiko (Welcome, Welcome, My Darling)
07. Tobi Ilu

Bass – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Bata, Congas – Robert Crowder
Congas – James Ola Folami
Congas, Drums, Percussion – Chief Bey
Bambara Drum, Log Drum, Corboro Drum, Double Gong – Montego Joe
Drums, Timpani, Gong, Telegraph Drum – Art Blakey
Oboe, Flute, Saxophone, Horns, Kalimba – Yusef Lateef
Chekere, Maracas, Congas – Garvin Masseaux
Timpani – Curtis Fuller
Vocals, Whistle, Talking Drum – Solomon G. Ilori

Recorded on January 24, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Bridging cultures, Art Blakey combined powerful African rhythms and American jazz melodies on a session that Blue Note reissued recently because the album explores roots common to all of jazz. Blakey’s ensemble for this 1962 project included artists from both worlds: Solomon G. Ilori and James Ola. Folami are from Nigeria, Chief Bey is from Senegal, and Montego Joe is from Jamaica.

Man, does Art Blakey play loud on this session! Gentle melodic instruments are served with severe punctuation as Blakey attempts to add his drum set in contrast to the more natural sounds. Strong bass work from Ahmed Abdul-Malik holds it all together. Native drums and smaller percussion instruments set up hypnotic rhythms that form a seamless foundation. Yusef Lateef provides aural images of Northern African dancing women on "Obirin African" through an exotic flute arrangement. "Ayiko, Ayiko" serves to demonstrate a thorough combination of the two cultures as Lateef pours out spirited tenor saxophone jive alongside a relaxed folksong tune. The longest piece on the album, "Love, the Mystery of," places oboe in the featured role in front of various chants, hypnotic percussion and a strong syncopated bass. Art Blakey brought together an ideal membership for his searching project, but laid it on much too harshly each time he decided to add his own drum kit participation.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Art Blakey's fascination with drums went beyond his own playing behind the vaunted Jazz Messengers. He began enlisting multiple drummers, first to chair the Messengers with him (as on the fantastic Drums Around the Corner) and then as stand-alone ensemble like the one that plays on The African Beat. Blakey's nine-drummer wall of rhythm is fronted by Yusef Lateef on horns--and occasionally percussion--and bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik. They play tunes that stand on thick carpets of cymbals, congas, log drums, maracas, and more. As a result, they produce massive soundscapes with floating horn lines over the top, something that conjures Egypt and Manhattan at once. The only downers with the session are the fade-outs that close off the rich dialogues happening across continents, but these come after such a wealth of melody and energy that it's easily forgivable. And while Blakey could easily have powered this band to ungodly speeds, he keeps things midtempo so that everyone is locked into a groove and moves as a magical unit.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1964 - Spellbound

Ahmed Abdul-Malik 

01. Spellbound
02. Never On Sunday
03. Body and Soul
04. Song of Delilah
05. Cinema Blues

Bass – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Cornet, Violin – Ray Nance
Drums – Walter Perkins
Oud – Hamza Aldeen (tracks: 2, 4)
Piano – Paul Neves
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Seldon Powell

Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, March 12, 1964

Spellbound, recorded in 1964, is double bassist and oud player Ahmed Abdul-Malik's final date as a leader, though given its contents, it shouldn't have been. Abdul-Malik, an American born musician of Sudanese descent, helped to bring the sounds of the Middle East to jazz in the '50s, incorporating oud and a different set of scales in his own recordings. His sidemen for this date are ubiquitous Duke Ellington Orchestra cornetist Ray Nance, who also plays violin here, drummer Walter Perkins, saxophonist/flutist Seldon Powell, the little known pianist Paul Neves, and oud player -- on two tracks -- Sudanese musician Hamza Aldeen (not to be confused with the Egyptian composer, oud and tar player Hamza el Din). The program on this date is unusual: three of the five tunes here come from movie soundtracks. The opening title track is from the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name and features a fine, gently swinging solo from Neves, and some excellent frontline and violin from Nance. "Never on Sunday," from the Greek film of the same name, is a showcase for Aldeen, who twins his lines with Nance's plucked violin, anchored by Abdul-Malik and Perkins. Powell's flute moves off into a solo before the piano and oud restate the theme followed by a saxophone, piano, and second flute break. It's breezy, easy, and it swings. The interplay between Nance's cornet break and Powell's tenor solo registers its emotion as Neves fills the melody with wonderful, spacious, right-hand arpeggios. Abdul-Malik's bass opens "Song of Delilah" from the film Samson & Delilah. He's followed in a complex melodic statement by flute, a gypsy jazz solo by Nance on violin, and finally, a gorgeous oud break based on a single chord -- with deep, responsorial bass from Abdul-Malik -- that eventually moves the tune into a grooving flute break. Closer "Cinema Blues" isn't from a film. Instead, it's a straight-ahead hard bop blues, with some fine muted cornet work, killer comps from Neves, and a fluid, mid-register solo by Powell, with a driving rhythm section. Spellbound isn't as groundbreaking as some of Abdul-Malik's earlier work, but it doesn't need to be: by this point, he had successfully melded jazz with Middle Eastern sounds into a seamless -- if somewhat exotically textural -- whole. The band fires on all cylinders under his inspired direction, making this a fitting sendoff to him as a bandleader. Musically, he saved one of his best for last.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1963 - The Eastern Moods Of Ahmed Abdul-Malik

Ahmed Abdul-Malik 
The Eastern Moods Of Ahmed Abdul-Malik

01. Summertime
02. Ancient Scene
03. Magrebi
04. Sa-Ra-Ga' Ya-Hindi
05. Shoof Habebe

Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute [Korean Reed Flute], Percussion – Bilal Abdurahman
Bass, Oud – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Bass, Percussion – William Allen

Recorded June 13, 1963 at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

(...)The music on this album, in spite of the unorthodox instrumentation and exotic titles, should prove itself readily accessible to any listener with an open mind and an interest on the fascinating and original fusion of different musical cultures which it represents. (...) from original liner notes

One of the most compelling albums ever recorded by Ahmed Abdul-Malik! The set’s got a style that’s very strongly in keeping with the “eastern moods” of the title – with less of a jazz sound than some of Abdul Malik’s other work, and more spare, exotic instrumentation overall. The group on the set is a trio – Ahmed on bass and oud, Bilal Abdurrahman on alto, Korean reed flute, and percussion, and William Henry Allen on bass and percussion. With that kind of lineup, you can imagine the feel – lots of spare rhythms, with snaking reed work over the top, done in a very evocative way – and although there’s less jazz than usual, the alto sax solos still give the record enough of a jazz component to set it apart from straight world music. The album kicks off with a surprisingly great, and incredibly haunting take on “Summertime”, then rolls into some really wonderful original tunes that include “Ancient Scene”, “Magrebi”, and “Shoof Habebe”.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1962 - Sounds Of Africa

Ahmed Abdul-Malik 
Sounds Of Africa

01. Wakida Hena
02. African Bossa Nova
03. Nadusilma
04. Out Of Nowhere
05. Communciation
06. Suffering

Alto Saxophone – Edwin Steede
Bass, Oud – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Cello, Violin – Calo Scott
Clarinet [Darubeka] – Bilal Abdurahman
Congas, Bongos – Montego Joe
Drums – Andrew Cirille (tracks: 4)
Drums – Rudy Collins
Drums [African Drum] – Chief Bey
Flute – Rupert Alleyne
Tenor Saxophone – Eric Dixon (tracks: 4)
Tenor Saxophone – Taft Chandler
Trumpet – Richard Williams (tracks: 4)
Trumpet – Tommy Turrentine

Ahmed Abdul-Malik played bass with Monk for a while (including on the At Carnegie Hall with Coltrane CD recently unearthed). He also can be heard on the sublime Complete 1961 Village Vanguard box set intermittently playing the oud with the classic John Coltrane quartet (which to me is a contender for the greatest music ever recorded). Despite these credentials, Abdul-Malik never achieved more than a moderate amount of recognition for his music, which is too bad considering how good this music on Jazz Sounds of Africa sounds. Right around the same time as the Vanguard recordings he recorded the music on this disc, which sounds equally as "out", and also very different, than what Coltrane was doing.

In fact, this music is so different I'm not really sure what to compare it to. Yusef Lateef was also experimenting with what could be called world fusion jazz, and 15 or 20 years later Don Cherry went there, but Ahmed Abdul-Malik was on his own path. This is music rooted in bop, but every song really goes in a different direction, most with a strong Middle Eastern and African influence. With the exception of Andrew Cyrille on drums, all of the dozen of so players featured on this CD are pretty much unknown to me. It's amazing that he was able to get so many great (but obscure) musicians together to record, and the solos sound inspired and creative throughout.

Sounds of Africa picks up where The Music of Ahmed Abdul-Malik left off:  the kind of song that you like but wouldn't be caught dead playing with your car windows rolled down.  Abdul-Malik takes his exploration of mixing Jazz with world music to new heights here, increasing the size of his band to include flute, another saxophone and more percussion.  His take on African Bossa Nova is different.  I prefer Duke Ellington's though:  Afro-Bossa.  "Nadusilma" is brilliant, the shock-value equivalent of "La Ibkey" from The Music of Ahmed Abdul-Malik.  The oud, percussion and trumpet blend together flawlessly.  "Out of Nowhere" doesn't match the title of the album.  Thankfully the next two song do.  Together, "Communcation" and "Suffering" form 16 minutes of a addictive rhythm to end the album.

A wonderfully entertaining set of music from one of jazz musics explorers. Along with the likes of Yusef Lateef Ahmed Abdul-Malik never simply played jazz music.He was forever exploring the music of the world and trying to incorporate it into the world of jazz.His real love was the music of Africa and he made several LP's based around African themes.This one also features a smattering of Brazilian bossa-nova mixed in as well.Mlik plays bass and oud,Tommy Turrentine adds his trumpet and a large drum section features heavily.Violin also features adding an eerie mournful tine at times.This is simply great music and the combination of jazz and various world rhythms works so well.Being a bassist no doubt helps Malik further appreciate the rhythmical structure of the continents music.A very good LP that should not be dismissed as a gimmick.This is proper world music long before it became a fashionable genre for the masses.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1961 - The Music Of Ahmed-Malik

Ahmed Abdul-Malik 
The Music Of Ahmed-Malik

01. Nights On Saturn
02. The Hustlers
03. Oud Blues
04. La Ibkey
05. Don't Blame Me
06. Hannibal's Carnivals

Bass, Oud – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Cello – Calo Scott
Clarinet, Percussion – Bilal Abdurrahman
Drums – Andrew Cyrille
Tenor Saxophone – Eric Dixon
Trumpet – Tommy Turrentine

Recorded May 23, 1961

This jazz musician of Sudanese descent shows up here and there on recording sessions from the '60s, including a stint as a member of Thelonious Monk's combo. He also played oud and took part in a variety of attempts to blend his roots music with jazz, out of which this is one of the most successful. Indeed, one might overlook the entire fusion nature of this record and look at is as a prime example of how much brilliant jazz is created often by relatively unknown players, despite traditional historical attempts to credit most of the best jazz to a certain pantheon of so-called "giant" players. The best-known player here is drummer Andrew Cyrille, recorded here early in his career, playing in a more traditional style then he would eventually become known for and playing very well to be sure. The leader's original tunes are catchy and refreshing, revealing new delights with each listen. The version of the standard "Don't Blame Me" is a wonderful showcase for another undersung player, cellist Calo Scott. Of course the usual credit should go to recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, whose efforts recording small combo jazz have never been matched.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik's famous for being part of a Thelonious Monk group that included John Coltrane.  After hearing this you'll wish that Ahmed Abdul-Malik had joined forces with Yusef Lateef to form a massive ensemble that fused world music and Jazz.  He's not quite the multi-instrumentalist that Lateef is but his skills on bass and a guitar-like instrument called the oud are phenomenal.  I get chills up and down my spine imagining an oud/oboe blues duet between them.  Because he is primarily a bassist, Abdul-Malik's composition are highly rhythmic.  Much of the time there's less emphasis on horns and reeds.  Tommy Turrentine certainly plays some fantastic trumpet when he gets a chance.  "La Ibkey" is easily one of my favorite exotic Jazz songs.  The only reason that "Don't Blame Me" sounds remotely foreign is that it features cello.  "Hannibal's Carnivals" could be less cheesy and dated.   What really threw me off is that it's strange to hear free-jazz drumming legend Andrew Cyrille play this kind of music. 

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1960 - East Meets West

Ahmed Abdul-Malik
East Meets West

01. El-Lail (The Night) 4:17
02. La Ibky (Don't Cry) 4:55
03. Takseem (Solo) 5:08
04. Searchin' 4:02
05. Isma's (Listen) 4:15
06. Rooh (The Soul) 3:37
07. Mahawara (The Fugue) 4:12
08. El Ghada (The Jungle)   3:06

Drums – Al Harewood
Flute – Jerome Richardson
Goblet Drum – Bilal Abdurrahman
Goblet Drum – Mike Hamway
Kanun – Ahmed Yetman
Saxophone – Benny Golson, Johnny Griffin
Trombone – Curtis Fuller
Trumpet – Lee Morgan
Violin – Naim Karacand
Bass, Oud – Ahmed Abdul-Malik

Recorded at Webster Hall in New York, Tracks 1,2,5 on March 16, 1959, Tracks 3,4,6,7,8 on March 31, 1959

Very hard to classify, but very enjoyable. A lot of this record sounds like the compositions of a modern Arabic musician using traditional instruments. The sound harkens more back to the past than the future with beautiful, evocative, sensual music with underpinning drones at time and haunting violin. Only "La Ibky" seems to fit better within the jazz world than somewhat outside of it. However, on many of the pieces here, including the opening and closing numbers, powerful horns solo over this traditional underpinning, creating an almost psychedelic and potent affect. Other pieces keep to a more classical Arabic sound.  "Mahawara" sounds like a hymn from a Sufi order with a mystical Islamic vocal that accompanies its trance-like rhythms. It would be interesting to take this sound a step further in other directions. As it is, it's quite a powerful record.

A brilliant mix of jazz and world music! Abdul-Malik was the legendary bass player from the fifties who mixed straight jazz playing with traditional Middle Eastern rhythms – and although he most famously recorded albums with Monk as a regular bassist, his albums on his own are amazing blends of jazz and world music, done years before anyone else had contemplated doing so! This album is similar to Abdul-Malik's Jazz Sahara album, in which he plays quite a bit on the Oud – but in this one the ensemble is much more jazz-oriented, and features Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Benny Golson, and Johnny Griffin. The Oud holds center stage on most tracks, but then it drops out, and Morgan and Griffin come wailing in on solos that will rip your socks off! 

Ahmed Abdul-Malik - 1958 - Jazz Sahara

Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Jazz Sahara

01. Ya Annas (Oh, People) 11:10
02. Isma'a (Listen) 9:10
03. El Haris (Anxious) 11:28
04. Farah' Alaiyna (Joy Upon Us) 6:59

Drums – Al Harewood
Goblet Drum – Mike Hamway
Kanun – Jack Ghanaim
Oud, Bass – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Saxophone – Johnny Griffin
Tambourine – Bilal Abdurrahman
Violin – Naim Karacand

Recorded In New York, October 1958.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik was one of the first musicians to integrate non-Western musical elements into jazz. In addition to being a hard bop bassist of some distinction, he also played the oud, a double-stringed, unfretted Middle Eastern lute, played with a plectrum. Abdul-Malik recorded on the instrument in the '50s with Johnny Griffin and in 1961 with John Coltrane, contributing to one of the several albums that resulted from the latter's Live at the Village Vanguard sessions.

He also recorded several dates under his own name for RCA and Prestige, that were not only refreshingly new in their meld of Middle Eastern sounds with jazz, they were critically lauded as well. These recordings include: Jazz Sahara (1958), East Meets West (1959), The Music of Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1961), Sounds of Africa (1962), Eastern Moods of Ahmed Abdul Malik (1963) and Spellbound (1964).
Abdul-Malik was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. In his twenties and thirties, he worked as a bassist with Art Blakey, Randy Weston, and Thelonious Monk, among others. He played the oud on a tour of South America under the aegis of the U.S. State Department, and performed at one of the first major African jazz festivals in Morocco in 1972. Beginning in 1970, he taught at New York University and later, Brooklyn College. In 1984, he received BMI's Pioneer in Jazz Award in recognition of his work in melding ancient and modern music. In 1993, just after his death, and continuing into the 21st century, Abdul-Malik's recordings, mostly forgotten by all but ardent jazz fans, began to be reissued with regularity until his entire catalog was back in print in numerous formats by 2013.

Ahmed Abdul-Malik is the first to introduce middle-eastern music of his kind. Abdul-malik's music is unique and introduces far beyond his time. One of the instruments he uses, (kanoon) has a very distinct sound. As he played the kanoon he expresses feelings like no other being. In addition, the Oud also has a distinct tones that only he can explain. One of the greatest joy of listening to Abdul-Malik's music is being able to go beyond and experience his moods. I really feel that if many people take the time to listen to his music, they would discover and unfold the hidden treasures of who they really are. Abdul-Malik's music speaks to you and communicates with your soul. Abdul-Malik's music is an example of how far the mind can travel. Even though he has passed on, the legacy still remains. Abdul-Malik left a message for us to carry on his journey. This is just a beginning.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Workshop De Lyon - 1978 - Tiens ! Les Bourgeons Éclatent...

Workshop De Lyon
Tiens ! Les Bourgeons Éclatent...

01. Chant Pour Les 103 Du Plateau 4:32
02. Le Vert (Ou L'intox) 5:07
03. Paradis Des Oiseaux 6:04
04. Duchesne Père Et Fils 6:13
05. Suivi De La Marche Noire 0:46
06. Je Cherche Une Enveloppe 6:50
07. L'aveugle Et Les Marchands (Ou Des Coups De Canne Dans Les Vitrines) 8:34
08. Tango A Bascule 1:10
09. Nobody Know You When You Are Down And Out 3:59
10. Tiens ! Les Bourgeons Eclatent...

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Tuba, Vocals – Maurice Merle
Double Bass, Vocals – Jean Bolcato
Drums, Gong [Gongs], Trombone, Tuba, Vocals – Christian Rollet
Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Vocals – Louis Sclavis

Recorded at studio L'oiseau musicien, Aubenas-les-Alpes, France, between Oct 27 & Nov. 2 1977.

The collective methodology of the Workshop de Lyon led to the creation of the ARFI (Association Searching for an Imaginary Folklore) in 1977, their aims were very much a mission statement "encourage improvisation, spread diverse musical styles and provide means of expression to others with similar ideas, establish a folklore…" 
Their reference was the A.A.C.M. (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) created twelve years previously with the similar idea of providing material assistance to and defending the interests of creative musicians, to encourage the emergence of new music. The open-structured ARFI self-produced their music thanks to their own label, on which almost all of the albums of the Workshop de Lyon appeared, from Concert Lave onwards.

Their third album, Tiens ! Les bougeons éclatent… is a perfect example of how the group sounded when it was released in 1978, about a year after the studio recording. Pianist Patrick Vollat had left but was still very much a part of ARFI (in particular as part of the excellent Marmite Infernale), so the Workshop de Lyon stabilized to a quartet of Louis Sclavis, Maurice Merle, Jean Bolcato and Christian Rollet, and already had at the time an unparalleled repertoire. This never ceased to expand, through the meetings and personnel changes, while losing nothing of its generosity nor showing any signs of ageing. This proffers on the Workshop de Lyon a certain universal dignity which honours their original models, Albert Ayler or the Art Ensemble of Chicago to name but two, transfiguring them into a new, exciting aesthetic approach bursting with openings and exchanges. Irresistible! 

Workshop De Lyon - 1975 - La Chasse De Shirah Sharibad

Workshop De Lyon
La Chasse De Shirah Sharibad

01. La Chasse De Shirah Sharibad 15:39
02. Pain Et Poupées 3:41
03. Jorda 9:11
04. Telie 8:50

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Piccolo Flute, Bells – Maurice Merle
Contrabass, Vocals – Jean Bolcato
Gong [Gongs], Drums – Christian Rollet
Piano – Patrick Vollat
Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Louis Sclavis

Recorded 09/75 at Studio Diagram, Lyon

A fantastic record by a little-known French group of the 70s – a quintet that grew out of the Free Jazz Workshop in Lyon, and which featured a relatively similar lineup – but with the inclusion of a young Louis Sclavis on soprano sax and bass clarinet! We know (and love) the Sclavis recordings from the 80s, but this is perhaps the earliest we've heard him perform – and his sensitivity is a perfect match for the freewheeling energy of the rest of the group 

In France, in the years 1960-1970, musicians pondered over how to transpose the political struggle of free jazz onto a completely different political terrain. One of the first to do so was pianist François Tusques (agitator, theorist and militant) who recorded Free Jazz, and then continued with Le Nouveau Jazz, French equivalents to the American New Thing. The word spread, and was picked up by the Free Jazz Workshop which became the Workshop de Lyon in 1975 with the arrival of clarinetist-saxophonist Louis Sclavis.

Still a source of joy, this lyrically feverish second album maintains a narrative dimension however subtle the textures developed through the contrasting collective improvisations. With their ever-inventive melodicism, the Workshop de Lyon invent an imaginary folklore on this album which is unlike any other. It is a knowing mix of the avant-garde and the traditional, collective playing vying, with panache and complexity, with the inspired urgency of the soloists. Even without filmed images the theatricality and humour of the group's live performances, essential components of their identity, can be felt during the long thematic suites which are both expressive and full of joy.

What better way to honour their imaginary mentors, Albert Ayler or the Art Ensemble of Chicago! More, More! 

Free Jazz Workshop - 1973 - Inter Fréquences

Free Jazz Workshop 
Inter Fréquences

01. Inter Fréquences 15:35
02. Ode À Ion Chaney 8:45
03. Sphinx 6:17
04. Sirène 8:50
05. Air Perdu 8:35

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Maurice Merle
Contrabass – Jean Bolcato
Drums – Christian Rollet
Piano, Piano [Prepared] – Patrick Vollat
Trumpet – Jean Mereu

Enregistré à Lyon en juin 1973.

The Free Jazz Workshop came into being in 1967 but their first album, Inter Fréquences, only appeared in 1973. Unfortunately there is no recorded trace of the group including the first drummer Pierre Guyon before he was replaced by Christian Rollet in 1970.

One of the slogans doing the rounds at the time sets the tone: "Aesthetic liberation is but a prelude to the liberation of humanity." The trajectory of the Free Jazz Workshop (which became the Workshop de Lyon in 1975 with the arrival of clarinetist-saxophonist Louis Sclavis) is emblematic of the emancipation of the mindset of certain French musicians during this period. It has been an exceptionally long-lived trajectory a "half-century" as the members say, during which the group - in Christian Rollet's own words – went from being "an exploratory workshop who claimed to take no account of the musical certitudes of the majority" to becoming something of a classic institution.

Right from this first album it is clear that the group would function as a collective with no designated leader. The legacy and influence of American free jazz can be heard throughout: Albert and Don Ayler, or Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry for the horns of Maurice Merle and Jean Mereu; Cecil Taylor for the pianist Patrick Vollat, absent from the group after the second album La Chasse de Shirah Sharibad; Gary Peacock and Barre Phillips for the bass; Sunny Murray or Milford Graves for the rhythmic agitation; but also the Art Ensemble of Chicago for the collective aspect.

This lyrical, incandescent album, alongside those released by François Tusques and the Cohelmec Ensemble at the same period, represents one the high points of free jazz produced by French musicians. 

Tear Gas - 1971 - Tear Gas

Tear Gas
Tear Gas

01. That's What's Real 5:55
02. Love Story 6:56
03. Lay It On Me 3:40
04. Woman For Sale 4:19
05. I'm Glad 5:45
06. Where Is My Answer 5:51
07. Jailhouse Rock 5:43
08. All Shook Up 5:43
09. The First Time 4:47

Davey Batchelor - Vocals, Guitar
Zal Cleminson - Lead Guitar
Chris Glen - Bass, Vocals
Ted McKenna - Drums

Guest Musicians
Hugh McKenna - Keyboards
Alex Harvey - Vocals?

The Glasgow-based prog/heavy/rockers Tear Gas (originally known as Mustard) released their second album in 1971 establishing themselves on the underground scene. 

Wullie Monro and Eddie Campbell left the band. Wullie joined Berserk Crocodiles (see Dream Police) and Ted McKenna from the freshly collapsed Dream Police replaced him. Eddie Campbell quit for whatever reason - perhaps just tired of touring - and was not instantly replaced. 'Tear Gas' released on the Regal Zonaphone label by this revised line up though Campbell appears on the 'live in the studio' medley of 'All Shook Up & Jailhouse Rock'.

An un-credited Ronnie Leahy provides the keyboards elsewhere on the album. Leahy played with Glen, McKenna and Cleminson again in the early '90s under the name of the 'Sensational Party Boys' - promoters mistook the name for a group of male strippers! ' Saw them in London in the Charing Cross Road Marquee (now a Weatherspoons) - a right good night..

Tear Gas' has an odd front cover pic. Is it meant to signify anything? If so it was lost on us. All tracks are 'hard 'n heavy rock' . Again not terribly memorable apart from 'Love Story', a highlight of the stage act, whose arrangement was visited again by SAHB on the 'Penthouse Tapes'. One is left with the feeling that the band was a couple of years behind the times in their material and the union with Alex Harvey was the shot in the arm of originality they needed. 'Tear Gas' was reissued on CD by Renaissance, a US label, in the mid '90s as RCD1005.

After the comercial failure of the 'Tear Gas' LP, Ted McKenna's cousin, Hugh McKenna, was drafted in on keyboards and backing vocals but Davie Batchelor soon left to go into production - he produced the SAHB stuff  - they all sound pretty good - but was famously dropped by Noel Gallagher during the making of Oasis' first album.

A rumour persisted for a while that he had to quit Tear Gas because he was going deaf! Hugh took over the lead vocals and this is the line-up that returned to Glasgow to join up with Alex Harvey after an unsuccessful stint in London . The rest of that story is well-documented history.

Tear Gas is a real guitar tour de force - it seems there is more guitar sound than one's ears can get. Musicianship is simply superior and songs are full of emotions, splendid guitar solos and bridges and elaborate harmonies. Bass lines are very impressive as well so the album is highly enjoyable.

Tear Gas - 1970 - Piggy Go Getter

Tear Gas
Piggy Go Getter

01. Lost Awakening 3:27
02. Your Woman's Gone And Left You 2:24
03. Night Girl 5:40
04. Nothing Can Change Your Mind 3:33
05. Living For Today 3:00
06. Big House 3:36
07. Mirrors Of Sorrow 2:56
08. Look What Else Is Happening 5:05
09. I'm Fallin' Far Behind 2:59
10. Witches Come Today 3:18

Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Vocals – Zal Cleminson
Bass Guitar, Vocals – Chris Glen
Drums, Tambourine, Maracas, Finger Cymbals, Vocals – Wullie Munro
Organ, Piano, Vocals – Eddie Campbell
Vocals – Davey Batchelor

Originally known as Mustard. Their first vocalist Andy Mulvey had previously been with The Poets. However, he was soon replaced by David Batchelor and around the same time Gilson Lavis (their original drummer, who later played with Squeeze) was replaced by Richard Monro from Ritchie Blackmore's Mandrake Root.

This line-up recorded Piggy Go Getter, which made little impact. In 1970 Hugh McKenna took over Batchelor's vocal role and Ted McKenna (ex-Dream Police) relieved Monro on drums. They recorded a second album and tried to establish themselves on the underground scene but were going nowhere with their brand of tired boogie heavy rock, until they teamed up with Alex Harvey in August 1972 to become The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

A Glasgow, Scotland progressive band formed in the late '60's, Tear Gas initially comprised Eddie Campbell (Keyboards), Zal Clemenson (Guitar), Chris Glen (Bass, vocals), Gilson Lavis (drums), and Andy Mulvey (vocals). Mulvey had originally sung with local beat grouip The Poets. After changing from their original name, Mustard, they chose Tear Gas as a variation of the same theme. Mulvey was soon replaced by keyboard player and vocalist David Batchalor and Lavis (wholater played with Squeeze)by Richard Monroe from Ritchie Blackmore's Mandrake Root. It was this lineup that recorded their 1970 debut: "Piggy Go Getter", an album typical of the time with it's long guitar and keyboard passages. However, they were more playful than some - "We were a really loud band, in fact we used to open with Jethro Tull's 'Love Story' which started out very softly and the crowd would drift towards the front. Then we'd turn the volume up and blow everyone out of the hall!" After a couple more lineup changes, the group recorded material for a second album for a release on Regal Zonophone Records, but was met with a lackluster response from the critics. Despite regular touring in an effort to establish themselves, it wasn't until they teamed up with Alex Harvey in August 1972 to become The Sensational Alex Harvey Band that they saw any real success.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Satin Whale - 1981 - Don't Stop The Show

Satin Whale 
Don't Stop The Show

01. Don't Stop The Show (3:40)
02 . Lady Night (3:40)
03 . Stay With Me (4:50)
04 . Out Of Control (4:25)
05 . Girl (3:40)
06 . It's Better (4:25)
07. Let It Roll (4:50)
08. Too Late (5:30)
09. My Anne (4:15)

Thomas Brück / Bass
Wolfgang Hieronymi / Drums
Eberhard Wagner / Guitar
Barry Palmer / Vocals
Peter Haaser / Piano, Organ, Synthesizer


"Stay With Me":
Dieter Roesberg / 6-String Acoustic Guitar
Rolf Lammers / Fender Rhodes Electric Piano
The Gürzenich String Section / Strings

"Let It Roll":
Udo Kasulke: Backing Vocals

"Too Late":
Dieter Roesberg / 6-String Acoustic Guitar
Rolf Lammers / Fender Rhodes Electric Piano
Jürgen Fritz / Grand Piano

The German band 'Satin Whale' was founded around 1971 in the region of Cologne by Thomas Brück (bass, vocals), Gerard Dellmann (keyboards), Dieter Roesberg (guitar, sax ,flute, vocals) and Horst Schöffgen (drums). Their first record 'Desert Places' was released in 1974 on the green 'Brain' label, musically a typical example of German Seventies rock not unlike their stablemates 'Grobschnitt' and 'Jane' for the harder edge, with guitar and organ jams. 

During a rock contest in 1974 ('Rocksound 74') 'Satin Whale' was elected the most popular German band. For the second release 'Lost Mankind' 1975 new drummer Wolfgang Hieronymi joined and the band changed to the 'Teldec' label, continuing musically in the same direction as their first record, with 'Jethro Tull' inspired flute-work. The band then went on tour as a support act for 'Barclay James Harvest'. This had a direct influence on their music and their third record 'As A Keepsake' was inspired by BJH, less rock and more symphonic influenced pop.

Their consequent tour served for the double live 'Whalecome', which showed the good musicianship of the band, giving room to extended improvisations, especially on the 17-minute long 'Hava Nagila. In the same year 'Satin Whale' released 'A Whale of Time', a good record especially the title track, an instrumental with a great string arrangement. In 1979 the band composed the soundtrack for the German movie 'Die Faust In Der Tasche' by director Max Willutzki. As the film was a popular and with their popularity rising the band released the same year 'On Tour'. In 1980 'Satin Whale' released 'Don't Stop The Show',their last and commercial record, together with Ex Triumvirat singer Barry Palmer and the band split up in 1981.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

John Lennon - 1974 - Walls And Bridges

John Lennon
Walls And Bridges

01. Going Down On Love 3:53
02. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night 3:25
03. Old Dirt Road 4:10
04. What You Got 3:07
05. Bless You 4:35
06. Scared 4:35
07. #9 Dream 4:44
08. Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) 2:54
09. Steel And Glass 4:38
10. Beef Jerky 3:27
11. Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out) 5:07
12. Ya Ya 1:05

Released: 4 October 1974 (UK), 26 September 1974 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano
Elton John: vocals, piano, organ
Nicky Hopkins: piano, electric piano
Jesse Ed Davis: electric guitar
Eddie Mottau: acoustic guitar
Ken Ascher: piano, electric piano, clavinet, Mellotron
Klaus Voormann: bass guitar
Arthur Jenkins: percussion
Jim Keltner: drums
Julian Lennon: drums
Bobby Keys, Steve Madaio, Howard Johnson, Ron Aprea, Frank Vicari: horns
Harry Nilsson, May Pang, Lori Burton, Joey Dambra: backing vocals
The Philharmonic Orchestrange (New York Philarmonic Orchestra)

The most focused set of recordings made during John Lennon's legendary Lost Weekend, Walls And Bridges marked a return to form following the clumsy sloganeering of Some Time In New York City and the frequently aimless Mind Games.

After completing work on Mind Games, Lennon had moved to Los Angeles with his girlfriend May Pang. Lennon and Yoko Ono had separated shortly before the album was begun, and although he hoped it would be a brief interlude in their relationship, she wished them to remain apart for a while longer.

Free from responsibility and control for the first time in his adult life, Lennon quickly fell victim to his excesses. He and Pang embraced Los Angeles' debauched lifestyle to the full, along with fellow party animals Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson.

Lennon initially began work on the Rock 'N' Roll album with Phil Spector, but the chaotic sessions eventually fell apart and Spector disappeared with the tapes. Lennon instead produced Harry Nilsson's album Pussy Cats in April and May 1974, although those sessions were equally rambunctious.

Eventually realising he was in danger of ruining his career, Lennon left LA for New York and finished producing Pussy Cats, as well as recording demos for a number of songs which eventually appeared on Walls And Bridges.

These new compositions charted his state of mind in the midst of the Lost Weekend. Lennon flitted between yearning desire to be reunited with Ono, expressions of love for May Pang, and accounts of his darkest hours at the bottom of a bottle.

"I think I was more in a morass mentally than Yoko was. If you listen to Walls And Bridges you hear somebody that is depressed. You can say, 'Well, it was because of years of fighting deportation and this problem and that problem,' but whatever it was, it sounds depressing. The guy knows how to make tables, but there's no spirit in the tables. I'm not knocking the record. But I'm saying it showed where I was. It's a reflection of the time."
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In the studio

In New York Lennon instigated a professional work ethic, demanding his session musicians worked from noon to 10pm, five days a week. Drugs and alcohol were kept away from the studio, Record Plant East, and Lennon enjoyed a type of creative surge he hadn't known for many months.

"The Walls And Bridges sessions were the most professional I have been on. He was there every day, 12 o'clock to 10 o'clock; go home; off the weekends; eight weeks; done. John knew what he wanted, he knew how to get what he was going after: he was going after a noise and he knew how to get it. And for the most part he got it. What he explained, we used to get."
Jimmy Iovine
Lennon And McCartney: Together Alone, John Blaney

The band spent two days rehearsing and arranging the songs; several of the recordings later appeared on the posthumous collections Menlove Ave and John Lennon Anthology. Lennon produced the recordings, though he was happy to take direction from studio staff including Roy Cicala and Jimmy Iovine.

The album was recorded in an eight-week period over July and August 1974. He was joined in the studio by Elton John, at the time one of music's biggest stars, who performed on Whatever Gets You Thru The Night and Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox).

"I was fiddling about one night and Elton John walked in with Tony King of Apple — you know, we're all good friends — and the next minute Elton said, 'Say, can I put a bit of piano on that?' I said, 'Sure, love it!' He zapped in. I was amazed at his ability: I knew him, but I'd never seen him play. A fine musician, great piano player. I was really pleasantly surprised at the way he could get in on such a loose track and add to it and keep up with the rhythm changes — obviously, 'cause it doesn't keep the same rhythm... And then he sang with me. We had a great time."
John Lennon, 1974

The songs

John Lennon often found inspiration at his lowest points, and the Lost Weekend was no exception. Walls And Bridges begins with Going Down On Love, in which Lennon reveals he is "drowning in a sea of hatred". The mix of indulgence and sorrow continues throughout the album, from the defiantly upbeat Whatever Gets You Thru The Night through to the morose Scared and Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out) – a song which Lennon hoped Frank Sinatra might record.

"Well, that says the whole story. I always imagined Sinatra singing that one, I dunno why. He could do a perfect job with it. Ya listenin', Frank? You need a song that isn't a piece of nothing. Here's one for you. The horn arrangement – everything's made for you. But don't ask me to produce it!"
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

What You Got and Bless You were written for Lennon's estranged wife Yoko Ono. The former showed the influence of the American R&B on his music, while the latter was a mournful lament in which Lennon spoke explicitly of the couple's separation: "Some people say it's over/Now that we spread our wings/But we know better darling/The hollow ring is only last year's echo". He even found the grace to wish well Ono's new partner, session guitarist David Spinozza, who had played on Mind Games.

Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox), meanwhile, was inspired by his unexpected contentment with May Pang, and his thanks to her for lifting his spirits from the gutter. Pang had been encouraged by Ono to begin a relationship with Lennon, and despite her initial wariness, the pair soon fell in love.

A key track on Walls And Bridges was #9 Dream, a lush production sounding unlike anything else he recorded, over which Lennon sang of romantic magic and nocturnal discovery. He adapted the melody of the string arrangement of Harry Nilsson's cover of Many Rivers To Cross for the verses, and the chorus – Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé – was taken from a dream in which two women called his name.

"This was one of John's favorite songs, because it literally came to him in a dream. He woke up and wrote down those words along with the melody. He had no idea what it meant, but he thought it sounded beautiful. John arranged the strings in such a way that the song really does sound like a dream. It was the last song written for the album, and went thru a couple of title changes: So Long Ago, and Walls & Bridges."
May Pang

Two of the tracks referenced Beatles songs. Going Down On Love contained the line "Somebody please, please help me", and Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) ended with an echo of the 'beep beep, beep beep, yeah' refrain from Drive My Car.

The mostly instrumental Beef Jerky, meanwhile, borrowed the riff from Paul McCartney's Let Me Roll It – itself a stark recording seemingly inspired the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album. Lennon had been reunited with his former bandmate after McCartney unexpectedly dropped by a Los Angeles studio earlier in 1974, and while the resultant jam was disappointing, it showed that neither was eager to continue feuding.

Walls And Bridges also featured Old Dirt Road, a collaboration with Harry Nilsson, one of Lennon's most tenacious drinking buddies during the Lost Weekend. It also closed with a throwaway cover of Lee Dorsey's 1961 hit Ya Ya, featuring the 11-year-old Julian Lennon on drums.

One song from the Walls And Bridges sessions was left off the album. Move Over Ms L was originally to have been positioned between Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox and What You Got on the album's second side, but Lennon decided to remove it shortly before the album's release. The song was subsequently re-recorded and released as the b-side to the Stand By Me single.

Cover artwork

Walls And Bridges was presented in a fold-out cover featuring various photographs of Lennon taken by Bob Gruen, and reproductions of artwork drawn by Lennon as a schoolboy in the 1950s. The fold-over flaps could be rearranged in various combinations, and were designed by Roy Kohara.

The LP's inner sleeve was enclosed inside another card container featuring more photographs of Lennon, and an eight-page booklet completed the package. The booklet contained song lyrics, five more artworks from the 1950s, and an extract from the book Irish Families, Their Names, Arms And Origins by Edward Maclysaght which detailed the history of the name Lennon.

The booklet also featured credits for the album, and two quotations: '"Possession is nine-tenths of the problem" – Dr. Winston O'Boogie'; and 'On the 23rd August 1974 at 9 o'clock I saw a U.F.O. – J.L.'

The release

An advertising campaign ran to promote Walls And Bridges. The concept, suggested by Lennon, was around the theme "Listen to this...", and was applied to button badges, stickers, advertisements, posters and t-shirts. In New York City it also featured on the rear of 2,000 buses.

A television commercial also ran in late 1974. It showed the album sleeve in various permutations, and had a voiceover by Ringo Starr. Lennon returned the favour by voicing the advert for Starr's album Goodnight Vienna, released in November 1974.

Walls And Bridges was released on 26 September 1974 in the United States. It was a Billboard number one, was awarded gold status, and spent 35 weeks on the charts.

In the United Kingdom it was issued on 4 October 1974. It peaked at number six, and was in the charts for a total of 10 weeks.

Shortly after its release Lennon supervised a quadrophonic mix of Walls And Bridges, although the popularity of the format was limited in 1974 and it sold poorly.

Walls And Bridges Sessions
Misterclaudel – mccd - 386/387/388/389/390

101. Going Down On Love (Piano Demo Sequence)
102. Going Down On Love (Demo Take 1)
103. Going Down On Love (Demo Take 2)
104. Going Down On Love (Demo Take 3)
105. Going Down On Love (Studio Rehearsal )
106. Going Down On Love (Takes 5 & 6 Breakdown)
107. Going Down On Love (Offline Monitor Mix)
108. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Demo Sequence #1)
109. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Demo Sequence #2)
110. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Demo Sequence #3)
111. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Demo Sequence #4)
112. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Demo Sequence #5)
113. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Studio Rehearsal #1)
114. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Studio Rehearsal #2)
Recording Session #1
115. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Ain't She Sweet)
116. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 1)
117. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 2)
118. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 3)
119. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 4 Breakdown / Yesterday Parody)
120. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 5)
121. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 6 Breakdown)
122. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 6)
123. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 7 Breakdown)
124. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 7)
125. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 8 Breakdown)
126. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 9 Breakdown)
127. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 9)
128. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 10)

201. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 11)
202. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 12 Breakdown)
203. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 13 Breakdown)
204. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 14)
205. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 15 Take 14 By Engineer)
206. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 16 Breakdown)
207. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 17 Breakdown)
208. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 18)
209. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 19 Breakdown)
210. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 20 Breakdown)
211. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 21 Breakdown)
212. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 22)
213. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 23)
214. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 24)
Re-Make Recording Session #2
215. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 1)
216. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 2)
217. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 3 With Breakdown)
218. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 4)
219. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 5)
220. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 6)
221. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 7 - Backing Track Master Take)
222. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix Guitar & Bongos Overdubs)
223. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Mixing Session Over Take 7 - Offline Monitor Mix)
224. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Rough Mix - Single Vocal)
225. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Vocal Overdubs Over Take 7)
226. Old Dirt Road (Studio Rehearsal)
227. Old Dirt Road (Takes 11 & 12)
228. Old Dirt Road (Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix)

301. What You Got (Demo #1)
302. What You Got (Demo #2)
303. What You Got (Demo #3 Breakdown)
304. What You Got (Demo #4)
305. What You Got (Alternate Take)
306. What You Got (Take 10 Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix #1)
307. What You Got (Take 10 Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix #2)
308. What You Got (Take 10 Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix #3)
309. What You Got (Mono Promo)
310. Bless You (Studio Rehearsal #1)
311. Bless You (Studio Rehearsal #2)
312. Bless You (Studio Rehearsal)
313. Bless You (Alternate Take #1)
314. Bless You (Alternate Take #2)
315. Bless You (Offline Monitor Mix)
316. Scared (Studio Rehearsal)
317. Scared (Take 4)
318. Scared (Offline Monitor Mix)
319. #9 Dream (Demo #1)
320. #9 Dream (Demo #2)
321. #9 Dream (Demo #3)
322. #9 Dream (Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix)
323. #9 Dream (Rough Mix)

401. #9 Dream (Edit Promo Mono)
402. #9 Dream (Edit Promo Stereo)
403. Surprise, Surprise (Demo #1)
404. Surprise, Surprise (Demo #2)
405. Surprise, Surprise (Studio Rehearsal)
406. Surprise, Surprise (Alternate Take)
407. Surprise, Surprise (Offline Monitor Mix)
408. Steel And Glass (Demo #1 'Pill' 1971)
409. Steel And Glass (Demo #2 1973)
410. Steel And Glass (Demo #3 1973)
411. Steel And Glass (Demo #4 1974)
412. Steel And Glass (Studio Rehearsal)
413. Steel And Glass (Take 8)
414. Steel And Glass (Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix 1)
415. Steel And Glass (Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix 2)
416. Steel And Glass (Offline Monitor Mix 3)
417. Steel And Glass (Long Version - Quad Mix)
418. Beef Jerky (Studio Rehearsal)
419. Beef Jerky (Alternate Take)

501 Nobody Loves You (Demo 1973)
502 Nobody Loves You (Studio Rehearsal)
503 Nobody Loves You (Take 9)
504 Nobody Loves You (Take 18 Breakdown)
505 Nobody Loves You (Take 19)
506 Nobody Loves You (Offline Monitor Mix)
507. Move Over Ms. L (Demo #1)
508. Move Over Ms. L (Demo #2)
509. Move Over Ms. L (Studio Rehearsal #1 Breakdown)
510. Move Over Ms. L (Studio Rehearsal #2)
511. Move Over Ms. L (Alternate Take Breakdown)
512. Move Over Ms. L (Alternate Take)
513. Move Over Ms. L (Alternate Take 2)
514. Move Over Ms. L (Offline Monitor Mix)
515. Move Over Ms. L (Rough Mix Take 3)
516. Move Over Ms. L (Walls And Bridges Radio Spot)
517. Just Because #1 (1973 Demos)
518. Just Because #2 (1973 Demos)
519. Just Because #3 (1973 Demos)
520. So Many (1973 Demos)
521. The Boat Song (1973 Demos)

Like most of John Lennon's solo albums, Walls and Bridges came with its share of bumps along the way. And like much of Lennon's work starting around the time the Beatles were working on the White Album, many of those bumps were spurred by Yoko Ono.
While recording Mind Games in 1973, Lennon and Ono split up. His year-and-a-half separation from her became known as Lennon's Lost Weekend, a fabled period that lasted way longer than a weekend, and included such figures as Ono's personal assistant (with whom Lennon shacked up), Harry Nilsson and Phil Spector.
John Lennon was about a year into his break from Ono – and about a month removed from wrapping work on Nilsson's Pussy Cats album – when he began recording Walls and Bridges in New York in July 1974. About nine months earlier, Lennon had holed up with legendary producer Spector (who had also assembled the Beatles' final album Let It Be from hours of unedited tapes, much to the disappointment of the group's fans) in hopes of making a record of rock 'n' roll oldies.
But like many things during Lennon's Lost Weekend, alcohol sidelined the sessions and Spector left with the tapes (they'd later be revisited for 1975's Rock 'n' Roll album). So, Lennon fleshed out the new songs he'd been working on since finishing Mind Games a year earlier, assembled some Los Angeles session vets, including some string and brass players, and began work on Walls and Bridges.
He was all over the place, playing around with various styles (pop, rock, R&B), themes (some songs were about Ono, some were about his new love and some were about the Lost Weekend) and intention. Its best songs – "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," "Bless You," "Scared," "#9 Dream" and "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)" – dipped as much into Lennon's past as they pointed toward his future.
Nilsson co-wrote one song. Another was a cover of an R&B oldie. Lennon wrote one song with Frank Sinatra in mind. And Elton John came in at the last minute and added vocals and piano to "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," Lennon's first solo No. 1 hit.
("#9 Dream," the other single from Walls and Bridges reached No. 9, appropriately enough.)
The album also went to No. 1, repeating the success Imagine had achieved three years earlier. But its reputation, even at the time, is far removed from that of Lennon's 1971 classic, mainly because he sounds a little lost – emotionally and musically. No doubt some of that aimlessness had to do with Lennon's separation from Yoko Ono. But it's telling too that after relaunching his Spector-produced oldies project a year later, John Lennon took a long break from music, not returning until 1980's fateful Double Fantasy.
It was almost like the music didn't matter much to him at this point. And maybe it didn't. Rollicking numbers on Walls and Bridges like "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" are offset by pained confessionals like "Scared." Lennon sounds torn on the album, and his retirement, in hindsight, was much needed.
When he returned in 1980 with his "Heart Play" collaboration with Ono, Lennon was refreshed – lighter and more open to the world. Past demons behind him, he was all set to enter the third stage of his career until it was ended on Dec. 8.
These days, Walls and Bridges comes off like the tossed-off Lost Weekend castaway it often is. Even though Lennon and crew set aside much of the drug- and alcohol-fueled debauchery that marked the Pussy Cats and initial Rock 'n' Roll sessions, the album can't help but take on the signs of a slight hangover ... or at least a kinda rough morning after. There may have been some good times put into it, but there were way better days long before.

With Walls & Bridges, John Lennon finally lets go of his Beatles history, seems to overlook his acrimonious relationship with Paul McCartney, and overcomes his tendency to indulge his rather bloated ego. There's little of the sanctimony that plagues Imagine, little of the navel gazing that renders Plastic Ono Band as bitter as dry aspirin, and little of the pretention that mars Mind Games. It's as if Lennon found the freedom to just enjoy making music with a certain abandon and with a good healthy dose of the kind of funk that was bubbling to the surface of the music scene in 1974. Indeed, I would even call this album Lennon's 1970s funk album. Whether this newfound freedom to create something enjoyable and listenable comes from his infamous lost weekend or simply through creative inspiration and attention to musical trends is probably a moot point by now. In any case, Lennon offers a great time on this LP, even in the more acerbic numbers like Steel and Glass. That number could be taken as a weak point -- "oh, no, more McCartney bashing," right? However, at least to my ears, Lennon is not directing his anger to McCartney at all but rather to himself. In Steel and Glass, this is the Lennon who wrote "Mother" and "Yer Blues," the Lennon who, through some sliver of self-realization cracking through the hardened ego, realizes that his own selfish is a worthy target, is something that has inhibited his personal growth. Who, after all, is the man with the L.A. tan and the New York vibe except none other than the man you took up New York as his home town and hired L.A. musicians to finish this album?   

There is so much going for this album. On Walls and Bridges, Lennon is confident and strong, funky and rollicking. Plus, if I were to name the most Beatle-esque John Lennon album, this is it -- great production, melodies and all.