Sunday, October 30, 2016

Yosuke Yamashita & Yasutaka Tsutsui - 1976 - Ie

Yosuke Yamashita & Yasutaka Tsutsui

01. Umi / Tsuki (21:18)
02. Arashi (11:43)
03. Ie (7:10)

Yosuke Yamashita - piano, el-piano, synth, etc
Yasutaka Tsutsui - narration
Tamori - narration
Masayuki Ise - guitar
Akira Sakata - alto sax
Shigeharu Mukai - trombone
Tomoki Takahashi - tenor sax
Toshinori Kondo - trumpet
Masayuki Kuniyoshi - flute
Hideaki Mochizuki - bass
Taeko Ohnuki - vocal
Jiro Terao - el-bass
Kunio Muramatsu - guitar
Keiko Yamakawa - harp

Recorded at Phonogram Studio, Victor Studio, 28 July 1975 to 24 January 1976.

One of the strangest LPs I have, it’s rather rare, I’m told and is a joint effort by Yosuke Yamashita (legendary free jazz pianist and famed soundtrack composer) and the Ballard-ian SF-author, Tsutsui Yasutaka (who wrote the lyrics and, I think, an original book or play which this LP sonically adapts). Although, I’m not sure if this piece was ever adapted for theatre – it would seem likely, given the Japanese tradition for such fare - but, aesthetically, it sits comfortably within the remit of Julian’s Japrocksampler. If ever Julian adds a new appendix of extra works in a second edition – this one is in real need of consideration.

It’s an incredibly mysterious sounding record, and, at times, mesmerising and atmospheric in a cinematic sort of way. Pitched somewhere between People’s Ceremony – Buddha Meet Rock, Miles Davis’s mellow, late-night elegiac pieces, Terry Riley’s mystic, trance-inducing minimalism, Stomu Yamashita’s early 70s theatrical LPS (particularly Man From the East), abstract sound collage, and more realistic radio drama. It also boasts moments of Canterbury-like progressive fullness - Robert Wyatt’s ‘under-watery’ Rock Bottom comes to mind, as does the mellow-but-muscular Hatfield and the North’s first LP) - (proto-)post-modern inter-textual playfulness and some rather extreme sonic experimentation.

Someone on the ever reliable MUTANT SOUNDS blog describes it thusly: “like a combination of Franco Battiato, Mike Oldfield, Igor Wakhevitch, Urban Sax, Stomu Yamashta and Keith Tippett.”

Released in 1976 on the Frasco label it features a whole host of musicians playing what amounts to a small orchestra and a small cast of actors/narrator – Yamashita plays an arsenal of keyboards, including warm-sounding Rhodes, icy grand piano (possibly his forte?), Hammond, and both Korg and Arp synthesisers. As well as the nominal strings and brass of a small orchestra set-up, there are harpists, chorales, upright bass, traditional ethnic Japanese instruments (particularly percussion) and synthesized guitar (played by Ise Masayuki).

As to the story, I’ve no idea – it seems rather dark and gothic – the 6 page insert featuring some rather disturbing gothic-surrealist ink drawings (Mervyn Peake by way of Paul Delvaux). An odd house situated in the middle of a becalmed sea, there’s a dark and obscured figure in a boat (not noticeable at first), about to board the house maybe? Inside the booklet features the same house in a montage amidst skeletons, oversized heads, shooting stars, blood veins or bodily entrails and owls and butterflies that do little to lighten the mood created. Suffice to say, it’s obvious this tale has its ‘down and dark’ moments!

“Umi” (14:37) A nebulous Korg 700 series ushers in a tumbling, fumbling melody – that sounds like its falling from the inky blue night right into the ocean depths – like some small sea anemone skittering around the ocean floor as gamelan-like percussion and low-key synthesiser rumbles begin to tremble underneath. The whole atmosphere is remarkably aquatic to begin with – or as if we’re somehow inside the veins and arteries of a body, traversing inner space.

Odd string instruments are plucked and stroked, as the narrator sounds like he’s chewing on some gravel. He begins to cough and stutter as if the clearing of his throat figures as a musical component. The trance-like vibe, however, remains, as kotos and other loose-stringed things coax out some very sinuous sounds. The ‘deep sea’ synthesiser line disappears to be replaced with thrummed percussion and trance-like drones of electronic mush. The narrator begins to introduce the tale. As the drone gets more assertive a Terry Riley like piano line begins – repeated over and over - and warm electric guitars unfold, with rich warm notes peeled off. The piano line is like a bizarre sonic Moebius curve of notes, pitched in some nether region situated between all the various modes.

Over this a warn Rhodes is added and the late night Miles trumpet wails mournfully, a perfect soundtrack for a 3am drive through some neon mega-city – a perfectly posed blend of People’s Ceremony - Buddha Meets Rock and Bark Psychosis immense Hex LP. Suddenly, a resounding bass undertow heralds a wonderful female vocal chorus who half whisper/ half sing (over and over): “Japanese, Japanese / Sight Breeze, Slight Breeze…” The repeated piano riff gets stronger and out of the blue Yamashita pays homage to the Tubular Bells riff from, well, Tubular Bells(1973) and more rigorous as free jazz flutes skit across its surface to be joined by rampant piano (of the like Yamashita is famed for). Upwards and upwards this circular prayer travels until it suddenly cuts off – leaving behind a pale, pastel electronic sequence.

This sequence is the introduction for “Tsuki” a slowly moving, slowly gestating, late night stroll of a track – the narrator continuing the tale as walking upright bass and candle pale string washes on the synthesiser create a very cinematic noir-ish feel. Pastel strings and quivering guitar chords tremble and gradually wither away into the overall mix. Its very meditative and certainly has the same repetitive mantra-like patience as the People LP. The narrator continues as only the sequence behind him continues. After this remarkable drop out the body of sound thickens to introduce Ornette Coleman-like Saxophone (half-blues cliché/half free-jazz speaking in tongues) and Hermman-like string synthesisers which gradually, and insidiously, begin to devour the track, their tonal manoeuvres getting more and more sinister, growing like vines chocking the atmosphere, as saxophone cries out – a tremolo effect washes over the strings, which climb and climb. Each new interval seemingly more discordant and creepy than the last - It’s incredibly cinematic (of course, Yamashita sound-tracked many Japanese films). Upwards and upwards the strings dive, the sax more and more frenetic until… silence, and its left to the narrator to utter some final compelling epitaph that I don’t understand (and could well be – “Continued on Side Two!!”

Side Two’s “Arasi” is much more abstract and obviously moves the narrative on considerably, with the narrator battling for the first 5 minutes against huge, phosphorescent synthesiser swells, distant atonal piano dribble, Africana percussion, sounds effects of gunfire, wind (lots and lots of synthesised wind), and baby cries. This track grows into a huge sonic collage – the narrator seemingly infected by the musical madness that is occurring all around him as he himself begins to rant, other demonic voices swelling up with him, and it’s as if we’ve entered an Igor Wakhevitch nightmare in the Land of the Rising Sun.

With the keyboards still fizzing and farting away, distant free jazz piano dribbling in and out of the cracks left in the sound of synthesised wind, a bizarre Latin guitar strum begins as the narrator whistles along. Yet more odd characters appear, talking, whispering, ranting, and growling. Buddhist chants appear out of this sonic stew briefly, as the dialogue returns at arbitrary moments. Things get increasingly more bizarre for the next 8 minutes – it makes Revolution No 9 sound like a “Story for Bedtime,” until the whole thing ends up blasted apart by a bomb of Nagasaki-like proportions.

Ice slithers of piano are the first thing to emerge out of the destruction – clear as a bell, cool, cool shards of brittle sound and then another slow bass march and maudlin accordions and synthesisers begin a calming Debussy-like waltz through this futuristic mindscape of sound and energy – replete with cascading harps, seagulls, waves (synthesised!) crashing on the shore, cosmic washes of synthesiser – until all is eventually bundled together in one big miasma of sound and heads off into the galaxy - a huge supernova of sound. After what seems like some audio-verite studio discussion with the narrator, some woman, and various technicians, the last track begins

“IE” begins on a drone – backwards guitar and cymbal hits sucks sound and life into the track, a weird synthesiser tone that merges in and out of a variation on the repeated riff of Side One; gentle guitars and harps are plucked, as more narration begins to close (what surely must be) a hugely strange tale. The effect is almost like a psychedelic Musical box, but the arrangement builds beautifully again – as heavenly trumpets and strings orchestrate the piece – a Japanese “Sketches of Spain” maybe, it’s quite, quite moving.

Yamashta’s orchestral jazz spirit really pervades here in this closing movement – as phat Korgs join in on the accompanying lines of brass. As largely reverberating vibes are stroked – stunning stuff – there’s an almost aqueous, oceanic affect - similarities (and distinct ones at that) with Talk Talk’s mighty Spirit of Eden are evident. Wonder if Mark Hollis and (Bark Psychosis’) Graham Sutton know this monster – it certainly sounds like it, hearing their own work. A gorgeously ethereal (as only the Japanese can do) spiritual jazz aesthetic brings these bizarre musings to a close, here we could be right at the bottom of Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom, a strangely innocent and humble quality. The ever-repeated mantra goes on and on and on….into everlastingness! Or, alternatively (and as it sounds on here) until the batteries run out!

Yosuke Yamashita & Adelhard Roidinger - 1977 - Inner Space

Yosuke Yamashita & Adelhard Roidinger
Inner Space

01. Country Walk 6:33
02. Tight Pants 7:10
03. Soft Waltz 3:40
04. Green Wave 18:02

Bass – Adelhard Roidinger
Piano – Yosuke Yamashita

Europa-Sound Studio, Offenbach
June 24th, 1977

Japanese pianist Yosuke Yamashita built his name as one of the country's avant-garde jazz leader with his bass-less trio founded still in 1969 (with drummer Takeo Moriyama and tenorist Seiichi Nakamura,in 1973 Nakamura has been changed by alto sax player Akira Sakata). Early-mid 70s were all years of trio's fame documented by representative collection of studio and live albums, all containing high energy fast and tight strongly improvisation music.

Year 1977 was a transitional for Yosuke, when he disbanded the trio and started playing in different new formats, from solo to combo with members of Art Ensemble of Chicago."Inner Space" is a small album, coming from that time and it evidences quite unusual for Yosuke music - four duets with groovy acoustic Austrian bassist Adelhard Roidinger.

From very first seconds it becomes obvious that you're listening to different Yosuke album - airy,almost mellow and dreamy tunes would fit well on one of ECM albums of the time. Still sound is quite different from what is known by "ECM sound" - "Inner Space" has warm deep acoustic sound more usual for Japanese Three Blind Mice audiophile label.

By it's atmosphere album reminds some other transitional albums of the era, when duo combines two quite different artists, better example is Archie Shepp and NHO Pedersen's "Looking At Bird", recorded and released in 1980. There on "...Bird" one could hear advanced Shepp's sax soloing contrasting with extremely earthed Pedersen straight bass. Here on "Inner Space" Yosuke plays Cecil Taylor-kind of piano improvisations framed by almost hard-boppish Roidinger bass line. Surprisingly,in both cases what sound suspicious on paper works well in real life.

It took another decade for Yamashita to form his new trio (this time - with Americans bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Pheeroan AkLaff) - so-called New York Trio, which bring him popularity in States at last. "Inner Space" stays Yosuke's most mellow album coming from his early period (late 60s' - 70s), and one of his most beautiful one.

Yosuke Yamashita - 1979 - First Time

Yosuke Yamashita 
First Time

01. For D 5:46
02. For M 5:18
03. For J 6:56
04. Thus We Met 16:25
05. Cymbal Bird 4:15

Alto Saxophone – Joseph Jarman
Bass – Malachi Favors
Drums – Famoudou Don Moye
Flute – Joseph Jarman
Piano – Yosuke Yamashita
Soprano Saxophone – Joseph Jarman

Recorded June 26 & 27 '79 at Generation Sound Studio, N.Y, N.Y.

Yosuke Yamashita - 1976 - Banslikana

Yosuke Yamashita 

01. A Night In Tunesia 4:09
02. Stella 3:54
03. Banslikana 7:54
04. Chiasma 3:55
05. Autumn Leaves 6:23
06. Ko's Daydream 3:28
07. Lullaby 4:00
08. Bird 5:09

Recorded on July 5, 1976 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg

Released as "Yosuke Yamashita" in 1982 in East Germany (AMIGA – 8 55 943)

Piano – Yosuke Yamashita

Yosuke Yamashita - 1975 - Breathtake

Yosuke Yamashita

 01. Roihani
02. Echo
03. Mina's Second Theme
04. Breathtake
05. Entlam
06. It Will Be Forever
07. Turning Point

Recorded at München Union Studio, West Germany, July 1975

Yosuke Yamashita – solo piano

 Yamashita studied piano as a child and has played professionally since the age of 17. He attended Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo from 1962-1967 and played for a time with saxophonist Sadao Watanabe. Yamashita formed a bassless trio in 1969; his Bill Evans-influenced style expanded to include free jazz, a rather radical step given the conservatism of the Japanese jazz scene at the time. Beginning in the '70s, his trio toured widely and played many major European events, including the Berlin and Montreux jazz festivals. Yamashita's U.S. debut was at the 1979 Newport Jazz Festival; he also recorded with members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago around that time. In the '80s, Yamashita began playing frequent solo concerts. He also branched out stylistically, playing with Japanese and Korean percussionists and incorporating adaptations of classical works into his repertoire. Yamashita has worked with many internationally famous artists, including Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Bill Laswell, Mal Waldron, and Lester Bowie. In 1985, he made the first of what would come to be annual appearances at Sweet Basil night club in New York. He formed an "American" trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Pheeroan akLaff; the group became his primary performing unit when in the States. In the '90s, Yamashita recorded several albums for Verve; in 1994, he played solo at the label's 50th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall. Yamashita has recorded more than 40 albums. He's also an accomplished essayist, having written several books.

Toshiyuki Tsuchitori & Mototeru Takagi - 1975 - Origination

Toshiyuki Tsuchitori & Mototeru Takagi 

01. Tao 15:46
02. Lagrima 10:38
03. Little Boy 12:34
04. Buddha 10:02
05. Evol 3:41

Drums, Percussion, Voice, Melodica [Pianica] – Toshi Tsuchitori
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Alto Clarinet, Alto Clarinet, Bass Clarinet – Mototeru Takagi

Toshi Tsuchitori, born in 1950 in the Japanese prefecture of Kagawa, began playing the traditional Japanese drums at an early age. Since the Seventies, he has performed internationally with specialists of free form improvisation such as Milford Graves, Steve Lacy, Derek Baily and others. In 1976, he worked with Peter Brook’s theatre group for the first time and has since written the music for the productions of “Ubu“, “The Conference of the Birds“, “L’os“, “The Mahabharata“, “The Tempest“ and “The Tragedy of Hamlet“. He has studied traditional music styles of around the globe and presents the results of his research into the earliest manifestations of Japanese music with which he deals since ten years at his performances. A series of prehistoric Japanese sounds under the titles “Dotaku“, “Sanukaito“ and „Jomonko“ were published under his name as well as two books: His autobiography, “Spiral Arms”, and a study on prehistoric Japanese music entitled ”The Sounds of Jomon“.

Mototeru Takagi (28 December 1941 - December 2002) was a Japanese tenor saxophone player, known for playing in a distinctive and powerful free jazz style. He played with many of the most important Japanese free groups and musicians during the seventies, such as ESSG and those of Masahiko Togashi, Motoharu Yoshizawa and Masayuki Takayanagi.

Takagi was born in Osaka in 1941, but grew up in Yokohama. During his younger years, he spent time in the bands of players like Charlie Ishiguro and Hisashi Sakurai, but only really began developing his distinctive free style when he joined the Motoharu Yoshizawa Trio in 1968. The following year he joined Togashi's Quartet and ESSG. After Togashi's accident, Takagi played briefly with Masayuki Takayangi's New Direction Unit and in a duo with percussionist Sabu Toyozumi. From November 1973 he spent one year playing in France, returning to Japan in November 1974. Takagi recorded very few albums as a leader over the course of his career, but he was highly valued as a collaborator by many Japanese jazz, rock and avant-garde musicians.

Toshiyuki Miyama & The New Herd With Masahiko Sato - 1972 - Yamataifu

Toshiyuki Miyama & The New Herd With Masahiko Sato 

01. Ichi
02. Ni
03. San

- Masahiko Sato/ Arrangement , Electric Piano,
- Toshiyuki Miyama/ Conductor
- Masao Kunisada/ Bass
- Masaru Hiromi/ Drums
- Kozaburo Yamamoto/ Guitar
- Yoshinobu Imashiro/ Piano
- Kazumi Oguro, Shinji Nakayama/ Saxophone [Alto]
- Miki Matsui/ Saxophone [Baritone]
- Kiyoshi Saito, Shoji Maeda/ Saxophone [Tenor]
- Masamichi Uetaka, Seiichi Tokura, Takeshi Aoki, Teruhiko Kataoka/ Trombone
- Bunji Murata, Kenichi Sano, Koji Hadori, Kunio Fujisaki/ Trumpet

"What a wild beast!" was the first thought that ran through my head upon listening to this album. Holy moly! What we've got here is equal measures imaginative big band leanings and ferocious fusion layers that never quite spell out jazz rock yet come very close. The splicing of famous jazz cats on Yamataifu is equally impressive as it is baffling - consisting of the famous Japanese big band conductor Toshiyuki Miyama, who at the time of this recording was 52(!), and the well renowned pianist Masahiko Satoh who went on to become one of Japan's most influential players.

Starting off with an ominous whiff of horns - a brooding dark wave of droning winds, Yamataifu reveals an unearthly musical presence - making this listener feel as if he was swimming through slush ice soil, upwards and away on grainy droopy sandpaper wings. The stagnant floating earth starts rumbling in tiny jitters as small rhythmic splashes dipper dapper their way into the mix. Immeasurable sounds suddenly emanate from way in the back and there's no telling whether we're treated to guitars, synths or the local back alley cat trying to push it's way through the mouth piece of a bassoon. It builds up slowly and the younger audiences will probably write it off as proto post rock with trinkets of insatiable whirlwind effects and bubbling energies.......but this is so much more - a blast from the past! A calculated storm in your skull.

Soon the jazz beat commences - the doouab shidioouuii babab bidouiuuoii badahh badaah and everything disintegrates - in all directions no less. Furious piano sprints, bopping bass lines and oddly played horn sections that threaten to overtake the airspace of mosquitoes and all those critters who fancy their flying adventures to be square and angular.

This is essentially avantguarde jazz with a big bootful of grooves. Add to that an uncanny way about spacey infusions such as sequencers, atonal wind instruments and frantically played Santana-like percussion. The whole thing feels like it's happening on a dime - on a cloud somewhere high above the earth, where musicians come to whack out and fill themselves with psychedelic plants, irreverent books and hip females who adore the strangeness of it all.

Take a bit of 'Atlantis' era Sun Ra, a dash of Mwandishi sorcery, a pinch of Miles and a teeny tiny touch of ayahuasca and you're nearly there. Again relegating just exactly how this sounds and moreover feels is rather like fitting a dinosaur into a phone booth. There's no room and one of those things is increasingly hard to get a hold of these days.

Toshiyuki Miyama & The New Herd - 1976 - Sunday Thing

Toshiyuki Miyama & The New Herd 
Sunday Thing

01. Sunday Thing 9:26
02. Soft Rain 5:03
03. Memories 3:37
04. Sweet Heart Blues 7:32
05. Friends 5:25
06. Plain Song 5:34

Bass – Yasushi Fukushima
Drums – Isao Yomoda
Guitar, Arranged By – Kozaburo Yamaki
Piano – Kiyoshi Takano
Reeds – Atsuo Shirai, Ken-ichi Tada, Koji Suzuki (4), Mamoru Mori, Shigeo Nukida
Trombone – Masamichi Uetaka, Osamu Shiomura, Teruhiko Kataoka, Teruo Fukushima
Trumpet – Koji Suzuki (8), Kojiro Yamaguchi, Shigeru Kamimori, Yoshikazu Kishi

Recorded May 4 & 7, 1976 at Epicurus Studio, Tokyo.

Japanese monster with more big band moves than Godzilla, try it.Very good indeed.

Toshiyuki Miyama & The New Herd - 1972 - Nio And Pigeon

Toshiyuki Miyama & The New Herd 
Nio And Pigeon

01. Hide And Seek
02. A Sun Shower Parade
03. Grief For Enka
04. Nio And Pigeon
05. When A Swan Goes To Sleep
06. Streams Of The Sumida River
07. Dedications To The Humble Prayer
08. Adult's Day

Alto Clarinet – Kazumi Oguro
Alto Saxophone – Kazumi Oguro, Shinji Nakayama
Arranged By – Kozaburo Yamaki
Baritone Saxophone – Miki Matsui
Bass – Masao Kunisada
Celesta – Yoshinobu Imashiro
Clarinet – Kazumi Oguro, Kiyoshi Saito, Shinji Nakayama, Shoji Maeda
Clarinet [Bass] – Miki Matsui
Composed By – Kozaburo Yamaki
Drums – Masaru Hiromi
Flute – Kazumi Oguro, Kiyoshi Saito, Shinji Nakayama, Shoji Maeda
Gong – Yoshinobu Imashiro
Guitar – Kozaburo Yamaki
Maracas – Kozaburo Yamaki
Melodica – Koji Hatori
Percussion – Masaru Hiromi
Piano – Yoshinobu Imashiro
Soprano Saxophone – Kiyoshi Saito, Shoji Maeda
Tambourine – Kazumi Oguro
Tenor Saxophone – Kiyoshi Saito, Shoji Maeda
Toy [Bell] – Kozaburo Yamaki, Seiichi Tokura
Toy [Clapper] – Shinji Nakayama
Toy [Drum] – Bunji Murata, Seiichi Tokura, Teruhiko Kataoka
Toy [Gara-gara] – Yoshinobu Imashiro
Toy [Guilo] – Takeshi Aoki
Toy [Kachi-kachi] – Kiyoshi Saito, Kozaburo Yamaki, Masamichi Uetaka
Toy [Siren] – Kenichi Sano, Shinji Nakayama, Takeshi Aoki
Trombone – Masamichi Uetaka, Seiichi Tokura, Takeshi Aoki, Teruhiko Kataoka
Trombone [Bass] – Takeshi Aoki
Trumpet – Bunji Murata, Kenichi Sano, Koji Hatori, Kunio Fujisaki

Adventure In Sounds series. Recorded 9 & 16 May 1972.

In 1921, one of Japanese Jazz Giants, Toshiyuki MIYAMA was born in Chiba-City, Japan. He joined the Japanese Naval Military Band in 1939 and played upon deck of many Japanese warships such as Hyuga, Yamashiro, Nagato, or Yamato ... this valuable experience could let him go up the stairway to the herald of Japanese Jazz scene. Soon after the World War, he showed his ability as an alt-saxophone player and formed a jazz band Jive Aces in 1950, which performed and were approved in US Camp etc.

In 1958 Jive Aces, with lots of musicians added, changed their band's name into NEW HERD (TOSHIYUKI MIYAMA & HIS NEW HERD). Although they were a back band on a dance floor in 1950s, NEW HERD established Japan Modern Jazz scene, much influenced by the members / 'bebop' arrangers Kozaburo YAMAKI or Hiroshi TAKAMI, in mid 1960s. Finally, 'Perspective' released in 1969, featuring Masahiko SATOH, could be much appreciated and they had reached the peak of their popularity in Japanese 'Big Band' Jazz world.

'Yamataifu' (1972) was released exactly in their most active period. This album should break the common sense of Japanese Jazz easily, in collaboration with Masahiko SATOH again, and won the Nippon Geijutsusai Yushu Prize, a very honourable one.

TOSHIYUKI MIYAMA & HIS NEW HERD celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2000, and simultaneously, again won the Geijutsusai Yushu Prize, for the concert of their 50th anniversary.

This HAS to be a soundtrack. Big band jazz, with some tracks dedicated to slower ballads and some dedicated to yer classic film "tension jazz". Some interesting writing. A few of the tracks make some unexpected ambient diversions.

Adult's Day is a ten minute track that sounds like a watered down outtake from In A Silent Way, which means it's pretty damn good, but the rest of the tracks are rather slow going.

Herbie Mann - 1971 - Push Push

Herbie Mann
Push Push

01. Push Push Mann
02. What's Going On Benson, Cleveland, Gaye
03. Spirit in the Dark Franklin
04. Man's Hope Mann
05. If Gates
06. Never Can Say Goodbye Davis
07. What'd I Say Charles
08. Funky Nassau

Bass – Chuck Rainey (tracks: A1, A2, B3), Donald "Duck" Dunn (tracks: B1, B2), Jerry Jemmott (tracks: A3, B4)
Drums – Al Jackson, Jr. (tracks: B1, B2), Bernard Purdie (tracks: A1 to A3, B3, B4)
Electric Piano – Richard Tee
Flute – Herbie Mann
Guitar – Cornell Dupree (tracks: A1, A2, B3) David Spinoza (tracks: A3, B1, B2, B4), Duane Allman
Harp – Gene Bianca (tracks: A1, B3)
Organ – Richard Tee (tracks: A1, A2, B3)
Piano – Richard Tee (tracks: A1, A2, B1 to B3)

Herbie Mann played a wide variety of music throughout his career. He became quite popular in the 1960s, but in the '70s became so immersed in pop and various types of world music that he seemed lost to jazz. However, Mann never lost his ability to improvise creatively as his later recordings attest.

Herbie Mann began on clarinet when he was nine but was soon also playing flute and tenor. After serving in the Army, he was with Mat Mathews' Quintet (1953-1954) and then started working and recording as a leader. During 1954-1958 Mann stuck mostly to playing bop, sometimes collaborating with such players as Phil Woods, Buddy Collette, Sam Most, Bobby Jaspar, and Charlie Rouse. He doubled on cool-toned tenor and was one of the few jazz musicians in the '50s who recorded on bass clarinet; he also recorded a full album in 1957 (for Savoy) of unaccompanied flute.

After spending time playing and writing music for television, Mann formed his Afro-Jazz Sextet, in 1959, a group using several percussionists, vibes (either Johnny Rae, Hagood Hardy, or Dave Pike) and the leader's flute. He toured Africa (1960) and Brazil (1961), had a hit with "Comin' Home Baby," and recorded with Bill Evans. The most popular jazz flutist during the era, Mann explored bossa nova (even recording in Brazil in 1962), incorporated music from many cultures (plus current pop tunes) into his repertoire, and had among his sidemen such top young musicians as Willie Bobo, Chick Corea (1965), Attila Zoller, and Roy Ayers; at the 1972 Newport Festival his sextet included David Newman and Sonny Sharrock. By then Mann had been a producer at Embroyo (a subsidiary of Atlantic) for three years and was frequently stretching his music outside of jazz. As the '70s advanced, Mann became much more involved in rock, pop, reggae, and even disco. After leaving Atlantic at the end of the '70s, Mann had his own label for awhile and gradually came back to jazz. He recorded for Chesky, made a record with Dave Valentin, and in the '90s founded the Kokopelli label on which before breaking away in 1996, he was free to pursue his wide range of musical interests. Through the years, he recorded as a leader for Bethlehem, Prestige, Epic, Riverside, Savoy, Mode, New Jazz, Chesky, Kokopelli, and most significantly Atlantic. He passed away on July 1, 2003, following an extended battle with prostate cancer. His last record was 2004's posthumously released Beyond Brooklyn for Telarc.

Herbie Mann, Delaney & Bonnie , Duane Allman

 Be forwarned if you're a Duane Allman fan seeking some of his trademark southern blues slide guitar: this is a Herbie Mann recording where the instrumentalists for the most part serve as a soapbox for Mann's flute excursions. Only one song, the title track, give Duane significant room to move.

'Push Push' was released in 1971, directly on the heels of some of the most celebrated songs appearing in the collection. In March and April of that year Marvin Gaye took 'What's Going On' to number two on the national charts, The Jackson Five took 'Never Can Say Goodbye' to number two, and Bread took 'If' to number four. The other charting song is Ray Charles 1959 number six classic, 'What'd I Say'. The disc also offers two Mann compositions, the title track and 'Man's Hope', as well as a bonus track not appearing on the original vinyl, the Grammy winning 'Funky Nassau', which was penned by Bahamian songwriter Dr. Offff Fitzgerald and his cousin, Raphael Munnings. Aretha Franklin rounds out the songwriting, contributing 'Spirit In the Dark'. There is absolutely nothing to complain about in these selections; each is a stunner, with Mann's own work holding up well among the more highly touted commercial successes.

The session musicians employed by Mann have references that read like a who's who among the era's most accomplished artists. David Spinoza, whose credits include stints with Paul McCartney and Paul Simon, gives Allman a break, offering a lead guitar solo on 'Man's Hope'. Ralph McDonald, who supports Bernie Purdie and Al Jackson Jr.'s drums with percussion accompaniment has backed David Bowie and Jimmy Buffett. And Donald 'Duck' Dunn, who earned a space in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an MG for Booker T. Jones, has aksi played behind The Blues Brothers and Neil Young. Chuck Rainey also plays bass, and he has performed with Steely Dan and The Eagles. Allman himself has added his talents to recordings by John Hammond, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton, and Aretha Franklin. How's that for name dropping?

The music itself is an homage to sensuality. The album title and photographs accompanying the disc speak to Mann's desire to create a soundtrack for lovemaking. He succeeds to some degree, but rather than coming off as a celebration of sensuality, the album feels more traditionally romantic, especially the ballads 'If' and 'Never Can Say Goodbye'. The title track and 'Man's Hope' are the funkiest songs on the disc, and seem to produce the most inspired and imaginative response in the performers.

I owned the original vinyl version of 'Push Push' while in college, and was also fortunate enough to catch Mann when he made a summer of 1975 appearance at the Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan. It was an unusual show as Mann's back-up band, The Family of Mann, got delayed at the airport, and Mann decided to perform the first set solo. I was only sitting a few rows from the stage, and I'll never forget the mesmerizing performance this Mann put on. I was close enough to be able to hear him keeping time by tapping his foot on the stage, and it was all the rhythm accompaniment he needed. He is truly a master of his instrument.

While 'Push Push' doesn't, in my opinion, capture Herbie Mann at his best, the song selection and musical stylings probably make it his most accessible work.

Arthur Conley - 1969 - More Sweet Soul

Arthur Conley 
More Sweet Soul

01. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da 2:59
02. Shing-A-Ling 2:15
03. One Night Is All I Need 2:30
04. I Got A Feeling 2:20
05. Aunt Dora's Love Soul Shack 2:50
06. Stuff You Gotta Watch 2:12
07. Something You Got 2:36
08. Is That You Love 3:22
09. Speak Her Name 2:36
10. Run On 2:07
11. That Can't Be My Baby 2:18
12. Take A Step 2:12

Lee Roberts (born January 4, 1946, McIntosh, Georgia, USA – died November 17, 2003, Ruurlo, Netherlands) was an American soul singer. He began his career with the group Arthur And The Corvets. After releasing three singles at National Recording Corporation in Atlanta, he went solo releasing one single at Baltimore's Ru-Jac Records. Otis Redding signed him at his own label Jotis Records, where he released two singles.

Arthur Conley sang and (with mentor Otis Redding) co-wrote the 1967 classic "Sweet Soul Music," arguably the finest record ever made about the genre it celebrates. Born January 4, 1946, in McIntosh, GA, and raised in Atlanta, Conley was just 12 years old when he joined the Evening Smiles, a gospel group that appeared regularly on local radio station WAOK. By 1963 he was leading his own R&B outfit, Arthur & the Corvets, which over the next two years issued three singles -- "Poor Girl," "I Believe," and "Flossie Mae" -- for the Atlanta label National Recording Company. Despite Conley's graceful yet powerful vocals (which owed an immense debt to his idol, Sam Cooke), the NRC singles earned little attention, and he dissolved the group to mount a solo career, releasing "I'm a Lonely Stranger" on the Ru-Jac label in late 1964. Label owner Rufus Mitchell then passed a copy of the single to soul shouter Redding, who was so impressed he invited Conley to re-record the song at Memphis' Stax Studios. With Jim Stewart assuming production duties, the recut "I'm a Stranger" hit retail in the fall of 1965, and was just the second single to appear on Redding's fledgling Jotis imprint. Conley's "Who's Foolin' Who" followed in early 1966, and proved the fourth and final Jotis effort.

At Redding's urging, Conley signed to Atco-distributed Fame Records for his next single, the Dan Penn-written "I Can't Stop (No, No, No)." Though his strongest, most incendiary record to date, it met the same commercial indifference that greeted his previous efforts. Likewise, the follow-up "Take Me (Just as I Am)" fell on deaf ears, even though the song was a major pop hit for Solomon Burke the following year. At that point Redding took an even greater role in Conley's career, encouraging his songwriting and advising him in business decisions; while jamming on a cover of Cooke's "Yeah Man," the pair began tinkering with the original song, creating what would ultimately become "Sweet Soul Music." An electrifying tribute to the Southern soul idiom that name-checked icons including James Brown, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, and -- at Conley's insistence -- Redding himself, the resulting single (Conley's debut for new label Atco) proved a massive hit, reaching number two on both the Billboard pop and R&B charts while reaching the Top Ten across much of Europe. An LP also titled Sweet Soul Music soon followed, compiling the singer's little-heard Jotis and Fame sides. Conley's next single, a reading of the Big Joe Turner chestnut "Shake, Rattle and Roll," returned him to the pop Top 40 and the R&B Top 20, although its follow-up, a cover of Cooke's "Whole Lotta Woman," reached only number 73 on the pop chart.
Conley was performing in Florida the night of December 10, 1967, when Redding and members of his backing band the Bar-Kays were killed in a Wisconsin plane crash; without Redding to run interference with Atco executives, the singer's career threatened to revert back to its rudderless beginnings, but in early 1968 Conley righted the ship, traveling to Memphis' American Recording Studios to collaborate with the crack producer Tom Dowd. The session generated some of the singer's finest material, including the Top 20 R&B hit "People Sure Act Funny," "Run On," and the stirring Redding tribute "Otis Sleep On." Best of all was the scorching "Funky Street," which hit number five on the Billboard R&B chart and number 14 on its pop counterpart. Weeks later Conley teamed with Burke, Don Covay, Ben E. King, and Joe Tex as the Soul Clan, recording the all-star LP Soul Meeting; he then embarked on a month-long tour of Europe, returning to American to cut the Dowd-produced "Aunt Dora's Love Soul Shack," a minor hit that was reportedly the inspiration for the Temptations' smash "Psychedelic Shack." Conley closed out the year by recording a cover of the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." Featuring the great Duane Allman on guitar, the single reached number 51 pop and number 41 R&B in early 1969.

After one final outing with Dowd, the Allen Toussaint-penned "Star Review" -- a naked and failed attempt to recapture the brilliance of "Sweet Soul Music" -- Conley signed on with producer Johnny Sandlin, returning to the R&B Top 40 in early 1970 with "God Bless." His final Atco disc, an ill-advised rendition of Harry Belafonte's perennial "Day-O," foreshadowed the poor choices that characterized his subsequent tenure with manager Phil Walden's Capricorn label. Between 1971 and 1974, Conley released only four singles ("I'm Living Good," "Walking on Eggs," "Rita," and "It's So Nice [When It's Someone Else's Wife]"), all of them substandard and none of them hits. In 1975 he relocated to England, spending several years in Belgium before settling in the Netherlands in 1980. There he legally changed his name to Lee Roberts (the first name his own middle name, the surname his mother's maiden name). A live date recorded in Amsterdam on January 6, 1980, was issued commercially in 1988 under the title Soulin' and credited to Lee Roberts & the Sweaters. In the years to follow he emerged as a successful entrepreneur. At one point in time his Art-Con Productions consisted of some nine companies, among them Sweat Records, Upcoming Artists Records, Charity Records, Happy Jack Publishing, and the New Age Culture Exchange radio station. After a long bout with cancer, Conley died in the Dutch city of Ruurlo on November 17, 2003.

When describing this dozen-song odds-and-ends package, the term "scraping the bottom of the barrel" certainly isn't too far off the mark. Not surprisingly, More Sweet Soul (1969) was R&B vocalist Arthur Conley's final solo entry on Atlantic Records' subsidiary imprint Atco. As noted on the rear LP jacket, the material is split between sessions that were held at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, and the American Recording facility in Memphis, TN. In both instances, legendary producer Tom Dowd was behind the scenes. Likewise, it was probably Dowd who -- having worked with the burgeoning fretmeister extensively at Fame during the era -- suggested the addition of guitarist Duane Allman to their already formidable hitmaking house band consisting of guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist David Hood, keyboardist Barry Beckett, and drummer Roger Hawkins. With a lilt that insinuates a reggae influence, the disc kicks off with an affable update of the Beatles' White Album deep cut "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." Another subtle (but telltale) sign that More Sweet Soul was an afterthought rather than career-defining project for Conley is the lack of his own considerable and strong original material. In the instance of his previous outing, Soul Directions(1968), the artist provided a number of the better titles. Although not the rule to the same degree, his co-writing credits here are indicative of the stronger selections. The irresistible groove pulsating through "Aunt Dora's Love Soul Shack" -- which made it into the R&B Top 20 singles survey several months prior to the LP's release -- is one prime example. Similarly, "Run On" bears a syncopated strut rhythm that was an earmark of the funky sounds coming out of Memphis in the mid- to late '60s. The cut also demonstrates Conley's ability to interject himself in the arrangement, bouncing his energetic lead vocals between the horn lines à la James Brown or Conley's mentor, Otis Redding. Far from throwaways, the comparably uninspired ballad "Is That You Love" seems to retain none of Redding's trademark gut-wrenching "begging" delivery. To the same extent, the generic "Shing-A-Ling" is far from the best that he had to offer. After decades out of print in North America, Collectors' Choice Music issued More Sweet Soul and the aforementioned Soul Directions on CD in 2008.

Tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, 9 & 11 recorded at Fame Recording Studios , Muscle Shoals, AL under direct supervision of Rick Hall (source: page 13 of the liner notes of the CD "I'm Living Good - The Soul Of Arthur Conley 1964-1974", Ace Records / Kent Soul CDKEND 358, UK, 2011).
The master numbers were assigned on December 6, 1968.
However, the tape ledgers from the Atlantic Records archives show that these recordings were done by Tom Dowd.
But Tom Dowd told Walter Vanderbeken:
"I first heard Duane when Rick Hall brought up the Pickett tapes to Atlantic, but I didn't get to meet him before we cut Aretha [January 1969]. I got credits for Arthur Conley's album, but half of that was done at American in Memphis. I was there for that, but to my recollection the album was finished at Fame by Jackie Avery - if memory serves me right. Again, I don't remember being there."
It is possible that Tom Dowd only did overdubs or post-production on these tracks at Atlantic Studios in New York, and that he was not present at the actual recording sessions at Fame.
And on page 10 of the booklet of the album 'Duane Allman - An Anthology' (1972) is also mentioned that the first time Tom Dowd and Duane Allman worked together was at the Aretha Franklin recording sessions in January 1969.

Tracks 3, 7 & 10 recorded at American Studios, Memphis, TN with Tom Dowd.
The master numbers were assigned on February 5, 1968.

Tracks 5, 8 & 12 recorded at Atlantic Recording Studios in New York, NY with Tom Dowd.
A contingent of American Studios musicians went to New York for the recording sessions (source: page 13 of the liner notes of the CD "I'm Living Good - The Soul Of Arthur Conley 1964-1974", Ace Records / Kent Soul CDKEND 358, UK, 2011).
The master numbers were assigned on September 24, 1968.

According to Jimmy Johnson, in the 1960's studio guitarist and sound engineer for Rick Hall's FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, AL. and in 1969 co-founder of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Duane Allman plays on:

track   1: Duane plays lead and rhythm guitar
track   2: Duane plays rhythm guitar
track   4: Duane plays chopping rhythm guitar
track   6: Duane plays lead guitar
track   9: Duane plays lead and double tracked slide guitar
track 11: Duane plays lead guitar

The Sweet Inspirations - 1969 - Sweets For My Sweet

The Sweet Inspirations 
Sweets For My Sweet

01. But You Know I Love You 2:33
02. Chained 2:14
03. It's Not Easy 3:06
04. Get A Little Order 2:05
05. Don't Go 2:14
06. It's Worth It All 2:58
07. Sweets For My Sweet 2:39
08. Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday 2:29
09. Let Me Be Lonely 3:54
10. Crying In The Rain 2:26
11. Always David 3:26

Ann Williams
Sylvia Shemwell
Myrna Smith
Estelle Brown

Barry Beckett Organ, Piano
Roger Hawkins Drums
David Hood Bass
Jimmy Johnson Guitar
Junior Lowe Guitar
Duane Allman Guitar

Female vocal group, formed 1967 in New York, New York. Already a group of session backing vocalists for years, they only formally became a band when they started recording singles in 1967. The original line-up comprised of group leader Emily "Cissy" Houston, Sylvia Shemwell, Myrna Smith and Estelle Brown.

Perhaps even more succesful than with their own releases, they were as backing vocalists for Elvis Presley (from 1968 up to his death in 1977) and Aretha Franklin.

Cissy Houston left in 1969 to be replaced by Ann Williams who only recorded on 1970's Sweet, Sweet Soul album. In 1979 Estelle quit the group and was replaced by Gloria Brown and Pat Terry. The group then disbanded after recording one last album, Hot Butterfly.

Sylvia Shemwell, Myrna Smith and Estelle Brown reunited in 1994, now with Portia Griffin as a new member. They have remained active until today. Sylvia Shemwell ceased performing after she suffered a stroke in 2001, and she died in Los Angeles on February 13th 2010. Myrna Smith was hospitalised for pneumonia and kidney failure during 2010, passing away on 24th December 2010 in Canoga Park, California.

Originally released in 1969 by Atlantic Records, Sweets for My Sweet, the Sweet Inspirations' fourth album, burns rubber in CD format. Elvis Presley's favorite female backing vocalists turn "Chained" (made famous by Marvin Gaye) into a fiery testimonial; Gaye was serious, but these ladies sound ready to die for their men. Other selections that make your hair stand up are Joshie Armstead, Nickolas Ashford, and Valerie Simpson's "Don't Go," the title track (an old Drifters hit), Eddie Hinton's "Always David," and William Bell and Booker T. Jones' "Everyday Is Like a Holiday." A gratifying girl group with a full sound that hits the spot every time.

Wilson Pickett - 1969 - Hey Jude

Wilson Pickett 
Hey Jude

01. Save Me
02. Hey Jude
03. Back in Your Arms
04. Toe Hold
05. Night Owl
06. My Own Style of Loving
07. A Man and a Half
08. Sit Down and Talk This Over
09. Search Your Heart
10. Born To Be Wild
11. People Make the World

Roger Hawkins, drums
Jerry Jammot & David Hood, bass
James Johnson, Albert Lowe & Duane Allman, guitar
Barry Beckett, piano
Marvell Thomas, organ
Gene Miller & Jack Peck, trumpet
Aaron Varnell & Joe Arnold, tenor sax
James Mitchell, baritone sax
Vocal backgrounds by The Sweet Inspirations

Recorded at Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Produced by Rick Hall & Tom Dowd.

Of the major '60s soul stars, Wilson Pickett was one of the roughest and sweatiest, working up some of the decade's hottest dancefloor grooves on hits like "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "Mustang Sally," and "Funky Broadway." Although he tends to be held in somewhat lower esteem than more versatile talents like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, he is often a preferred alternative of fans who like their soul on the rawer side. He also did a good deal to establish the sound of Southern soul with his early hits, which were often written and recorded with the cream of the session musicians in Memphis and Muscle Shoals.

Before establishing himself as a solo artist, Pickett sang with the Falcons, who had a Top Ten R&B hit in 1962 with "I Found a Love." "If You Need Me" (covered by the Rolling Stones) and "It's Too Late" were R&B hits for the singer before he hooked up with Atlantic Records, who sent him to record at Stax in Memphis in 1965. One early result was "In the Midnight Hour," whose chugging horn line, loping funky beats, and impassioned vocals combined into a key transitional performance that brought R&B into the soul age. It was an R&B chart-topper and a substantial pop hit (number 21), though its influence was stronger than that respectable position might indicate: thousands of bands, black and white, covered "In the Midnight Hour" on-stage and record in the 1960s.

Pickett had a flurry of other galvanizing soul hits over the next few years, including "634-5789," "Mustang Sally," and "Funky Broadway," all of which, like "In the Midnight Hour," were frequently adapted by other bands as dance-ready numbers. The king of that hill, though, had to be "Land of 1000 Dances," Pickett's biggest pop hit (number six), a soul anthem of sorts with its roll call of popular dances, and covered by almost as many acts as "Midnight Hour" was.

Pickett didn't confine himself to the environs of Stax for long; soon he was also cutting tracks at Muscle Shoals. He recorded several early songs by Bobby Womack. He used Duane Allman as a session guitarist on a hit cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude." He cut some hits in Philadelphia with Gamble & Huff productions in the early '70s. He even did a hit version of the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar." The hits kept rolling through the early '70s, including "Don't Knock My Love" and "Get Me Back on Time, Engine Number 9."

A Man and a Half: The Best of Wilson Pickett One of the corollaries of '60s soul is that if a performer rose to fame with Motown or Atlantic, he or she would produce little of note after leaving the label. Pickett, unfortunately, did not prove an exception to the rule. His last big hit was "Fire and Water," in 1972. He continued to be active on the tour circuit; his most essential music, all from the 1960s and early '70s, was assembled for the superb Rhino double-CD anthology A Man and a Half. It's Harder Now, his first new material in over a decade, followed in 1999. Pickett spent the early part of the 2000s performing, before retiring in late 2004 due to ill health. He passed away on January 19, 2006, following a heart attack.

Wilson Pickett and the Muscle Shoals session crew with whom he cut most of his best work thankfully had the good sense to not try to go psychedelic when the pop charts went all day-glo in the late 1960's, but that's not to say they didn't make an effort to change with the times. On Hey Jude, Pickett and producer Rick Hall decided to throw a couple of recent rock covers into the mix, and while Pickett's version of "Hey Jude" suggests that he isn't entirely sure what it is he's singing about, he still belts it out with his typical level of commitment and builds up to a proper fury at the end; he sounds more comfortable with the neo-biker bombast of "Born To Be Wild", a combination of artist and material that works far better than anyone would have a right to expect. But the most notable change in Pickett's approach for this album was the addition of Duane Allman on guitar; his wirey, blues-accented leads don't overpower the album, but they add a noticeably harder texture to the sound, and that seems to suit Pickett, one of the toughest soul shouters of his time, just fine. Most of the Hey Jude is dominated by hard Southern soul numbers like "A Man and a Half" and "Toe Hold", and Pickett, one of the most dependable performers on the 1960's soul scene, gives a typically con brio performance on all ten tracks, and the sharp report of the horn section and Allman's blistering guitar makes for music just as potent as the wail of the lead singer, which is not an accomplishment to be sneered at.

In 1969 Wilson Pickett returned to Alabama to record at Fame Studios again. Together they produced a stunning cover of The Beatles' recent hit "Hey Jude", which when released went to #23 on the pop chart, #13 on the R&B chart, and also #16 over in the UK (his second biggest hit in the UK). The song was notable for featuring some blistering lead guitar from Duane Allman, who was at the time working as a session musician in Muscle Shoals.
Another Fame-produced album followed, perhaps one of his best, full of the sort of funky southern soul grooves typical of Wilson Pickett. As well as "Hey Jude", there was a surprising cover of Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" - the inclusion of these two songs suggests the album could have been some sort of attempt to cross over and reach a rock audience. The album included another minor hit, Bobby Womack's "People Make The World (What It Is)"

Ronnie Hawkins - 1970 - Ronnie Hawkins

Ronnie Hawkins 
Ronnie Hawkins

01. One More Night 2:21
02. Bitter Green 1:56
03. I May Never Get To Heaven 3:47
04. Will The Circle Be Unbroken 2:48
05. Matchbox 3:06
06. Little Bird 2:19
07. One Too Many Mornings 3:19
08. Forty Days 3:32
09. Down In The Alley 5:10
10. Who Do You Love 2:14
11. Home From The Forest 3:35

Bass – David Hood
Drums – Roger Hawkins
Guitar – Duane Allman, Eddie Hinton, Jimmy Johnson
Harmonica – King Biscuit Boy
Keyboards – Barry Beckett, Scotty Cushnie

Ronnie Hawkins is a rockabilly singer who formed his original backing band, the Hawks, while attending the University of Arkansas. After auditioning unsuccessfully for Sun in 1957, he started working regularly in Canada the following year, eventually taking up permanent residence there. After one release on the Canadian Quality label, he signed with Roulette in New York in 1959, having hits with "Forty Days" and "Mary Lou." The live fervor of Hawkins (known as Mr. Dynamo) and the Hawks' show continued in Canada after all the original members except Levon Helm headed back to the U.S. Hawkins quickly hired Canadian players Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel as the new Hawks. They stayed with him until 1963, but later became Bob Dylan's backing group and went on to a career of their own as the Band. Hawkins has remained a legend in Canada, recording unrepentant rockabilly sides and gigging constantly. He's still the original Mr. Dynamo, capable of shaking the walls down any old time he feels like it.

On the heels of the Band's breakthrough, Ronnie Hawkins seized his tangential spotlight, signing to Cotillion Records in 1970 and recording this eponymous album. Produced by Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler, Ronnie Hawkins is pitched halfway between rockabilly and the early dawn of progressive folk-country, with the Hawk singing two songs apiece from Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot. Hawkins acquits himself well on this folkier material, particularly when it's pitched to a soft AM pop crossover audience as it is on the closing Lightfoot number "Home from the Forest," but that's more of a testament to Dowd and Wexler than it is to Ronnie. The singer really sounds best when he's tearing into '50s rock & roll classics -- "Matchbox," a truly gutsy "Down in the Alley," revivals of "Forty Days" and "Who Do You Love" -- and that leaves Ronnie Hawkins a bit off-kilter: oddly, the material that was meant to sound contemporary is what sounds dated and the tunes that were oldies in 1970 now sound liveliest.

Otis Rush - 1969 - Mourning In The Morning

Otis Rush 
Mourning In The Morning

01. Me
02. Working Man
03. You're Killing My Love
04. Feel So Bad
05. Gambler's Blues
06. Baby, I Love You
07. My Old Lady
08. My Love Will Never Die
09. Reap What You Sow
10. It Takes Time
11. Can't Wait No Longer

Baritone Saxophone – Ronald Eades
Bass – Gerry Jemmott
Drums – Roger Hawkins
Guitar – Duane Allman, Jimmy Johnson
Guitar, Vocals – Otis Rush
Keyboards – Barry Beckett, Mark Naftalin
Tenor Saxophone – Aaron Varnell, Joe Arnold
Trumpet – Gene "Bowlegs" Miller

In 1969, after nearly 14 years of constant gigging in small blues clubs and cutting scorching singles for obscure labels, songs that received limited radio play but were greedily snatched up by young white rockers desperate to learn the rudiments of the Chicago blues, it looked like Otis Rush was about to finally get his due. Rush had just been signed by the notorious Albert Grossman, then the manager of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Peter, Paul and Mary. Grossman told Rush that he had landed him a recording deal with Atlantic Records.

Rush headed down to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record one of the first sessions at the soon-to-be-famous studio out on Jackson Highway. The album, Mourning in the Morning, was produced by two other musicians from Chicago who idolized Rush, Michael Bloomberg and Nick Gravenites. Bloomfield, one of the more authentic white blues guitar-players, and Gravenites were then heading the short-lived jam band Electric Flag. Bloomfield  had convinced Grossman to sign Rush, telling the portly manager that he was the Jimi Hendrix of the blues.  Like Hendrix, Rush was a lefty. Unlike Hendrix,  Rush usually played  a left-handed guitar with the order of the strings reversed, featuring the low E string on the bottom. The Rush sound was striking lyrical and, though many tried, nearly inimitable.

The new Muscle Shoals Studio had been founded by some of the best session players in the south: keyboardist Barry Beckett, bassist David Hood, guitar player Johnny Johnson and drummer Roger Hawkins.  By 1969, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm section had already backed some of the best music made by Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket and Etta James. Hawkins, a native of Indiana, is widely regarded as one of the sturdiest drummers in the history of rock music.

When Rush showed up in Alabama in the spring of 1969, Duane Allman greeted him at the studio and showered him with praise, telling Rush he was the equal of the immortal B. B. King. Allman ended up playing on a few tracks, including the haunting instrumental cover of Aretha’s “Baby, I Love You.”

The album met with hostile reviews. Most of the blame has to be placed on Granventes and Bloomfield, who freighted the record with six of their own songs, including two irredeemable stinkers, “Me” and “My Old Lady.” Inexplicably, the clunky “Me” opens the album, souring the entire experience. In retrospect, there’s some fine playing on the record, particularly on the devastating cover of B. B. King’s “Gambler’s Blues” and the Minister of Stroll Chuck Willis’s “Feel So Bad,” which, with Rush’s spine-tingling vibrato, lethally cuts even Elvis’s version. The problem with the album as a whole is there’s far too Bloomfield and not nearly enough Otis Rush. Rush is one of the best songwriters in the history of the blues. After all, he learned at the feet of  Willie Dixon. But Bloomfield and Granventes  allowed Rush to record only one of his own songs on the album, “My Love Will Never Die,” which had made a splash on the R&B charts in 1959. The record failed to capture the menacing and intense sound of Rush in a live setting—or even the Cobra singles recorded in that primitive studio where the West Side blues was born.

In the wake of the dismal reviews, sales of “Mourning in the Morning” floundered and executives at Atlantic suddenly terminated Rush’s contract. Rush, who has battled depression his entire life, returned to Chicago, distraught and angry. As Eric Clapton, Dave Mason and Peter Green were ripping off his licks for hit singles, Rush was back on the West Side, playing bars and blues joints for cash and tips and making the occasional festival appearance, often backed by an inept band of hastily assembled local musicians.

Otis Rush was born in 1935 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, one of the most racially mixed towns in the Delta. In Rush’s youth the population of Philadelphia was almost equally divided between whites, blacks and Choctaw Indians. As a consequence, Philadelphia was also one of the most racist towns in Mississippi, a hotbed of Klan activity and, of course, site of the 1964 murders of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner. In 1980, Reagan picked the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia as the locale  to give his first post-convention speech, an attack on the federal government that launched his own race-baiting “Southern Strategy.” J.L. Chestnut, one of two black people in the huge audience, recalled Ronald Reagan shouting  that “‘the South will rise again and this time remain master of everybody and everything within its dominion.’ The square came to life, the Klu (sic) Kluxers were shouting, jeering and in obvious ecstasy. God bless America.”

Like many black youths in the Delta, Otis sat near the radio every day at 12:15, tuning in to KFFA, broadcast out of Helena, Arkansas, for the King Biscuit Time show, hosted by Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Lockwood, Jr. For half an hour Williamson and Lockwood played live in the studio, often featuring other rising stars of the blues, such as B.B. King, James Cotton and Pinetop Perkins (who was an original member of the studio band, called the King Biscuit Entertainers.) Otis decided he wanted to be a blues player. He began playing the blues harp at the age of six and later his father rigged him a makeshift one-string guitar out of a broom handle and baling wire.

Rush’s father was a sharecropper, toiling in the parched red clay soils of eastern Mississippi. But mechanization was slowly drawing this brutal way of life to a close. In 1948, Rush’s father moved the family (there were 8 Rush children) to Chicago. At the age of 14, Otis began working 12-hour days in the stockyards. At night he played the blues with two other young stockyard workers, Mike Netton, a drummer, and “Poor Bob” Woodfork, a guitar player recently migrated up from Arkansas. The band began to get some paying gigs in some of the new clubs springing up on Roosevelt Avenue.  One night when Rush was 18, Willie Dixon walked into the Alibi club on the West Side of town. Dixon, one of the true geniuses of American music, had just left Chess Records in a bitter dispute over royalties. The great bassist and arranger had taken a job with the new Cobra Records, a small Chicago label run by a TV repairman. Dixon was enthralled by Rush’s uniquely expressive, almost tortured guitar-style and signed him on the spot.

In the studio, Dixon, the real architect of the Chicago Blues sound, assembled a small talented R&B combo to back Rush, featuring Shakey Horton on harmonica, Harold Ashby on tenor, veteran drummer Odie Payne,  Little Brother Montgomery hammering the piano and Dixon himself on stand-up bass. The first song Rush recorded was Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You, Baby.” Dixon said he wrote the song about an obsessive relationship Rush was having with a woman at the time. Dixon wanted to provoke an emotional response from the singer and he got one. “I Can’t Quit You, Baby” opens with a chilling falsetto scream, then Rush launches into a staccato guitar attack unlike anything heard before it. Led Zeppelin (and dozens of other bands) would cover Rush’s version of the song but never capture the excrutiating fervency of the original. The recording was released in the summer of 1956 as Cobra’s first single. The song hit number 6 on the Billboard R&B charts.

Over the next two years Rush and Dixon would release eight more records, each of them dazzlingly original. The sound was aggressive and confident, like the hard-charging jump blues “Violent Love,” where Rush’s slashing guitar chords seem to be engaged in a romantic combat with the horns. Rush’s own composition, “Checking on My Baby,” is an eerie, minor key blues that sweats sexual paranoia. This is not the blues of despondency and despair, but of defiance and, at times, rage. It’s music with an edge, sharpened by the metallic sounds of urban streets, of steel mills, jail cells and rail yards.

Despite hit singles from Rush, Magic Sam, Ike Turner and the Rhythm Kings and the young Buddy Guy (who Rush discovered at “Battle of the Blues” show at the famous Blue Flame Club), Cobra Records went bankrupt in 1958. Rush followed Willie Dixon back to Chess Records. This was the beginning of Rush’s seemingly endless professional odyssey, from label to label. Even with Dixon back in his slot as artistic director at Chess, Rush’s relationship with the label proved a disappointment. In two years, Rush recorded eight songs for Chess, but management only released one single, the brilliant “So Many Roads, So Many Trains,” featuring one of Rush’s most vicious guitar solos.

Feeling abused by Chess, Rush bolted in search of another label. He cut one hard rocking single, “Homework,” (later covered by Fleetwood Mac and J. Geils) for Duke Records and that was it for six very lean years. Rush hit the club circuit, performing two and three times a night, often in different venues. In those days Rush tended to close with one of his fiercest compositions, “Double Trouble”, a tormented minor key blues about a man who has lost his job and his lover. Rush plays the song with a nerve-racking intensity:

I lay awake at nights, false love, just so troubled
It’s hard to keep a job, laid off, having double trouble
Hey hey, yeah, they say you can make it if you try
Yes some of this generation is millionaires
It’s hard for me to keep decent clothes to wear

Otis Rush is the Thelonious Monk of the electric guitar: an uncompromising and eccentric genius who redefined the possibilities of his instrument. His playing is beautifully idiosyncratic. There is an existential quality to Rush’s solos, there are spaces in his runs, decision spaces, where notes are bent and left hanging in a state of suspension, before snapping back in an unnerving coherence. At his best, Rush’s playing conveys a gamut of emotions, often in a single song, from dread and anxiety to manic ecstasy. In a live setting, Rush’s playing could be erratic, one false note from collapse. That’s a huge part of his ingenuity, of course, his aptitude for sustaining such an acute intensity in his playing night after night. In those bleak years in the mid-1960s, when everyone had left him for dead, Otis Rush became a master of the hardboiled blues.

* * *

In late December of 1970, Rush got a call from Grossman, the man whom Dylan described as looking just like Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon, telling the bluesman not to despair for he, Albert the Great, had just secured a five album deal for Rush with that titanic label on Hollywood and Vine, Capitol Records.

So in February of 1971 Rush flew to San Francisco to record the songs for the ill-fated album Right Place, Wrong Time. This time Rush co-produced the project with Gravenites and exerted himself in the roster of songs. The band featured some of the Bay Area’s best blues musicians, including guitarist Fred Burton, bass player Doug Killmer and piano player Mark Naftalin. Rush opens up red hot with a lacerating version of his pal Ike Turner’s “Tore Up,” where Rush seems to vent a decade’s worth of frustration with two brutal solos. The album also includes a chilling, heart-rending cover of Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night in Georgia,” where Rush replaces his normal falsetto with a deep soulful voice like a gritty Otis Redding.

But the real gems of the album are Rush’s own compositions, including the brooding, shuffling title cut, which is a blues but perhaps unlike any blues you’ve every heard before, a song that bleeds bitter irony:  The album closes with the harrowing “Take a Look Behind,” where Rush demonstrates how absolutely he absorbed the B. B. King style and then ripped it up, transforming King’s bright, single-string runs into dark and ferocious riffs, each note stabbing like a stiletto at the vital chords of life.

Oh, yeah, looking back over our slate
I can see love turn to hate
But if I only had the chance
I say if I only had the chance
I’d never make the same mistake again

There’s not a misfire on the entire record. Each song, each solo is flawlessly constructed. The record was a masterpiece in an era awash with mediocre imitators of the Chicago blues style that Rush and his buddy Magic Sam Maghett on the West Side had perfected. By 1971, it was too late for Magic Sam, who was shockingly felled by a heart attack in 1969 at the age of 32, but it seemed certain that Rush, and by extension the West Side Blues, was at last going to enjoy the acclaim and perhaps even riches he deserved.

Then inexplicably the executives at Capitol, never the brightest bunch on the block, shelved the album, burying the landmark tapes deep in their vaults. Why did Capitol unjustly sabotage the legendary Otis Rush? One theory holds that the company was run by reactionary suits with little appreciation for musical innovation. This was, after all, the label that tried to kill off the Beatles in their infancy (see Dave Marsh’s merciless skewering of Capitol executives in The Beatles Second Album) and turned their collective nose up at the Doors because they thought Jim Morrison “lacked charisma.” The Lizard King may have yearned in vain for an adequate singing voice but nearly every pore in his body suppurated an evil kind of charisma.

Less charitably it might be speculated that Capitol executives, who presided over a predominantly white roster of talent, were innately suspicious of the blues and, more pointedly, black culture itself. Recall that Jimi Hendrix’s blistering song “Red House” was cut from the North American release of Are You Experienced? because the big shots at Track Records contended that “Americans don’t like the blues.”  Perhaps Capitol executives felt that Rush’s album was too black, too raw, too plaintively urgent. Perhaps they felt that such a record, about as far as you can get from Pet Sounds, would never sell to white audiences conditioned by the homogenized and anemic blues of Clapton or the ponderous thrashings of Led Zeppelin, whose early recordings ruthlessly pillaged the songbooks of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Rush.

A frustrated and justifiably embittered Otis Rush had to battle the label for five years just to liberate his own tapes. Finally he had to buy them back. The album was released in 1976 on the tiny Bullfrog label. Sales were bleak. It did win a Grammy nomination in the category of “traditional” blues–a bizarre accolade to say the least, because even today, forty years later, the smoldering music captured on Right Place, Wrong Time screams its unyielding modernity, its intense relevance to life on the unforgiving streets of America.

King Curtis - 1969 - Instant Groove

King Curtis 
Instant Groove

01. Instant Groove 2:21
02. Hey Joe 2:54
03. Foot Pattin' 4:46
04. Wichita Lineman 3:05
05. Games People Play 2:45
06. Sing A Simple Song 2:49
07. The Weight 2:48
08. La Jeanne 2:54
09. Little Green Apples 2:45
10. Somewhere 2:28
11. Hold Me Tight 2:07
12. Hey Jude 3:13

Guitar solos on Hey Jude, Fool Pattin', Games People Play & The Weight are by Duane Allman

King Curtis was the last of the great R&B tenor sax giants. Born Curtis Ousley in Fort Worth, Texas, he came to prominence in the mid-'50s as a session musician in New York, recording, at one time or another, for most East Coast R&B labels. A long association with Atco/Atlantic began in 1958, especially on recordings by the Coasters. He recorded singles for many small labels in the '50s -- his own Atco sessions (1958-1959), and Prestige/New Jazz and Prestige/Tru-Sound for jazz and R&B albums (1960-1961). Curtis also had a number one R&B single with "Soul Twist" on Enjoy (1962). He was signed by Capitol (1963-1964), where he cut mostly singles, including the number 20 R&B hit "Soul Serenade." He returned to Atco/Atlantic in 1965, where he remained for the rest of his life. He had solid R&B single success with "Memphis Soul Stew" and "Ode to Billie Joe" (1967). Beginning in 1967, Curtis started to take a more active studio role at Atlantic, leading and contracting sessions for other artists, producing with Jerry Wexler, and later on his own. He also became the leader of Aretha Franklin's backing unit, the Kingpins. He compiled several albums of singles during this period. All aspects of his career were in full swing at the time he was murdered in 1971.

King Curtis was a great saxophonist who played with Nat Adderley, Aretha Franklin, Wynton Kelly, Sam Cooke and lionel Hampton among others. He was also the man who saw Donny Hathaway at a record fair & convinced his label, Atlantic, to sign the young guy.This album is a compilation of tunes recorded between 1958 & 1969. Donny Hathaway played the piano on several tracks.

R&B tenor sax giant King Curtis was a main source of inspiration for the Hawks and the Band throughout their career, especially influencing Robbie Robertson's style of guitar playing. King Curtis began recording for Atlantic/Atco in 1958, appearing both in his own with several R&B hits, and on albums by The Coasters and other soul and R&B acts. He later became the leader of Aretha Franklin's backing unit, the Kingpins, and compiled several albums of singles during the '60s and the beginning of the '70s. King Curtis was still active as a producer, live artist, and studio musician when he was murdered in 1971.

Instant Groove is a collection of King Curtis recordings from the late '50s up to 1969. Curtis' friend Duane Allman accompanied him on the album, playing funky electric sitar for the instrumental cover versions of "The Weight" and "Games People Play," which won a Grammy that year for best R&B instrumental. Curtis' wonderful, improvisational "The Weight" can also be heard on the compilations Instant Soul: The Legendary King Curtis (King Curtis, 1994, Razor & Tie Music) and Anthology, Vol. 2 (Duane Alleman, 1974, Capricorn 0139).

Johnny Jenkins - 1970 - Ton-Ton Macoute!

Johnny Jenkins
Ton-Ton Macoute!

01. I Walk On Guilded Splinters 5:23
02. Leaving Trunk 4:07
03. Blind Bats And Swamp Rats 4:46
04. Rollin' Stone 4:58
05. Sick And Tired 4:11
06. Down Along The Cove 3:03
07. Bad News 3:21
08. Dimples 2:40
09. Voodoo In You 5:05

Bass – Berry Oakley
Bass, Timbales – Robert Popwell
Congas, Percussion – Eddie Hinton, John Wyker, Tippy Armstrong
Drums – Butch Trucks
Drums, Johnny Sandlin
Guitar, Slide Guitar – Duane Allman, Pete Carr
Guitar, Slide Guitar, Piano, Organ – Paul Hornsby
Timbales – Jai Johanny Johanson
Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica – Johnny Jenkins

Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Johnny Jenkins may have had a long pause between records, but his heart, ears, and mind were always close to blues music. Jenkins never wanted to be a professional musician, and always worked day jobs, including digging wells, logging, and mechanical work. Jenkins' style is, at times, reminiscent of Elmore James, and at other times one can hear echoes of Jimi Hendrix in his guitar playing -- probably because Jenkins was a seminal influence on Hendrix.

Born in Macon, GA in 1939, Jenkins grew up in a rural area called Swift Creek. He listened to a battery-powered radio and first heard the sounds of blues and classic R&B artists like Bill Doggett, Bullmoose Jackson, and others. Jenkins built his first guitar out of a cigar box and rubber bands when he was nine, and began playing at a gas station for tips. He played it left-handed and upside down, and this practice continued after his older sister bought him a real guitar a couple of years later.

Capricorn Records founder Phil Walden first heard Jenkins on a local radio talent show in 1959. Walden began to book Jenkins' band, the Pinetoppers, which included Otis Redding on lead vocals. Redding got his first big break in 1962 when he drove Jenkins to Stax Studios in Memphis to record a follow-up to Jenkins' regional hit, "Love Twist." The producer encouraged the young Redding to take a turn at singing in the studio, and he recorded "These Arms of Mine" with some extra studio time. Redding's career began to take off and Jenkins was asked to become part of his band but he refused, ironically, because of his fear of air travel.

Ton-Ton Macoute! Following Redding's untimely demise in an plane crash, Jenkins stayed close to home, playing regionally and working day jobs to support his family. His unorthodox guitar style left lasting marks on the young, impressionable Jimi Hendrix, who came out to see Jenkins play while visiting relatives in the Macon area. Later, in 1969, Jenkins and Hendrix teamed up to play together at The Scene, a club owned by Steve Paul in New York. In 1970, Walden put Jenkins into the studio with several members of the Allman Brothers Band to record his debut album, Ton Ton Macoute, one of the fledgling Capricorn label's first releases. Although Ton Ton Macoute was finally released to high critical praise in 1972, the then-small label had other priorities to deal with, including the newly successful Allman Brothers.

In 1996, Capricorn founder Walden convinced Jenkins to record a "comeback" album, Blessed Blues. He's backed by a stellar cast of musicians, including Chuck Leavell on keyboards and Muscle Shoals percussionist Mickey Buckins. Capricorn also reissued Jenkins' now-legendary Ton Ton Macoute on compact disc in 1997.

Johnny Jenkins' Ton-Ton Macoute is a fine bowl of Southern gumbo. Aided and abetted by the likes of Duane Allman (this started as an Allman solo disc, but when he formed the Allman Brothers Band, Jenkins put his vocals over the tracks best suited), Dickey Betts, and those great guys from Muscle Shoals, Jenkins cooks on such cuts as "Down Along the Cove" from the pen of Bob Dylan, and Muddy Waters' "Rollin' Stone." But it is Dr. John's "I Walk on Guilded Splinters" which shines here and is the one which folks will recognize as the basis for Beck's hit "Loser." On the slippery "Blind Bats & Swamp Rats" you can almost feel the heat and humidity rolling out of the bayou. This reissue also includes the mighty fine bonus cuts "I Don't Want No Woman" and "My Love Will Never Die." Great Southern funk & roll for the discerning listener. It even includes educational liner notes which tell the tale behind each cut.