Thursday, August 30, 2018

Andy Pratt - 1976 - Resolution

Andy Pratt 

01. Resolution 3:13
02. If You Could See Yourself (Through My Eyes) 3:07
03. Constant Heat 3:49
04. Karen's Song 3:21
05. Can't Stop My Love 3:08
06. Everything Falls Into Place (Lillian's Song) 3:45
07. That's When Miracles Occur 3:52
08. Some Things Go On Forever 3:10
09. Treasure That Canary 3:32
10. Set Your Sights 3:02
11. Love Song 3:07

Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Piano – Andy Pratt
Bass – Tony Levin
Bass – Hugh McDonald
Drums – Stephen Gadd
Guitar, Bass, Electric Piano – Mark Doyle
Drums – Richard Mendelson
Drums – Andy Newmark
Chorus – David Lasley, Diane Sumler, Luther Vandross
Mellotron – Ken Bichel
Organ – Andy Mendelson
Congas – Carlos Martin

When it was first released in 1976, Resolution garnered great critical acclaim. While claims by Rolling Stone that Pratt "has forever changed the face of rock" seem far-fetched, it still is one of the finest singer-songwriter albums of the '70s. While Pratt's expressive, but sometimes high-pitched, voice may not be everyone's cup of tea, there is no denying that the songs themselves were superb. Furthermore, the arrangements and intricacies within each selection were something to behold. No two songs sound alike, yet there is a thematic link between everything presented -- that being the power of love to pull, push, and sustain every human being. The idealism and optimism that is pervasive throughout is balanced by a sense of how hard it is to reach that point, and thus the hopefulness seems real and earned. It is difficult to say which cuts are the highlight of the album, since each is so well thought out and constructed. Every listener will undoubtedly choose particular favorites. The range of music varies from jazzy ("Set Your Sights") to melodic and gentle pop("Everything Falls Into Place"(Lillian's Song)," to nearly hard rock ("Karen's Song"). Also particularly worth noting is the complex arrangements on "That's When Miracles Occur" and the father-son theme explored on the moving "Can't Stop My Love" (which explores Pratt's feelings related to his father's death). Although this album never attained the commercial success that many predicted, it remains a classic that deserves to be heard by a wide audience.

This Harvard graduate fused classical music and rock, attempting to transcend both, and blowing us away in ambition and achievement. We said that Mick Jagger "sounds mannered and jaded after Pratt" and that Pratt "has forever changed the face of rock." Four decades later, Resolution just sounds like a real good singer-songwriter album with unusual orchestrations, but there's nothing wrong with that. Pratt converted to Christianity a few years later and made more explicitly spiritual music, eventually releasing over 20 albums.

"Always emotionally charged, the instrumental textures evoke volcanic eroticism on one cut, aching tenderness on another. . . The songs carry rock harmony one step beyond the Beach Boys and the Stones. Because they modulate so frequently and unexpectedly, they require concentration. . . Like the late-19th-century Romantic composers, especially Scriabin and Mahler, Pratt uses chromatic restlessness to evoke extreme emotional volatility." — Stephen Holden, RS 216 (July 1, 1976)

I have been rediscovering this gem lately. In my view, it truly is one of the great records of the 1970's. It is quite accessible, and yet it is quirky and sophisticated, and no two songs sound alike. There are elements of jazz in "Set Your Sights," hard rock in "Karen's Song, " and sheer pop beauty in "Everything Falls into Place." Every song has to do with the power or love and finding your own self on this life journey of ours. It is apparent that Pratt had taken a long journey to get to this point. Pratt has a piercing falsetto in his voice at times, and that may take some getting used to, but I think it adds to the uniqueness of his music. This album amazingly takes Pratt's idiosyncratic style, and makes it all so professional, without making anything sound fake at all. This music reeks of 70's male sensitivity, so if you are looking for anything close to macho, you won't find it here. But don't mistake sensitivity for lack of substance, because that would be a mistake. Maybe the end of the song "Treasure That Canary" best sums up the strength of this album. It is catchy yet layered, with a great lead guitar line, descending bass, Andy's falsetto, sophisticated drumming, and yet a hummable melody all at the same time, and lyrics that are optimistic and yet show the difficulty in getting to that optimism. It should be mentioned that some of the best session players of the time are on the album, such as Steve Gadd on drums and Tony Levin on bass. And the great Arif Mardin of Aretha Franklin and Bee Gees fame, among others, does a fantastic production job. Though I am not familiar with all of Pratt's very early and later work, I can't imagine he could ever top this recording. His 1973 album on Columbia, which sounds like he was in a depressed state, has a definite different feel than this one and is more raw but just as quirky and sophisticated. I think both are classics, and it could be argued that either is better than the other. But I can't think of an album that gives the phrase "pop music" a better name than this one.

Allen Ginsberg - 1970 - Songs Of Innocence And Experience

Allen Ginsberg 
Songs Of Innocence And Experience

Songs Of Innocence
101 Introduction / The Shepherd
102 The Ecchoing Green
103 The Lamb
104 The Little Black Boy
105 The Blossom
106 The Chimney Sweeper
107 The Little Boy Lost / The Little Boy Found
108 Laughing Song
109 Holy Thursday
110 Night
Songs Of Experience
111 Introduction
112 Nurses Song
113 The Sick Rose
114 Ah! Sun-Flower
115 The Garden Of Love
116 London
117 The Human Abstract
118 To Tirzah
119 The Grey Monk
Bonus Tracks
120 The Grey Monk (Alternate Take)
121 Brothels Of Paris

Blake Songs
201. A Cradle Song
202. The Divine Image
203. Spring
204. Nurses Song
205. Infant Joy
206. A Dream
207. On Another Sorrow
208. Holy Thursday
209. The Fly
210. The School Boy
211. The Voice Of The Ancient Bard
212. Padmasambhava Mantra
213. Om Namah Shivaye
214. Roghupati Raghava

Autoharp – Jon Sholle (tracks: B6)
Bass – Herman Wright (tracks: A2, A5, A7, A8a, B2, B9)
Bells [Sleigh], Percussion [Beaded Gourd] – Don Cherry (tracks: A8, A10)
Chorus – Allen Ginsberg (tracks: A8b), Bob Dorough (tracks: A8b), Cyril Caster (tracks: A8b), Don Cherry (tracks: A8b), Janet Zeitz (tracks: A8b), Matt Hoffman (3) (tracks: A8b), Michael Aldrich (tracks: A8b)
Drums – Elvin Jones (tracks: B9)
Drums, Bass – Jon Sholle (tracks: B5)
Electric Bass – Jon Sholle (tracks: B4, B6)
Finger Cymbals – Allen Ginsberg (tracks: A2), Don Cherry (tracks: A5, A10)
Flute – Janet Zeitz (tracks: A1a, A1b, A3, A5 to A8b, A10, B8)
French Horn – Cyril Caster (tracks: A8), Julius Watkins (tracks: B9)
Guitar – Cyril Caster (tracks: A1a, A1b, A7, A8a), Jon Sholle (tracks: A4, B2, B3, B5, B9)
Harmonium – Allen Ginsberg (tracks: A4, B1, B4, B6, B7)
Harpsichord – Bob Dorough (tracks: A5, A8), Don Cherry (tracks: B8)
Organ – Bob Dorough (tracks: A1a, A1b, A9, B3, B8,)
Piano – Bob Dorough (tracks: A2, A6 to A8a, A10, B9)
Piano [2nd] – Allen Ginsberg (tracks: A7, A8a)
Tom Tom [Bass Tom] – Don Cherry (tracks: A10)
Trumpet – Cyril Caster (tracks: A8, A10)
Trumpet, Flute [Wooden] – Don Cherry (tracks: A9)
Vocals – Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky (tracks: A1a, A1b, A4, A6, A9, B1, B2, B4, B9)

Recorded at Apostolic Studios New York City June & July 1969.

The original volume of William Blake’s collection of poems Songs Of Innocence And Experience Showing the Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul was published in 1789 and since then many have tried their hand at putting some of his “songs” to music, including poet Allen Ginsberg who believed that Blake had originally intended for his poems to be sung. Ginsberg also believed that by studying their meter and verse he could roughly figure out how Blake himself would have performed them. This album then, originally released in 1970 on Verve, is the result of his efforts.

Originally recorded for The Beatles Zapple label but unreleased.

The great American poet Allen Ginsberg (Howl) adapted some of the most famous poems by William Blake, setting them to simple melodies and singing them himself. The result was more literary than musical, but listening to him, one couldn't help but get caught up in the rush of words and images. Years later, when some young musicians asked Ginsberg what they should name their band, he told them, "The Blake Babies." Ginsberg died in 1997; U2 borrowed Blake's title for their most recent album.

Between 1969 and 1971, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg took the poems of William Blake and set them to music – with musicians as diverse as Don Cherry, Elvin Jones, and Arthur Russell – Ginsberg recorded (with himself on lead vocals) dozens of these songs, some of which leaked out via an album on MGM in 1970 (making him label mates with the Velvet Underground). However, none of them have been properly issued on CD until now – and many have never been released in any form.

On behalf of the Ginsberg Estate, Omnivore Recordings releases a 2-CD set titled The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake, Tuned by Allen Ginsberg on June 23.

The Ginsberg Estate has supplied Aquarium Drunkard with an exclusive animated video of one of the songs – which is a feast for the eyes and ears – plus an excerpt of reissue producer Pat Thomas‘ liner notes to give you a taste of the wealth of influence. Everyone from Van Morrison to the Beatles to Jimmy Page was a fan of Ginsberg!

In October 2016, Rolling Stone asked Van Morrison if he read Irish writers such as William Butler Yeats and James Joyce when he was a student. His reply:

“No. I was reading Allen Ginsberg. But I was definitely influenced by William Blake…. Blake was, in a lot of respects, a British nationalist. But he was beyond that as well in imagination and spirituality. You can’t get much more blues than “Let the Slave” [in 1985, Morrison set Blake’s poem to music]. I once saw Ginsberg do a gig at the Troubadour in L.A. He was doing Blake stuff. I thought, “This all connects.”

In March 2017, I posed the question “Why did Allen choose Blake to set to music? to Gordon Ball – caretaker of Allen’s farm during the 1960s and 70s and an editor of several of Allen’s books:

Allen always saw poetry and music as linked, not separate art forms…. and had a long history with Blake going back to that 1948 vision or ‘auditory illumination’ as he called it – in that apartment in Spanish Harlem he was staying in. So that Blake was sort of his ‘resident monster’ for a long time. Allen more or less says that in his poem, “The Change” where he finally shuffles out from under the influence of Blake and always seeking something visionary. Nonetheless, Blake stayed with him, because there he is, five years after that starting to put all of Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” to music.

Last year, on behalf of the Ginsberg estate and Omnivore Recordings, I compiled a 3 CD box set titled Last Word on First Blues that focused on original folk, blues and rock songs that Allen composed and recorded between 1971 and 1984 accompanied by the likes of Bob Dylan, Jon Sholle and Arthur Russell.

There’s a continuity with this collection –Sholle and Russell appear on this release as well – and as musician Alan Senauke pointed out to me (Alan appears on disc two – which features several previously unheard Blake poems set to music during July & August 1971 sessions in San Francisco), there was a foreshadowing then of the November 1971 First Blues New York City recording sessions with Sholle, Russell and Dylan:

Allen had an affinity for music, he’d been listening to Ray Charles early on, he loved music! I remember we rehearsed a version of “Jimmy Berman” [a playful Gay liberation song that was later recorded in New York and appeared on the “First Blues” album]. Allen would pull surprising references out of his mind during the summer 1971 San Francisco sessions that hinted at the breadth of his listening to folk music, R&B and jazz.

This package collects together numerous Blake poems that Allen set to music between 1969 and 1971. Disc two is packed with rarities, not only Blake material but also some wild Tibetan Buddhist mantras! A few of these 1971 recordings leaked out on the 1994 Holy Soul, Jelly Roll box set, but until now – the ‘71 San Francisco recordings have never been released in their entirety.

Disc one marks the first ever CD release of Allen’s 1970 album Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake, tuned by Allen Ginsberg – plus two previously unreleased recordings from June & July 1969 album sessions. A version of Blake’s “Grey Monk” (minus Elvin Jones fiery drumming on the released version, featuring simply harmonium, guitar, and vocals) and a song never before released called “Brothels of Paris” aka “Let the Brothels of Paris be opened” – a Blake poem left off the original LP because there simply wasn’t enough room.

“Grey Monk” was first performed in Chicago’s Lincoln Park during the August ’68 riots surrounded by the likes of Yippie Jerry Rubin and thousands of young anti-Vietnam war activists.

Gordon Ball: “On his way to protest at the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968, Allen began composing music to Blake’s “Grey Monk” poem. A poem all about ‘revolution’ – “I die, I die.”” [Inspired by the French Revolution.]

In Spring 2017, Bob Dorough; keyboardist/arranger for the 1969 album sessions recalled to me :

Of course, I was aware of the beatnik movement, in fact, while I was in LA, I recorded an album called “Jazz Canto Volume 1” in 1958 – a blend of jazz and poetry – I made songs out of Langston Hughes and Ferlinghetti poems – and during that time I gave a series of jazz and poetry concerts at The Ash Grove on Melrose – we’d invite poets to recite their poems over improvised jazz that we played. One time I performed “Howl” myself!

In the 1960s, I produced Spanky and Our Gang and that led to working with The Fugs. Ed Sanders knew about my arranging skills and Ed recommended me to Allen.

Allen came to me with his harmonium, he claimed to me that he didn’t really compose the music for the Blake poems, Blake composed it and Allen got it off the ‘airwaves’ – you know? – [laughing], I accepted his theory!

One thing he said was, “I’d like to have Elvin Jones and Don Cherry on these sessions” “My pleasure, I love those guys” I said, so I booked ‘em and he brought along some other musicians too. The arranging that I did was pretty minimal. But I did prepare some charts, so we sort of knew what’s happening.

What did Elvin Jones think of Ginsberg? Well, Elvin was always a happy soul and whatever was going on was cool with him. The next day he might be playing with the most out avant-garde musicians, so this gig was kind of a lark for him!

 "Ginsberg is no singer, but the distinctive sinuousness of his reedy voice is one of the set's most compelling qualities. Nothing here sounds strained or pretentious, which should make it the last word in concept albums. It sounds, rather, like a labor of love, a salute from a young visionary to an ancient sage, executed with delicacy and charm in a vocal style reminiscent of an Anglo-American muezzin." — Lester Bangs, RS 60 (June 11, 1970)

And remember: “The Beats did everything first”—Jimmy Page

Al Et Al - 1981 - Strange Affair

Al Et Al 
Strange Affair 

01. If I..?
02. Strange Affair
03. Coy Mistress
04. Faerie Queen
05. Have You Been Good?
06. G.O.D.
07. Sophistication Wild
08. Our Love
09. Stick Yer Boot In
10. Lonely Road
11. I Want To Fly
12. Thank You Sue
13. I Need Time
14. Songs Of Middle Age

Acoustic Guitar – Martin Hewitt
Acoustic Guitar, Vocals – Allan Thompson
Drums – Paul Bearis
Flute, Recorder, Whistle – James Acheson
Keyboards, Bass – Reuben Ayres
Vocals – Rosie Hamilton

Reissue of a rare progressive folk album from the UK, originally dating back to 1981. Expect gentle acoustic guitars, keyboards and woodwind instruments along with a sweet female voice and tasteful vocal harmonies. This was the band's sole album.

Superb and little known folky progressive rock from the very early 80’s (but sounds much earlier). Features in the Pokora book 3001 Record Collector Dreams with a massive 4 symbols on the rarity scale. Great album and very very rare!!....

The 1981 album ‘Strange affair’ by the little known band Al et Al on the small ‘Arny’s Shack’ label has become a cult album, and for good reason. This was the only album the band produced before going on to follow there ‘real’ careers. The writing of Allan Thompson is excellent, with great contemporary folk music and a mix of melancholy and humour in the lyrics – I suspect that he went on to become a psychiatrist, as the whole group seem to have been at Southampton University in 1981 when the album was produced.Reuben Ayres (keyboards) is now a consultant Gastroenterologist (shame), while James Acheson (flute, recorder, whistle and squeeze-box) is a Neuro-Opthalmologist., Martin Hewitt (Acoustic guitar) is a paediatrician. Rosie Hamilton was the female vocalist acting as a foil to Thompson, but I can find no trace of where she moved on to. The album is first class, with a variety of styles with Rosie excelling on the title track, with great keyboards from Reuben and the haunting ‘Faerie Queen’ with the vocal duelling between Rosie and Allan being a more traditional folk song. The more upbeat ‘Have you been good?’ is extremely funny – you can see why Allan went into psychiatry.  ‘G.O.D.’ is a skit on the Grand Ole Duke (G.O.D.) of York and is great fun. Side 2 starts with the slow contemporary folk song ‘Sophistication wild’, followed by the delicate ‘our love’ with Rosie taking centre stage on vocals. A complete change of mood follows with the Chas & Dave ish ‘Stick yer boot in’ with a studentish jibe at the boys in blue. ‘I want to fly’ has James Acheson (recorder) and Rosie Hamilton at their best and some great guitar work. ‘Thank you Sue’ is a folksy love song, with a bit of humour. ‘I need time’ is one of the best tracks on the album,  with a great duet from Allan and Rosie and fab keyboards in the background from Reuben. The final track ‘Songs of Middle Age’ sees a return to the G.O.D. with Allan poking fun at some of the characters leading the University in a Viv Stanshall style. I must also give credit to the fantastic artwork on the cover (possibly one of the best covers ever) which was done by Jill Cassidy

Adam Best - 1970 - Wall Of Sound

Adam Best
Wall Of Sound

01. Wall of Sound (5:21)
02. I Can't Go On Without You (2:09)
03. I Guess I'll Always Love You (2:46)
04. Twenty Five Miles (3:09)
05. Lana's Past (2:32)
06. Gimme, Gimme Good Lovin' (1:57)
07. I'm a Man (3:06)
08. Walk Away Renée (2:39)
09. High In Grass (3:21)
10. When You're Young and In Love (2:33)
11. You Shouldn't Say (2:36)
12. Spread Out (3:02)

Cover incorrectly lists Side A as Side B, and vice versa.

«...the "Wall of Sound" Adam Best created may well prove to be the most significant musical event of the '70s...»
[from the liner notes of "Wall of Sound"]

...well, that is - of course - an overstatement, an hyperbole used to create a strong impression in the people flipping through the vinyls stacked in record shops in those glorious days during the early '70s... But it's undeniable that the mysterious Adam Best - or anyone who has chosen to hide behind that name for some unknown reason - has crafted a little groovy record that can still make a good impression more than forty years later. 

So, who was Adam Best? According to Mista Tibbz, «...there is strong suspicions of his relations to Music De Wolfe sound libraries due the similarity in certain library records and this one, but nothing is proved...».

Some people discussing in an Internet forum - here - link Adam Best to Barry Stoller, a composer of Library Music who is better known for the theme he created for "Match of the Day", the popular BBC's football television programme. It seems that Meatball's "Atomic Butterly" features a backing track identical to one of those contained on "Wall of Sound" with different solos over the top... Uhm, I would be quite curious to listen to that record...

Anyway, the only certainty I can offer is that the album liner notes mention veteran composer and director Harold Geller's involvement in the making of the record. Then we have the fact that the original six compositions on "Wall of Sound" - the other six are covers of famous tunes - are signed by Hugh Cortley and a certain Supran. Well, I guess I should write five originals and seven covers since one of the originals seems to be a plagiarism... More on this if you continue to read below.

I wasn't able to find anything relevant about Supran, but Cortley is often associated with Musi Silvio, another Library Music composer. Their tune entitled "Export" (...available here...) is very similar to the material contained on "Wall of Sound"; it is included on the album "New Generation" credited to The Laurence Stephen Orchestra...

Here's a complete transcription of the original liner notes that appear on the back cover of "Wall of Sound":

«Once in a while a person or group of people comes along with a style of music which surpasses anything done before. They are usually self-centred ruthless people - they don't get results unless they are - who know to the letter what they want, and nothing is allowed to stand in their way. Such a man is Adam Best. 24 year old Adam Best studied electronics at college, and music at the Royal Academy. He has been playing guitar, bass and drums on the pop scene for a number of years, but it was not until 14 months ago that he gave up playing in public to concentrate full-time on his own project. He was aided by one Harold Geller, one of London's most successful music directors and publishers, who recognised that his ideas were valid, and encouraged him to begin work on the new sound. Electronic music is not in itself new. People have been making musical sounds with electronics for years, but the great majority of it can hardly be called music, for it lacks - for want of a better word - soul. For the first time a musician entered the field, with the knowledge of electronics and the knowledge and ability of musician. The sound he has manufactured successfully fills the gap between vocal and instrumental music, based on the solid rhythm foundation played by Adam, augmented by section work by electronics. Just over a year ago Adam began work in a North London coal cellar to build by hand the machines he needed to complete his work. The things he required were not commercially manufactured so everything had to be designed and constructed by him. What little spare time was available was spent in discotheques up and down the country listening and learning from the types of music that were popular. The idea was to provide music that was danceable, and at the same time made pleasant listening. This was achieved by many hours of sessions between Harold Geller and Adam Best and many long involved telephone calls at all odd hours of the day and night when one would think of an idea which would immediately have to be put down in sound. They both laughingly refer to their nocturnal sound effects with neighbours thinking that a crime has been committed when they hear the weird noises emanating from their various houses in the still of the night. However, on reflection, they both feel that it was all very worthwhile. How well he succeeded can be gauged from the reactions of Philips Records. On hearing the first tracks played to them by Adam and Harold Geller, they immediately asked that they were given the opportunity to release all forthcoming material. The first complete Album "Wall of Sound" was presented to them in January, and was immediately scheduled for rush-release. Adam's dream had at last proved worthwhile. The first album is just the beginning for Adam; the sound can only get better. There are no limits on the medium, it is as much or as little as he chooses to make it, and the "Wall of Sound" Adam Best created may well prove to be the most significant musical event of the '70s.»

So, let's explore this Funky / Easy Listening little gem... The album opens with the title track; clocking at over five minutes, "Wall of Sound" is the longest number and probably the coolest original composition too: sustained by forceful guitars and a raw rhythm section, keyboards (...Hammonds? Moogs?) are the undisputed leaders here, as on the rest of the record.

"I Can't Go On Without You" is another original composition, a short Easy Listening number with a more polished sound. It is followed by "I Guess I'll Always Love You", a cover of a 1966 Motown hit by The Isley Brothers which was also recorded by The Supremes. The Isleys' version was reissued in the U.K. in 1969 and became a hit there, hence probably the inclusion on this early 1970 album.

In 1968 "Twenty Five Miles" was a huge hit for Edwin Starr, who co-wrote the song along with Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua. This instrumental version begins with a short break and keeps in line with the hectic nature of the original uptempo beat; one of the best tracks on the album.

"Lana's Past" is another original mellow tune written by the Cortley / Supran team that remains in an Easy Listening territory which doesn't add much to the album's recipe... Side One finishes with "Gimme, Gimme Good Lovin'", a cover of a 1969 hit by Crazy Elephant, a short-lived American Bubblegum Pop band.

Side Two opens with a great cover of "I'm a Man", a 1967 Hammond organ-driven Blues Rock single by The Spencer Davis Group written by Steve Winwood and Jimmy Miller. This song was sampled by DJ Format on his album "Music For the Mature B-Boy" in 2003. It is followed by the cover of another tune taken from the immense Motown catalogue: originally made popular by The Left Banke in 1966, "Walk Away Renée" became a hit for the Four Tops in 1968.

"High In Grass" is a track signed by Cortley / Supran which sound very similar - if not a plain plagiarism - to "Cold Sweat" by James Brown... "When You're Young and In Love" was written by Van McCoy and brought to success by Ruby & The Romantics in 1964, and later also by The Marvelettes in 1967; during the '70s it was covered by many other artists.

"You Shouldn't Say" is another high-quality original composition; I'm quite sure that its breakbeat has been sampled and used by someone during the '90s, probably Beck or Imani Coppola, I will investigate and update the post at a later date if I'm successfull.

The album ends with "Spread Out", an average track which doesn't affect the album as a whole: a nice combination of Funk / Soul and Easy Listening with some real standouts!

Wall Of Sound is a tightly-knit capsule that takes you to a time and place in which people just danced and made weird movies. Half of the album is a fraction too kitch to swallow, the other half is downright funky. I had never heard of Adam Best, but I’m sure I would have liked the odd fella.
Tuff funky breaks, rockin guitar riffs,funky hammond,drum patterns all over the shop. A cool rockin easy listening overlooked classic.