Donnerstag, 19. März 2015

Howlin Wolf - In Concert (1964)

 
Of the myriad circulating live Wolf albums of dubious fidelity and legality, this is the best of the bunch, both from an audio standpoint and the pronouncement in the booklet that royalties were indeed being paid to Wolf's widow.

This is Wolf's portion of the show as part of the traveling American Folk Blues entourage, the first festival type presentation of the whole blues spectrum to invade Europe. This 1964 tour is the one that brought the real thing to locales where he had previously been only a name on a phonograph record, and the romantic notions projected into the sound that record gave off. With somewhat subdued but nonetheless solid support from right hand man Hubert Sumlin on lead guitar, Sunnyland Slim on piano, Willie Dixon on upright bass, and Clifton James on drums, Wolf runs through a 45-minute set loaded with classics and presented with a positively genial charm. The lack of Wolf's regular rhythm section (although Dixon played bass on many of the records from this period) lends a different flavor to these versions.

Many of the selections seem mistitled here ("Tell Me What I've Done" is "I Didn't Mean To Hurt Your Feelings," "Shake For Me" is "Shake It For Me," "May I Have A Talk With You" is "Love Me," etc.), but as this November 6th performance in Bremen, Germany unfolds, it becomes apparent that the odd titles come from Wolf's introductions. Everything is stretched to a nice, comfortable length here, as Wolf sets both mood and pace, with no tune clocking in at anything less than four minutes and "Goin' Down Slow" and "Forty-Four" reaching the six- and seven-minute mark. Even though the drums and Sumlin's guitar are perhaps muted in the mix more than they should be, the overall sound shows just how well these blues veterans worked together. Just how essential this performance is to a Wolf collection would be in debate, but once you're under the spell, you want to hear it all, and this is a fine addition for someone who's in it for the long haul.     
          
Turn up the volume, and after a little while you won't hardly notice the lack of 21st century fidelity. Any semi-serious blues fan should listen to this wonderful recording of Howlin' Wolf in his prime...

Howlin Wolf - In Concert (1964)
(320 kbps, cover art included)

Montag, 16. März 2015

Nina Simone - Little Girl Blue (1957)


"Little Girl Blue", released in 1957, was Nina Simone's first recording, originally issued on the Bethlehem label. Backed by bassist Jimmy Bond and Albert "Tootie" Heath, it showcases her ballad voice as one of mystery and sensuality and showcases her up-tempo jazz style with authority and an enigmatic down-home feel that is nonetheless elegant. The album also introduced a fine jazz pianist.

Simone was a solid improviser who never strayed far from the blues. Check the opener, her reading of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," which finger-pops and swings while keeping the phrasing deep-blue. It is contrasted immediately with one of the - if not the - definitive reads of Willard Robison's steamy leave-your-lover ballad "Don't Smoke in Bed." The title track, written by Rodgers & Hart, features "Good King Wenceslas" as a classical prelude to one of the most beautiful pop ballads ever written. It is followed immediately by the funky swing in "Love Me or Leave Me" with a smoking little piano solo in the bridge where Bach meets Horace Silver and Bobby Timmons.

It's also interesting to note that while this was her first recording, the record's grooves evidence an artist who arrives fully formed; many of the traits Simone displayed throughout her career as not only a vocalist and pianist but as an arranger are put on first notice here. "My Baby Just Cares for Me" has a stride shuffle that is extrapolated on in the piano break. Her instrumental and improvising skills are put to good use on Tadd Dameron's "Good Bait," which is transformed into something classical from its original bebop intent. "You'll Never Walk Alone" feels more like some regal gospel song than the Rodgers & Hammerstein show tune it was. Of course, one of Simone's signature tunes was her version of "I Loves You, Porgy," which appears here for the first time and was released as a single.

Her own "Central Park Blues" is one of the finest jazz tunes here, and it is followed with yet another side of Simone's diversity in her beautiful take on the folk-gospel tune "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," with quiet and determined dignity and drama. Another of her instrumentals compositions, "African Mailman," struts proud with deep Afro-Caribbean roots and rhythms.

Tracklist:
01.  Mood Indigo
02.  Don't Smoke In Bed
03.  He Needs Me
04.  Little Girl Blue
05.  Love Me Or Leave
06.  My Baby Just Cares For Me
07.  Good Bait
08.  Plain Old Ring
09.  You'll Never Walk Alone
10.  I Loves You Porgy
11.  Central Park Blues
Bonus tracks:
12.  He's Got The Whole World In His Hands
13.  For All We Know
14.  African Mailman


Nina Simone - Little Girl Blue (1957)
(320 kbps, cover art included)                                   

Donnerstag, 12. März 2015

Nina Simone - In Concert (1964)

"Nina Simone in Concert"  was her first album for the record label Philips and was made up of three live recordings in Carnegie Hall, New York City in March and April 1964 (previously, she had recorded "Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall" in 1963 for Colpix Records). This album marks the beginning of "Nina Simone, the Civil Rights singer" in her recording career (she had already incorporated the civil rights message in her performances). Included on the album are politically laden songs, most notably the self-written "Mississippi Goddam".

This is probably the most personal album that Simone issued during her stay on Philips in the mid-'60s. On most of her studio sessions, she worked with orchestration that either enhanced her material tastefully or smothered her, and she tackled an astonishingly wide range of material that, while admirably eclectic, made for uneven listening. Here, the singer and pianist is backed by a spare, jazzy quartet, and some of the songs rank among her most socially conscious declarations of African-American pride: "Old Jim Crow," "Pirate Jenny," "Go Limp," and, especially, "Mississippi Goddam" were some of the most forthright musical reflections of the Civil Rights movement to be found at the time. In a more traditional vein, she also reprises her hit "I Loves You, Porgy" and the jazz ballad "Don't Smoke in Bed."

Tracklist:
A1 I Loves You, Porgy

A2 Plain Gold Ring
A3 Pirate Jenny

A4 Old Jim Crow
B1 Don't Smoke In Bed
B2 Go Limp
B3 Mississippi Goddam

Nina Simone - In Concert (1964)
(320 kbps, cover art included)

Dienstag, 10. März 2015

Nina Simone - Black Gold (1970)


"Black Gold" is a live album by Jazz singer/pianist/songwriter Nina Simone recorded in 1969 at the Philharmonic Hall, New York.
The album is especially notable because it features the civil rights anthem song "To Be Young Gifted And Black". The performance that night also included a calypso version of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" (which Simone had recorded on To Love Somebody), but there was no room for it on the album.

The album features two versions of the "Black Is The Color Of My True Love´s Hair", the first sung by Nina, the second sung in a modified version by her guitarist, Emile Latimer.
"Ain't Got No-I Got Life" is a live reprise of the hit single from "Nuff Said" (1969). "Westwind" is a song Simone learned from her friend, the African singer Miriam Makeba.
"To Be Young Gifted And Black" became a Civil Rights anthem. Nina is joined by the singing male duo The Swordsmen. Simone introduces the song by saying:
"It is not addressed to white people primarily. Though it doesn't put you down in any way...it simply ignores you. For my people need all the inspiration and love that they can get."
With the release of the album also came an LP called A"n Evening with Nina Simone". It was a recorded interview about the album. The questions were provided in written form, so that radio DJ's could ask the questions and play Simone's recorded answers, as if she were in the studio.

Maybe not the album to start your Nina journey with, but if you want one of her most compelling RCA titles, and one of her most compelling live albums, this is the one to get when you're exploring that part of her catalog.

Tracklist:
A1 Black Is The Colour...                                                                                    5:58
A2 Black Is The Colour Of My True Love's Hair 4:00
A3 Ain't Got No - I Got No Life 5:30
A4 Westwind 9:30
B1 Who Knows Where The Time Goes 8:08
B2 The Assignment Sequence 6:57
B3 To Be Young, Gifted And Black 9:34

Nina Simone - Black Gold (1970)
(192 kbps, cover art included)

Lightnin Hopkins - Double Blues (1973)

Lightnin' Hopkins' plaintive, soft-rolling blues style is exemplified on "Let's Go Sit on the Lawn," "Just a Wristwatch on My Arm," "I'm a Crawling Black Snake," Willie Dixon's "My Babe," and others.

Accompanied only by himself on guitar (and oh what a guitar he plays), Leonard Gaskin (bass), and Herb Lovelle (drums), Hopkins' seductive, intricate guitar picks and strums will dance around in your head long after this album has played.

His voice, which sounds like it's aged in Camels and Jim Beam, conveys his heartfelt sagas to the fullest. A prolific songwriter, Hopkins wrote every song except the Dixon tune.

All tracks were recorded May 4 - 5, 1964. Tracks 1 - 7 were originally released on the "Down Home Blues" album, tracks 8 - 17 on the "Soul Blues" album.

Tracklist:
  1. Let's Go Sit On The Lawn
  2. I'm Taking A Devil Of A Chance
  3. I Got Tired
  4. I Asked The Bossman
  5. Just A Wristwatch On My Arm
  6. I Woke Up This Morning
  7. I Was Standing On 75 Highway
  8. I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My Own
  9. My Babe
  10. Too Many Drivers
  11. I'm A Crawling Black Snake
  12. Rocky Mountain Blues
  13. I Mean Goodbye
  14. Howling Wolf
  15. Black Ghost Blues
  16. Darling, Do You Remember Me?
  17. Lonesome Graveyard

Lightnin Hopkins - Double Blues
(320 kbps, cover art included)

Mittwoch, 4. März 2015

The Last Poets - Holy Terror (1993)

With "Holy Terror", the Last Poets lay their claim to be the originators of hip-hop. Containing some of the Poets' most trenchant political and social lyrics, "Holy Terror" shows the Last Poets, Umar Bin Hassan and Abiodun Oyewole, still as fiery and sharp as ever.

"Homesick" and "Pelourinho" are descriptions of slavery that are as vivid and riveting as any movie. "Black Rage" paints a portrait of urban hell that will chill any listener to the bone.

The album is also superbly produced, with a funk sound that supports the lyrics while never overshadowing them. Credit is due to seminal producer Bill Laswell, who, armed with a first-class band made up of P-Funk alumni George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Bernie Worrell, along with Grandmaster Melle Mel, constructs dense, intricate grooves that are simultaneously modern and traditional.

For both fans of the classic Last Poets albums and newcomers interested in one of the missing links between classic funk and modern hip-hop, "Holy Terror" is worth a listen.  

Tracklist:
1Invocation
2Homesick
3Black Rage
4Men-tality
5Pelourinho
6Funk
7If We Only Knew
8Illusion Of Self
9Talk Show
10Last Rite

The Last Poets - Holy Terror (1993)  
(320 kbps, cover art included)