Mittwoch, 29. Juli 2015

Mikis Theodorakis - The Faces Of The Sun - Happy Birthday, Mikis Theodorakis!

"Born on July 29, 1925 on the island of Chios, Mikis Theodorakis has seen nine decades of political developments in Greece - and continually responded to them in music. Often referred to as Greece's most famous living composer, he studied music in Paris under Olivier Messiaen and is known for writing the scores to films like "Zorba the Greek" (1964) and "Serpico" (1973). With his roots in classical music, he also pursued traditional Greek music, for many years in collaboration with talented singer Maria Farantouri.

Politically, Theodorakis was associated with the left-wing and became a vocal member of the resistance when the right-wing junta took power in the late 1960s, which led to a time in jail and exile for the musician. Theodorakis was elected to parliament three times - in 1964, 1981 and 1990 - and served as a minister in the 1990s.

Currently, Mikis Theorakis is suffering from the physical injuries resulting from a tear gas attack while he was participating in an anti-austerity demonstration in Athens in 2012. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, singer Maria Farantouri, who was his musical muse and long-time artistic colleague, tells DW what it was like to work with the composer and activist.

DW: Ms. Farantouri, Mikis Theodorakis discovered you as a singer during a performance in 1963. You were 16 at the time and quickly became the main interpreter of his music. Looking back, how would you describe this period?

Maria Farantouri: During the military dictatorship in Greece [Eds: 1967-1974] and just before it, I starting singing with Mikis Theodorakis and all my songs had to do with social justice, peace, solidarity, and humanity. Of course they also had an artistic message and nice melodies - Theodorakis was a very good musician, composer and conductor.

In the 1960s, music was very closely linked to politics and social struggles - it played a different role back then. We demonstrated against the political situation because we had neither freedom nor democracy.

Today, the finance crisis has made things difficult. We have somewhere around 1.5 million unemployed people. We still cannot believe that. The people are lacking basic needs and don't even have enough food.
I'm not a politician, but we - Europe and Greece - have to find a balance. Greece cannot continue like this.

There was a sense of upheaval in Greece in the 1960s, after World War II, occupation, civil war, and the wave of emigration in the 1950s. The young generation wanted to start anew. Theodorakis embodied this sentiment - politically, because he was part of the resistance and had been arrested, tortured and banned. But also musically through his songs, which were received with enthusiasm. Nevertheless, society had been divided even before the dictatorship and the left-wing was persecuted. At the same time, people held together…

Yes, not only the left, but all democrats held together, no matter which party they belonged to. There was a lot of discussion about democracy and everyone was supposed to fight for it. Those who were suspected of being too left-wing were forbidden from working. Only those on the right got jobs. Democrats and those who leaned to the left had big problems. Sometimes it was enough if you were just seen with a left-wing newspaper.

When Theodorakis discovered me, I was 16. That is what was happening in Greece, and we were young. The police knew what I did with Theodorakis. My family wasn't left, but center - democrats. But my colleagues, my friends, the circle of people around Theodorakis, the poets - they were all on the left, of course. However, they were not communists like in the Soviet Union; we were left-wing Europeans.

For us, humanity and peace were very important - especially peace. There were many wars at that time.

Your amazing voice played an important role, of course…

I was lucky. Mikis had an influence on me. He gave me a feeling for his convictions; he gave me everything. I was a young girl then and was to become a classically trained soprano at the music school. But Theodorakis said, "No, the best school is with me. You have to stay with me."

And so I followed him everywhere. I had some health problems in my younger years and was often in the hospital. But singing gave me access to the world.

In 1967, Mikis Theodorakis was arrested by the military junta and his music was banned because he'd joined the resistance. It was you, who - from exile in France - continued to fight against the dictatorship by carrying Theodorakis' songs into the world. It was through international protest that Theodorakis was able to immigrate to France in 1970 and you performed charity concerts there to support the families of victims of political persecution in Greece. When the regime was toppled in 1974, you had become a symbol of resistance and Theodorakis a national hero.

It's important to keep in mind that Greece is the source of Theodorakis' inspiration. Sometimes that is misunderstood and he is accused of being a nationalist. But he is not a nationalist. He simply believes that history and knowledge give him strength and energy to do great things.

This contradiction can be found in many charismatic personalities. I can only say that I was very lucky to meet this man. Otherwise I would have just become a good classical singer. With Mikis, it's a continuous journey - even now that he's 90 years old. He's alive, he's at home, and we communicate. And I feel at 66 like I was just starting - like a young girl. I would like to learn new things, understand and express myself. That's how I grew up with Miki, and that's why I say he's my father.

In honor of Mikis Theodorakis' 90th birthday, Maria Farantouri is going on tour in Europe, giving concerts in Berlin (25.09.), Amsterdam (27.09.), Luxemburg (28.09), and Brussels (29.09.)."

 - From: www.dw.com

"The "Faces of the sun" are based on the collection of poems: "Colours and vowels". They express my concept of greek song today, as much as it concers melody - vere - rythme - voice." - Mikis Theodorakis

Tracklist:
1The Way Of The Moon
2It's Been A Long Time Since I've Seen You
3The 3 Days
4Stop Here
5The Hide And Seek
6You Speak In A New Way
7At This Moment Of The Day
8Speak To Me In Another Way
9The Way You Talk To Me
10The Way You Look At Me
11It's Getting Dark
12The Faces Of The Sun
13To Come Here
14With A Half Moon
15The Time Of The Fire
16The Sea At Noon
17This Tree


Mikis Theodorakis - The Faces Of The Sun
(256 kbps, cover art included)

Dienstag, 28. Juli 2015

Doc Watson & Son - Same (1965)

Merle Watson's debut with father Doc Watson was recorded shortly after they performed their first concerts together in California, and it shows the duo's musical partnership already in full flower, an incredible fact considering that Merle had only been picking guitar for eight months!
The best songs here turned up on later Vanguard best-ofs, but there's a fair amount of greatness in the astonishing instrumental medley "Fiddler's Dram/Whistling Rufus/Ragtime Annie" and "Little Stream of Whiskey," an old Irish drinking song transformed into a hobo ballad with a bouncy fingerpicked melody.
 
Perhaps most astonishing is the solo harmonica workout "Mama Blues," in which the elder Watson imitates the sound of a child crying, showing off yet another facet of his incredible musical skill.                


Tracklist:

A1Muskrat2:51
A2Weary Blues2:10
A3Medley2:09
A4Dream Of The Miner's Child2:45
A5Rising Sun Blues4:17
A6Mama Blues2:18
A7We Shall All Be Reunited2:10
B1Little Stream Of Whiskey2:25
B2Little Sadie2:57
B3Beaumont Rag1:37
B4Otto Wood The Bandit3:14
B5Faithful Soldier3:09
B6Memphis Blues1:32
B7Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar2:06

Doc Watson & Son – Doc Watson & Son (1965)      
(320 kbps, cover art included)                             

Sonntag, 12. Juli 2015

Country Joe & The Fish - The First Three EPs

Before making their leap into the "big time" and signing with the nationally distributed Vanguard Records in 1967, Country Joe McDonald and his group the Fish had already created a pair of self-produced and otherwise low-budget EPs as so-called "talking" issues of McDonald's own Rag Baby publication. The periodical itself was a Bay Area adaptation of the folkie's music intensive magazine Broadside.
"Collectors Items: The First Three EPs" compiles those highly sought-after 7"s of vinyl onto CD - the contents of which earned Country Joe & the Fish (CJ&F) their initial flashes of national exposure - albeit limited to the underground "head shops" that stocked Rag Baby.
 
The disc opens with a primordial incarnation of the Fish - consisting of McDonald (vocals/guitar) and his close musical associate Barry Melton (vocals/guitars) - augmented by Carl Shrager (washboard), Bill Steel (bass), and Mike Bearslee (vocals/guitar). Their decidedly D.I.Y. instrumentation and delivery is a clear indicator of the folkie roots that were strikingly similar to that of other burgeoning combos in the Bay Area. The original A-side boasted two CJ&F tunes: "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" and "Superbird." Here, modern listeners are treated to a version of "I Feel Like..." listed as "Take 1" -- replete with the apropos effects of machine guns and round-upon-round of rapid fire mortars - while the alternate "Take 2" contains the infamous "F-U-C-K" Woodstock chant. On the B-side was a folk singer/songwriter named Peter Krug whose contributions were equally as apocalyptic as CJ&F's. Krug's "Fire in the City" was also covered by jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks and a then virtually unknown backup unit who had just changed their name from the Warlocks to the Grateful Dead. The number is coupled with the blatantly anti-combat "Johnny's Gone to War."
 
The second EP debuts the electric incarnation of CJ&F, solidifying the existence of Rag Baby as well as the combo's amplified psychedelic rock leanings. Side A is composed of "(Thing Called) Love" and "Bass Strings" - two relatively short numbers at under four minutes apiece. Allowing themselves the freedom to stretch out in a style and delivery more akin to their public performances, "Section 43" clocks in at nearly seven minutes. All three of these tunes would be reworked on CJ&F's second long-player "Electric Music for the Mind and Body" (1967).
 
The final EP was cut by McDonald backed by Groonta and is a mix of the acoustic "Kiss My Ass"/"Tricky Dicky" and electric "Free Some Day." The disc was recorded for the express purpose of being sold for $1.50 at the infamous "Free the Army" political and musical review that included appearances by such notables as Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. The show toured underground coffeehouses in 1971 and McDonald cut this disc in support of - and for sale at - these performances.       

Tracklist:
1I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag [Take 1]
2I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag [Take 2]
3Superbird
4(Thing Called) Love
5Bass Strings
6Section 43
7Fire In The City
8Johnny's Gone In The War
9Kiss My Ass
10Tricky Dicky
11Free Some Day

Country Joe & The Fish - The First Three EPs
(192 kbps, cover art included)   

Mittwoch, 8. Juli 2015

The Brothers Four - Roamin´ (1961)

The Brothers Four bear a distinction as one of the longest surviving groups of the late-'50s/early-'60s folk revival and perhaps the longest running "accidental" music act in history - 43 years and counting as of 2001, without any break and with two original members still in the fold. If few recognize that distinction, then it's because the Brothers Four were also part of a largely forgotten chapter in the history of folk music in America.                

Most accounts of the post-WWII folk music boom focus on the political and issue-oriented branch of the music, embodied by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, at the expense of the softer, more entertainment-oriented branch, embodied by the likes of the Kingston Trio, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and The Brothers Four. Those acts and the music they made - though it sold well and, indeed, for many years defined what most Americans visualized when the phrase "folk music" was mentioned - are scarcely mentioned in most histories; The Brothers Four aren't even listed in the Guinness Who's Who of Folk Music.

One major misconception about The Brothers Four is that they were an attempt to emulate the Kingston Trio. Actually, Bob Flick (upright bass, baritone, bass), John Paine (guitar, baritone), Mike Kirkland (guitar, banjo, tenor), and Dick Foley (guitar, baritone) had met as undergraduates at the University of Washington in 1956 and began singing together in 1957, more than a year before the Kingston Trio made their first record. Folk music was booming at most liberal arts colleges in those days, and every campus seemed to have its share of trios and quartets, mostly drawn from the ranks of their fraternities. Flick, Paine, Kirkland, and Foley were all members of Phi Gamma Delta and aspired to careers in medicine, engineering, and diplomacy - as amateur performers, however, they were good on their instruments and delighted campus audiences with their ability to harmonize on traditional tunes, novelty songs, and romantic ballads.

They turned professional completely by accident, as a result of a practical joke. A member of a rival fraternity arranged for a woman to telephone the group members, identifying herself as the secretary to the manager of a local Seattle venue, the Colony Club, and invite the quartet down to audition. When they got there, they discovered that there was no invitation or any audition scheduled, but since they were there anyway, the club manager asked them to do a couple of songs and ended up hiring them. The engagement lasted through most of 1958, and while they were often paid off only in beer, the experience was invaluable in that it allowed the group - christened after their impromptu audition as The Brothers Four - to pull its sound together as they never would have if they'd remained confined to occasional performances on campus.

Tracklist:
Low Bridge2:26
Hey, Hey, My Honey2:29
The Lilies Grow High2:57
The Ballad Of Sam Hall2:41
Variation On An Old English Theme1:45
Abilene2:22
Frogg2:41
Pastures Of Plenty2:26
Times1:55
Betty And Dupree2:44
Island Woman2:46
This Land Is Your Land2:34

The Brothers Four - Roamin´ (1961)
(256 kbps, cover art included)