Dienstag, 29. März 2016

Café Rembetika - The Birth Of The Greek Blues

For the uninitiated, rembetika sounds exotic, from another time and place, which is true enough. Rembetika's origins are a bit murky, but one thing is for sure, it flourished in the cafes and bars of Greece in the late 1920s through the '30s. It is outlaw music; the music of the Greek underworld sung by Rebetes (those who are social outsiders, they lived on the margins of society and crossed the line more often than not to stand apart from it).
It has been regarded as dangerous music even by the country's government, who nearly banned it: they tried to censor its content in recordings but failed. It has been called the Greek blues, and that's not far off. This is a place where the complex patterns of Middle Eastern modalism and the repetition of form that exist in the blues meet in one place. This collection on Nascente brings together the work of a number of rembetika's finest from two different schools, or "scenes" actually, the Piraeus and the Aman tradition:

"Café Rembetika" features four of the greatest stars of the Piraeus scene that later formed the first Rembetika supergroup: Markos Vamvakaris, Stratos Pagioumjis, Giorgos Batis and Anestis Delias. Also featured are leading singers from the Café Aman tradition: Rosa Eskenazi, Rita Abatsi and Marika Papagika.

Here´s a collection of some of the greatest songs from the golden age of Rembetika:

Café Rembetika - The Birth Of The Greek Blues
(192 kbps, small front cover included)

Bernd Witthuser - Lieder von Vampiren, Nonnen und Toten (1970)

“If I’d perform in front of miners and sing about how we’d sweat because of the exhausting mining-work the miners they’d laugh about me, since I haven’t gone to work for more than two years.” Bernd Witthüser refused to be received as a political folk-singer for the working class. From 1964 up to 1969 the folk-festival at “Burg Waldeck” (in the Hunsrück mountains) played an important role for the development of a musical underground in post-WW-II-Germany. The music performed there offered an alternative to the German “Schlager” and was influenced by the American and French folk music, but even more important than that musical references was a very strong Marxist tradition that the new generation connected with (Bertolt Brecht functioned as an important role model). Not unlike Pete Seeger in the U.S., folk music was considered to be not only the voice of the people but something to educate people with, raise people’s consciousness, teach them about society etc.: “We shall overcome”…

That highly political (and arrogant at times) approach often led to controversial events. Not unlike Pete Seeger attacking Dylan’s amplification with an axe, there were similar incidents at “Burg Waldeck”. For example there was the time Rolf Schwendter disturbed Reinhard May’s concert with a snare drum, because May’s songs weren’t political enough for Schwendter’s taste.
As a result to the politicised/political climate during the late 1960’s the festival turned out to be dominated by discussions and teach-ins and all these incidents/discussions during these years were as necessary as self-centered: On the one hand the festival and its music/musicians worked as an instrument to politicise people – on the other hand the privileged middle-class kids had to learn that the “revolutionary subject” (i.e. the working class) they were talking about/looking for was somewhere else: at work – and not at a hippie-festival in the Hunsrück mountains. As a consequence in 1969 the preaching to the converted came to an end (the festival was put on hold until 1973) and the folk-music-scene disbanded and headed off to different shores.

Some of the folk musicians referred to the psychedelic music as a druggy escape-route from a reality that needed to be changed (and because of drug-use remained unchanged), some referred to the psychedelic aesthetics as a way to enter the doors of perception – as a first step towards a new society. The crucial point (still): is smoking pot revolutionary or counter-revolutionary behaviour?
By 1968 Bernd Witthüser had already had some local success as a protest-singer, but he didn’t want to sing about mining when his everyday life was more about smoking pot and reading poetry. It seemed ridiculous to him.

Instead of performing the “working class hero” he chose to sing about vampires, nuns and the dead. Influenced by medieval and romantic poetry (like Novalis and Heinrich Heine) he recorded a gothic-folk or folk-noir record for Rolf Ulrich Kaisers Ohr-label (with whom he had also worked before when he managed the “Essener Songtage” in 1968). But it wouldn’t be a Witthüser (& Westrupp is on board already, too) record without a good measure of goofy jokes included: The last song on the record is an adaption of the theme tune from the TV-series “Flipper” and until that last song a lot of – more or less – funny wordplays and gags come with a lot of the songs on “Lieder von Vampiren, Nonnen und Toten”.

But the all in all frivolous approach is a good thing, actually. Otherwise “Lieder von Vampiren, Nonnen und Toten” would be an unbearable proto-neo-folk-disaster. But Bernd and Walter had a reefer once in a while and their daily dose of Marihuana kept them away from turning into morbid youngsters longing for death.

It’s quite difficult to write about the music on “Lieder von Vampiren, Nonnen und Toten” without thinking of the lyrics all the time. And being a native speaker of the German language I wonder how the record is received if you don’t get the lyrics (which is – the other way round – in 99,9% the case for all the Anglo-American music “Krauts” listen to). “Lieder von Vampiren, Nonnen und Toten” is a lovely, unadorned folk music record garnished with a lot of humour and a slightly psychedelic vibe. Mostly guitar and voice, with a bit of percussion, a flute, a trombone and stuff like that here and there. Imagine Cheech & Chong singing Current 93.

After “Lieder von Vampiren, Nonnen und Toten”, Witthüser & Westrupp went on to perform and record as a duo and they released three studio-records (“Trips und Träume”, “Der Jesuspilz” und “Bauer Plath”) and a live-record (“Live ’68-’73”). It’s all about smoking pot, making fun of authorities, daydreaming and enjoying life, basically. Not sure, if this can be considered as a revolutionary agenda, but for a few years it seemed to work – and they both remain swinging until this day! ~ Krautrock database

01. Dracula (4:35)
02. Das stille Grab (2:26)
03. Wir möchten dieses Lied noch singen (3:40)
04. Kann die Klage deuten wer? (3:51)
05. Ich bin dahin (3:19)
06. Welcher Wechsel doch im Leben (2:58)
07. Leis ertönt die Abendglocke (3:10)
08. Hinüber wall ich (2:54)
09. Wenn ich ein Fröhlicher wär (2:52)
10. Die Beschwörung (2:54)
11. Liebeslied (4:10)
12. Die Lilie vom See (4:04)
13. Wer schwimmt dort? (1:59)

Bernd Witthuser - Lieder von Vampiren, Nonnen und Toten (1970)
(192 kbps, cover art included)

Katja Ebstein - Singt Heinrich Heine (1975)

Although she had to wait until early 1970 before she enjoyed her first hit, German singer Katja Ebstein’s involvement in the hippy and student scenes of the late 1960s meant she was often perceived as a voice of the 1968 generation.  

She was born Karin Witkiewicz on 9 March 1945 near what was then the German town of Breslau and is now Wroclaw in Poland. She and her mother fled the approaching Red Army and ended up in Berlin.
After swapping Karin for Katja, the young singer became a familiar face on the local music scene. She performed backing vocals for local group Insterburg and Co and for orchestra conductor James Last.

In 1966 she landed a recording contract with the Ariola label, where she released her first single, Irgendwann. That year she also took part in the Knokke Cup in Belgium, appearing alongside singers such as Britain’s Truly Smith and Belgium’s Ariane.

She met Liberty label bosses at a German Woodstock-type festival in Burg Waldeck and they showed an interest in signing the singer.
With the addition of a surname, which she adapted from the name of the street where she lived, Ebsteinstraße, she joined the Liberty label in 1969.

In 1975 she took to the stage with the Heinrich-Heine-theatre company. Together they performed a Heine-cycle with music composed by Christian Bruhn. This song-cycle was released on the album "Katja Ebstein - Sing Heinrich Heine".

Apart from her musical career Katja is politically very active and outspoken. She was an active member of the 1968 student movement, she supported Willy Brandt in 1972 and was arrested in the eighties for participating in a blockade of an American atomic weapon depot in Germany. In 2003 she demonstrated against the war in Iraque. In 1992 she founded the 'Katja Ebstein Foundation' which has the goal to support children in socially weak families. She also supports the social development program in Mali called 'Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe', which helps local people to build houses for poor people.

Heinrich Heine (13 December 1797 – 17 February 1856) was one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century. He was also a journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder (art songs) by composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. Heine's later verse and prose is distinguished by its satirical wit and irony. His radical political views led to many of his works being banned by German authorities. Heine spent the last 25 years of his life as an expatriate in Paris.
1. Es erklingen alle Bäume
2. Die schlesischen Weber
3. Wir saßen am Fischerhause
4. Es ist eine alte Geschichte
5. Kleines Volk
6. Es fällt ein Stern herunter
7. Lied der Marketenderin
8. Du hast Diamanten und Perlen
9. Auf die Berge will ich steigen
10. Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten
11. Panaschierter Leichenwagen
12. Eine grosse Landstraß' ist unser Erd
13. Meeresstille
14. Es war ein alter König
15. Mein Kind, wir waren Kinder
16. Die Liebe begann im Monat März
17. Die heil'gen drei Könige
18. Das Fräulein stand am Meere

Fresh link:
Katja Ebstein - Singt Heinrich Heine (1975)
(192 kbps, front & back cover included)

Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Swings Lightly (1958)

Ella Swings Lightly is a 1958 studio album by the American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, recorded with the Marty Paich Dek-tette. Ella also worked with Marty Paich on her 1967 album Whisper Not. The album features a typical selection of jazz standards from this era, songs from recent musicals like Frank Loesser's If I Were a Bell, and a famous jazz instrumental vocalised by Ella, Roy Eldridge's Little Jazz.
This album won Ella the 1960 Grammy award for the Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

This was among several hit albums that Fitzgerald enjoyed in the '50s, when she was reaching the mass audience cutting pre-rock standards. The album features Ella Fitzgerald's flowing vocals and Marty Paich's Dek-tette band backing her.  

Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Swings Lightly (1958)
(256 kbps, cover art included)       

Ella Fitzgerald - At Newport (1957)

"Ella Fitzgerald - At Newport" presents recordings from the Newport Jazz Festival, July 1957.
 Unfortunately, Ella Fitzgerald had some problems with her band members. It's unclear how much time Fitzgerald had spent with her trio, though she makes her unhappiness known while trying to jump-start them to a quicker tempo on "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" and "April in Paris." Finally, she gets the band in line, delivering crowd-pleasing renditions of "Lullaby of Birdland" and the terrific scat piece "Air Mail Special," which must have set the park on fire.

Though it's far from a perfect set for Ella Fitzgerald, "At Newport" says more about her respective career than any great show could.

Ella Fitzgerald - At Newport (1957)
(new link with all tracks, 256 kbps, cover art included)

Die Dreigroschenoper - With Hildegard Knef & Curd Jürgens (Wolfgang Staudte´s Film Adaption, 1962)

PhotobucketHildegard Knef was Germany’s most prominent postwar stage-and-screen actress. Also known abroad as Hildegarde Neff (apparently for easier pronunciation purposes), her role as a returning survivor of a Nazi concentration camp in Wolfgang Staudte’s "Die Mörder sind unter uns" (The Murderers Are Amongst Us) (1946) brought her fame overnight.

She died at 76 on February 1, 2002 in a Berlin hospital from complications stemming from a lung infection. Born 28 December 1925 in Ulm, Germany, Hildegard Knef grew up in the Schöneberg neighborhood of Berlin, the same as Marlene Dietrich, whose career and life style she resembles in related steps to fame. Employed at 17 by the Ufa Studios during the Second World War, she worked as a painter and cartoonist in the animation department while studying acting at the Babelsberg Film School.

Her first film role, at 18, in Harald Braun’s "Träumerei" (Dreaming) (1944) fell on the cutting room floor. But her talent as a cool impervious blonde was quickly recognized, and she was given better parts in films directed by the intellectual phalanx in the Goebbels film office: Gerhard Lamprecht, Helmut Käutner, and Erich Engel. During the closing days of the war, she was arrested on the eastern front, disguised as a man, and jailed briefly by the advancing Polish army experiences she would later used to good effect in "The Murderers Are Amongst Us", the first DEFA film production.

Often referred to her as "the thinking man’s Marlene Dietrich", she embodied a new style of woman, composed and detached, the exact opposite of Third Reich heroines. Turning to the stage, Hildegard Knef was engaged by Boleslaw Barlog at the Schlosspark-Theater to play leading roles in Shakespeare, Eugene O'Neill, Marcel Pagnol, and Romain Rolland. But after another successful screen role in Rudolf Jugert’s "Film ohne Titel" (Film Without a Title) (1947), an ironic spoof of filmmaking, for which she was awarded Best Actress at the 1948 Locarno film festival, she left for the United States at the invitation of David O. Selznick, changing her name to Hildegarde Neff.

But after two years of unemployment in Hollywood, she returned to Germany to star in Willi Forst’s "Die Sünderin" (The Sinner) (1950), the scandalous story of a woman who prostitutes herself to save a painter from going blind and appears naked in one key scene. Throughout the 1950s, she was sought by both Hollywood and German production companies, teamed with such leading men as Hans Albers, Erich von Stroheim, Tyrone Power, and Gregory Peck. Julien Duvivier directed her in France, Carol Reed in Britain, and Henry Hathaway in Hollywood.

Her great stage success was a ten-year span on Broadway, from 1954 to 1965, playing Ninotchka 675 times in Cole Porter’s musical comedy "Silk Stockings". The role proved so successful that she began a fabled career as, in Ella Fitzgerald’s words, "the world’s greatest singer without a voice".

In 1963, after playing "Pirate Jenny" in Wolfgang Staudte’s film adaptation of Brecht/Weill’s "Die Dreigroschenoper" ("The Threepenny Opera"), she launched a new career as a chanson-singer, firmed a lasting
friendship with Marlene Dietrich, and worked with Billy Wilder in "Fedora" (1978), her last important screen role. Afflicted by cancer, Hildegard Knef showed great courage by fighting back and undergoing several operations. Between stage and TV appearances, she wrote "Der geschenkte Gaul" (Gift Horse), a bestselling autobiography, and "Das Urteil" (The Verdict), the story of her fight against cancer.

Here is her 1962 appearance as "Pirate Jenny" in "Die Dreigroschenoper" (Three Penny Opera with Curd Jürgens and Gerd Fröbe) - another classical piece showing her incredible acting abilities.

Die Dreigroschenoper - With Hildegard Knef & Curd Jürgens
(192 kbps, cover art included)

Crosby, Nash & Young - Prison Benefit (Winterland, March 26, 1972)

This fine Crosby, Nash & Young bootleg from 1972 is also know as "Waterbrothers". The recording comes from a radio broadcast.


Wooden Ships
I Used To Be A King
Lee Shore
Only Love Can Break Your Heart*
Southbound Train*
Almost Cut My Hair
Page 43
And So It Goes
Immigration Man
Heart Of Gold*
The Needle And The Damage Done*
Teach Your Children*
Military Madness > No More War*

*with Neil Young

Crosby, Nash & Young - Prison Benefit
(192 kbps, cover art included)

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Porgy And Bess (1957)

"Porgy and Bess" is a 1957 studio album by jazz vocalist and trumpeter Louis Armstrong, and singer Ella Fitzgerald collaborating on this recording of selections from George and Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. In 2001, it was awarded with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, a special achievement prize established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance." The album was originally issued on the Verve label in 1957.

There have been many recordings of the music from the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess, but this is one of the more rewarding ones. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald sing all of the parts, performing some of the play's best melodies. Unfortunately, there is not much Armstrong trumpet to be heard, but the vocals are excellent and occasionally wonderful, making up for the unimaginative Russ Garcia arrangements assigned to the backup orchestra.               


A1 Summertime 4:58
A2 I Wants To Stay Here 4:38
A3 My Man's Gone Now 4:02
A4 I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' 3:52
A5 Buzzard Song 2:58
A6 Bess, You Is My Woman Now 5:28
B1 It Ain't Necessarily So 6:34
B2 What You Want Wid Bess 1:59
B3 A Woman Is A Somtime Thing 4:47
B4 Oh, Doctor Jesus 2:00
B5 Medley: Here Come De Honey Man - Crab Man - Oh, Dey's So Fresh & Fine 3:29
B6 There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York 4:51
B7 Oh Bess, Oh Where's My Bess? 2:36
B8 Oh, Lawd, I'm On My Way! 2:57

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Porgy And Bess (1957)
(256 kbps, cover art included)

Die Dreigroschenoper Berlin 1930 (Bertolt Brecht)

"Die Dreigroschenoper" took all of Germany by storm soon after its premiere in 1928 until 1933 when it was banned by the Nazis, along with Weill and the entire Berlin entertainment scene.

Of course we all know that eventually the rest of the world was hooked on the tuneful ballad of "Mack The Knife" or "Mackie Messer", which in America took on a life of its own in the versions popularized by Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and (in a departure from the usual performance by a male singer) Ella Fitzgerald.

The version of "Die Dreigroschenoper" (or "Threepenny Opera") on this digitally remastered CD was recorded in Berlin in December 1930 under the Ultraphon (and later, Telefunken) label. The first ever recording of what later became Weill's most popular score features highlights of the original 1928 production and - with only one exception - the original cast, including Weill's wife, the actress Lotte Lenya , who in an alteration of the original performance sings both the roles of Jenny and Polly. The role is sung in a child-like high soprano , exemplifying Weill's "roaring twenties" song style.
Another alteration is the spoken text that Brecht later wrote to introduce each highlight.
While the very whistleable tunes were a product of Weill's musical imagination, the character of Mack, the knife (or Macheath) goes back to 1728 - to John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera".
This iconoclastic "ballad opera," in wittily depicting the low-life of the criminal world, poked fun at (the then fashionable) Italian opera seria - bringing it down and with it the mighty house of Handel. Weill and Brecht's high-art adaptation 200 years later transported Macheath to the low-life of thieves, whores and hooligans of 1920s Berlin - musically attacking the pompous grandeur of Wagner-like music-theatre while unsettling the bourgeoisie and the self-appointed arbiters of German culture. French versions of some of the songs likewise recorded in 1930 are also included.
The CD, which celebrates Teldec's Telefunken Legacy, also includes other songs from the period, notably two selections from Weill and Brecht's true opera, written for opera singers, "AUFSTIEG UND FALL DER STADT MAHAGONNY" ("The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny"). The work is an anti-capitalist satire about men stranded in an American desert who decide to build themselves a city of pleasure founded on the guiding philosophy of "every man for himself" - inevitably leading to corruption, chaos and self-destruction. Musically, it is a potpourri of operetta, ragtime and pop.
This newly remastered CD is a delightful celebration of a musical genre created by legendary musicmakers from a bygone era, and even only for the experience of hearing what the composer himself actually heard in his day, worth having in one's collection. It is handsomely packaged in digipak / booklet form containing the complete lyrics of the songs (in three languages) and loaded with information, pictures and drawings from the period that can only enhance one's enjoyment of the music.

Die Dreigroschenoper Berlin 1930 (Bertolt Brecht)
(192 kbps)

VA - Tighten Up Vol. 3 & 4

Obviously onto a good thing, the Trojan label continued the "Tighten Up" series of budget compilations rounding up recent hits continued, with Volume 3 and 4 arriving in 1970 and 1971 respectively.

The Maytals "Monkey Man" kicked off the former set, which once again is notable for its eclectic nature. There's another trio of instrumentals, with "Shocks of Mighty" boasting the exuberant DJ skills of Dave Barker, while veteran toaster King Stitt indulges the "Herbsman". Jimmy Cliff was "Suffering", but not for long, by the time this album hit the streets he'd already hit the big time. Ken Boothe was still a few years away from that, but his "Freedom Street" was a popular number, and in Jamaica the riddim would be versioned for years to come. Jamaican born, but British based Dandy Livingston would also eventually crack the UK charts, and here delivers a sublime cover of "Raining in My Heart". Former Gaylad Delano Stewart's offering is just as sweet and emotive.

With the dawn of a new decade, culture began taking hold in Jamaica, a phenomenon reflected across a clutch of Volume 4's cuts. Niney Holness's apocalyptic "Blood and Fire", The Ethiopians's plea for repatriation "The Selah", The Pioneers's harmonic cry of "Starvation" and Merlene Webber's toasting "Hard Life" all spoke of serious matters, as did The Slickers's sublime rude boy warning "Johnny Too Bad". But amongst these heavy hitters were an equal number of lighter songs. Hopeton Lewis, for one, was "Grooving Out on Life", Jean & the Gaytones found comfort in music, and adamantly declaring "I Shall Sing", while Webber found the solution for her difficulties, advising all women to "Stand by Your Man". The Ethiopians also return for a second helping with the love-laced "Good Ambition". Reissuing these two excellent compilation albums together on one CD emphasizes the stylistic shift underway, one from which roots would emerge.

Tighten Up - Volume 3 & 4 (192 kbps)

Andy M Stewart - Songs Of Robert Burns (1989)

Robert Burns (1759 - 96) has been described as "the greatest poet that ever sprung from the bosom of the people." Born at Alloway in Ayrshire, Scotland, on 25th January, 1759, he grew up labouring as a ploughman and orra worker, yet was able to receive the best education available to him in the limited circumstances of the time. It was only when Mossgiel, the family farm, faced economic ruin that Burns considered publishing the poems he had been writing since boyhood. In 1686 his "Kilmarnock Poems" was published to great popular acclaim. The poet, who had planned to emigrate to the Indies, instead found himself touring Scotland in triumph as "Caledonia's Bard." He remained in his native country, married Jean Armour, a Mauchline mason's daughter, and began another farm in Ellisland at Dumfries.

In the course of his short life of 37 years, Burns proved not only to be an extremely prolific poet and songsmith, but also an avid collector of the traditional music and songs of rural Scotland. In his role as folklorist, he collected many beautiful pieces of music from the oral tradition that otherwise would have been lost.
Burns was a humanitarian, libertarian and equalitarian: his sympathies were for the common man, yet his poems have captured the hearts of all classes and nationalities. Burns' own experience conditioned his poetry; his experience was fundamental and there for universal and timeless. Although he died in poverty at Dumfries, 21st July, 1796, he was given a grandiose funeral, the "turn out" being one of the most extraordinary known to history.

Andy M. Stewart (born 8 September 1952, Alyth, Perthshire) is a Scottish singer and songwriter, formerly the frontman for Silly Wizard.
Stewart toured with Silly Wizard until the band broke up in 1988. Since then, he has recorded four solo albums, as well as three with Manus Lunny. Several of Stewart's songs have become well known within the folk community, including "The Ramblin' Rover", "Golden, Golden", "The Queen of Argyll", and "The Valley of Strathmore." In addition, his renditions of classic Robert Burns songs have been well received.

Andy M. Stewart - Songs Of Robert Burns (Wundertüte)
(192 kbps, cover art included)

Ensemble Modern - Die Dreigroschenoper (with Max Raaba, Nina Hagen and HK Gruber)

The "Ensemble Modern" performed its first concert on October 30, 1980, in the Deutschlandfunk broadcast hall, Cologne, Germany. Over the years it has consisted of about 20 players and is a fairly typical chamber orchestra in makeup, its members filling the orchestral sections of strings, brass, woodwind, and percussion in traditional proportions.
It was founded with the intent of promoting new and unusual compositions.


The aforementioned 1980 inaugural concert, which featured works by Schönberg, Webern, Spahlinger, Goldmann, and Schnebel, was broadcast over German radio, giving the new group a measure of overnight recognition. The Ensemble soon developed a schedule of about 100 concerts per year and would perform at many of the world's major concert venues, including Lincoln Center, the Salzburg Festival, the Holland Festival (Amsterdam), and the Festival d'Automne (Paris). Since 1985 it has been based in Frankfurt and has regularly performed at the Alte Oper concert hall. Its 1995 recording of Frank Zappa's "Yellow Shark" achieved great success, and was followed by another Zappa disc, as well as a highly acclaimed 1999 version of Kurt Weill's "Threepenny Opera".

This newly edited version of the music of "Die Dreigroschenoper" was recorded for the first time by the Ensemble Modern led by HK Gruber. Singers include Max Raabe, Sona MacDonald, Nina Hagen, and Gruber himself. The songs are connected by Brecht's own brief narrations, also recorded here for the first time.

This sinuous, dark version of Kurt Weill's ironic morality tale (there's really no hope for anyone sucked into dog-eat-dog Soho, a metaphor for Berlin between the wars), fascinates and disturbs. The overall effect is of a chamber piece, played with controlled vigour rather than the rasping attack of some modern interpretations. As a result and thanks to the subtle playing of the Ensemble Modern, Weill's melancholy, edgy score has rarely sounded so haunting, or at times, delicate. The voices soar above with plaintive beauty, expressing the dreams and nostalgia of characters living off each other by whatever means they can. Max Raabe brilliantly conveys the vulnerability at the heart of the swaggering Macheath, betrayed once too many times by the whores. He is light years from the rocking images created by Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Darin and Louis Armstrong in their pop versions of "Mack The Knife". Sona MacDonald is a mesmerising Polly Peachum, while erstwhile high priestess of German punk rock, Nina Hagen brings her distinctive gothic snarl to the role of Mrs Peachum. A note for trivia fans: Timna Brauer, an unusually elegant Pirate Jenny, sang for Austria in the 1986 Eurovision Song Contest.

Truly, this "Threepenny Opera" has something for everyone. It's a welcome supplement, adding new dimensions to a familiar and beloved work.

Ensemble Modern - Dreigroschenoper 1
Ensemble Modern - Dreigroschenoper 2
(192 kbps, front cover included)

Montag, 28. März 2016

The New Lost City Ramblers - Songs From The Depression (1959)

During the folk boom of the late '50s and early '60s, the New Lost City Ramblers introduced audiences to the authentic string band sound of the 1920s and '30s, in the process educating a generation that had never heard this uniquely American sound of old-time music. While maintaining music with a social conscience, they added guts and reality to the folk movement, performing with humor and obvious reverence for the music. In 1958, Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley modeled their band after groups like the Skillet Lickers, the Fruit Jar Drinkers, and the Aristocratic Pigs, choosing a name in keeping with the past. When Tracy Schwarz replaced Paley in 1962, the NLCR added solo songs from the Appalachian folk repertoire, religious and secular, educating a large segment of the American population about traditional music. Folkways recorded the NLCR on five albums in the early '60s, making the Ramblers famous and leading to TV appearances, successful tours, and appearances at the Newport Folk Festival. A songbook with 125 of their songs came out in 1964 and sold well.                   

The third album by this group definitely gets an "A" for effort, as simply gathering up so many worthwhile songs about the American depression was worth doing, no matter how listeners might feel about individual tracks. The choice of material doubles up on numbers by Blind Alfred Reed and Bill Dixon, includes fascinating historical material by Fiddling John Carson and Slim Smith, and wisely includes the genre of instrumental music, which sometimes makes the most succinct comment of all, such as the tough fiddle solo "Boys, My Money's All Gone." Many of the medium-tempo numbers are played with the finesse of a fine classical chamber quartet, the fiddle and banjo playing sharp and radiant. The Tom Paley-era Ramblers have a bit more of a college campus-type folky sound, but in some cases this suits these types of songs, making this one of the better early albums by this band. Mike Seeger is busy on an assortment of instruments, livening up one track with harmonica, another with mandolin. As usual, his fiddle and banjo playing is topnotch. There is also nice use made of Hawaiian and steel guitars. While some albums by this group seem like the ensemble is taking on a bit too much territory, here the clear focus of the subject matter creates a more relaxed atmosphere, despite the despair of the lyrics. But OK, it is not a record to put on when one wants to serenade away a bad mood. The original booklet includes lyrics and much interesting information about the original artists and the depression era in general.                

The New Lost City Ramblers - Songs From The Depression (1959)
(320 kbps, cover art included)

VA - Harlem Swings - Black Big Band Swing

Jazz reached the height of its popularity with the American public during the Swing era, beginning in the dark days of the Depression and continuing through the victorious end of World War II. Also known as the Big Band sound, Swing jazz was characterized by its strong rhythmic drive and by an orchestral ‘call and response’ between different sections of the ensemble. The rhythm section – piano, bass, drums and guitar – maintained the swinging dance beat, while trumpets, trombones and woodwinds, and later, vocals, were often scored to play together and provide the emotional focus of the piece. This arrangement resulted in a ‘conversational’ style among sections that arrangers exploited to maximum affect. By performing their music with increasingly complex arrangements for ever larger orchestras, Swing musicians helped erode the wall between our definitions of popular music and the art music generally labeled “classical.” 

The first great artists of Swing were African American. By the early 1930s, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Jimmy Lunceford had begun to blend the “hot” rhythms of New Orleans into the dance music of urban America in the black jazz clubs of Kansas City and Harlem. Although white jazz musicians had been taking inspiration from African American artists for at least three decades, by the 1940s a new generation of white musicians and dancers were deeply invested in the music that Duke Ellington christened “Swing” with his 1932 hit record, “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.” In 1935 white bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman led swing into the popular mainstream, but only after he began playing the arrangements he purchased from Fletcher Henderson. Goodman would go on to gather an extraordinary group of performers into his high-profile band, including Henderson, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Peggy Lee and Stan Getz. His decision to integrate his group with black musicians helped begin the slow process of integrating the music industry.

At its height in the years before World War II, Swing jazz was America’s most pervasive and popular musical genre. If Ken Burns’ documentary series Jazz, is correct in its interpretation of the story of Swing as a music that helped America remake the world during and after World War II, then the history of Swing must also be seen as preparing the way for the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s. Knowing that a wider and increasingly diverse population of Americans was taking African American musicians seriously fueled a growing conviction that equality was a real possibility. As black soldiers shipping off to Europe and the Pacific during World War II were demanding greater respect and tolerance in the armed forces, black Americans at home called for a “Double V” – Victory abroad for America over Germany and Japan and Victory over racism for black Americans at home.

CD 01:
01. Count Basie - One O Clock Jump (1942)
02. Duke Ellington - Harlem Air-Shaft (1940)
03. Lionel Hampton - Slide, Hamp, Slide (1945)
04. Earl Hines - Xyz (1939)
05. Erskine Hawkins - Tippin In (1945)
06. Red Norvo - A-Tisket A-Tasket (1938)
07. Cab Calloway - Minnie The Moocher (1942)
08. Louis Armstrong - You Rascal, You (1941)
09. Chick Webb - Go Harlem (1936)
10. Fletcher Henderson - Stampede (1937)
11. Andy Kirk - Moten Swing (1936)
12. Chick Webb - Facts And Figures (1935)
13. Fletcher Henderson - Moten Stomp (1938)
14. Lionel Hampton - Playboy (1946)
15. Count Basie - It's Sand Man (1942)
16. Earl Hines - Father Steps In (1939)
17. Duke Ellington - Jump For Joy (1941)
18. Benny Carter - Just You, Just Me (1945)

CD 02:
01. Erskine Hawkins - Good Dip (1945)
02. Earl Hines - Number 19 (1940)
03. Count Basie - Seventh Avenue Express (1947)
04. Duke Ellington - Main Stem (1942)
05. Lionel Hampton - Flying Home (1942)
06. Chick Webb - Liza (1938)
07. Fletcher Henderson - Hotter Than Ell (1934)
08. Andy Kirk - Lotta Sax Appeal (1936)
09. Red Norvo - Daydreaming (1938)
10. Count Basie - Love Jumped Out (1940)
11. Duke Ellington - Squaty Roo (1941)
12. Chick Webb - Spinnin The Web (1938)
13. Cab Calloway - Pluckin' The Bass (1939)
14. Louis Armstrong - Leap Frog (1941)
15. Earl Hines - Comin' Home (1940)
16. Benny Carter - Forever Blue (1945)
17. Lionel Hampton - Air Mail Special (1946)
18. Erskine Hawkins - Holiday For Swing (1945)

VA - Harlem Swings - Black Big Band Swing CD 1
VA - Harlem Swings - Black Big Band Swing CD 2
(192 kbps, cover art included)

VA - The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto, Vol. 1

The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, later repackaged as The Indestructible Beat of Soweto Volume One, is a compilation album released in 1985 on the Earthworks label, featuring musicians from South Africa.

This anthology of South African artists surprised everyone by becoming a best-seller. It introduced worldbeatniks to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mahlathini, and Moses Mchunu and paved the way for Paul Simon's "Graceland". It was the winner of The Village Voice's Jazz and Pop Poll for Best Record of 1987, it's an essential sampler of modern African styling, a revelation and a joy.   

The album was conceived by white South African expatriates Trevor Herman and Jumbo Vanrenen and released in 1985 on the British-based Earthworks label. The following year it was released in the USA by the Shanachie Records label. It features twelve tracks by artists from South Africa. The sleeve notes state that all songs are in the mbaqanga style, a guitar-based style popular at the time in the townships of Johannesburg and Durban, but the tracks actually cover four different styles, mbaqanga, mqashiyo, maskanda, and isicathamiya. The former two are the least traditional-sounding of the styles, while the latter two styles incorporate elements of urban and more rural music. Released prior to the more commercially successful "Graceland" by Paul Simon, it was one of the first albums of contemporary South African music to be widely available outside the country.
The album has been re-released several times and also spawned a succession of later volumes in the Indestructible Beat series, released by the Earthworks label.  

VA - The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto, Vol. 1
(320 kbps, cover art included)

Mayohuacán - Cuba (Amiga, 1980)

Mayohuacán was founded in Havana in April 1972 as a part of the Nueva Trova movement. The band interpreted music from Central and South America, influenced by Quilapayun and Inti Illimani.

This album was recorded during the "10. Festival des politischen Liedes" in East Berlin in February 1980. It was released on the Amiga label.


Baja y tapa- Komm runter und schließ den Topf
El limonero - Der Zitronenbaum
Pedro Navaja
Verano - Sommer
Canción de cualquier soldado - Lied irgendeines Soldaten
Del caribe
El poco a poco - Nach und nach
La loma de belén - Der Berg von Bethlehem
Del canto y el tiempo - Vom Gesang und der Zeit
Nesta noite de amor - Diese Nacht der Liebe
Pequena serenata diurna - Kleine Morgenserenade
Canción de la unidad latinoamericana - Lied für die Einheit Lateinamerikas

Mayohuacán - Cuba (Amiga, 1980)
(320 kbps, cover art included)

Isabel Parra - Volumen 2 (1968)

Daughter of South-American legend Violeta Parra, Isabel Parra learned to sing and play at an early age. "Music was a language fluently spoken at home", she says.  In 1965, with the help of brother Angel Parra, she founded the very renowned "Peña de los Parra" - artistic center and "Art Lab" where started musical movement "la Nueva Cancion Chilena" (New Chilean Song). Here, in the center of old Santiago, chilean icon Victor Jara (a young comedian and theatre director in those days !) took a guitar and started to sing traditional and original songs.

Isabel Parra worked and performed with Victor Jara, Luis Advis and Quilapayun. Her first albums featured ballads drawn from South American sources, but as she traveled and grew older, so the artist became increasingly identified with the protest movement. "I've always used traditional rhythms and melodies. But I've handled them roughly and rearranged them into a new musical form. It was my concept of creativity".
An impressive appearance at the 1972 Festival de la Canción de Agua Dulce (Lima, Peru) followed the singer's early performances and established Isabel Parra as a vibrant interpreter of traditional material. She won the first price with her song "La hormiga vecina".
Isabel Parra is one of the most exponents of Latin american folk song. She was exiled from Chile after the 1973 military coup and made many world tours as a messenger of Chilean politics and songs. She has now returned to Chile and is regarded as both guardian and developer of the Chilean folk movement. She continues to speak and sing for peaceful solutions to violence in Latin America.
(320 kbps, cover art included)

VA - South African Rhythm Riot - The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto, Volume 6

This sixth entry in the landmark guide to township jive is, like most collections, a mixed bag. Some songs offer up delicious grooves and inspiring harmonies, while in others the beatbox, synthesizer, and American influence are all that come through.

Standout tracks include Chicco's "Sixolele Baba (Forgive Us Lord)," which sets a message of dire need delivered by male chorus and a lone, wailing woman against a background of catchy beats and increasing complexity and one of the last songs recorded by the late Simon Mahlathini Nkabinde and a bragging song entitled "Sihambile (We Traveled)." There's not much point in enumerating the lesser works; suffice it to say that four of five tracks out of a total of 15 sound like outtakes from the Graceland sessions. Interestingly, two or three tracks evince a strong Jamaican influence that works very well. If you are a fan of South African popular music, you need not hesitate about "South African Rhythm Riot".

From the opening strains of "Vuli Ndlela" (South Africa's 1999 song of the year) through the distinct afro-techno grooves of "Oyi-Oyi" and "Girls", this album is a winner. It's accessible and danceable enough to get any party started, but still incredibly gorgeous and intriguing.

VA - South African Rhythm Riot - The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto, Volume 6
(ca. 256 kbps, cover art included)

Sonntag, 27. März 2016

VA - South African Freedom Songs

South African Freedom Songs is a wonderful 2 CD set. One is an hour long radio documentary and one a CD of 25 South African freedom songs.

The documentary alone is a fascinating overview of the songs, who wrote them, how they evolved, what influences they show.

Where else but South Africa would the major commentators in a documentary about any kind of music be high ranking members of the government? Here we have interviews with:
A Deputy Speaker of Parliament (Baleka Mbete)
A Deputy Minister of Defence (Ronnie Kasrils)
A Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (Pallo Jordan)
Also interviewed are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, veteran ANC leader Walter Sisulu, actor, writer and producer John Matshikiza. An historic recording of Nelson Mandela speaking after the Sharpeville massacre is here too.

Produced by Lucie Page and narrated by her with Shad Twala, the documentary places the songs in the context of the long struggle against apartheid and against a seemingly unbeatable military might.

South African Freedom Songs brings together the recordings, made with the help of the anti-apartheid movement, recorded outside of South Africa. Songs that were used to gather support for the struggle, that were sung at mass rallies in South Africa, at the training camps for the armed struggle, in the prisons in South Africa, and at anti-apartheid meetings, fund-raising concerts and anti-apartheid demonstrations around the world.

This is invaluable source material for the study of musicology and the way music and dance (in this case the Toyi Toyi) is used in struggles against repression.

South African Freedom Songs is dedicated to trade unionist, freedom fighter and song writer Vuyisile Mini who went to the gallows in South Africa singing his song "Naants indod emnyama Vervoerd" in 1964. As he and fellow activists walked through jail to their execution, the prisoners took up the song.

Release Notes:

"This is a very special disc. The first 12 parts are a radio documentary
produced for the South African Broadcasting Corporation on the musical tradition
underlying the struggle against apartheid and for freedom. You can hear Desmond
Tutu, Baleka Mbete, Walter Sisulu, Madiba (Nelson Mandela), and others recall
their struggles and the role song played. The remaining parts are the songs
themselves. Taken from archived materials, the sound quality is less than what
we have today, but the excitement comes blasting through anyway. This is more
than music; it is history as it happened; it is humanity at its noblest."


1. Introduction
2. Power of Freedom Songs
3. Roots of Freedom Songs
4. Church Influence
5. 1948-1960
6. Vuyisile Mini
7. 1960-1976 - Influence of
8. Post-June 16th
9. Toyi Toyi
10. Women
11. Liberation
12. Conclusion


1. Rolihlahla
2. Sizakuba Dubula
3. Siza Ngena
4. Naants' indod' emnyama
5. Skokela Tambo
6. Ilizwe Ngelethu
7. Somlandela
8. U-Machel
9. Sobashiya Abazale
10. Welele
11. Freedom Charter
12. Izakunyatheli Afrika
13. Shayalan Amabala
14. Ayanqikaza
15. Toyi Toyi
16. Wobaleka
17. E Rile
18. Malibongwe
19. Ha Ke Sheba
20. Umkhonto
21. Golomendi Senzeni
22. Hamba Kahle Umkhonto
23. Nkosi Silelel' iAfrika
24. Makubenjalo
25. Toyi Toyi Beat

South African Freedom Songs (192 kbps)

Johnny Clegg & Savuka - Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World

When South Africa was still suffering under the apartheid system in the 1980s, Johnny Clegg & Savuka was the last thing apartheid supporters wanted in a pop group. Their lyrics were often vehemently anti-apartheid, and apartheid supporters hated the fact that a half-black, half-white outfit out of South Africa was integrated and proud of it.

Released in the U.S. at the end of the 1980s, "Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World" is among the many rewarding albums the band has recorded. Sting and the Police are a definite influence on Clegg & Savuka, who have absorbed everything from various African pop styles to Western pop, funk, rock, and reggae. The lyrics are consistently substantial and frequently sociopolitical - "Bombs Away" addresses the violence of the apartheid regime, while "Warsaw 1943" reflects on the horrors Eastern Europe experienced at the hands of both communists and fascists during World War II. Clegg and company enjoyed a passionate following at the time, and this fine CD proves that it was well deserved. 

1One (Hu)'Man One Vote4:45
2Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World4:25
4Dela (I Know Why The Dog Howls At The Moon)4:15
6It's An Illusion4:41
7Bombs Away4:36
8Woman Be My Country4:58
9Rolling Ocean4:09
10Warsaw 1943 (I Never Betrayed The Revolution)4:51

Johnny Clegg & Savuka - Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World
(256 kbps, cover art included)   

VA – 2 Beat ! Apartheid (1990)

Starting in 1988, "Heimatklänge Festival" ("Festival for the sounds of the homeland") was staged in Berlin every summer during the 6 or 7 weeks of school holidays. The bands were invited for 1 week each, and every year they came from a different corner of the world. They played at the "Tempodrom", a big circus tent with a second open air stage next to it, they chose the stage depending on the weather. Their first show was always on a Wednesday and would be transmitted live by a local radio station, so people knew what to expect on the following weekend.

In addition each band visited the studio of that radio station to record a couple of songs that were released on CD after the festival. You'll never get a better recording of these African bands as they simply can't afford a studio of this quality.

In 1990 the fight against Apartheid was still going strong and for that year bands from the southern countries of Africa were invited in order to support their fight. Please remember that the political situation in Berlin was very special in that period. Earlier there were 2 German countries, East and West, with a communist and a capitalist system, divided by the wall – if you tried to cross it without permission you got shot. In 1989 the East German system collapsed and the wall was opened... And into that atmosphere came these bands from Africa, playing music from their homelands and fighting against apartheid that divided their own countries and societies.


01. Sipho Mabuse • Jive Soweto '90 • 4:50
02. Orchestra Marrabenta Star De Moçambique • Matilde • 5:15
03. Oliver Mtukudzi & The Black Spirits • Tumirayi Shoko • 4:46
04. Orquestra Os Jovens Do Prenda • Mukila Wé • 6:51
05. Soul Brothers • Matombazane • 6:41
06. Stella Rambisai Chiweshe • Chigamba • 7:58
07. Noise Khanyile & Amagugu Akwazulu • Mamma Siyanuka • 3:22
08. Orchestra Marrabenta Star De Moçambique Feat. Wazimbo • Nwahulwana • 6:48
09. Sipho Mabuse • Free South Africa • 5:19
10. Orquestra Os Jovens Do Prenda • Harmonização Y Amnistia • 6:35
11. Soul Brothers • Sibongile • 4:06
12. Noise Khanyile • Sikelela • 4:12
13. Orquestra Os Jovens Do Prenda • Makame • 6:17

VA  – 2 Beat ! Apartheid (1990)
(224 kbps, cover art included)

Leon Gieco - Solo Le Pido A Dios

Argentine folk legend León Gieco is one of his country's most enduring national heroes. Though he is most treasured in Argentina, where his outspoken social consciousness and storied past as a fearless protest singer endeared him deeply to those who share his heritage, his appeal extends beyond his homeland: he performs to international audiences regularly and is often described in shorthand as "the Bob Dylan of Argentina." He first earned these comparisons with his debut album, "León Gieco" (1973), released by Argentina's premier rock label, Music Hall. Gieco recorded several more albums for the label during the mid-'70s, all of them popular, before he could no longer withstand the pressure of the Argentine government to censor his outspokenness. Like so many other Argentine artists of the time, he fled the country, finding sanctuary in the United States in the late '70s. He reunited there with Gustavo Santaolalla, who had produced his debut album, and in time, the two of them recorded songs for "Pensar en Nada" (1981), a triumphant comeback album that announced Gieco's return to Argentina. Throughout the early '80s, he toured the country from top to bottom and, with Santaolalla producing, documented his travels. Released as "De Ushuaia a La Quiaca" (1985), this documentary project showcases Gieco as a folk troubadour, performing acoustically alongside his countrymen. Much acclaimed, "De Ushuaia a La Quiaca" was followed by two further volumes, and Gieco continued his relentless touring, traveling to Europe and playing at a variety of festivals. "Semillas del Corazón" (1989) marked his return to conventional studio recording, and in the wake of that album's success he signed to EMI, for which he recorded a variety of albums in the years that followed. By this point, Gieco´s legacy was firmly established as one of Argentina's most enduring national heroes, with his outspokenness in the face of government censure during the 1970s particularly treasured.     

Born Raúl Alberto Antonio Gieco on November 20, 1951, in a small town near Cañada Rosquín in the Santa Fe province of Argentina, Gieco learned to play guitar as a boy and was influenced by '60s rock bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He moved to Buenos Aires when he was 18 years old, hoping to find success amid the city's burgeoning late-'60s rock scene. Upon his arrival, Gieco befriended Gustavo Santaolalla, then part of the band Arco Iris. In addition to Santaolalla, he became associated with other notable Argentine rock artists of the time, such as David Lebón and Litto Nebbia, and performed at the Buenos Aires Rock Festival several years in a row, from 1971-1973.    

"León Gieco", released in 1973 by Music Hall and produced by Santaolalla, is a first-rate Argentine folk-rock album highlighted by "En el País de la Libertad" and "Hombres de Hierro," the latter a protest song. This debut album earned him his first comparisons to Bob Dylan. Several more releases followed for Music Hall: "León Gieco y Su Banda de Caballos Cansados" (1974), featuring his live band, comprised of Rubén Batán (bass), Vicente Busso (drums), and Rodolfo Gorosito (guitar); "PorSuiGieco" (1976), a supergroup recording featuring Raúl Porchetto, Charly García, Nito Mestre, and María Rosa Yorio, a group with whom he also performed in concert; "El Fantasma de Canterville" (1976), an album heavily censored by the Argentine government that nonetheless became a hit; and "IV LP" (1978), with the career standout "Sólo Le Pido a Dios" - one of my all time favourites. "7 Años" (1980), a greatest-hits compilation, capped off his first decade as a recording artist. 

A1 Sólo Le Pido A Dios
A2 El Que Queda Solo
A3 Bajo El Sol De Bogotá
A4 Soy Un Pobre Agujero
A5 La Cultura Es La Sonrisa
A6 Bajaste Del Norte
B1 Esos Ojos Negros
B2 Don Sixto Palavecino
B3 Príncipe Azul
B4 Cola De Amor
B5 Carito
B6 Canto Dorado

Leon Gieco - Solo Le Pido A Dios
(192 kbps, front cover inlcuded)

Samstag, 26. März 2016

Brenda Fassi - Mama (1995)

"Mama" is a fine collection of Soweto township jive from Brenda Nokuzola Fassie (3 November 1964 – 9 May 2004), the South African anti-apartheid Afropop singer; it includes her hit "Ama-Gents." Sadly, Ms. Fassie is no longer with us. She has left us a small body of work that any fan of South African music will enjoy. "Mama" is an especially moving ballad. Highly recommended.         

From the linernotes:
"Brenda Fassie is often called the Madonna of South Africa. Even though she is only 5'1", on stage she is an electrifying presence. This album also includes the hit-version of 'Ama-Gents' a traditional South African chant arranged by Brenda in honor of Nelson Mandela."          

Known as the "Queen of the Vocals" and dubbed the "Madonna of the Townships" by Time Magazine, Brenda Fassie was one of South Africa's most popular vocalists, mixing African vocals with a slick international pop sound. She had her greatest success in the 1980s and continued to record into the ensuing decades, but became a celebrity known more for her off-stage antics than her on-stage work.

Born in 1964 in the small village of Langa, Cape Town, Fassie came from a musical family and began singing early, forming her first singing group at the age of four. Her precocious talent brought her to the attention of talent scouts from Johannesburg, one of whom eventually took the young teenager to the city to kick-start her career. After singing background vocals for other artists, Fassie broke out with the group Brenda & the Big Dudes with whom she recorded her biggest hit in 1986's "Weekend Special." She went on to a solo career soon after and working with producer Sello "Chicco" Twala Fassie had continued success at the end of the '80s with the hits "Too Late for Mama" and the controversial "Black President," which was banned in apartheid-era South Africa.
  Then things started to unravel for Fassie. She was involved in several highly publicized affairs with both men and women and had also begun a costly and destructive cocaine addiction. It also didn't help matters that she became notorious for missing concert dates. The nadir of her excess came in 1995 when Fassie was found in a drugged haze next to the dead body of her girlfriend. The horror of the event was enough to shock her out of her spiraling decline. Her next album, "Memeza", was released in 1998 and was the most focused and accomplished album she had released in nearly a decade. "Memeza" went on to become the best-selling album of the year in South Africa. If there had been any doubt previously, the album's success cemented Fassie's role as a superstar of Afro-pop. Her success continued with subsequent albums and, for a time, nothing seemed impossible for the township hero. In May of 2004, Fassie suffered a sever asthma attack that triggered cardiac arrest forcing her to be hospitalized. The physical breakdown was severe and Fassie's condition deteriorated quickly. On May 9, 2004, Brenda Fassie passed away.

Brenda Fassi - Mama (1995)
(256 kbps, cover art included)

VA - Tales Of Tsotsi Beat - Urban South Africa

"Tales of Tsotsi Beat" is a solid compilation of modern urban South Africa. The music of the townships has long embraced American and European pop and dance/club styles. Over 14 cuts, the Sheer Sund label literally gets down to it.

There's the gritty hip-hop-meets-jazzy-house of the group Chiskop's club smash "Umunt'omnyama" with rapper in unison chanting over the steady jazzed-up rhythms and chords. There's the dubby/dancehall house of "For as Long as Ngisaphefumula (It's My House") by Kabelo, the spooky near drum'n'bass atmospheric of "Wolla Wolla" that gets wrapped in trance by M'Du and Ganyani, and the older straight-up disco-meets-pop track "Somlinda Gengoma" by Zola that is the most soulful and earthy thing here.

In all, this compilation paints a portrait, offers a look through the door of urban South African nightlife and its music. But it is only a glimpse, and this music goes so much deeper. That doesn't make this collection any less essential though; especially since some of these tunes will become (if they haven't already) classics.                

VA - Tales Of Tsotsi Beat - Urban South Africa
(256 kbps, cover art included)

The Fugs - The Belle Of Avenue A (1969)

The Fugs sounded a little weary and burnt out on their final studio album of the 1960s. The psychedelic experimentation and orchestral arrangements of 1968's "It Crawled into My Hand, Honest" were ditched in favor of basic rock or even, at times, acoustic performances.

The title track and "Queen of the Nile" are essentially Ed Sanders solo cuts, with acoustic guitar accompaniment by Dan Hamburg; "Bum's Song" is likewise pretty much a Tuli Kupferberg recording, with just his voice and Hamburg's guitar. The sexually and politically charged heart of the band continued to beat on songs like "Chicago" (originally written for the soundtrack of a Yippie movie about Chicago police riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention) and "The Belle of Avenue A," about a quickie between a hippie and a truck driver.

But the production and adrenaline levels are kind of flat. The country influence that was always present in Ed Sanders' singing and songwriting started to really flower on this LP, where his yodeling vocal style - which was less than an acquired taste - prefigured the country satire of his 1969 debut solo album, "Sanders' Truckstop". It was up to Tuli Kupferberg to provide the record's highlight, the sincere ballad "Flower Children."


A1 Bum's Song
A2 Dust Devil
A3 Chicago
A4 Four Minutes To Twelve
A5 Mr. Mack
B1 Belle Of Avenue A
B2 Queen Of The Nile
B3 Flower Children
B4 Yodeling Yippie
B5 Children Of The Dream

The Fugs - The Belle Of Avenue A (1969)
(320 kbps, cover art included)

Freitag, 25. März 2016

Miriam Makeba - The World Of Miriam Makeba (1963)

Originally posted in February 2011:
Today i had the chance to see the documentary "Mama Africy" by director Mika Kaurismaki. He stitches together archive footage and fresh interviews to pay overdue cinematic homage to legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba .
The documentary was the idea of co-screenwriter and co-producer Don Edkins, and was being developed with Makeba when she died in 2008, at 76.

The worst that can be said about the film is that her presence is sorely missed. The already interesting material on her colorful life would be that much more compelling with her to comment on it.

This is a fine opportunity for posting "The World Of Miriam Makeba" (1963). Miriam Makeba returned to RCA Victor Records for her third album, which was given more of a pop sheen by producers Hugo & Luigi, who employed an orchestra conducted by Makeba find Hugh Masekela (soon to be the singer's husband).

As usual, the song list consisted mostly of originals sung by Makeba in her native language, but there were also some songs sung in English, such as the tango "Forbidden Games," the Negro spiritual "Little Boy," and "Where Can I Go?" (which appeared to comment directly on her stateless status since being banned from South Africa), while Makeba performed "Tonados de Media Noche" in Spanish and "Vamos Chamar Ovento" in Portuguese.

Her profile had expanded since her self-titled RCA debut in 1960, and even since her Kapp Records release "The Many Voices of Miriam Makeba" a year earlier, both musically and in terms of her political status as an opponent of apartheid (the liner notes mentioned her appearance before the United Nations), and that may have helped make "The World of Miriam Makeba" her first commercial success on records.

A2Forbidden Games
A3Pole Mze
A4Little Boy
A6Vamos Chamar Ovento
B3Wonders And Things
B4Tonados De Media Noche (Song At Midnight)
B5Into Yam
B6Where Can I Go?

(192 kbps, front cover included)