Donnerstag, 28. Januar 2016

Prince Far I - Cry Freedom Dub

A far more appropriate title for this set would have been "Roy Cousins Meets Roots Radics at Channel One Studio", for there's very little Prince Far I within to justify the title. In fact, the late, great, gravel-voiced sermonizer is heard on only two tracks -- "Free Jah Jah Children" and "Famine in Africa," with virtually the entire rest of the set comprising vocal-less instrumental dubs. There again, it would be wrong to assume that Cousins was merely cashing in on the DJ's name, better to think of "Cry Freedom Dub" as a tribute set.

Prince Far I was, of course, recording a new album, "Umkhonto We Sizwe" (aka "Spear of the Nation"), with Cousins right before his death, so profoundly affected by his murder was the producer that he emigrated from Jamaica soon after. So, in many ways this set could be considered a labor of love, a final farewell to Far I. To this end, the album is an overwhelmingly celebratory affair, almost joyous in mood, and far removed from the militancy that defined Channel One's sound. The bulk of the riddims are sublime versions of Studio One classics, and although the Radics had given most of them a sharp edge, Cousins' production smoothes much of that away. Like many singing producers, Cousins loved melody, and laced virtually all the dubs here with it.

Engineers Scientist and Lancelot "Maxi" McKenzie are given some room to maneuver however, most obviously on the "classic" deconstruction styled dubs of "Idlers Rest," "Famine in Africa," and "Freed Jah Jah Children." In contrast "Tired Fe See the Mothers Cry," "Rudeboy Anthem" and "Tribute to Cry Cry" are almost dub instruction manuals, honing in specifically on the guitars, keyboards, and drums respectively. Most magnificently "Mothers Cry" actually creates one of the most laid-back guitar duels of all times. From the brooding "Love Rasta" and "Ethnic Cleansing," two of the moodiest tracks on the set, to the gorgeous "We Will Be Free from Poverty" and the almost breezy "Sacrifice for the Truth," "Cry Freedom" is filled with sublime music, a diversity of atmospheres, and an uplifting aura, with the track titles a pointed reminder of Prince Far I's deeply cultural concerns. All told it makes for a glorious set, a fitting homage to one of Jamaica's most revered artists.    

1Free Jah Jah Children
2Blood At The Corner Of Orange Street
3Idlers Rest
4Tired Fe See The Mothers Cry
5Rudeboy Anthem
6Tribute To Cry Cry
7Love Rasta
8Famine In Africa
9Ethnic Cleansing
10Will We Be Free From Poverty
11Posse For Hire
12Sacrefice For The Truth
13Feed Jah Jah Children
14Peace Brokers
Prince Far I - Cry Freedom Dub
(192 kbps, cover art included)    

Mittwoch, 20. Januar 2016

John Coltrane - Blue Train (1957)

Although never formally signed, an oral agreement between John Coltrane and Blue Note Records founder Alfred Lion was indeed honored on "Blue Train" -- Coltrane's only collection of sides as a principal artist for the venerable label.

The disc is packed solid with sonic evidence of Coltrane's innate leadership abilities. He not only addresses the tunes at hand, but also simultaneously reinvents himself as a multifaceted interpreter of both hard bop as well as sensitive balladry -- touching upon all forms in between.

The personnel on "Blue Train" is arguably as impressive as what they're playing. Joining Coltrane (tenor sax) are Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Kenny Drew (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). The triple horn arrangements incorporate an additional sonic density that remains a trademark unique to both this band and album. Of particular note is Fuller's even-toned trombone, which bops throughout the title track as well as the frenetic "Moments Notice." Other solos include Paul Chambers' subtly understated riffs on "Blue Train" as well as the high energy and impact from contributions by Lee Morgan and Kenny Drew during "Locomotion." The track likewise features some brief but vital contributions from Philly Joe Jones -- whose efforts throughout the record stand among his personal best.

Of the five sides that comprise the original "Blue Train", the Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer ballad "I'm Old Fashioned" is the only standard; in terms of unadulterated sentiment, this version is arguably untouchable. Fuller's rich tones and Drew's tastefully executed solos cleanly wrap around Jones' steadily languid rhythms.

Without reservation, "Blue Train" can easily be considered in and among the most important and influential entries not only of John Coltrane's career, but of the entire genre of jazz music as well.                

John Coltrane - Blue Train (1957)
(256 kbps, cover art included)

Dienstag, 5. Januar 2016

Lightnin' Hopkins & the Blues Summit

It's surely a sign of blues mastery: you sit down with your guitar, open your mouth, and the blues comes out. That's the impression one gains from this recording, made in 1960 and, incredibly, never issued, except piecemeal on albums by some of the artists involved. Now at last, here's the whole thing, featuring improvisatory riffs - the whole recording is ostensibly off the cuff and unrehearsed, which, given the talent involved, isn't hard to believe - from Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Joe Williams, and dynamic duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Just getting these four in the same room is something of an achievement, given the temperaments and busy careers involved, but any blues fan would admit that the results are worth it. Though they're admittedly pretty rough cuts, they're also heartfelt, enthusiastic, and overwhelmingly genuine, with the kind of musical intimacy that comes from sitting around and playing whatever's on your mind--and you're a good enough musician that what comes out is worth hearing. --Genevieve Williams

An official issue of a much bootlegged studio and live session, "Lightnin' Hopkins & the Blues Summit" was recorded in Los Angeles on July 6, 1960. Along with Hopkins, in town at the behest of John Lomax Jr., the participants were Big Joe Williams, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee, who were all completing a residency at the Ash Grove nightclub.

The first half of the album is a well-lubricated studio jam session, while the even wilder second half takes place at the Ash Grove later that night. Like most straight jam sessions, this is loose to the point of messiness most of the time, with every song but one running well past the five-minute mark, with the foursome trading choruses and solos seemingly at random.

Frankly, the whole thing sounds like it's on the verge of collapse three-quarters of the time, which makes moments like the sharp interplay of Terry's harp and Hopkins' finger-picked acoustic in the middle of a rave-up version of "Blues for Gamblers" that much more impressive. However, newcomers to these artists should probably start elsewhere; this is strictly for fans.   -

In 1960 World Pacific Records, once an important jazz label, put four of the great blues masters - Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and Big Joe Williams - together with many bottles of whisky in a sound studio, turned on the Ampex tape decks, got out of the way and let the men jam. Afterwards, about half of the tracks available on this new CD were released on the classic but often elusive World Pacific 1298. The recording needs no new rave notices. Such bellwether critics of the time as Leonard Feather and Nat Hentoff already gave it the ultimate canonization it deserves those 41 years ago. There's nothing to add to the praise. No collection of basically acoustic black blues is anywhere near complete without this masterpiece. Several of the cuts that weren't on WP 1298 have been reissued on various albums by the individual artists, but this is the biggest single assembly out of the sessions ever. The Ampexes supposedly wound World Pacific's tapes for several hours on end, so this release too is only a selection, but the biggest yet. The sound quality is superlative, which one came to expect from World Pacific even in 1960. The music - fully improvised, totally jammed bragging dirty blues. Titles like "Wimmen From Coast to Coast" and "You Can Steal My Chickens But You Can't Make My Hens Lay" say it all.  - Mark Oliva


       1. Ain't Nothin' Like Whiskey
2. Penitentiary Blues
3. If You Steal My Chickens, You Can't Make 'Em Lay
4. First Meeting
5. How Long Have It Been Since You Been Home?
6. Wimmin From Coast to Coast
7. Right on That Shore
8. Early Morning Blues (aka Chain Gang Blues)
9. Blues for Gamblers
10. I've Been Buked and I've Been Scorned
11. Brand New Car (aka New Car Blues)

Lightnin' Hopkins & the Blues Summit    
(320 kbps, front cover included)

Freitag, 1. Januar 2016

Happy New Year!