Saturday, October 29, 2011

Djivan Gasparyan - I Will Not Be Sad In This World (Land - Land06 Test Press)

When you are a record collector, you get to bump into things where you are least expecting them. You also tend to find gems which may be remarkable. This record is surely one of those. Finding a record of Djivan Gasparyan is already hard in itself, but finding a test press seems like a miracle.

There are some people who were born for music. Djivan Gasparyan is surely one of this kind. His way of bringing folk music of the Caucasus and Anatolia has been truly remarkable and brought him worldwide fame. He is a master of the traditional woodwind which is also called "Duduk" in this region.

The album is Djivan Gasparyan's first. It was originally released from the Russian Melodiya Records in 1983 and than reissued via Land Records in 1989. What I have in my hand is the test press of the reissue.

The name of the album is "I Will Not Be Sad In This World". This is quite ironic as Anatolia and Caucasus are two regions of the world which has suffered thousands of years through invasions and struggles. His music on the album exceptionally pictures this longing for peace and solitude.

Even though the main genre of the album has to be listed as Folk Music and World Music, the way Gasparyan plays the Duduk is pretty much similar to the spacey rhythms of Jan Garbarek. However, the general feeling is much more depressive and emotional. This can derive from the sometimes excessive emotional states of the region he lives in.

Listening the record is a pleasure not many words can describe. I've listened to Gasparyan more than once in concerts, and sang some of the almost forgotten traditional Armenian and Turkish folk songs he brought back into life. Yet, this record has a special way with it. It may be that I have the advantage of being from the same culture. The album directly depicts the life in this region.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Cream - Live Cream (Polydor - 2383 016 Super)

Some genres in music are meant to be live. In these genres, you can listen a studio recording, but it can never give you the true essence of the feeling. Blues is probably the most extreme of them since when you compare listening a studio recording and a live one with the same tracks, the result is miles apart.

The record of today is a live recording of The Cream apart from one track "Lawdy Mama". Of course the statements in the first paragraph are also related to the people in the band, but since we are talking about The Cream, you don't have a shortage of talent anyway. Cream seals the deal in the development of Eric Clapton's technique as well as the maturity of Jack Bruce.

The live recording starts with Jack Bruce's N.S.U. with long solos all along the track, but fully kicks off with again Bruce's Sleepy Time Time. It is absolutely stunning to listen to this track live since the sound is raw and filled with beautiful solos. As said before, Lawdy Mama is a studio recording, but it would have been lovely if they recorded that live as well.

The B side is all there is to it. Starting with Ginger Baker's Sweet Wine is by itself not a song that I admire, yet the solos are inspiring. Especially on Clapton's part, he is literally ripping the whole stage apart. That is probably why they chose this track. It is a 15 minute song where almost 13 minutes is like a jam session.

The last track on the album is a faster version of the Rollin' And Tumblin' by Muddy Waters. Speeding it up like they did clearly softens the real influence of the song itself, but considering the live atmosphere, it can play an essential role in a show. The Cream turns it to a show off as well as a jam session where they include the harmonica along the jam. Musically it is not jaw dropping since they are strolling along the same fast rhythm for a very long time (It may also be wrong to call it a jam). But all in all the album is refreshing and full of energy. Listen it for the true mixture of love, hate and passion which is the Blues itself.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Beniamino Gigli - Opera Arias Box Set (EMI - 3C 153-03480-486)

There are some sets which tend to be excessively crucial to some people. This and two more other entries will be about a such set (Actually three sets). This so called set was released by EMI Italiana and they encapture the memorial moments from the career of Beniamino Gigli. Even though these sets are quite substantial in the volume of material they contain, it is interesting that on Internet, you cannot find a single document or information concerning these releases. The overall set consists of three boxes which are named "Opera Arias", "Popular Songs" and "Unreleased Material". In total 30 records. As I said before, this is a huge set and it took me some time to find each of the set.

The first volume is easy to comprehend based on it's name. This volume was created after HMV was bought by EMI. Before that, both companies used to release only the material they had the rights to and did not combine their archives. The magic trick happened after the merger and through extensible efforts of EMI Italiana with the results coming in by 1978. It is not an easy task to extract material from 78 rpm records since the speeds were varying a lot due to the limited technology. I have also seen similar comments on one of Enrico Caruso's records which date even earlier than Gigli. Gigli's recordings start from 1918 in Italy.

This set holds 7 records with arias from many of the famous operas. You get to witness Gigli's performances from Tosca, La Boheme, Aida, Don Giovanni, Manon (Massenet's version), Manon Lescaut (Puccini's version), Pagliacci, and many others. Some of his better performances can be heard in Nessun Dorma from Turandot, Chiedi Al Rio from L'Elisir D'Amore, but his best performance is by far at Leoncavallo's Pagliacci opera. The aria's name is No, Pagliaccio non son. I've also listened to several other versions of this opera including the performances of Caruso, Björling and Domingo. Fairness to all of them, yet Gigli's performance by far outstrips them. It is truly crippling while you are listening to it. I have earlier said that listening to opera at home is a wierd feeling to begin with, but after listening this set, I am to change my mind effectively. A great performance can always attract the listener and leave your jaws open wide wherever you listen to it.

This is a set which all opera lovers should own and listen when they want to hear someone who is absolutely a legend with all his worth. Unfortunately he is not a Justin Bieber to get that much fame, but at least we should try to listen as much as possible to create an environment where they can outlive themselves. Life is not fair, that is true, yet we have chances to trick it to the way we want it to be. It may not be drastic, while a change is a change nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Various Artists - Provocative Percussion (Command - RS 806 SD)

Provocative Percussion is a series of releases started by the Command Records in order to promote their record as well as to show off their recording quality. It is sufficient to say that they made a remarkable job at that. The series are made up of 5 releases if my small research is not mistaken. These records are not really easy to come by and I happened to bump into it at an Ebay seller's list from whom I've bought Isang Yun's release from Wergo (Wer 60034). There is also another interesting record by Mustapha Tettey Addy with the name Master Drummer From Ghana that I've bought from this guy from the Chocolate and Watch country (Switzerland).

One interesting thing about the record is that the tracks chosen and performed for the record by the Enoch Light And The Light Brigade are mainly standards of Jazz with percussions given a priority during the recording sessions. There are also selected tracks from Swing and Bossa Nova as well. As a result, what we get from the vinyl is a more crispy and attractive sound. The quality of the recordings are superb. It feels as though you are listening the band directly at home in front of you while you are sipping your coffee laying on your couch.

It's been a surprise to listen to this record. I can't say that I have been musically enhanced since the material is not breathtaking in the sense of originality. It is the recording style and technique that captures the attention altogether. And of course last but not the least, this was year 1959. This makes it all the more interesting kudos for Command Records for the performance. I am now quite curious if they maintained this quality during their whole lifespan of releases. That I am yet to see.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Terry Riley - In C (CBS - MS 7178)

There are such compositions in the 20th Century which created a butterfly effect that their legendary positions have totally surpassed their beauty or intellect. "In C" is one of those compositions and we can see the similar structural compositions still today, not only in contemporary classical music, but Electronic Music, Rock and even Jazz.

Terry Riley is more of a technician or a structuralist (I may have created the word) rather than a composer. In this case, he shares the same fate like his contemporary Karlheinz Stockhausen. Of course Riley has crucial compositions which we are listening still today, but his main strength lies elsewhere. This is also quite interesting since he started his musical career as a pianist and later a soprano saxophonist. He is quite a master in both as well.

The structures in "In C" are layered and this layerizing is clearly the teachings of La Monte Young. Moreover, Riley created a duality of performance within this structure. The performers each have 53 figures to play with a chance to improvise. Also collectivity is crucial since they need to listen their fellow performers in order to interact. No two performances can be the same and the music itself comes out like a living organism.

This continuity feeling is very well established among most minimalist composers. It is quite easy to see in the cases of Steve Reich (Ie Sextet/Six Marimbas) and Philip Glass (Ie Akhnaten or Koyaanisqatsi Ost). Thus it can be said that one of the reasons for this style to gain a strong foothold in today's compositions and other music genres is this similarity to life and nature. Obviously, Minimalist producers have been the primary choice of music for the natural documentary producers.

"In C" is musically enlightening. It is a feast for the ear as well as all perceptive senses. While listening, you don't feel it as an almost 50 year old composition, but rather like a music which has been evident in many things one may have listened. The notes or the structure are not the only thing that matters for this composition, it is also what they have caused in later stages.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Om Kalsoum - Leilet Hob (Sono Cairo - SC-22142)

The fans or at least seldom players of the legendary strategy and first person (Collective) shooter game Counter Strike, this record means a lot. The Arab Streets map of this game featured the chorus part of Leilet Hob. It was via this game I learned about Om Kalsoum and her awesome recordings. Truth be told, life is never out of surprises.

It took me some time and effort to find this record since apart from being long time out of print, you don't get the chance to find one easily. It also considered to be one of her most famous songs. Honestly I found one more record which was in a somewhat OK (VG) condition, but the pricing was clearly away from reality, so I had to pass that chance.

Majority of the records of Om Kalsoum are released by Sono Cairo label and these are recorded mainly during concerts. However, not many include the true essence of the concerts like this. First the stage opens and the orchestra starts an instrumental intro which in Turkish classical music is called "Taksim". Then the artist comes to the stage under thunderous applause and starts singing. This record shows the typical example of this classic style.

The song itself can be divided into 3,5 parts. The first being the intro, then comes the main section. The third part which starts with a flamenco type rhythm is more like a passage of alternate take. The 0,5 mentioned is because the main section comes as a shorter version at the end of the record. Before I forget to mention lyrics belong to Ahmed Chafik Kamel.

This is absolutely a joy to listen. The instrumentation, the way Om Kalsoum sings, everything is extremly clean and close to perfection. It surely will hold a special place in my collection of Om Kalsoum records and I would harshly advise anyone to listen it if they haven't already done so. Pure classic!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Luciano Berio - Recital 1 (For Cathy) (RCA - SER 5665)

Luciano Berio's companionship to Cathy Berberian has a long history with diversification in terms of intensity. They cooperated in many operas as well as shared the same bed (Presumably) at nights. They have a similar relationship like that of Britten and Pears's, though more conventional.

The record is based on a piece written by Berio for Berberian. The piece is immensely concetrated on the vocal talent of Berberian and all throughout the record, it shows. Music never ever takes the front stage, only accompanies on the background with periodical exclamations.

The recital starts with a Monteverdian style (I learned about this style after listening the record) and at first you get the feeling of listening a warm up for a rehearsal with a distant harpsichord being heard. Then Berberian starts a monologue as she seems like talking to herself. Piano, trumpet and flute enters the stage yet still distant and uncoodinated until Berberian asks them to coordinate themselves by calling out. The Piano takes on holds as a regular background near the end of the record

The texts (They can hardly be called lyrics) come from various sources including some passages written by Berio. The B side starts with a "Play It Again Sam" and continues with a song of Marlene Dietrich while in between there are fragments written by Berio.

Conceptually this is a provoking piece of self realization and wake up call while the center is the vocals and diversity of Cathy Berberian. It is frankly to be mentioned that she did not earn her fame based on nothing, she has an incredible voice with such versatility that you start to acknowledge her more like an instrument. This is a record to listen to. It is a wonderful experience of contemporary thinking and masterful techniques.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Jefferson Airplane - Crown Of Creation (RCA - LSP 4058)

Psychedelic Rock is one of those musical styles that is hard not to like. The versatility it enholds as well as the natural sounds has attracted many followers. And of course drugs. This was the end 60s and the beginning 70s where anything could happen anywhere. It was also the glowing days of Haight & Ashbury which was a truly monumental arena back in those days. Those were the good old days since when I went there last year, that flicker of light was not there anymore.

Jefferson Airplane is just not the mother of various Psychedelic Rock offshoots (Inc. Jefferson Starship), it is also one of the pioneers of the genre. Actually pioneer is a really questionable term. Jefferson Airplane is like the Kraftwerk of Electro Pop. They were not the first band to get into it, but rather they were the first band to generate widespread success. This is how they have eventually inspired the worldwide phenomenon of Psychedelic Rock which ultimately shook Turkey as well. Interestingly, approximately 12.000 miles away, the Psychedelic Rock artists of Turkey like Erkin Koray, Mogollar, Uc Hurel and others were to be also distinguished artists in this genre. Especially in the case of Erkin Koray, he is noted as one of the top artists of this music with ingredients he has combined from Anatolian Rock as well.

Regarding the album, it is the second step of Jefferson Airplane showing their move to a step further from Psychedelic Rock and mixing it with Blues Rock which was also extremely widespread those days. From the likes of Blues Rock artists like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Peter Green and Eric Clapton, they added the essence of improvisation into their music and the guitar solos were reminding more of Blues rather than Psychedelic. On the other hand, there was one thing remaining, the vocals of Grace Slick and her astounding lyrics. The poetry in the lyrics as well her contralto vocals were to become one of the flagships of Psychedelic Rock and influenced many bands to follow the same road. It can also be said that due to their heavy touring with The Doors between 1967-1969 should have affected their music. There was also romance within this relationship as Jim got hooked into the beauty of Grace. "Ice Cream Phoenix" seems to be one of those tracks where this affection could have taken hold.

The album was the second most only being surpassed by the legendary "Surrealistic Pillow". It has moments where it reminds us of the sounds in "Surrealistic Pillow" like tracks "Lather" and "Greasy Heart". However, in reality it is the follow up of a change coming in which started with "After Bathing at Baxter's". This album is on a more cooler sound than the Rockier "After Bathing at Baxter's". The extra availability of Kaukonen's electric guitar was a bit of a too much change for the group therefore they seem to have taken a bit step back. Yet, in tracks like "Crown Of Creation", "If You Feel" and more effectively the album closing long track "The House At Pooneil Corners". In these tracks Kaukonen is left to stride along his guitar in the same sense that the British and American Electric Blues guitarists doing. It's fair to say that there is not a long, shredding guitar solo in any of these tracks while there are traces here and there which can add up to it.

These are albums which have opened the way to millions of possibilities for the upcoming generation. Of course this is a double edged sword. Thinking that this music opened up a possibility for Kaiser Chiefs is a damning thought. Yet somehow it is true. Anyway I'm sure Jefferson Airplane didn't have that in mind. Let alone the loose ends in the basket, it is pure pleasure to listen these albums which unfortunately were never really quite repeated afterwards, even Jefferson Starship couldn't do it, the offshoot after Jefferson Airplane disbanded.