Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - The Early Symphonies, Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields, Neville Marriner (Philips - 6769 054)

There can not be much to be said about a historical figure as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He is the pinnacle of talent in all understanding. Playing violin at three, mastering it at five, playing whole symphonies from memory again at five and composing his first symphony at nine years old. Boy that takes a beating.

Being the son of a talented violinist, and small brother of another talented sister, Mozart was already excessively lucky. However it was his extra ordinary intelligence linked with extra ordinary talent that made him as he is. Even all the financial and health problems did not stop him from creating 626 works (Not all finished) during a life span of 35 years. It is absolutely remarkable. He was cocky which is not at all surprising since he toured Europe twice before he was ten years old. He was known as the child prodigee and he filled this term to the utmost extent.

This box set includes the early symphonies of Mozart. The box set holds 8 records which cover his first symphonies which he composed between 1764 and 1775. They are not his finest works, but they are clearly the building steps of the legendary last three symphonies he composed. They are also important in understanding how Mozart developed himself musically as well as technically.

The earliest of the symphonies Mozart has composed show a clear style of Italian influence. He has composed these symphonies, that is ok, but they are not really Mozart. The reason I'm saying this is that he was closed up within the boundaries of the Italian style three part symphonies. This was largely due to his affection to the London Bach or formally known as Johann Christian Bach. Moreover, as time passed by and his residence in Salzburg took it's toll, he started experimenting in combining the Viennese style with the Italian style until he finally built his own potion of adorable music.

There are certain aspects of Mozart's symphonic compositions which appear even from the start. The most evident of them is the use of repetitions and loops for violins. He started using them for effect and later on mastered the technique of symphony composition where he supported these effects with other instruments in order to create an effective, yet harmonious, soulful yet hyptonizing music. This is where Mozart departs from his predecessor by 15 years, Beethoven.

Even though the performance of Academy Of St Martin In The Fields and Sir Neville Marriner is exceptional, there are some setbacks regarding the box set. The biggest setback is the listing of the symphonies. In a box set of this kind, chronological listing is very significant and Philips has made a huge mistake here by not doing it. It would have been much more informational and explanatory for the listener. Now I have to move back and forth among the records to create the chronology myself which is just a waste of time, energ and concentration.

The second setback is the famous missing symphony which was discovered in late 1970s which Mozart composed in London. It would have been miracoulous if Neville Marriner could have added that to the 31 symphonies/symphonic works that appear in this boxset. However, there were and there will be (Maybe not) recordings of the early symphonies of Mozart and it will be immensely hard to surpass the musical expression that Neville Marriner has achieved throughout. I've listened the performance of Karl Böhm and even though it is also very good in many aspects, it does not match the promptness and liveliness of Marriner's. I am yet to listen the extensive performance of Jaap Schröder, but from what I've heard and read, that one is also a couple of pars below this one.

Luckily (Or rather naturally) I own the consecutive box set that follows this one in which Neville Marriner performs the late symphonies of Mozart. That box set will some time be reviewed here when I again have the extended time to listen all those records in a row. Until then this box set will be a pleasure to savour.

To buy this box set:

@ Ebay (Check for the Box Set particularly)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Muddy Waters & Howlin' Wolf - London Revisited (Chess - CH60026)

I have been listening this record with so much pleasure that I started writing about it in my head the moment I laid my hands on it. This is not only because of the two legends who are performing on the record. Obviously that is also important. On the other hand the cover is another story in and of itself. I'll get into those details soon.

The album covers Muddy Water and Howlin' Wolf's seperate recording sessions in London with booming British Blues artists accompanying them. On Muddy Water's recordings which cover the A side, we listen Rory Gallagher and Sam Lawhorn on guitar, Carey Bell Harrington on harmonica (She's damn good), Georgie Fortune on organ and piano, Rik Gretch on bass guitar and Mitch Mitchell on drums. Steve Winwood also makes a brief appearance on piano for the first track, "Hard Days". For Howlin' Wolf's B side, Hubert Sumlin is at guitar, Jeff Carp is at harmonica, Bill Wyman is as bass guitar and Charlie Watts is at drums.

Muddy Waters splitted his 4 track A side into two sort of ballads and two rather uplifting Blues tracks. Ain't much to say about the performance since Waters always excells in his guitar and vocal style. Moreover, his solos in "Hard Days" and "Lovin' Man" are breathtaking. However, I should also note that the cool going "Highway 41" is also a pleasure to the ears with it's rather naïve sound.

Howlin' Wolf's side starts with a touchy "Goin' Down Slow" where the harmony between guitar and harmonica seems to be very effective. Then comes a favorite track of mine, "The Killing Floor". I've just listened it from Jimi Hendrix, but this is obviously more Bluesy with a touch of Funk in it. Yet, the performance of the guitar is unquestioningly better even though Hendrix played this when he was very young. The last track on this side is "Want To Have A Word With You" and it is fascinating. It is the most true to form of all the Blues tracks on the record even when played with an electric guitar. You can listen this all night with Howlin' Wolf howling in your ears.

There is one also interesting thing about the gatefold cover. When you open it, you face a comic strip which explains the adventure of Waters and Wolf in a humorous and poetic way. Taking a picture wouldn't have helped, therefore it is for you to find out when you buy one.

To buy this record:

@ Discogs
@ Ebay

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Terry Riley - Songs For The Ten Voices Of The Two Prophets (Kuckuck - Kuckuck 067 Digital)

This album came as quite unexpected to me. This was one of the albums which I've never listened from Terry Riley before and I was expecting somewhere along the lines of his other works. Yet here it is. Bright and clear as a sunny morning sun glaring into my ears, Contemporary Classical and World Music fused into one gigantic bowl. It would not be unexpected to expect something unexpected from Terry Riley in every album, but you can't know what to expect before you listen it anyway.

Terry Riley undertook a big change. It is true that many Minimalist composers have taken a significant interest in Eastern cultures and religions. They have also included Eastern musical understanding into their modern approaches even though this is not something they pioneered. Balinese music was already adopted to Classical music in the late 1800s in regards to the Folk movement which affected many composers.

In this album Terry Riley not only adopted Eastern musical concepts, he has taken a step away from Minimalist Classical music and drove himself toward World music. True, the general outline of the structure is in accordance with Minimalism, but the bigger picture shows otherwise. The synth melodies are contrasting against the vocals and the musical structure. To some people, the music may sound bizarre or unnatural. This is of course very standard for innovative music. I'm quite sure people who listen this record and like it will also like Talvin Singh and even Muslimgauze to some extent. These are similar minded people who has taken this innovation to several steps further.

Actually the title is about these synthisizers. Two prophets are the two Sony PCM synths and since each of them are capable of 5 voices, we get the total of 10 voices for 2 prophets. Sweet.

Another important aspect of this record is that Terry Riley is singing. His style is close to Indian and Pakistani vocal style which is absolutely natural since his teacher was Pandit Pran Nath. He sang in Eastern scale which created an offbeat feeling during the recording between music and the vocals. Naturally Terry Riley's strength is not singing and it obviously shows off during the record. I have many times though how beautiful it would have been if he somehow convinced Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to accompany him on this project. That would have been a spectacle, believe me.

To buy this record:

@ Discogs
@ Ebay

Friday, April 13, 2012

Keith Jarrett / Jan Garbarek - Luminessence (ECM - ECM 1049 ST)

This album was one of the first records I have bought. The reason it came up from the depths of my collection was the chance to have it signed by Jan Garbarek. That was a journey which did not bear any fruit since before the concert, there was an announcement that he would not accept any inquiries after the concert. Well so much for that. But the good side of the story is I had a chance to listen to the record again and here we are as a result.

This album is truly remarkable in many aspects. Two giants in Jazz joining together to create an inspiring album? Yes this is one. Jarrett's composition of a contemporary classical work? Surely. The improvisations of Garbarek? Without a doubt. All this in one single album? Oh yes! And the string

A side of the album consists of two compositions named "Numinor" and "Windsong". These compositions are heavy in emotion. What I mean from this is, both of them are close to the level of depression with the main melody of strings are creating tensions and Garbarek's soprano saxophone is about to push you down from the edge of the cliff. Garbarek always has a tendency to drive someone to alcoholism, but here he is overachieving himself. I have a huge elephant sitting on my chest during the whole A side. You are being shoved, squeezed, hit, torn apart from both sides. "Windsong" makes Garbarek attain an Oriental style during his improvisations. This comes out as utterly striking notes. I sit in awe while my heart constantly hurts. On one side, I'm thinking "Is this never going to end?", while the other part of my brain says "Shut up, it should not end. It is divine". With these feelings I turn the record to face the B side.

"Luminessence" gives a more uplifting feeling with a stronger string section. On the A side string section was mainly the mood setter and Garbarek was putting the killing touch. In this composition, roles seems to be reversed. The strings take on the stage and Garbarek accompanies them (Generally). Of course Garbarek is not always lenient and he forces himself to the front. I should also clear out one thing. Uplifting is a comparison to the A side. This composition is also emotional, yet on the level of sorrow or mourning. Not on the level of -I'm going to kill myself in the next 10 minutes- depressive style. I can definitely say it's more humanitarian.

In terms of musical concept, this is something which even I was not expecting from Jarrett. These compositions are truly way apart from the musical heritage Jarrett came up with. Yes, some points in Garbarek's free improvisation remind me of Jazz induced solos, while at most of the time, I feel like I am listening a Contemporary Classical Composition. I'm also quite sure composers like Max Richter and Olafur Arnalds have listened to this record since their compositions have similarities with this style. Actually it also reminds me of some of the works by Matthew Shipp. He also takes on a logic similar to this, yet with a different style. With all this in mind, after listening this record, you can understand why it has been hailed by the music critics and loved by many on both genres, Jazz and Classical.

To buy this record:

@ Discogs
@ Ebay

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Oren Ambarchi & Joe Talia - Hit And Run (Touch - Tone 45.3)

Oren Ambarchi is a name most of the Experimental and Drone music listeners would know. He is known for his skills in percussion and also for the abstract structures he creates for his works. Joe Talia is a producer with Classical music background, mainly on the Musique Concrete. He has composed several works, but honestly I am not familiar with any of them. This is something that won't continue for long since I already ordered one of his works on LP.

The album "Hit And Run" is made up of the performance of these artists at Cafe Oto. The album was released by Touch Records within their White Label series as a limited edition of 300. I bought it from a store in Germany and am absolutely happy to own one.

The performance is mainly based on improvisations of percussion and guitar by Ambarchi while Talia is busy with scheming the structure. Based on this style of performing, the outcome is actually not only Experimental and Drone, but feels somewhat similar to Jazz Improvisations. Moreover, you can also get a glimpse of Contemporary Classical Music (Not essentially Musique Concrete).

The performance is mainly improvisational and therefore it is safe to say that no other would be the same. That is why having it released is a pleasure. It certainly is not suitable for all tastes, yet I firmly believe that Experimental music can truly be felt and observed in live performances. Just like this one.

To buy this record:

@ Boomkat
@ Bleep
@ Juno
@ Discogs

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jimi Hendrix - What'd I Say (Mfp - 5278)

I have reviewed a box set of Jimi Hendrix named The Story Of Jimi Hendrix a couple of weeks ago which featured his early works in studio and live along with Curtis Knight. Well here we are back at those times again with a live recording from 1965 with Hendrix on guitar and Knight on vocals. The recording was done by Ed Chalpin again as with the box set.

The record openly shows the early period of Hendrix moving from Soul to Gospel and to Blues. There is even Funk in it. "On The Killin' Floor" is the Funk track on the 6 track album. Actually I've known this song via Orgone which is a very good Funk group and they also had this old track in their repertoire. It is a moving and a killing track. It is quite interesting how Hendrix takes on the challenge and gets through with it at ease.

Another interesting aspect of the album is the track with is also naming it. "What'd I Say" was written by Ray Charles during the times when he was creating the genre of Soul. Similar to his performance in "On The Killin' Floor", Hendrix has probably taken a lot of listening before and plays it superbly until the end. It is also evident from the fact that the crowd keeps on going and going as he plays.

"Bright Lights Big City" was a track which also appeared on the box set, but this time it is live. The intro shows Hendrix playing absolutely genuine Blues on his part and his roots are clear at this point. Even though he didn't lack anything in the other tracks, he shows that this is his turf. The song is short in time and therefore doesn't give you the full taste, but it is quite a pleasure listening those few minutes.

This album is clearly a lesser known work of Hendrix and the sound quality is not that attractive as well. Actually that is not the essence anyway. We had the same problem in his album "Band Of Gypsys" which was a concert he gave on New Year's Eve. Same problem can be seen here. Recording techniques were not that good in that time, especially when it comes to recording during a concert and you have to accept losing some quality of sound recording in order to get the essence out of these great players since they get nurtured from the crowd and play at a much higher level. All in all it shows how Hendrix started his magnificient career and from where he actually took off.

To buy this record:

@ Discogs
@ Ebay