Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Muddy Waters - The Chess Box (Chess - CH6 - 80002)

Not much ado about speaking the Blues of Muddy Waters. He has been one of the prominent artists in taking a step forward compared to the classical Blues styles. The bridge in between, that is what he is. Vocal style can easily be accepted as old style (Not Delta though, more of Chicago), but with his electric guitar, he took it to another level while modernizing some of the old classics along the way. Electric Blues as it was called. Of course it is hard to say old school when you are talking about Blues since there is a big distinction between the dates when a song was first originated and when first recorded. As an example, Leadbelly didn't have that many records, yet his repertoire was well over 5.000 songs. It is not hard to guess that most of that knowledge has gone with the wind since those days.

There are many people who claimed that Blues is dead. Well it ain't dead until it's dead, yet the social structure which nurtured Blues has changed drastically. The reasons to write blue songs has waned quite a lot. Yes you can still listen some broken heart song etc, but the social injustice has decreased. Or at least it is not a hegemonia of the AfroAmerican community anymore. There are more people sharing that misery, especially a lot from the Anglo Saxons. It is not a racist thing at least. On the other hand, Country music still lingers on. One thing is that Texans really like it and Texas is huge. Nothing is as big as Texas. And Country music never based it's existence on any struggle. It was mainly love or hate, kiss or kill and a lot of dancing.

Coming back to our subject, Chess records has been a big supported of Blues music and their special efforts in the 1980s resulted in several "Chess Box"es which are really crucial. Apart from Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Willie Dixon have their own boxes as well. However, it is to be noted that the most extensive one is Muddy Waters's, a career spanning 6 LPs.

Whatever you know of Muddy Waters is here. I cannot honestly say that all the versions are the best ones (Especially Mannish Boy), yet it is more than what you can expect (The version of Walkin' Blues is awesome by the way). It is also accompanied by a nice bookish booklet which gets into detail about where he came from, what he did and where he was heading at. Personally I can place my bet on his predecessor to being Ben Harper, but since Harper delved into many things, it is also hard to point out, but no other one sticks out similar to him. All in all, 72 tracks which many are anonymous have found their way into the compilation and offers a loooong Blues listening ceremony. Actually there is an 11 LP box set of Muddy Waters again from Chess records which was released in Japan. Don't know why only in Japan, but that's the way it is. Don't have that one, but one day I will have it. Till then, this ain't one to miss.

To buy this box set:

@ Ebay (Somehow other things also come in, beware)
@ Discogs

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ruggiero Leoncavallo - I Pagliacci, Gigli, Pacetti, Basiola, Teatro Alla Scala, Ghione (Seraphim - IB-6009)

This is one of the records I have bought from Kontra Plak. It was surprising to find this original piece dating from 1954 lying there in the new arrivals box. I directly checked the quality which was also stunning as can be seen from the picture. We have to thank at least 1 generation of a record collector for this. I love it when I find a gem in a record store.

I Pagliacci is the sad story of a clown (Pagliacci) which is not one of today's most revered operas in the repertoire, however it was quite popular in the early 1900s. One of the reasons would be that those days were more theatrical compared to today and I Pagliacci is an opera which requires some theatrical performance along the real thing. It is a two act opera with a longer Act I and a shorter Act II. However, the most important thing here is not the opera itself, but rather the performance of Beniamino Gigli. It is simply breathtaking. One of Gigli's most famous arias (At the end of Act I) already belongs to this very performance dating from July, 1934 in Teatro Alla Scala. The opera was conducted by Franco Ghione and it was during the time when Gigli was at his best. Interestingly, though this opera requires theatrical tendencies as well, this was obviously not the strong point of Gigli.

The opera takes 3 sides of the 2 record box set. The remaining part was filled with Gigli's performances of old Italian Songs including the likes of "O Sole Mio", "Senta Ze" and "Ritorna Amore". Even though Gigli is famous for the classical repertoire in general, his performances in these songs are also eye catching. I was honestly not expecting this from him.

The sound quality is of course not as clear as today's recordings, though I can honestly say that it beats many of the recordings from that era. Listening it in a modest level of sound is adequate, but when you go higher, there are some distortions which keeps you from it. Still, it can take you to the seats of Teatro Alla Scala to dream of Gigli standing there with his clown costume on, feeling betrayed, angry and raged because of his unfaithful wife. It would have been such a beautiful show then.

To buy this box set:

@ Ebay (Didn't turn out any result, but you can remain faithful)
@ Discogs (The release does not exist)
@ Overstock (CD version, better than nothing)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Best Records Of 2012 & A Short Review

Below are the best 10 records that I have listened during 2012. These may not be the 2012 releases as can be seen from my posts already.

1) Isang Yun - Selected Works For Clarinet - Compositions Of Isang Yun 1

2) Olivier Messiaen - Catalogue D'Oiseaux

3) Thelonious Monk - Riverside Classics

4) Woody Guthrie - Library Of Congress Recordings

5) Metallica - Live In The 80s

6) St Germain - Tourist

7) Oriental Wind - Chila-Chila

8) Leadbelly - Good Night Irene

9) Alva Noto - Unitxt

10) Various - Musique Persane

Looking back to 2012, my main listening habits did not alter too much with the main genres as Contemporary Classical and Experimental Electronic. World music had a surge due to me delving deeper into the origins of music. Electro, Techno, House, Dub and their variations seem to have decreased somewhat along the way, but now thinking about it, I am missing them also. Jazz stayed more or less the same level as well as Blues. I might have increased Free Jazz and Improvisation a little.

In terms of record labels, Editions Mego is by far the leader of the pack. Then comes Decca due to it's wide range of releases starting from Classical to Blues. Philips and EMI (Including Angel & HMV) were also very much in the high levels. Arion, Ocora and Le Chant Du Monde also entered the scene due to World music. Wergo has gone down from it's position from last year since there are not many titles left for me to buy and listen. Also Columbia and Riverside got lower returns. Sonet entered to my catalogue for the first time this year through Oriental Wind and Okay Temiz releases.

I wish everyone a year full of music, health, prosperity, peace and love.