Friday, July 31, 2015

Aaron Copland — The Tender Land


   American classical music has a long history dating back to the hymns of First New England School, Justin Morgan and William Billings, which is considered as first original music in United States. But still in romantic era European music was dominated on New World scenes, although many composers, like famous pianist from New Orleans Louis Moreau Gottschalk, were trying to find original idiom of new society. It’s interesting some idea of musical picture of America came from Czech composer Antonin Dvořak. While in literature and fine arts Americans were already proud of internationally acclaimed artists, music was still in strong dependence of its European roots. In 20th century changing economic position of the country gave music more possibilities to develop original American music. In early 20th century creative activity of many composers let them achieve artistic independence of European trends and styles and create idiomatic American music. Most active composers of this generation were George Gershwin, Charles Ives and Aaron Copland who was called “truly American composer” and “the Dean of American music”.
   Aaron Copland was prolific author of works in various genres and utilizing different styles of modern music to create works being vehicle of his views and ideas. He was also pianist, conductor, educator and music critic. Born in Brooklyn November 14, 1900, he grew up in conservative Jewish family of Lithuanian origins. He had a lot of opportunities to deal with different musical activities, with religious, popular music and with regular music lessons since he was seven, as all of his siblings. The key role in musical education played his mother Sarah Mittenthal Copland who was herself singer and pianist. As 11 years old he wrote his first sketches of opera libretto with 7 bar theme, but to be a composer he decided four years later after concert of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Polish composer and virtuoso. In his high school years he was learning piano with Leopold Wolfsohn, but his later and more formal education with Rubin Goldmark gave him basic knowledge in theory of music, harmony and composition and let him start his studies in Conservatoire de Paris in class of Nadia Boulanger. 

Aaron Copland — The Tender Land (1965)

   After three years in Paris, where he started to write critics (first was on music of Gabriel Fauré), Aaron Copland back to New York where he devoted himself to composing. He befriended with artists and was introduced into intellectual circles. He was under influence of esthetics of American modernists, some progressive social ideas, he was impressed by Alfred Stieglitz and photographer Walker Evans, famous for his photographic documentary on effects of Great Depression. These ideas inspired young artist who focused his full time creative activity on social issues. In 1945 Copland’s intention to write musical based on Erskine Caldwell’s Tragic Ground was officially announced. It was planned as socio-economic drama on “poor white trash” with farcical elements. Copland written some music, but finally the project has been abandoned. Nine years later when Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II commissioned composition for anniversary of the League of Composers, Copland used parts to create two-act opera on related content and title The Tender Land. This work was premiered April 1st 1954. One year later, May 20th 1955, three-act version of opera was premiered in Oberlin Conservatory of Music — this time Tragic Ground fragments were completely cast away.
   Both versions of the opera were poorly received. In 1958 Aaron Copland compiled suite for orchestra, but opera was still not accepted. First successful production took place in 1965 as a part of French-American Festival. July 28 composer conducted concert version of this opera with New York Philharmonic and singers of Metropolitan Opera: Joy Clements as Laurie, Clarmae Turner as Ma Moss, Norman Treigle as Grandpa Moss, Richard Cassilly as Martin and Richard Frederics as Top. This performance was enough successful for Columbia to arrange three days later recording session in Manhattan Center. Recorded again under Aaron Copland’s baton the abridged version of The Tender Land was published as one of significant albums in contemporary American music. After a half of the century this album sounds as clear and fresh as it was recorded in any moment between. In 2000 Sony republished this historic recording on compact disc. Four stars for artistic and historical position of this album.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mozart — Requiem — Herbert von Karajan


   The story of one significant element can be nice perspective to see the whole. The same way performing Mozart’s Requiem and positioning this work in public memory can be interesting survey into dynamics of the western culture of last two centuries. This legendary work was performed as classic position with developing knowledge on how it should be executed to find most effective proportions or reinterpreted to find what we have lost from original Mozart’s idea and what just part of performing tradition is. Some information on next generations’ attitude against classicism can be traced by analyzing various attempts of completing the full cycle of this funeral mass. Phonographic recordings technology delivered many records being plentiful source for such research, but its accessibility changed the rate of cultural transformations.
   In the fast growing market of classical recordings in late fifties and early sixties basic works were recorded by many orchestras creating the catalogue of most expected monuments of music history. Mozart’s Requiem was one of most popular works every label ought to have in print. In catalogues of most active record companies there were more than one recordings of this popular work. One of famous renditions was published by Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft in 1962 and was signed by one of most active artists of this time, Herbert von Karajan. This is also one of most milestones in the career of the conductor. Recording session of Mozart’s Requiem took place in 1961. Herbert von Karajan conducted Berliner Philharmoniker, the orchestra he was leading from 1954 and Wiener Singverein working under direction of Reinhold Schmid. Soloists were soprano Wilma Lipp, alto Hilde Rössel-Majdan, tenor Anton Dermota and bass Walter Berry. Organ parts were played by Wolfgang Meyer.

Herbert von Karajan — Mozart — Requiem (1962, reissue 1977

   Recording Requiem with Berliner Philharmoniker Karajan had already huge experience leading most demanding works. He was famous for his interpretations of large-scale works including groundbreaking performances of Richard Wagner’s operas at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. In his early fifties he was one of most recognizable European conductors but it was his recordings in next decades what made him one of the greatest conductors ever recorded. In Requiem recorded for DGG he created vision of most romantic, dark reading of Mozart’s missa pro defunctis. Fragments finishing this work set by Franz Xaver Süssmayr are repeating musical material from those composed by Mozart. This makes the work more cohesive but also makes its cyclic construction less ranging. The most common way of challenging this deficiency was to reduce emotions to the level referenced to absolute forms of classical era. But this was also the way to skip all composer’s ideas and aspirations. Good conductors were always trying to conciliate elements of the cycle by bringing them together and differentiating as contrasting parts of the cycle. Herbert von Karajan made it in most exquisite manner, balancing elements of this work architecture to achieve effect of perfect classical form, but at the same time creating great amount of formal energy by enhancing powerful contrasts and creating solemn, grave mood with perfectly matched tempos.
   Few years ago I’ve led the cycle of lectures as part of master class for graduates of musical universities. As one of subjects of the history of musical culture course was lecture about history of performing and interpretative priorities traced on basis of recorded music. I’ve analyzed eight various performances of Mozart’s Requiem fragments. I chose only really best ones. And as an experiment, choosing fragments not shown during analysis, I have asked listeners which performance is closest to their idea of Mozart’s work. More than 80% of the group pointed Karajan’s recording as the most appropriate performance of Requiem. I’ve been repeating this experiment with various sets of performances in next year’s few times, always with the same result – Karajan’s 1961 recording in some groups was chosen unanimously. New esthetic trends are highly appreciated, but talking about one definitive rendition listeners still choose most traditional, solemn and profound performance ever. It says by itself. This version is already the element of cultural heritage. The only appropriate rate is five stars.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Colosseum – Colosseum Live


   The history of progressive rock is full of bands creating ambitious musical projects, merging music with valuable poetic lyrics with elements of avant-garde theatre. Many of them gain considerable popularity in late sixties when antisystemic sentiments focused public attention on any kind of alternative art. This wide social appreciation faded out with the end of the era. The highest bar was to find the point of equilibrium between rock and jazz and to create music that can be interesting for jazz and rock worlds. This was midmost idea of jazz-rock genre started from both directions. Jazz and rock provenience was popular music. But jazz parted earlier and for more than two decades was considered to be fully artistic domain. Rock was more inceptive but many rock musicians still have complexes of popular and utility music. It had a lot to do with aspirations of rock music to connect with more intellectual, more ambitious jazz. Such great bands as Nucleus or Soft Machine had their specific positions in jazz-rock because of clashing together rock sound or rock patterns with the idea of improvisations.
   The legend of jazz-rock history, English band Colosseum found different solution. They back to the roots of rock and jazz and started from the elementary blues ideas. Connecting blues and gospel elements with rhythms of popular blues occurred to be simple and efficient. The idea came from sixties, when two founders of Colosseum drummer Jon Hiseman and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith were playing in legendary Graham Bond Organization. The list of blues experiences of Heckstall-Smith is much longer. Before Colosseum saxophonist was playing with Alexis Korner and John Mayall in their groups Blues Incorporated and Bluesbreakers where future Colloseum saxophonist again played with Jon Hiseman. Together with Tony Reeves, the bass player they’ve met during sessions to legendary Bluesbreakers album Bare Wires, in September 1968 they have started Colosseum. To the first line-up the band recruit two more musicians: organist Dave Greenslade and guitarist Jim Roche, who was shortly superseded by James Litherland who was one year later replaced by Dave ‘Clem’ Clempson.

Colosseum – Colosseum Live (1971)

   Colosseum was supergroup from the very beginning and there is no surprise the history of the band, although full of creative achievements, was not too long. In first two years of existence group recorded four studio albums and in March 1971 one live album released in September the same year. Publication of the album Colosseum Live was closing moment in three years history of the band. In 1975 Jon Hiseman established changing whole lineup new formation called Colosseum II, playing more fusion style jazz-rock. This group was disbanded in 1978. In 1994 Colosseum reunited in its 1971 lineup. After Dick Heckstall-Smith’s death, his place in the band took Barbara Thompson. Culmination of first period was Colosseum Live, one of most illustrious live albums in history of progressive rock and blues-rock. Although it’s impossible to spread this rate to jazz-rock because this is exactly the qualities most jazz live recordings have. But there is also regularity: in some way this album has mixed jazz emotional posture with blues-rock sound.
   Without considering relations between members of the band and the public, this phenomenon couldn’t be understood. This powerful and intense music has its source in sequence of rhythmic patterns, although every member of the band has equal contribution in final creation. Atmosphere of concert event Mach 18, 1971 at Manchester University was so unusual, the band decided to repeat concert for free five days later. Both shows were recorded and with fragments of March 27, 1971 at the Big Apple Club in Brighton published as double LP album. In a way the success of this album was the success of most intensive contact with the listener while every musician has widest artistic freedom. It was the moment of establishing classic Colosseum lineup: Dave Greenslade (organ, vibes), Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophones), Jon Hiseman (drums), Mark Clarke (bass, vocals), Dave "Clem" Clempson (guitars, vocals) and Chris Farlowe (vocals). Its idea remains to nineties and returned with reunited band as it was most remarkable achievement in every member's careers. For this kind of success four stars is quite well-founded rate.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Polish Jazz vol. 36 – Michał Urbaniak – Constellation In Concert


   In the seventies jazz musicians in Poland were in very good professional position. It was less than twenty years from the moment jazzmen came out of the underground and since sixties they were known as new generation of musicians creating independent culture in Poland. With Polish jazz series successively the name “Polish jazz school” gained the right of existence. Shortly this description became a quality mark in many cities and festivals of West Europe and all over the world. No wonder Polish musicians were playing in many countries, collecting more and more artistic experiences and valuable professional contacts. Although European musical market was wide open for any interesting phenomenon from behind the iron curtain, major challenge for all jazzmen was still America, the homeland of jazz. Many classical musicians from Poland were playing overseas before the war. Most famous was Ignacy Jan Paderewski who was piano virtuoso, composer and politician. The first Polish modern jazz musician who played in 1958 International Newport Band was saxophonist Jan “Ptaszyn” Wróblewski. In sixties and seventies Polish jazzmen achieved series of successes. One of first who decided to stay in America for good were Michał Urbaniak and Urszula Dudziak.
   Michał Urbaniak is one of most creative musicians in Polish jazz. He is also one of most successful and the one who made violin featured jazz instrument in Poland. With three years younger Zbigniew Seifert they were the two violinists from Poland achieving great international recognition. And what is characteristic, both were playing saxophones as well. Maybe because saxophone was instrument clearly associated with jazz while violin were always link to folk and classical traditions. Starting his jazz career Michał Urbaniak was playing soprano, alto and tenor saxophones. In 1962 Urbaniak was touring in USA with Andrzej Trzaskowski’s The Wreckers. In mid-sixties he was playing in Scandinavia with Krzysztof Komeda, where he started his own band with Urszula Dudziak and Wojciech Karolak. This was the beginning of and Michal Urbaniak Group, Constellation and Fusion groups.

Michał Urbaniak – Constellation In Concert (1973)

   After return to Poland in 1970, Urbaniak formed his own group. This was the moment he introduced electric violin, playing on traditional violin with electric pick-up, and later changed it with specifically designed five string violin and early model of violin synthesizer. In 1971 during Montreux Festival Michał Urbaniak was awarded Grand Prix and scholarship of Berklee Collage of Music. But ultimately he didn’t start to study in Boston, signing contract with Columbia Records and touring with great fame in Europe and USA. In May 1973 at Warsaw Philharmonic Michał Urbaniak with Constellation gave historic concert recorded by Polskie Nagrania. This occurred to be farewell concert of Michał Urbaniak with his wife Urszula Dudziak for Polish audience. In September 11, 1973 they emigrated to US. Fragments of Constellation Philharmonic Concert were published the same year by Polskie Nagrania as volume 36 of Polish Jazz series. Album Michał Urbaniak Constellation in Concert was among the top of the best Polish fusion productions.
   The band included five musicians and every one of them was already fully formed artistic personality. The leader of the Constellation Michał Urbaniak was playing violin. He was also composer of whole program. His solo in the introduction to the Bengal, more than 17 minutes suite opening the album is great evidence of his remarkable individual style. The way he introduced the theme of Bengal played with vocalize by Urszula Dudziak, elegance and expression in his improvisation showed great individuality of international scale. After Urbaniak we have solo of inspired improviser organist Wojciech Karolak (Hammond Organ and Farfisa), and Fender piano short improvised intro by Adam Makowicz, narration takes Urszula Dudziak singer being the undeniable discovery of this era. She gave in Bengal whole show of her voice and instrumental possibilities, first with discrete piano by Adam Makowicz, then with funky collective improvisation by Adam Makowicz, Wojciech Karolak and Czesław Bartkowski, who played improvised drums solo followed by the main theme reprise.
   The first complexe composition shows full possibilities of the Michał Urbaniak Constellation. In next some ideas were developed. The same spirit of collective improvisations can be heard in next two compositions Spokój (Calm) and Lato (Summer). In Spokój inspirations have more contemplative character, while Lato is full of vibrant, warm atmosphere. The formal idea of Seresta is remaining somehow much wider form of Bengal. Especially interesting is culmination in improvisation of Wojciech Karolak and Adam Makowicz, where two keyboardists meet in dialogue giving great example of musical cooperation. The last composition titled just Theme is like coda corresponding with introduction to the Bengal and closing whole album with natural baracket. Altough this is live recording, it sounds more like studio album. Full control over elements of the form, variety of artistic attitudes, perfect comprehension of each member’s intentions and diversity of solo performances make this band exception on early seventies’ jazz scene. All these qualities are audible on this album and worth four stars grade.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Christopher Wood & Lawrence Leonard – Harpsichord Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach


   In first decades recorded music was not covering whole spectrum of musical culture. The first lineament deciding on selecting music to production was its popularity. No wonder popular music in catalogues of almost every record company was major part. Romantic music, especially opera was present seldom and early music become market career long after there was technical possibilities. In 1959 Forum label which was designed as a Division Of Roulette Records Inc. published series of LP’s with most popular historic repertoire. In this collection prominent position was music by Johann Sebastian Bach. Three albums with Bach’s seven harpsichord concertos recorded by harpsichordist Christopher Wood and Goldsborough Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Leonard were numbered as 3rd, 4th and 5th record in the catalogue: F 70003, F 70004 and F 70005. This was interesting idea to start such label by Roulette Inc. especially this was still growing market with huge potential. American label recorded material in Europe and find European artists.
   Soloist of these recordings was Christopher Wood (1911-1990) prolific composer and comprehensively educated musician active as a performer and as a teacher. His compositions were not published – the only exception was his Piano Sonata No. 3 published in 1943 by Oxford University Press in 1943. As harpsichordist he played a role in the period of early music revival. He started as chorister at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor. He studied in Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. He was studied piano with Adelina de Lara, a pupil of Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms and harpsichord with Rudolphe Dolmetsch and Dorothy Swainson. He also studied conducting in Salzburg Mozarteum with Clemens Krauss, Bruno Walter and Herbert von Karajan. In years 1947 to 1967 he was member of the staff of Trinity College of Music where he taught piano, harpsichord, orchestration, harmony and counterpoint. Later he was involved in various forms of adult education. His recorded performances were Bach’s harpsichord concertos for Forum in 1959 and Handel’s harpsichord suites recorded for Saga label two years later.

Christopher Wood & Lawrence Leonard – Bach – Concertos (1959)

   Lawrence Leonard (1923-2001) was conductor, cellist, composer, teacher and writer, music director of Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, author of some original works as well as arrangements of Machaut's Grande Messe de Notre Dame in 1972 and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for piano and orchestra in 1977. Work with Goldsborough Orchestra was his first big experience as a conductor. He was also author of Concise History of Music from 30,000 BC to the Millennium. The foundation of Goldsborough Orchestra was significant moment in evolution of postwar English culture. The ensemble was established in 1948 by conductor Lawrence Leonard and Arnold Goldsbrough (1892-1964) who was organist, harpsichordist, conductor and early advocate for history performance practice. The objective of artistic activity of the Goldsborough Orchestra was to perform baroque music in possibly reliable style. In 1960 when orchestra introduced to the repertoire some non baroque music, its name has changed and since then is known as English Chamber Orchestra. Cooperation with Benjamin Britten, playing many premieres of his compositions made this ensemble probably most famous chamber orchestra in the world.
   Three albums with seven Bach’s harpsichord concertos published in 1959 by Forum label are rare document of sound of this orchestra in period of its exclusively baroque activity. It is played with extreme attention, neatly enforced clear phrases without vibratos and with most reasonable articulation. In 1959 it was not usual sound, most popular way to play baroque music with sound means of romantic style. Although in “Billboard” journal it was rated only with two stars, professional critics were more gracious. In “Hi-Fi Stereo Review” from December 1959 Warren DeMotte described it as “an achievement of which to be proud” pointing its straightforwardness, good balance and an antique flavor. More than half century later this recording sounds clearly and surprisingly modern. And three stars look much more adequate rate for its quality.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pierre Boulez — Boulez Conducts Ravel


   In preclassical music functions of composer and conductor were connected with musical profession. There were no conductors famous in contemporary meaning of this word because institutions playing music for open public were quite rare and better part of music was performed under supervision of composers. Most active musicians have to know not only how to write, but also how to teach and how to perform musical works. After classicism, when symphony orchestra was born, and later in 19th century, when performing historic works became main element of concert life, professionalism of the orchestra was subordinate to skillful leading. The result of changes was a specialization of professional musicians in precisely defined fields of musical activity. Many composers were still using their knowledge and skills performing as artists, soloists and conductors. It is significant it was only 19th century when division for creators and performers had started. And still many great musicians were composing music, sometimes with success, as well as many composers were great performers and interpreters of other composers’ works.
   One of first great composers and at the same time one of first internationally famous conductors was Gustav Mahler. As a composer he was developing postromantic musical forms and intentionally creating expressive means of orchestra. He was also one of those modern conductors who worked on sound qualities and expressive possibilities of large symphonic orchestra. After phonographic industry changed mechanisms of musical culture, many artists become more famous for conducting music of other composers than for their own works. For example almost forgotten composer Bruno Walter or recognized and well remembered composer Leonard Bernstein, both were so successful as performing conductors and their fame effectively hidden their creative works. The opposite position occupies Krzysztof Penderecki who is competent conductor but best part of his fame he achieved as a composer. One of greatest examples of balanced combination of various types of musical activity in second half of 20th century is Pierre Boulez. Being one of most significant composers of modern music he is also remarkable conductor, famous for numerous performances and recordings.

Pierre Boulez — Boulez Conducts Ravel (1971)

   As a conductor Boulez revealed masterly abilities to reach the essential idea of other composer’s works and display it with elegant distance. He was focusing especially on these composers who were creating modern musical language of symphonic sound and forms of high complicity. As much appreciated by critics and public for his perfectly balanced, elegant and gentle renditions of most complicated works in postromantic and 20th century music literature, he was specialized in recordings of Mahler, Wagner, and big symphonic repertoire of 20th century. A special place in Boulez performances was always taken by music of French composers, Hector Berlioz, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Manuel de Falla, and Edgar Varese. Every of these composers had monographic album conducted by Boulez. Four years after successful album Boulez Conducts Debussy and two years after Boulez Conducts Debussy, vol.2, CBS produced first choice of Ravel’s works. It was recorded with Cleveland Orchestra which he served in 1970 to 1972 as musical advisor. In Daphnis & Chloé choral parts were performed by The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus working under direction of Margaret Hillis.
   The first choice of Ravel’s symphonic works comprises Daphnis & Chloé: Suite No. 2, Pavane for a Dead Princess, Rapsodie Espagnole and Alborada Del Gracioso. The program was set to show most characteristic features of Ravel’s style. Merging elegance and richness of musical impressions Boulez had interpreted Ravel’s music in explorative and refined way. His renditions revealed profundity of composer’s personality and enhance the emotional nature of musical structures. Especially Daphnis & Chloé was master recording. Although the 1971 album Boulez Conducts Ravel was successful release, it was reissued only once in 1973 in the series Collection Grands Interprètes by France division of CBS. The same time in US division of the company produced series of consecutive recordings under the same title. In 1973 Boulez Conducts Ravel Vol. 2 comprising Le Tombeau De Couperin, Valses Nobles Et Sentimentales and Une Barque Sur L'Océan recorded with New York Philharmonic Orchestra, in 1975 Boulez Conducts Ravel vol. 3 with the program of La Valse, Meneut Antique and complete ballet Ma Mere L'oye. The same 1975 CBS released album of complete ballet Daphnis et Chloé recorded with New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Camarata Singers. And this edition was titled Boulez Conducts Ravel as well. Four and half stars for Boulez-Ravel-Cleveland album – this is fully well-founded rate.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ofra Haza – Yemenite Songs


   In eighties small ethnic groups and their cultures were increasingly interesting to the world public as an alternative to incoming globalization and cultural unification. The way paved in sixties by various rock experiments became clear answer for music business and when in record stores sections with world music had appeared, listeners’ interest was no surprise. What happened in eighties can be considered as a continuation of earlier waves of ethnic music, indeed in terms of scope and severity it was new phenomenon. This was the moment of success for many musicians creating their style outside the trends of seventies. One of most famous was Ofra Haza (1957-2000), Israeli singer and actress with captivating, never-to-be-forgotten voice. Her voice was the ground for starting her career.
   Ofra Haza was born in Shechunat Hatikva, working class neighborhood in southeastern Tel Aviv. As 12 years old girl she started to act in Shechunat Hatikvah Workshop Theatre. Director of the troupe, Bezalel Aloni find her great talent and become her mentor and future manager as well as producer of great part of her records. She was 17 years old when she had recorded her first albums with Workshop Theatre. Two years later she was a star of pop music. In 1979 after completing military service Ofra Haza published her first album Shir haShirim beShaashuim (Song of Songs with Fun) and since then every year she was releasing one or two albums. In 1984 main Israel label Hed-Arzi published Haza’s ninth album Yemenite Songs. Album became instant success and in next few years it had two dozens of re-editions in Great Britain, Italy, Germany, US, Netherlands, Yugoslavia and Japan. One of most popular was 1986 edition released by German label Ausfahrt.

Ofra Haza – Yemenite Songs (1986)

   Eight songs collected on this album are sung in Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic, with accompany of acoustic instruments in style being a crossover between folk music traditions and contemporary popular dance music. Lyrics had been taken from poetry of Shalom ben Yosef Shabazi (1619-1720) who is widely considered as one of best Jewish poets of all time. Themes of songs span from religious to social, from ethical to love songs. Most famous song Im Nin’alu (When locked) is built over poetic sentence “When doors of generous people are locked, the doors of Heaven are not”. In Galbi (My heart) title phrase “My heart loves freedom, don’t stop me from being free” is sung by young woman to find love in the heart of chosen one, even if he doesn’t know about her. These two songs opening both sides of Yemenite Songs, Im Nin’alu as first track on the first side and Galbi as first song on the second side. In 1988 both were published on singles promoting next Ofra Haza’s album Shadday which became the great international success. Other songs are even more interesting in various poetic and melodic forms. The set was perfectly fit into new trends. In eighties, when coarse disco rhythms and flat electronics were pretty overexploited, temperate acoustic sound and folk rhythms were giving new capacious perspective. No wonder the Yemenite Songs album was so famous and published in so many re-issues.
   The interesting feature is massive use of classical orchestral instruments. What was intended to sound like folk music, was arranged for ensemble of 19 instrumentalists comprising strings, French horn and ensemble of wind instruments flutes, oboe, English horn, bassoon, clarinet and bass clarinet. These groups were balanced by double bass (Eli Magen), percussion with wooden and metal drums (Iki Levy) and Yemenite tin and tambala (Chaim Gispan). Arrangements were made by Benny Nagari, who was musical producer as well. Great success of Shaday album and fame growing with remixes of Im Nin’alu and Galbi makes Ofra Haza internationally recognized celebrity. The Yemenite Songs occurred to be an ideal promotion of ethnic music and whole cultural heritage of Yemenite Jews. It remains most sincere and open-hearted album by great singer. Growing popularity of vigorously expanded music based on ethnic idioms was clear sign for incoming social changes. For this perfect work of art, for beautiful voice and creative attitude to the musical heritage fully deserved note is five stars.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Canned Heat – Cook Book


   Canned Heat is meaningful name for the blues rock band since canned heat is an alternative, generic name for Sterno, fuel paste produced on basis of denaturized alcohol, used by firing directly from the can as a kitchen and table heater. The name of the band was taken from 1928 Tommy Johnson’s Canned Heat Blues where addicted to stern alcoholic complains that canned heat is killing him. This bitter blues was rewritten by Bob Hite, who made it inexplicit allusion to some ideas of late sixties. For example first stanza of Johnson’s text said: “Cryin', canned, canned heat, mama, cryin', Dear Lord, killin' me (...) Take alcorub to take these canned heat blues” on Hallelujah album Bob Hite sung “I'm canned heat, canned heat mama lord it sure is good to meet (…) well we tried to make it happen, yeah good times sure don't bother me”, and in conclusion he sings how grateful to the canned heat he is. In his words canned heat made him good old man and let him stay free.
   Canned Heat was born when in 1965 passionate old blues records collector and gifted singer, Bob Hite met Allan ‘Blind Owl’ Wilson, guitar and harmonica player who was listening old blues records studying styles and techniques of folk performers. Third musician involved in this moment was guitarist Henry Vestine. He was present when musicians met for the first time, but started to play with the Canned Heat after Frank Zappa expelled him from Mothers of Invention for excessive drug use. It was third lineup of the band. Canned Heat is the band with extremely unstable lineup, in almost half of century of band’s activity it has changed more than 40 times. The association with Sterno and addictions has much to do with Canned Heat songs and with musicians’ fates. Allan Wilson was found dead September 3, 1970 on the hillside neat Bob Hite’s house. The cause of death was acute barbiturate intoxication. He was 27. Bob Hite overdosed heroin April 5, 1981 in Hollywood when in Palomino Club fan handed him a vial with a drug. Singer thought it is cocaine and sniffs contents of the vial. He collapsed instantly and died the same evening.

Canned Heat – Cook Book (1970)

   First classic lineup was established in 1969 after debut Canned Heat an eponymous album of the band was released. Next three albums Boogie with Canned Heat, Living the Blues and Hallelujah were recorded by singer Bob Hite, singer and guitarist Alan Wilson, guitarist Henry Vestine, bassist Larry Taylor and drummer Fito de la Parra. This was for Canned Heat most successful era between two greatest festivals in the history of the band – Monterey in June 1967 and Woodstock in August 1969. Published in 1970 Cook Book was this period recapitulation. As this is the only compilation published by Liberty it is interesting as a summary of band’s achievements. Two songs opening the album are taken from first eponymously titled Canned Heat LP from 1967 – Bullfrog Blues credited to all members of the band and Rollin' and Tumblin' a cover of Muddy Waters blockbuster. First hit is Going Up the Country from double album Living the Blues.
   Next one Amphetamine Annie from Boogie with Canned Heat is a story with a moral message. From this album editor took also On the Road Again and Fried Hockey Boogie, nice piece with instrumental solos at the end of second side. From Living the Blues there were taken also Boogie Music and from most recent album Hallelujah three songs: Time Was, Same All Over and shortened version of Sic ‘Em Pigs. More popular set of Canned Heat’s songs doesn’t mean less quality. Driving bass by Larry Taylor and energetic drumming by Fito de la Parra is real fuel of this music. In first two songs drummer was Frank Cook, musician with jazz background who later was playing with Pacific Gas & Electric. Vocals by Alan Wilson and Bob Hite are a class of their own. Three and a half stars for this compilation looks a fair note.