Thursday 28 December 2023

More On Movies...The Return

*A couple of weeks ago all of a sudden I had an appetite for watching movies again. In the last two years I probably only watched about twenty films until this new burst of interest occurred. I have the great man David Lynch to thank for my renewed enthusiasm for all things moving pictures. I should really have two blogs, one for music and one for movies. If I can recall how to create a new blog I might just do that when inspiration hits. I feel like I have to relearn how to write about movies. Like what is actually of specific interest about a movie that I need to write about it? I'll figure it out soon enough hopefully. For now here's a tentative attempt to write some words on what I've been watching. 

The Legend of Billie Jean (1986)
Inspirational teen rebel flick or absolutely retarded absurd nonsense? An ever expanding range of tones and bonkers-ness is revealed with each new scene giving the film a constant state of fluxion. This is not uninteresting however I am wondering if this avant-garde effect is perhaps an unintentional consequence of incompetent film-making. 

House By The River (1950)
Melodramatic murder mystery Victorian noir. This is an underrated Fritz Lang film from his American noir era. There is a pretty good gloomy atmosphere and dreamlike vision here. House By The River is a masterclass in noir cinematography with its moonlit rivers, shadowy corridors, sinister silhouettes, ominous skies, dimly lit staircases, curtains ghostly rustling and more. 

The Clouded Yellow (1950)
Top fun ye olde British thriller. Sophie (Jean Simmons) is framed for murder alas she goes on the lam with the expert help of ex-spy/butterfly cataloguer David (Trevor Howard). Suspenseful cat and mouse shenanigans ensue right up until the rivetting climax. The title is naff but it's the name of a butterfly, still I would not have used this as the name of my film. However I do think it was a box office hit. In The Clouded Yellow they sit outside a country pub and later visit the lake district. It is an amazing time-capsule of mid century bucolic English life. 



The Lady Eve (1941)
You wanna know what charisma is? Look no further than this performance from the incomparable Barbara Stanwyck. You can't take your eyes off her: Scintillating! 

I don't know anything about the relationship between Stanwyck and writer/director Preston Sturges but it is hard to imagine that this dialogue could be performed by any other woman. Surely it was written with her in mind. 

Remember The Night (1940)
I thought this was going to be the greatest movie ever as this starts out the gate with a delicious premise of a prosecuting lawyer Jack (Fred McMurray) bailing out a bad arse jewellery thief Lee (Barbara Stanwyck) because it's Christmas. An entertaining chain of events ensue but by the time they get to Jack's country hometown in the sticks they start laying on the cheese thick and fast so as to become pretty unwatchable by the end. Preston Sturges would never allow his screenplays to be directed by anyone but himself after this debacle.

The Strange Loves Of Martha Ivers (1946)
Not quite top tier noir but well worth a look for the performances of Barbara Stanwyck, Lizabeth Scott, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas. A bit bloated but a good yarn nonetheless.

Baby Face (1933)
Pre-code Barbara Stanwyck gold. Flawless performance. It's incredible to think that they had really nailed talkies already as early as 1933. Baby Face is a fascinating portrait of Lily Powers (Stanwyck) rise from rags to riches. After an abusive childhood of being pimped out by her father during her her early teens Lily manages to accumulate considerable wealth as a young lady by using her feminine wiles to become a supreme gold digger. A morality and existential crisis ensues. 

Peak pre-code.

Crime Of Passion (1956)
Below average crime/noir flick but if you love your Barbara Stanwyck it is still worth a look, even if it's just to see how she handles this unconvincing clanger of a role. Actually now that I think about it, it's unintentionally more entertaining than it should be due the dubious improbable script and her clunky character arc. Perhaps if Stanwyck had camped it up some Crime Of Passion would have become a cult classic like many of Joan Crawford's starring vehicles of the same era later become. 


Storm Fear (1955)
Snowbound home invasion rural noir. How many of those are there? Also notable because Dan Duryea plays the good guy!

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
Prequel to the 90s hit tv show Twin Peaks where we find out exactly what Laura Palmer was up to and how she reached her demise. An absolute nightmare of a film. This ain't no quirky whodunnit but an horrific depiction of the dark underbelly of idyllic Americana. Sheryl Lee who plays Laura Palmer puts in an all-time virtuoso acting performance like no other before or since. I'm so glad I revisited this flick. I had no idea my mind was not only going to change so much but be totally blown away. I Hated it when it came out. Hated it again in the 00s. Tried again in the early 10s and didn't like it. Now I think it's great, possibly the best thing David Lynch has ever done. It's like I'm seeing an entirely different film to the one I saw in 1992, quite a weird experience actually. I can't for the life of me imagine why I ever didn't think this was peak Lynch: Twin peaks really. 

Sunset Boulevard (1950)
A sordid cautionary Hollywood tale told with next level irony and cynicism. The mansion is an extraordinary feat in interior design. Dilapidated grandeur in excelcis in more ways than one. 

Mulholland Drive (2001)
The faux lesbian Hardy Boys go on a disturbing yet sumptuous psychedelic dream-logical trip into the nefarious heart of Hollywood. 

Stupendous film-making. 

Supreme entertainment. 

Laura (1944)
We all know the cinematic greatness and the terrific plot twists and turns of Laura. But what about the fact that Laura (Gene Tierney) was basically a beard for her previous two suiters prior to Mark (Dana Andrews) coming along?  

Hard Boiled (1992)
Action. Action. Action. Just prior to moving to Hollywood John Woo directed Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung Chiu-wai in this OTT dazzling 90s Hong Kong classic. While the last half an hour set in a hospital is one of the most famous set pieces in action cinema history my favourite part is the teahouse scene. The teahouse shootout scene begins with the violence of boiling hot kettles being thrust into the faces of the baddies, which is uniquely brutal, visceral and sensationally cinematic, then all hell breaks loose. Next Chow does that memorable sliding down the banister whilst shooting two pistols thing. Legendary.

Kiss The Blood Off My Hands (1948)
Not a horror movie as the title would suggest but an atypical noir flick set in London featuring a strange doomed couple. I mean if you you first meet a fella with him invading your bedroom by breaking in the window in the middle of the night, covering your mouth and almost strangling you to death, is true love really on the cards? Excellent performances from Burt Lancaster, Robert Newton and in particular Joan Fontaine. Also some the greatest ever noir cinematography from Russel Metty of The Stranger (1946) and Ride The Pink Horse (1947) fame.

The Spiral Staircase (1946)
More than just a bonkers serial murder mystery story. Like a giallo The Spiral Staircase has loads of atmosphere and red herrings galore. It also features supreme horror-noir cinematography from Nicholas Musuraca with way ahead of its time killer POV shots. Prior to viewing I didn't realise that it's a slasher innit.

Directed by my other main man of cinema Robert Siodmak. Legendary Ole Bob had terrific run of noir pictures. He made at least ten classic movies in a very short period of time from 1944-1950. The very definition of a purple patch.

The Lodger (1944)
Good silly little creepy Jack The Ripper flick.

I Walked With A Zombie (1943)
There is a film none more atmospheric than this. Spectacular and spectacular cinematography from Roy J Hunt

Peak Eerie.

The Cat People (1942)
Creepy when I saw it as kid on telly, so much so that I could never forget this film and four decades later it's even more creepy. Val Lewton produces. Jaques Tourneur directs. Nicholas Musuraca rolls film. All the shadowy apprehensive goodness you could want in a horror movie. Simone Simon is totally engrossing as the peculiar, aberrant and unsound Irena Dubrovna. 

The Ghost Ship (1943)
What an odd film. Somewhere between a melodrama and a thriller. Really it's a serial killer flick though innit. When I was a kid every second film on the telly was set on a boat. I probably thought some kind of maritime life was ahead of me and that I'd die at sea as well... Anyway this is another Val Lewton production this time with editor of 1942's Cat People Mark Robson directing only his second feature and we've got cinematographer extraordinaire Nicholas Musuraca on board here too.

The ship captain (Richard Dix) starts to lose his mind which puts his crew in perilous danger. Tom (Russel Wade) the ship's third officer is onto this reckless negligence but the rest of the crew in an effort to conform to the captain's authority and not cause any dissent conspire against him. So the captain continues to wreak havoc on the boat. Can he be stopped?  

Lawrence Tierney made his first appearance on film as the doomed crew member Louie. The anchor chain locker scene is one of the most memorable scenes of horrifying claustrophobia in cinematic history. Special mention must go to legendary calypso singer Sir Lancelot (I Walked With A Zombie) for his ace supporting role.

The Old Dark House (1932)
More pre-code gold here. An outstanding cast in an outstanding setting, outstandingly directed with outstanding cinematography, makes this one hell of an outstanding comedy-horror-thriller. I'm so glad I've still got movies like this that I'd never seen up my sleeve. Hopefully there are plenty more unseen classics like this waiting to be discovered so that my eyes and ears may continue to be tantalised. 

A dangerous storm in the dark Welsh countryside sends the car, with married couple Margaret (Gloria Stuart) and Phil (Raymond Massey) and their bachelor friend Roger (Melvyn Douglas), off the road but they come across an old farmhouse where they seek shelter. Little do they know that a demented family of psychos dwell within this dilapidated mansion. The frightening Femm family are played by stage and screen luminaries Boris Karloff, Ernest Thesiger, Eva Moore, Brember Wills and Elspeth Dudgeon. Another stranded couple Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton) and Gladys (Lilian Bond) soon turn up too and a delirious array of frightening, deranged and violent shenanigans ensue. Add in some romance and comedy and you've got yourself a rollicking good time. 

Sunday 17 December 2023

A Formal Sigh - Looking At Walls

A Formal Sigh - Looking At Walls (1981)
More shadowy post-punk shenanigans. This time from Liverpool outfit A Formal Sigh. No wonder we've never heard of them: they're called "A Formal Sigh" that's the worst fucking band name in history! Not even doing a John Peel session could save them from their name. They never ended up making a record during the lifetime (1980-82) of the band, even though they were being touted as the next big Liverpudlian thing for a while. Looking At Walls is top post-154 gloomy guitar goodness. That ominous early eighties sound!

Friday 15 December 2023

Fade To Black - Soundtrack

Fade To Black - Soundtrack (1984)
Absolutely infectious post-punk with all the goth-y/synth-y vibes. Reminds me of something great I just can't quite put my finger on right now...maybe like what The Feelies would have sounded like, if instead of being VU obsessed, they were Californian deathrock wannabes. I like to imagine there's at least thousand unknown and neglected tunes from the 80s just like this lying around waiting to be discovered by my eardrums. What a great sound this bunch of San Franciscan hair had. Energetic and quite anthemic.


Thursday 14 December 2023

David Lynch & Dean Hurley - Slow 30's Room

David Lynch & Dean Hurley - Slow 30's Room (2017)
Where the world's of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Mark Fisher, haunty-ology and The Caretaker further intertwine.

Angelo Badalamenti - The Fireman (2017)
Also from Twin Peaks: The Return Part 8 which was the cinematic event of the last twenty years even though it was on the telly. Despite Badalamanti tunes being scarce during the eighteen hours of Twin Peaks: The Return, one of his best ever compositions was actually commissioned for Part 8. It's unbelievable to think Lynch only procured four new Badalamenti compositions for this epic 2017 telly-visual saga, when for the first two seasons of Twin Peaks, Angelo made over six and a half hours of music. Perhaps he was indisposed! I don't actually know the story behind why such a small amount of Angelo's music was recorded for the show. Anyway The Fireman is primo cosmic, epic and emotional organ musick.

Monday 11 December 2023

The World Spins · Julee Cruise

Haley's Comet's come and gone...
...Falling through this night alone

*A supreme pop culture moment...well several really: Inclusion on the Floating Into The Night The LP, Twin Peaks Episode 14 and Twin Peaks: The Return Part 17.

Laura Palmer's screams echoing throughout the woods endlessly. 

Angelo Badalamenti - Dark Space Low
The final piece of music in Twin Peaks ever. 

Carrie Page, Laura Palmer doppelgänger and/or Laura Palmer.

Wednesday 6 December 2023


It's Christmas season that means one exciting thing: There's a new Moon Wiring Club album.  

This is some hallucinogenic shit. A psychedelic musique concrète dub miasma, Scatterbrain 9 is like the perfect soundtrack for 2023's dysphoric overload. It feels like the noxiousness of the relentless psychological warfare placed upon us by our overlords has permeated this once playfully spooky project giving it a different type of nefariousness this time. A deleterious force has contaminated this once enchanted village, in the most glorious way of course. Delirious. 

No one in the 21st century has the synergy of sound & vision honed to such an impeccably specific degree that Moon Wiring Club does. Ian Hodgson's Moon Wiring Club is an aesthetic triumph

Monday 4 December 2023

Chasin' the Voodoo · Al Di Meola

Al Di Meola - Chasin' the Voodoo (1978)
Congas. Congas. Congas. More drivin' Al Di. This time it's a cinematic cosmic car chase to track down the voodoo. 

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Billy Cobham - Solarization

Billy Cobham - Solarization: Solarization / Second Phase / Crescent Sun / Voyage / Solarization - Recapitulation (1974)
Oh boy here we go for another lively, mind melting and visceral fusion journey. This is avant-garde, it's psychedelic, it's jazz, it's symphonic, it's easy listening, it's fast-funky heavy rock and it's ultimately great fun. All of the things and more including flugelhorn, marimbas and congas. 

This was so on, nothing could stop the alchemy of synergy. 

Peak audacity. 

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Stanley Clarke - Life Suite

Stanley Clarke - Life Suite (1974)
Clarke starts out the gate on the final track of his self-titled LP by bringing all the dark drama with an incredible brass and string arrangement! Then Tony Williams puts on his best ever drum clinic, absolutely supreme drummage with added percussive goodness from Airto Moreira. How much fun are Clarke and Williams having. On the keys it's synth star Jan Hammer. Stanley's bass tone in the final movement (post-7:07 mark) is just phenomenal as he plays a heavy captivating hook. This is rare and emotional bass playing. I mean how many bassists can you say that about. The best part though, might be the stellar guitar heroics supplied by the underrated Bill Conners. Like all the best fusion this out-progs the most progg-iest of proggers and like all the best art it transcends any constraints you wish to place upon it. 

Something else. 

Monday 27 November 2023

Al Di Meola - Race With The Devil On a Spanish Highway

Al Di Meola - Race With The Devil On a Spanish Highway (1977)
Strap in for some funky freeway fretwork fireworks.

Peak rockin' fusion!

"Oh Al Di is it you or me who are the elegant gypsy?"

Friday 24 November 2023

What You Can Do In Your Life · Petalouda

Πεταλούδα - Τι Μπορείς Να Κάνης Στη Ζωή Σου (1973)
An absolutely archaic and dusty wah-wah monster with extra wind tunnel fuzz and a funky drummer break. All your psych-funk needs are taken care of here. When they say psychedelic funk what they mean is funky psych and this is the kind of jam you hope for. This Greek group did just the one 7 inch side. If you are going to record just one song this is the way to do it.

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew

Miles Davis - Side A Wednesday Miles - Bitches Brew/The Theme (1970)
So the four sides of Miles Davis At Fillmore double album were originally 25 minute condensed edits of each consecutive night's set named after each day of his June 17-20 1970 residency at New York's Fillmore East. Later in the 90s the cd version divided up the days into seperate tracks which were either passages of tunes, tunes or medleys of tunes. Miles also used to go from one song to another continuously at this stage without breaking up the momentum of the music. So it's hard to tell how much of this was real to the live audience and how much is a virtual performance edited by the splicing maestro Teo Macero. In the end it doesn't really matter does it unless maybe your apple or spottily is throwing in ads at crucial points of the record but hey go and buy the actual album if that's the case.

So this section of Wednesday Miles is the last half of side A and it's basically a shortened version of Bitches Brew and strangely a thirty second snippet of a 1956 golden oldie. The Theme being a track from a 1956 session that ended up being released on Prestige's Miles (1956) LP. Anyway it's all played inna fine style by this 1970 line-up of Miles' band. 

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (1970)
As far as these live versions go Black Beauty's unhinged version might be even more better. It's a totally destroyed feedback and wah-wah drenched end of your tether abyss of a tune. I don't even get where the feedback or wah-wah are coming from as there's no guitarist here so it's either Chick's keyboard, Miles' trumpet or Dave Holland's bass. Holland and Davis were both renowned at this stage for utilising wah-wah so perhaps they are both the wah-wah culprits! Twins of wah-wah doom! 

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (1969)
Still it's hard to go past the original epic brew of Bitches Brew. The siren-ing trumpets echoing across the apocalyptic night sky are still the most most pertinent soundtrack to our times. I'm pretty sure Miles is still way ahead of everyone... 

Monday 20 November 2023

Al Di Meola - Suite Golden Dawn

Al Di Meola - Suite Golden Dawn:  (1976)
Another monster fusion jam from the ffuture. 

Mind-blowing your mind!

Al Di had a good little run of albums in the 70s but had an even better run of album covers. This is how a 21 year old Al Di chose to present himself to the world. I mean how many of us have lived this dream? If I put my other spectacles on and brushed my hair down I would basically be this LP cover. It's a vibe. It's a life vibe. It's an aspirational life vibe we all need to be striving for. Thank-you Al Di Meola for making us want to be better people in our lives!

Al Di Meola - The Wizard (1976)
The relentless opening track from Al's debut LP is ferocious fire on the frets. I believe these are blazing hot licks! Apart from the scintillatingly intense fretwork from the incomparable Al Di, The Wizard is a drummage and percussion extravaganza! That's Steve Gadd on drums and Mingo Lewis doing the percussion. Thank you lads for extravaganza-ing the rhythms. 

Peak unbeatable heavy fusion.  

Sunday 19 November 2023

Manolo Badrena - The One Thing

Manolo Badrena - The One Thing (1979)
A monster funky cosmic latin jazz rock jam of the most uncommon variety. 

The One Thing is a remarkable psychedelic space-funk odyssey.

Party time people!

Thursday 16 November 2023

Lenny White – The Venusian Summer Suite

Lenny White – The Venusian Summer Suite (1975)
A jazz-rock-fusion bomb. Opening with the epic four and a half minute space-y horror movie synth goodness then it's a funky cosmic voodoo trip worthy of 70s Miles, which makes plenty sense as Lenny White's drummage featured on Bitches Brew. Superfly bass and flute with insane synth guitar breaks follow.

Lenny White - Mating Drive (1975)
The children of Bitches Brew supply more tasty cyber-superfly fusion. This time it gets brutal, intense and dark. 

Peak jazz rock fusion for existential urban night driving with the possibility of violence.

Mating Drive is nearly fifty years old and yet it still sounds like the future to me. Imagine if overrated tosh like The Smile was fifty years ahead of its time instead of over fifty years behind it?

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Santana - Carnaval/Let The Children Play/Jugando

Santana - Carnaval/Let The Children Play/Jugando (1977) 
Haven't I been a fool? Why hasn't this been in my life before now? I vaguely recall hearing this fifteen or twenty years ago and thinking I must investigate that further. And I just didn't and yet I've got all sorts of latin and jazz and cumbia and samba rock and boogaloo and fusion and chicano rock albums and compilations. I mean I love nothing better than a latin rhythm so this was a no brainer but for some reason...well I guess I was always led to believe Santana were not only daggy but terrible and I never had a Santana fanatic friend to seriously sit me down and tell me the score. I'm hoping there is more like this mental medley in the catalogue. 


Tuesday 14 November 2023

Miles Davis/James Brown

Miles Davis - So What (1959)
Somebody asked me the other day who are the five greatest music artists ever. I could only come up with one which was Miles.  

James Brown - Cold Sweat (1967)
Then the next day when the question came back to me in my head the only other one I could say for certain was James Brown.

Cold Sweat really is a funky-fied version of So What innit. Does everyone know this?

Anyway I think the story goes that they were jammin' on So What and it morphed into what would become known as Cold Sweat, inventing funk in the process. Whether that's the exact moment funk was born I dunno but if I had a DeLorean with a flux capacitor and could attend just one jam session from the twentieth century that would probably be it.

Monday 13 November 2023

Charles Mingus - The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady

Charles Mingus - Mode D-Trio and Group Dancers/Mode E- Single solos and Group Dance/ModeF-Group and Solo Dance (1963) 
I don't have a Marantz semi-audiophile set up like I did twenty seven years ago so a lot of the nice jazzy jazz (cool, hard-bop and post bop) I've been listening to just isn't cutting it, particularly the bass. I need to get a real hi-fi again! Something raucous with grunt like Charlie Mingus on The Saint And The Sinner Lady (1963) is much better because it's unapologetically in your face in the most delicious way. God it even sounds alright on me computer. I forgot that this LP is genius. 

I remember seeing a Charles Mingus documentary at the film festival around maybe 1999 or 2000 but I recall almost nothing about him or his music. All I recollect was that he was a part Chinese, part Swedish and part African American and he was pretty grumpy. So all I really know is the barmy music I had on a handful of tapes of his classic late 50s and 60s albums. However I don't think I ever knew that this record was like his Bitches Brew ie. his engineer Bob Simpson, under the direction of Charlie, was using the studio as an instrument and pioneering splicing in jazz six years before that Miles Davis/Teo Macero watershed moment. Apparently more than fifty edits were used. This involved cutting and sectioning the magnetic tape with razor blades and putting it back together with sticky tape and somehow making it sound seamless.


Charles Mingus - Track C Group Dances (1963)
As mentioned in a previous post Charlie hated the term jazz as did a lot of his fellow musicians. The record company decided to market this LP as "ethnic folk dance music", it's definitely my favourite ethnic folk dance album. The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady contains the spirit of ye olde New Orleans with the most infectious serpentine bluesy jazz infused with touches of Spanish guitar, improv, folk, classical and musique concrète. The whole commotion is like a defiant convulsion. It's an ecstatic blast of clashing tones teetering on the edge of chaos and collapse. A dazzling noise with a gloriously disorienting atmosphere only comparable to My Bloody Valentine.  

Charles Mingus - Track B Duete Solo Dances (1963)
Roll up. Roll up! Every track's a winner! For premium performance of your best interpretive jazz ballet. You too can be a star!

Charles Mingus - Track A Solo Dancer (1963)
Amongst The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady's euphoric cacophony there is a turbulent undercurrent. A sort of the harrowing beauty.

Saturday 11 November 2023

Search For The New Land - Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan - Search For A New Land (1964/66)
A surprising amount of Lee Morgan albums from the 60s were shelved. This seems absolutely absurd to me particularly when they feature the big jazz stars of the day Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Hank Mobley, McCoy Tyner, Cedar Walton and Art Blakey amongst others. Even more absurd was that there were beautifully recorded Wayne Shorter compositions just languishing in the Blue Note vaults. Miles Davis couldn't get enough Wayne Shorter tunes at the time. Shorter tracks like E.S.P. and Nefertiti were being used as titles for Miles Davis records for God's sake. 

Anyway unlike other Lee Morgan albums Tom Cat and Infinity, they didn't wait until the 80s to release this recording. 1964's Search For A New Land only gathered dust on the shelves until 1966. Despite being recorded two months after the smash crossover hit LP The Sidewinder, Blue Note immediately shelved this record and requested Morgan go back into the studio to create another boogaloo jam in an attempt to capture the mass market again. 

The title track written by Lee Morgan is a spectacular piece of kaleidoscopic spatial jazz featuring Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and unusually for Morgan guitarist, Grant Green, along with the ace rhythm section of Reggie Workman and Billy Higgins doing divine cymbal work. It's all about wide open spaces and ebbs and flows and rare tones and unfamiliar vibrations and new horizons and tense tranquility and mysterious euphoria. 

Not so much the jazzy jazz as the post-bop transforming into spiritual jazz and free-bop. Make no mistake this is peak visionary jazz.

Friday 10 November 2023

Masqualero - Miles Davis

Masqualero - Miles Davis (1967)
The four (pre-electric) second quintet records E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer and Nefertiti have been severely underrated by the CardrossManiac. Thirty years ago they were deemed only of interest as precursors to Miles in electric mode, not bad albums but still pretty dusty and fusty. I did not realise they were full blown artistic achievements worthy of prestigious status all of their own.   

In a way this is Wayne Shorter's band more than anyone else's but perhaps that's a misnomer as it's also definitely Tony Williams' band and it's also a Miles... Actually it really is a band, not a solo project. Jazz outfits usually always used a stars name though. We all know Can were the ultimate psychic rock band but this quintet reached extreme telepathic levels that are peerless. 

Masqualero starts out with clunks of drums and bass and keys, almost immediately Miles and Shorter begin riffing in unison, trumpet and sax going in and out of phase for a minute. Then the next six minutes are a free-bop extravaganza. Miles does his thing for a bit as do the other sans Shorter. Then Miles drops out as Shorter enters adding some of the most beautiful sounding saxophone textures and lines he ever recorded. While wonderful lowdown lulls and whirlpools of exquisite moody space are created by Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. With a minute to go Miles and Shorter come back, in off kilter unison, before a final flourish from the other three. 

While Masqualero is composed by Wayne Shorter you know that's only a blueprint and free playing is the goal. Playing (including listening) that's flexible, improvisational and cosmic yet not formless but not conventional either. Lucky for them responsiveness was collectively instinctual with each member of this quintet. 

Sorcerers indeed!

Thursday 9 November 2023

Descarga loca - Aníbal Velásquez

Aníbal Velásquez - Descarga loca (1965)
A real boogaloo scorcher. Well it's classic Columbian descarga innit. Literally a crazy jam. 

It's easy to see how jazz was waning in public opinion particularly when you hear jazz influenced tracks like this that are so much more immediate, infectious and ultimately more accessible. This is one of the reasons why the electric Miles revolution was necessary.  

Tuesday 7 November 2023

The Sidewinder - Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan - The Sidewinder (1963)
The teen trumpet sensation who played on Coltrane's Blue Train and many Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers peak records including the previous post's Moanin' was a veteran in his mid 20s, making a comeback after a dalliance with the "China white" by the time he recorded this scorcher. A latin inflected hard bop boogaloo bomb!

Monday 6 November 2023

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers - Moanin'/Children Of The Night [Steely Dan - Aja]

Moanin' - Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers (1958)
More jazzy jazz of the ultimate jazzy jazz variety. Trumpet from Lee Morgan! Benny Golson tops on tenor sax. Composition and fa fa funky rhythm and blues jazzy piano from Bobby Timmons. Rhythm section none too shabby either with Jymie Merritt accompanying Blakey's tres jazzy drummage. I mean it is jazzy jazzy but you can't escape the fact that it's got a bluesy rock'n'roll soul too. 

Peak jazzy jazz!

Perhaps hard bop is the archetypal jazzy jazz for me because I don't go back and listen to old school bepop or swing or big band or whatever else is lurking back there. I remember having tapes of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and other bepoppers when I was small and it just seemed too ancient because I already knew Bitches Brew, Spiritual Unity, Interstellar Space and 60s/70s James Brown

Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers - Children Of The Night (1961)
A Wayne Shorter composition featuring his great sax and the tremendous trombone of Curtis Fuller then the topper-most trumpet of Freddie Hubbard. Terrific tinkling of the ivories from Cedar Walton while Art & Jymie ensure the tempo and swinging dance-ability of the tune. 

These Jazz Messengers sure had a great run from the mid 50s to the mid 60s. They basically ran the jazzy jazz for that ten year period while other jazz sub genres existed adjacently. If you just followed all the members and their solo outings and collaborations along with all the Blakey And The Jazz Messengers records for that period you would be down an impeccable jazz rabbit hole. That's a big chunk of peak history for the jazzy jazz and the subsequent offshoot sub styles of the time. 

...Oh now I remember why I ended up in the jazzy jazz milieu, Steely Dan. Walter Becker and Donny Fagen loved the engineering aesthetics of Rudy Van Gelder. He recorded thousands of sessions in his New Jersey studio for labels such as Prestige, Blue Note and Impulse. The above two tunes are engineered by Van Gelder.

Steely Dan - Aja (1977)
Wayne Shorter made a cameo sax appearance on this, the title track to Steely Dan's Aja from 1977. A sprawling post-bop extravaganza like no other in rock.

This, not so much the jazzy jazz as the jazz fusion/jazz-rock. It's post-rock though really innit. 

Also notable for the exquisite improv drummage from Steve Gadd...


Sunday 5 November 2023

Moanin' · Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus - Moanin' (1960)
It's been 25 years since I last listened to a bit of Charlie Mingus. I rarely get into jazzy jazz. When you start at fake jazz, avant-garde jazz and jazz fusion it's a bit hard to go back. When you want the mental free jazz or the funky jazz funk or the spiritual jazz or the symphonic soundtrack jazz or the fake fake jazz it's hard to do the jazzy jazz. Anyway this is the jazziest jazz I've dug in a long time. I mean it's funky and swinging and down n dirty bluesy jazz but it's also jazzy jazz. You could pop on a beret, smoke a jazz cigarette and click your fingers like a revolting hepcat beat poet turd to this. I think this is as close to Flintstones jazz that I'll ever get. Funnily enough Mingus encompassed so much more than jazz into his musical vocabulary and detested the term jazz.

The Incredible band here are:
CHARLES MINGUS, bass, leader & composer
JACKIE McLEAN, alto sax
JOHN HANDY, alto sax
BOOKER ERVIN, tenor sax
PEPPER ADAMS, baritone sax

*Moanin' isn't a cover of the Bobby Timmons penned tune he performed with Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers on their 1958 self-titled LP.

Thursday 2 November 2023

Stevie - Brian Wilson

Stevie - Brian Wilson (1982)
So if you skip to 9:40 here on the infamous Trinidad Cassette (1982) we have the version we all know and love of Stevie. This tune was written around 1980/81 and was apparently about Stevie Nicks maybe (?). This topmost tune from Brian has never been properly recorded by The Beach Boys or Brian Wilson solo. 

I mean it sounds like it could be a demo for That Lucky Old Sun or Sunflower or Pet Sounds for that matter. So I guess it's just timeless classic Brian Wilson. It's incredible to me that he can have such a classic song just lying around gathering dust being neglected.

Stevie - The Beach Boys (1982)
I'm guessing here but I assume somebody has recently just cleaned up The Trinidad Cassette version of the tune but I can't help but think maybe getting rid of some of that noise and reverb it has now lost some of its magic dust. So The Trinidad Cassette is also unfortunately known as The Cocaine Sessions and sometimes also known as The Hamburger Sessions. Dennis Wilson allegedly used to offer burgers and/or cocaine to Brian to motivate him to create music. 

Stevie - Saint Etienne (2000) 
Of course Bob Stanley would do the most obscure cover possible of a Brian Wilson song for the tribute LP Caroline Now!: The Songs Of Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys (2000). Also included in the song is a touch of My Diane a tune from the much maligned Beach Boys record M.I.U. Album (1978). I'd love to find an interview of Sarah, Bob or Pete discussing this recording because it's kinda genius.

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Steely Dan - My Old School

Steel Dan - My Old School (1973)
It's so joyous reading the comments sections to Steely Dan tunes because they all realise who the best band ever was. And the comment that exemplifies it all is this: One of the best things about Steely Dan is EVERYTHING!

I'm still a neophyte when it comes to Steely Dan, only converting twelve or thirtyeen years ago. So I still haven't gone back to re-investigate if The Royal Scam is actually any good or got fully on board with Gaucho yet. It's hard to pick between the other five LPs. At this point in time there does seem to be extra special magic permeating on Aja and Countdown To Ecstasy. 

I have deliberately avoided the books, magazines, videos and interweb gossip on the group. Sticking with my limited knowledge that Steely Dan were two sardonic upstarts from New York supplanted in LA spreading their acerbic perspective via deliciously idiosyncratic upbeat jazz inflected rock music of the genius variety. 

Having said that though, I had read a couple of books by Barney Hoskyns which featured Steely Dan in cameo roles so I do know there was some darkness lurking within their shenanigans when it came to excessive 70s lifestyles. Being commentators on the rock'n'roll/hollywood scene didn't make them immune to its pitfalls.

Walter Becker died a few years back so I'm disappointed that I didn't get it together to organise a trip to the big smoke to see them last time they were in Australia. What a loser I am. I feel like Becker would actually be proud of me for this failing though. I mean would this not be the perfect subject matter for a Steely Dan hit: A forty-something ex-lead singer of band deadbeat with a failed marriage and mental issues is losing his shit in a horrible dusty country town and can't even get it together to buy a plane ticket to go see his favourite band's final tour. 

Anyway Countdown To Ecstasy is one of the great singalong (in the wrong octave and out of tune yell-along really) albums for me. The irresistible melodies are just so expansive and exquisite plus you never know quite where Fagen's always surprising vocal phrasing is gonna go, which keeps you on your toes. And that's still occurring after hundreds of listens to this one LP.

Beyond that, what makes Steely Dan still so glittering and seductive in a timeless manner is a mystery. I'm sure if a music teacher explained their methods behind the notes and the performance thereof I'd still be none the wiser and it still wouldn't explain the why?. Suffice to say Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's prestigious charisma had the alchemy of synergy bubbling over within their songwriting partnership, it was just a matter of how perfect they could get their incredible vision out of their heads and onto tape [Yep I do realise Steely Dan don't need my endorsement and that I don't need to be adding to the voluminous discourse on the subject or doing a half-baked summary of why audiences of different generations have been so captivated throughout the 50 years since their inception in one paragraph but er, there it was anyway. Sorry, not sorry]

Sophistication is one thing musically but that would be nothing without the mass appeal of their thrillingly catchy hooks. This is pop music after all.

The Gentlemen - It's A Cryin Shame

A scintillating fuzz monster. 

(A perfectly crafted slice of 6os garage rock. Many tried and many failed but the stars aligned for teen-Texans The Gentleman with this song, its performance and recording. If aliens landed and asked "What is this garage you speak of?" I would have no hesitation in pointing them in the direction of It's A Cryin' Shame for a definitive example of the genre. All the elements are present and accounted for but unlike those who failed they are all in the right place and were enthusiastically activated for peak aesthetic success.)  

Sunday 29 October 2023

Modds - Leave My House

The Modds - Leave My House (1966)
Sometimes you just go to have your 60s garage at its most primitive and raw. This neanderthal sneer is delivered with next level hostility then at 1:22 it gets even more malicious with the ugliest, most primal blown out lead break ever. A spiteful scuzz-fest of the highest order.


Saturday 28 October 2023

Music Emporium-Nan Myo Ho Renge Kyo

Music Emporium - Nan Myo Ho Renge Kyo (1969)
A fun and fascinating tune that's got the lot. Starts out the gate with organ and fuzz followed by very vigorous drummage. Then we get great deadpan vocals in the style that would later be much utilised by new wave artists. Next we get beautifully fluid psych lead breaks meeting insane spooky chanting. A classic psych curiosity.

Friday 27 October 2023

Odds And Ends - (Cause) You Don't Love Me

Odds And Ends - (Cause) You Don't Love Me (1966)
Peak 66 right here folks. Pretty sure this is perfection. Coz You Don't Love Me is in that sweet intersection of snarly and stompy blended with swirly toe tapping jangles and supreme melodic lead and backing vocals. The way it effortlessly flows along with that irresistible beat... so good.