Friday, March 16, 2018

Loverboy - Big Ones (1989)

(Canadian 1979-1989, 1991 - Present)
If you partied at all in the 80s, chances are your soundtrack included Loverboy. The band captivated legions of loyal fans and helped define the original party rock era of the 1980s. They have sold more than 20 million records worldwide and touched generations of music fans.

Formed in 1979 in Calgary, Canada, Loverboy signed their first deal with Columbia Records Canada in 1980 and immediately went into the studio with producer Bruce Fairbairn and Canadian Music Hall of Fame member Bob Rock to record their self-titled debut album. The band’s music was driven by the powerful vocals of Mike Reno, the relentless rock groove of lead guitarist Paul Dean, the bass stylings of Scott Smith, the melodies of keyboardist Doug Johnson and the heavy rhythms of drummer Matt Frenette. They turned their collective talent into hits such as “Turn Me Loose” and “The Kid Is Hot Tonite.” Loverboy flew off the shelves, setting record sales for a debut album at the time with over 700,000 albums sold in Canada.

Soon after its U.S. release, the album surpassed two million copies sold in North America and four million worldwide. At the 1982 JUNO Awards, Loverboy’s debut garnered an unprecedented six wins in one night.

The band struck platinum yet again with their sophomore release, Get Lucky (1981). It featured the mega-party anthem, “Everybody’s Working For The Weekend,” a song entrenched in popular culture and a mantra for the working masses. The band subsequently garnered two more consecutive wins for Group of the Year (1983, 1984) and another JUNO Award for Album of the Year in 1983.

From 1980 through 1987, the band released four multi-platinum bestsellers featuring such classics as “Hot Girls in Love,” “When It’s Over,” and “This Could Be The Night,” as well as the smash hit “Heaven In Your Eyes,” recorded for the movie Top Gun.

On stage, Loverboy delivered energy, skill, style and showmanship, establishing themselves as a major live act and building a reputation as one of the hardest working bands in rock. They played more than 200 shows in 1980, embarked on an eight-month world tour in 1983 to promote their third album Keep it Up, and hit 100 cities across North America with the release of their fourth album, Lovin’ Every Minute of It (1985).

The band filled arena after arena, becoming one of the top five grossing touring acts and the first Canadian group to be awarded Columbia Records’ Crystal Globe Award for selling over five million records outside their native country.

The release of Wildside, their fifth album, followed in September 1987. While the band scored a minor hit with "Notorious", co-written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, the album sold relatively poorly and the band broke up in 1988 due to tensions between Dean and Reno.

Dean released a solo album, Hardcore, in May 1989 and a Loverboy greatest-hits album, Big Ones, was released later that same year, in October, to fulfill Loverboy's obligation to Columbia Records. The group briefly reunited in late 1989 to tour to promote it, but broke up again at the tour's conclusion.

The band finally returned to the stage for a benefit concert in 1992 for friend and fellow recording artist Brian “Too Loud” MacLeod. The reception to their performance from music fans and industry professionals was over whelming and prompted the band to go back on tour.

In November 2000, the band suffered a tragic loss when founding bassist Scott Smith lost his life in a boating accident. The surviving members came together and, with the introduction of new bassist Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, dedicated their next album, a live greatest hits collection called Live, Loud & Loose, to Smith’s memory.

Reno & Smith
In 2005, Loverboy marked their silver anniversary by embarking on a North American summer tour to perform their greatest hits over the previous 25 years, along with some new songs. After a decade away from the studio, the band next recorded the tough-rocking 2007 release, Just Getting Started, starting a creative new chapter in the long history of Loverboy.

The band continues to tour with an average of 60 to 80 shows a year across North America – a testament to their lasting popularity and impressive longevity in the music business. That’s right: they’re still working for your weekend. [extract from the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame Website]

This post consists of MP3's (320kps) ripped from CD and comes with full album artwork for both CD and Vinyl formats, along with label scans.  I must admit that I had always thought of Loverboy as being a one hit band, but when I heard this compilation it became immediately evident that Loverboy had produced a string of hits that easily measured up "Turn me Loose".  The CD release, featured here contains 14 tracks whereas the vinyl release only has 10.  "Working For The Weekend", "The Kid Is Hot Tonite" and "Notorious" (all top 10 hits) are all there along with a string of other catchy tunes, proving that this Canadian band were a force to be reckoned with. So, let me 'turn you loose' and encourage you to grab a copy while it stays Hot Tonite"
Track Listing
01 Working For The Weekend 3:43
02 For You 5:56
03 The Kid Is Hot Tonite 4:29
04 Lovin' Every Minute Of It 3:34
05 Lucky Ones 3:52
06 Hot Girls In Love 4:01
07 This Could Be Night 5:00
08 Ain't Looking For Love 4:42
09 Turn Me Loose 5:38
10 Notorious 4:42
11 When It´s Over 5:09
12 Too Hot 4:26
13 Take Me To The Top 6:13
14 Heaven In Your Eyes 4:03

Loverboy were:

Mike Reno (Vocals)
Paul Dean (Guitar)
Scott Smith (Bass)
Doug Johnson (Keyboards)
Matt Frenette (Drums)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Kraftwerk - Autobahn (1975)

(German 1970 - Present)
No other German band has been of such importance to the development of international rock music as Kraftwerk have. This aspect of their career is well documented elsewhere, so I will concentrate on their early years.

In the Summer of 1970, Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider finished their own "Kling-Klang" studio in Dusseldorf. The purpose was to experiment with electronics and new sounds without the pressure of limited studio time. For the recording of the first Kraftwerk album in the Summer 1970 they were helped by two percussionists: Klaus Ginger and Andreas Hohmann. The record company Phillips were apparently quite open minded about experimental music at the time, as they signed groups like Cluster, Zweistein and Kraftwerk within months (late 1970 to early 1971).

Kraftwerk I was released in November 1970. It was a landmark of experimental music featuring Hutter's organ sounds, Schneider's flute and violin and manipulated percussion. "Ruckzack" was an experiment of musical scales and flute riffs over a strong and hypnotic rhythm backing. Indeed this was the reference point from which their characteristic "kling-klang musik" gradually evolved during the following years. "Megahertz" was filled with slowly evolving musical clusters while "Stratovarius" and "Vom Himmel Hoch" were more violent and atonal. It wasn't really an "electronic" album, as no synthesizers were in use. Instead Kraftwerk used the sounds of electronically-manipulated oscillator, organ, flute, violin, bass, guitar, drum and percussion.

Considering the unconventional music included on the album, the sales in Germany were stunning: more than 50,000 copies were sold and it also peaked at Number 30 in the national pop charts. Occasionally Kraftwerk performed live in 1970 as a quintet with Michael Rother as the fifth member. Hutter und Schneider recorded the next album Kraftwerk 2 as a duo in 1971. This time the result was more mixed. The track that strongly pointed forward was the excellent "Klingklang". A suitable name for 17 minutes of improvisation upon an electronic rhythm backing, gradually changing pitch. This was a development of the musical idea for "Ruckzack" - Kraftwerk's patented klingklang-music was born! The rest of the album was filled with brave experiments, though some of them failed, such as the dissonant and noisy musical associations of "Atem" ('breath'), "Strom" and "Tonwelle" which included added sound effects. This album also charted in Germany, peaking at Number 36.

At the beginning of 1972, Kraftwerk performed live in France and Germany with Emil Schult, later their lyrics writer, and Plato Riviera. Schult also made a comic insert for Kraftwerk's next album Ralf + Florian (1975). A far more accessible album, where their klingklang music for the first time also became "Tanzmusik" (song title)! Other great tracks were "Kristallo" and "Ananas Symphonie", showing some of Kraftwerk's most romantic sides ever.

As most of you already will know, the next thing to come was Kraftwerk's big commercial breakthrough, in Germany, the USA and UK with the album and particularly the single "Autobahn". This was an edited version of the 22 minute title track occupying side one of the album, a major electronic opus dealing with the monotonous German motorways. The synthesizer harmonics in the main theme line were simply irresistible. This was the first time Kraftwerk used naive but effective lyrics and vocals. Two other fine tracks of the album, "Kometenmelodic 1 & 2", were already available in 1973 as a single.

For an ambitious USA tour (April to June 1975) Kraftwerk were expanded to a quartet, featuring Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flur (both playing electronic percussion). For months a collective group image had been carefully planned and constructed - one of four young men with short, clean-cut hair and identical ties and suits. Soon several stupid and ignorant articles in the press formulated such questions as: 'Kraftwerk - men or machines?'. The group has retained this 'man machine' image ever since to keep the sensation-fixed press continually amused. Radio-Aktivitat (released December 1975) was their first album to appear in both a German and an English version. This was a schizophrenic kind of concept album, toying with the equivocal meaning of the title and thus dealt with both Madame Curie's dangerous inventions and the more harmless radio waves. The title track became a new hit single in several European countries, but it surprisingly flopped in UK and the USA. The album was filled with both tuneful miniatures and noisy oddities.

In the Autumn of 1976 the quartet set out on a major European tour. For the rest of the year Trans Europe Express was recorded. Here they concentrated fully on making intelligent, rhythmic and danceable pop songs, exclusively with electronic equipment. It was a classic within this field, cultivated and perfected in the studio down to the smallest detail. This really pushed the British synthesizer-pop boom to take off around 1979.

Kraftwerk performing Autobahn at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2012
Album Review
Autobahn is an iconic record made up of several essential elements: the graphic motorway symbol on the cover, the slamming of a car door and starting of an engine that precede the music, the rasping vocals and the whoosh that imitates the approach and passing of cars. It’s a 22-minute synthetic symphony to the possibilities of road travel that combines seemingly innocent enthusiasm with a note of deep caution.

Its melodic progress and the sheer pleasure taken in exploring the sonic possibilities of the newly available synthesizer make it as accessible to an eight-year-old as the most wizened critic. Although the lyrics of the title track hint briefly at the presence of nature in the sun’s glittering rays and the green edge of the motorway, it’s roundly addressed by the suite on the original B-side of the record. Although less familiar, the four instrumentals represent a counterbalance to the harsh industrial daylight of Autobahn. They trace a journey that takes in night-time comets, an eerie midnight and ends with a morning walk serenaded by flutes and acoustic piano.

The motorway is an all-too-familiar presence in our lives, but listen to parts of the title track – for example, the passage that begins 10 minutes in – and it’s clear that Kraftwerk are holding up a mirror to the world to reveal its strangeness. Although the group have occasionally been chastised for failing to present a more critical perspective, Autobahn’s deliberate ambiguity is an essential aspect of art and has ensured its longevity 35 years after its original release.

Autobahn is the first of eight albums that Kraftwerk have chosen to re-master and re-release. Although a controversial decision in some quarters, its predecessors Kraftwerk 1 and 2 are lesser works that lack the thematic unity and musical distinction of the rest of the group’s oeuvre. As with the other reissues, much effort has clearly been devoted to the remastering and presentation of the work and the uniting of Emil Schult’s illustrations with the UK motorway symbol is particularly satisfying. Absolutely essential. [Reviews by Colin Buttimer 2009 BBC]
This post consists of FLACs ripped from my vinyl copy which has
been in my collection for over 40 years. Side-A has been played more times than I can count, but still sounds as crispy as the day it was first pressed.  Full album artwork is included along with label scans. I just love the Vertigo label on which it is pressed, especially with its 'War of the Worlds' look and feel.  One anomaly I've noted is that the back cover indicates that the album was released 1974, yet the record label specifies 1975, which is confusing.
Anyhow, buckle up folks and start your engines, remember to keep left on the Autobahn and enjoy your ride with this classic German masterpiece.
Track Listing
01 - Autobahn          22:30
02 - Kometenmelodie 1  6:20
03 - Kometenmelodie 2  5:44
04 - Mitternacht       4:40
05 - Morgenspaziergang 4:00
06 - Autobahn (Bonus Single) 3:30
Kraftwerk were:
Ralf  Hutter: Vocals, Keyboards, Electronics
Florian Schneider: Flute, Vocals Electronics
Klaus Roeder: Violin, Guitar
Wolfgang Flur: Percussion
Kraftwerk's Autobahn Link (242Mb)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Barclay James Harvest - Live (1974)

(U.K 1967 - Present)
“I don’t think people realise how far back Barclay James Harvest goes,” says guitarist and vocalist John Lees. “We played Middle Earth at the Roundhouse in 1968 with The Gun, and with Pink Floyd at London All Saints; with Genesis and Led Zeppelin, Pink Fairies, Edgar Broughton, that kind of heritage.”

Lees is right, of course, as many associate the group with their 70s heyday but their story started in Oldham in 1967 when two blues groups joined together to form Barclay James Harvest.

The ambitious group attracted an early patron in local fashion entrepreneur John Crowther, who had bought Preston House, a semi-derelict farmhouse in nearby Diggle, into which the group moved en masse. “We all more or less quit our jobs and threw holiday pay and final pay into a pot, and with his help we were going to write the hit single,” Lees recalls.
Crowther hawked a demo tape around record companies and the band were briefly signed to Parlophone, then moved to EMI’s new progressive subsidiary, Harvest, whose name was suggested by the group.

Initially they played in a melodic, folky style and experimented with chamber ensemble instrumentation such as tenor horn, oboe, recorder and cello, both in the studio and onstage. “We were looking for something very different,” says Lees.

They had come across a mellotron at Abbey Road Studios that Woolly Wolstenholme played on 1968’s Early Morning, their debut single for Parlophone, and they hired one from a keyboard shop in Derby – the first time it had left the shop. They eventually bought it, and it became a hallmark of their sound.

But in the questing spirit of the era, the band were determined to work with an orchestra. They had met up with Robert John Godfrey, who worked for the group’s agents, Blackhill Enterprises. Godfrey orchestrated some of the songs on Barclay James Harvest (1970) and Once Again (1971), and they also worked with orchestral leader and orchestrator Martyn Ford.

Barclay James Harvest were one of the first rock groups to tour with an orchestra, from early 1971, but things weren’t as grand as they might have appeared. “It was a disaster,” say Lees. “It was a [London-based] student orchestra who were hard to work with. We needed to pay for extra rehearsals when they weren’t up to speed, because what we were doing was groundbreaking at the time, marrying a rock band to an orchestra.”

Lees recalls that their budget dictated that the orchestra would get smaller as they played further away from London. The venture practically bankrupted John Crowther, souring their relationship, but it had its benefits.

“It probably made the group, because then we had to pay for it all and that meant gigging for as many days as we could, every week for a year and a half to two years, doing universities, clubs and colleges,” Lees explains. “And that gave us a name and really cemented our career.”

By Everyone Is Everybody Else, released in 1974, the hard-working group had developed into a tougher proposition, with dramatic, anthem like songs fuelled by Lees’ incisive rhythm guitar and keening lead lines, cut with vocal harmonies along the lines of Crosby, Stills And Nash, particularly on bass guitarist Les Holroyd’s Poor Boy Blues.

Barclay James Harvest were virtually unique in progressive rock in that their songs were full of social commentary and even politics. “I’m fortunate in that I can explore my anxieties and fears in songs, but there was always a caveat with me that I don’t really want to ram it down anybody’s throat: if you get the lyrics, then great. If not, it still stands up as a song.”

Lees’ The Great 1974 Mining Disaster references the Bee Gees’ 1967 single New York Mining Disaster 1941, updating it to reflect the miners’ strike that brought down Edward Heath’s government. Holroyd’s Negative Earth is a tale of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission set to a swooning melody, while Lees’ Child Of The Universe and For No One are statements against war and for peace and universality.

Half of the songs on Everyone Is Everybody Else fed into the double album Barclay James Harvest Live, released in 1974, which took many by surprise as it showed that in concert, they were one of the most powerful progressive groups in the UK, their songs elongated and swelling into huge choruses, all powered by Mel Pritchard’s spectacular drumming. It was their first UK chart success, breaking into the Top 20.

Despite “selling out gigs for fun”, the physical size of the PA, the lights and the road crew meant they were only breaking even at the end of UK tours. “That’s one of the reasons we went into Europe, where you could get more bums on seats and justify the cost of the show,” says Lees.

Barclay James Harvest released their eighth studio album, Gone To Earth, in 1977. How does Lees feel they had progressed musically over the decade since forming? “I think it was a great learning curve through the whole of that era,” he says. “Take Hymn. We are producing, from a simple beginning, this huge, climactic number, with what appear to be massive brass and strings, which was in fact just us using synthesizers, mellotron and guitars. Sea Of Tranquility was an orchestral thing Woolly had done, so there’s quite a level of sophistication creeping into the arrangements when you get to Gone To Earth.”

Lees continued his rather cheeky rearrangement of songs with Poor Man’s Moody Blues. Written after a snide music paper review of the group, it’s a pastiche of The Moody Blues’ Nights In White Satin. “I wish I hadn’t penned it – it’s haunted me ever since,” admits Lees. “It might sound similar, but musically it’s not the same at all. The Greeks use it as a wedding song. When they have the first dance, they play Poor Man’s Moody Blues. How that figures, I do not know.”

As Barclay James Harvest began to play more in Germany, that country’s audience formed a peculiarly strong bond with the group. They became massive there, and while Gone To Earth reached No.30 in the UK charts, in Germany it peaked at No.10 and stayed in the album charts for 197 weeks. As of 2011, it was ranked No.6 in the list of albums that have spent the most time in the German charts.

“On one of the later tours we did in Germany, in 1979-80, we sold a million tickets,” says Lees. “It’s ridiculous! I’ve got a platinum ticket at home. Then we went on and played to 185,000 people in front of the Reichstag.”

Barclay James Harvest may have never had the hit single they wanted at the outset, but they’ve more than made up for that with album sales. “We’d sold something like seven million albums back in the late 70's – I hate to think of how many we’ve sold now,” laughs Lees. “It’s fantastic really. We’ve just always had massive support.”
Album Review
Why review a live album that was originally released in the year 1974. Well first of all Barclay James Harvest was one of the pioneers of the Symphonic Rock. And in my opinion this album is one of the best live albums of the seventies. At that time the band lost their record contract with Harvest, had no manager and had a hugh debt to EMI. After a complex deal Polydor released this double live album for a special price and it became the band's first ever chart record, making number 40 in the UK album chart. It was recorded at the Liverpool Stadium and at London's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The Drury Lane performance was close to perfection ... only the Mellotron was speeding up and slowing down in the middle of songs and producing some interesting if unmusical wailing sounds. The decision was made to salvage everything possible from the Drury Lane tapes, mixing down the offending Mellotron as far as practicable, overdubbing a minimum of new parts in the studio, and to use the Liverpool tapes only for songs which could not be saved from the Drury Lane concert.

Live at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London
The album opens with one of my favorite John Lees compositions “Summer soldier”. Broad Mellotron strings and melodic guitar solo's that gives you a shivering that runs down your spine. One of the classic BJH tracks. “Medicine Man” is more upbeat and has that great Moog solo of Woolly. The sound could be compared with the Moog solo's of Peter Bardens in the early days of Camel. The music is working towards a big climax. “Crazy City” was I believe the opening of side two of the double album. The vocal refrain has some CSN&Y influences. The instrumental parts are always building up towards a climax. And that could also be a melodic vocal part.

“After the Day” has a very emotional opening with a soaring guitar part and that great Mellotron carpets. After a slow delicate vocal part the passionate guitar and the Mellotron strings return in this very melodic track. This live album was a kind of best of album in those days. “The great 1974 mining disaster” is for me one of the classic BJH compositions. A slow vocal opening is followed by a delicate melodic guitar solo. “Galadriel” is a short and delicate ballad where the vocals are put on top of a layer of Mellotron strings that reminds of the early King Crimson sound.

“Negative Earth” is also a typical BJH song with a lot of melody and delicate vocals. A song in the tradition of the later albums that brought the band commercial success. It goes seamless into the beautiful love song “She said” where the electric guitar of Lees is competing again with the Mellotron of Woolly. John Lees also plays the recorder on this track. Next is “Paper wings”. After the sad opening this piece reminds me again of the “Mirage” and “Snowgoose” period of Camel. But that has to do with the sound of the Moog. In those days you had only the Hammond, the electric piano, the Mellotron and the first Moogs. For me the golden era of progressive rock. Amazing to hear the emotional and intense music of those days.

And after the beautiful “For no one” it is time for my favorite BJH song “Mockingbird”. A piece with broad Mellotron sounds and melodic guitar work. The strength of the composition is that the tension of the music is very slowly building up towards a great climax. After more than 30 years it can still bring me into tears. It is so beautiful. What does this mean? ... well it must be a great piece of music ... if it has such an impact after more than 30 years. [extract from Progvisions Website]
French Cover
This post consists of MP3's (320kps) ripped from my newly acquired vinyl which I recently came across at a Bazaar in Geelong. In fact, I scored a number of BJH albums, all in great condition and reasonably priced. The cream on the cake is that this particular vinyl set is a German pressing, making it great quality in my opinion.  Full album artwork and label scans are also included.
1. Summer soldier (10:17) 
2. Medicine Man (10:25) 
3. Crazy City (4:58) 
4. After The Day (7:27) 
5. The Great 1974 Mining Disaster (6:30) 
6. Galadriel (3:18) 
7. Negative Earth (6:20) 
8. She Said (8:33) 
9. Paper Wings (4:19) 
10. For No One (5:53) 
11. Mockingbird (7:37)

Barclay James Harvest were:
- John Lees / vocals, lead guitar, recorder
- Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme / vocals, electric piano, Moog, Mellotron
- Les Holroyd / vocals, bass, rhythm guitar
- Mel Pritchard / drums
Barclay James Harvest Live Link (176Mb)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

W.O.C.K On Vinyl: Born Free - The Original Sound Track Recording (1966)

Before things get too serious here at Rock On Vinyl, I thought it might be fun to post a song / album at the end of each month, that could be categorized as being either Weird, Obscure, Crazy or just plain Korny.
At a national park in Kenya, English game warden George Adamson (Bill Travers) and his wife, Joy (Virginia McKenna), care for three orphaned lion cubs. After the two larger lions are shipped off to a zoo in the Netherlands, the smallest of the three, Elsa, stays with the couple. When Elsa is blamed for causing an elephant stampede in the nearby village, head warden John Kendall (Geoffrey Keen) demands the young lion either be trained to survive in the wilds of the Serengeti or be sent to a zoo.

As Elsa grows into lioness maturity, George and Joy provide her with greater freedom away from their property, which may get her into trouble as a largely tame animal. Ultimately, John Kendall, George's boss, directs them to send Elsa to a zoo like they did with her sisters, especially as with anyone in George's job he is soon being reassigned. Joy cannot bear the thought of Elsa being locked up for the rest of her life, believing that they can reintegrate her back into the wild instead, something that had never been done with a tame lion. John gives them three months to accomplish this task, which most specifically involves getting Elsa to be able to kill for food, other creatures which up to this point she has seen only as fellow playthings, and to be accepted by other lions, most specifically mate with and provide food for a male partner while standing up successfully to female competitors.

Born Free was a game changer that essentially altered the way we perceive relationships between humans and animals. Because of the emotional bond George and Joy Adamson formed with Elsa, lions could no longer be dismissed simply as brutal killers to be shot while on safari. Elsa became an individual in the eyes of the world, and her story made her a symbol for all animals’ right to live free. 
For me, there were two movies that I saw as a young child in the 60's which had a huge impact on me and brought to the surface emotions that I'd never experienced before - a deep sense of sadness for another species of animal. The first was a Walt Disney movie called 'The Incredible Journey' which I'm sure I bawled my eyes out for most of the story and the other was  'Born Free'.  When the Adamson's had to let Elsa go back into the wild, it made me both sad and happy. So, how does a 10 year old deal with such conflicting emotions?  In my case, not well - but I lived to tell the tale.

So, for this month's WOCK on Vinyl, I have chosen to revisit some of these memories and share with you this rather Obscure soundtrack which features one of the big hits from the 60's - "Born Free" sung by Matt Munro.  Ripped from my treasured vinyl copy in MP3 (320kps) format, I have meticulously removed all of the crackles and pops that one would expect from a 50 year old record.
Of course, full album artwork and label scans are also included. I hope this brings back some nice memories for you too.
Track Listing
A1 Main Title - Born Free 2:37
A2 The Hunt 3:11
A3 Elsa At Play 4:35
A4 The Death Of Pati 3:32
A5 Waiting For Joy 1:55
A6 Killing At Kiunga 2:30
B1 Born Free (Vocals – Matt Monro)  2:44
B2 Holiday With Elsa 2:45
B3 Flirtation 4:05
B4 Warthog Hunt 2:20
B5 Fight Of The Lioness 2:37
B6 Reunion/Born Free 5:45

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Kraftwerk - The Mix 'Best Of' (1991) plus bonus single

(Germany 1970 - Present)
Kraftwerk was created in the German city Düsseldorf; the band formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970,  fronted by them until Schneider’s departure in 2008. Their signature is easy recognizable driving; repetitive rhythms with strong melodies, minimalist strictly electronic instruments, almost naïve lyrics simplified and at times sung trough a vocoder of computer speech software. The harmonies are classical western; however, these simplified lyrics are conceptual and enormously strong future oriented.

Description once exotic objects in our consumer culture those today are the most ordinary and important things surrounded with (similarities to pop art). In 1981 came the albums Computer Welt those lyrics singing about home computers, pocket calculators a conceptual work and vision of today’s world of computers. In 1986 came the albumElectric Café and again Kraftwerk lyrics are about the telephone, mobile phones and a society builds upon electronic communication; still with the catchy melody laying on the top making their songs feel like any Beatles tunes sing along. Earlier work as the Autobahn (1974), Radioaktivität (1975) and Trans-Europe Expresss (1977) state a clear vision of the future, motorways, transportation, superfast trains, energy consumption etc.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kraftwerk distinctive sound was revolutionary, and has had a lasting effect across many genres of modern music. No other band has influenced pop culture more than Kraftwerk since the Beatles, their massive impact on the sound and music for an artist such as Moby, David Bowie, R.E.M., Daft Punk, Orchestral Maneuver’s in the Dark, Madonna, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Missy Elliott and Fergie. It doesn’t stop their Techno music from Detroit would not have happened if it wasn’t the impact Kraftwerk had on ‘Belleville three’ (Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson & Derrick May), who fused the repetitive melodies of Kraftwerk with funk rhythms. Hip Hop roots is no exception for their influence; Trans Europe Express and Numbers mixed in Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and The Soul Sonic Force, one of the earliest hip-hop/electro hits. Richard D James (Aphex Twin), Björk, Joy Division and New Order were heavily influenced by Kraftwerk. David Bowie’s “V-2 Schneider,” released as B-side to the “Heroes” single, features on the album “Heroes,” is a tribute to Florian Schneider. Furthermore, disco scene and later electronic music would not have been the same. [extract from]

Alternative Cover
The Mix
'The Mix' is a 1991 remix album by Kraftwerk. It featured re-recorded and in some cases re-arranged versions of a selection of songs which had originally appeared on the albums Autobahn through Electric Café. Hütter stated in interviews that he regarded The Mix as a type of live album, as it captured the results of the band's continual digital improvisations in their Kling Klang studio. The band had made a return to the stage in 1990, after a nine-year hiatus from touring, and since then the band's live setlist has used arrangements drawn from The Mix rather than the original recordings. The album has a German version titled Das Mix.

Stated reasons from the group explaining the release include:

The group didn't want to release a traditional "Greatest Hits" or "Best of" collection.
At the time, the band were in the process of reconfiguring their Kling Klang studio from analog to digital recording technology; integrating MIDI into their setup and creating sound archives from their original master tapes that were stored onto computers. This proved to be an ongoing task, as new upgrades and equipment were continually made available in the years following the album project.
Despite no new, original recorded material or live tours outside of Europe, Ralf Hütter did not want Kraftwerk to appear defunct to the public.

Popular Kraftwerk Albums
The album met with a rather mixed reception on its release. Many were disappointed at the lack of new compositions and, moreover, the production values of the re-recorded tracks did not strike many listeners as particularly cutting edge, something which Kraftwerk had previously been renowned for. The Mix was created entirely digitally, albeit during a period when the technology had yet to reach its maturity, and thus featured a sound which many listeners tend to find somewhat "sterile" compared to the analogue electronics employed on most of Kraftwerk's previous recordings of these songs.

The album sleeve was somewhat obtuse in the information it offered. Production is credited to Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, and Fritz Hilpert, the latter of whom had replaced percussionist and stage set designer Wolfgang Flür after Flür left the group in 1987. Karl Bartos also left the band in 1991 and was replaced by Fernando Abrantes. Bartos claimed in later interviews that much of his programming work was still featured on The Mix, uncredited. The original 1991 release gives credit for "Music Data Mix" to Hütter, Schneider, Hilpert. The 2009 remaster release gives more detailed credits for Hütter and Schneider in addition.

Album Review
A collection of 11 tracks from across their post-Ralf und Florian' catalogue rebuilt from the ground-up in new, supposedly more dance-friendly forms, it’s controversial and divisive for several reasons, and stands out as the most idiosyncratic release in the Kraftwerk catalogue. Apologists and defenders stake a claim for it being an ideologically sound way for a band who have always avoided playing the marketing game to sidestep a greatest hits package, which their label EMI were pressuring them to release. The argument seems disingenuous, however: Metallica and AC/DC have avoided ever releasing greatest hits albums, so why not Kraftwerk?

But then 'The Mix', even if its tracks were present in their original forms, isn’t really a greatest hits package. There’s no ‘Showroom Dummies’, ‘The Model’ or ‘Tour de France’, for example. At the same time 1981 b-side ‘Dentaku’, the Japanese-language version of ‘Pocket Calculator’, is the only track included that wasn’t already by this time considered an established part of the Kraftwerk canon.

Given the innovation and force of the original tracks, recreating them in a ‘modern’ idiom was always going to be a tall order, even if the remixers were the composers themselves. At its lowest ebb, crushingly, The Mix deals in an excruciating neutering of its source material. The fuzzed-over chrome melt of ‘Computer Love’ somehow becomes New Order remixed by early-Nineties Wrexham ravers K-Klass, its sterile drum-fills and staccato key stabs not supporting or in any way reimagining the song, but merely getting in its way.

Fortunately this is by some distance the worst that The Mix has to offer, its other sins being ones of redundancy rather than active damage. ‘Music Non Stop’ is a less rhythmically interesting partner to ‘Musique Non Stop’; ‘Pocket Calculator’ and ‘Dentaku’ are thorough exercises in funk-reduction, reshaping the so-unfunky-they’re-funky right-angles of the originals into inoffensive linearity; ‘The Robots’ has its corrosive power replaced by pleasantness, the new version spinning light trance atmospherics around a prominent fazing synth line that lurks subtly in the background of the original.

Compromise and blandness are deeply un-Kraftwerkian characteristics, and there are thankfully times when The Mix manages to shake off the air of being so toweringly unnecessary. The ‘Trance-Europe Express’/‘Abzug’/’Metal on Metal’ sequence achieves this by leaving the sound of the original suite largely alone, instead shifting the emphasis so that the beat-heavy ‘Metal on Metal’ section becomes the dominant conclusion, as opposed to the central segue role it performs on the Trance-Europe Express album version. ‘Radioactivity’ succeeds not by virtue of its snare-heavy drum pattern, which swaps the grieving majesty of the original for a more dancefloor-friendly tempo, but due to the robotic fallout haiku - ‘Tschernobyl/Harrisburg/Sellafield/Hiroshima’ - that blurts out at regular intervals. It’s not subtle, but it’s effective.

Kraftwerk performing Autobahn
The Mix’s version of ‘Autobahn’, one of Kraftwerk’s most iconic tracks, serves to illustrate both the worst and best of what this album represents. For much of its length the new version is irremediably pointless: a flanged synth chord here, a sharpened-up beat there, but with all the free-flowing spirit of the original chucked out of the car and forced to find its own way home. In this context the glorious naivety of the melody, the sublimity of which is at least in part due to its hovering so close to wide-eyed foolishness, sounds insipid. In the breakdown, however, the trilling vocal harmonies of the original are thoroughly worked over, the end result sounding like androids trying to emulate Bavarian yodelling. By itself it’s hardly earthshaking, but it prompts thoughts of what The Mix could have been if Kraftwerk had elected to really work these tracks over in a radical way, rather than essentially updating them to dance music’s early-Nineties industry standard.

Painful as it is to admit it, the judgement of long-time Kraftwerk collaborator Emil Schult (who painted the original Autobahn cover and, effectively 'the fifth robot', helped the band formulate much of its visual and thematic grammar) seem accurate when considering The Mix: “Would Leonardo Da Vinci have taken the Mona Lisa back and painted her over? I think not. "Autobahn" didn’t need a remix by Kraftwerk.”

Certainly the path the band had taken since Electric Cafe wasn’t to the liking of two of its members. Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos, junior partners to Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider since 1974, left in 1989 and 1991, respectively. Flür, stated that he was reluctant to become “the best paid caretaker of the most famous sound laboratory in the world”, while Bartos stated memorably in 1993 that “[b]y the end of the Eighties Kraftwerk was a paralysed giant. The inner structure didn’t allow any new ideas.” Given the paucity of new ideas on The Mix and the apparent lack of any new material, his words seemed depressingly precise [by Chris Power October 15th, 2009
This post consists of MP3's (320kps) ripped from my CD copy and includes full album artwork for both CD and Vinyl formats plus label scans.  While investigating the release of this 'compilation album' it become apparent that there have been many different releases, all featuring their unique 'robotic figurines', similar to one shown on the right.  Boys and their toys, hey!
My first introduction to Kraftwerk was hearing Autobahn on the radio and thinking 'what the hell was that, but it was different and drew you in more and more. The AM radio stations played the (short) single version to death but some of the more adventurous FM stations played the album version - all 24 mins  - and it was then that I realised these guys were serious.  Of course I purchased the album and played the A-Side to death. I've still got it, and me thinks I might post it real soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this Techo taster, featuring yet another version of their Auto hit. I've also included, as a bonus, the original single release of Autobahn, ripped from my trusty 45, which I picked up at the flee market. 

Track Listing
01 The Robots 8:56
02 Computer Love 6:35
03 Pocket Calculator 4:32
04 Dentaku 3:27
05 Autobahn 9:27
06 Radioactivity 6:53
07 Trans Europe Express 3:20
08 Abzug 2:18
09 Metal On Metal 4:58
11 Home Computer 8:02
12 Music Non Stop 6:38
13   Autobahn (Bonus Original Single)    3:28
Kraftwerk are:
Ralf Hütter – album concept, music data mix, voice, vocoder, synclavier.
Florian Schneider – album concept, music data mix, vocoder, speech synthesis
Fritz Hilpert – music data mix (electronic percussion)
Kraftwerk Link (160Mb)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Friendship (feat. Lee Ritenour) - Selftitled (1979)

(U.S  1979)
Bands such as Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers and artists such as Michael Jackson made it clear how heavily the synergy of studio session instrumentalists were to their sounds. The more they were able to adapt their sounds to the persona of an artist? The more they were able to expand their own sound. When drummer Alex Acuna, sax player Ernie Watts, keyboardist Don Grusin, bassist Abraham Laboriel, percussionist Steve Foreman and Captain Fingers himself Lee Ritenour got together for this 1979 one shot session under the name Friendship - all this experience just clicked.

Starting up with Grusin's melodic,staccato piano "Bullet Train" brings to the front the hardest grooving variety of West Coast style jazz funk-with each of the players inventing new melodies in a truly democratic fashion. "Tighten Up" is my favorite here-a bass synth led Headhunters type funk. The situation takes the then very popular Caribbean/Reggae type into that similar idiom while "Let's Not Talk About It" is a ferocious fusion type number with Laboriel's bass line sounding as if I am sure Super Mario Bros used as the basis for part of it's soundtrack. "Here Today,Here Tomorrow" had a more soul/pop type groove about it whereas "Waterwings" has a very percussive Afro-Latin flavor that never takes its eyes off the prize Steve Foreman sets up for it. Ernie Watts' time to shine comes on "The Real Thing"-one of the finest solos I've heard from him.

Considering the obvious instrumental pedigree of these musicians? I went into this album running on autopilot in terms of this being an impeccably played album. Yet well played music and soulful music are really at their best when they are mutually exclusive. Sometimes an artist with a more soulful attitude might like the musical chops to deliver the goods. And vice versa. On this album,each of the six participants bring their funkiest and their most melodically adept elements to the forefront on every one the songs featured. There is definitely a strong sense of familiarity among these players of course-having done so many sessions together in different combinations. Yet somehow Friendship manage to sound like a band all their own. In terms of funky grooving instrumental communication in the jazz/funk-fusion genre? This album really gets the flavor of the late 1970's end of that musical ethic down to a science!  [Review by Andre S. Grindle].

Lee Ritenour
Lee Ritenour (born January 11, 1952) is an American jazz guitarist who has contributed to over 3000 sessions and has charted over 30 contemporary jazz hits since 1976.

Ritenour was born January 11, 1952 in Los Angeles. At 16, he played on his first recording session, with the Mamas & the Papas, and was given the nickname Captain Fingers for his dexterity. He was a studio musician in the 1970s, winning Guitar Player magazine’s Best Studio Guitarist award twice.

Throughout his career, Ritenour has experimented with different styles of music, incoprorating funk, pop, rock, blues, Brazilian, and classical music with jazz.

He is noted for playing his red Gibson ES-335 and his Gibson L5 guitars. Since his early recordings in the 1970s, Lee has held numerous #1 spots on guitar polls, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian SJ Awards, and a prestigious “Alumnus of the Year” Award from the University of Southern California.
Ritenour’s solo career began with the album First Course (1976), which was a good example of the jazz-funk sound of the 1970s. That was followed by Captain Fingers, The Captain’s Journey (1978), and Feel the Night (1979)

In 1979, Ritenour “was brought in to beef up one of Pink Floyd’s The Wall ‘ heaviest rock numbers, “Run Like Hell”.He also played “uncredited rhythm guitar” on “One of My Turns”.

As the 1980s began, Ritenour began to add stronger elements of pop to his music, beginning with Rit in 1981. For this, he kept with his distorted sound, now using his Ibanez LR-10 signature model guitar. The song “Is It You”, with vocals by Eric Tagg reached No. 15 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 27 on the soul chart. The track also peaked at number fifteen on Hot Adult Contemporary chart. He continued with the pop-oriented music for Rit/2 (1982) and Banded Together (1984), while releasing a slick, yet more crossover-styled, Direct-Disk instrumental album in 1983 called On the Line. He also provided rhythm guitar on Tom Browne’s hit, Funkin’ for Jamaica.

In 1985, he recorded his first album for GRP Records with Dave Grusin, entitled Harlequin, featuring Ritenour primarily on classical guitar, with Brazilian singer Ivan Lins.

On Earth Run (1986) he used nine different guitars, most notably the SynthAxe ,whose power is Awesome, his Valley Arts guitar, and his Gibson Chet Atkins acoustic. The album also featured long-time collaborator Phil Perry for the first time, on the track “If I’m Dreaming, Don’t Wake Me”, a song also featuring David Foster and Maurice White who played wicked good (prove it?) on the recording.

Ritenour continued in a direction strongly featuring other artists in 1987, with Portrait. The album itself has something of a strong smooth-jazz sound, and Ritenour can be heard here playing with The Yellowjackets, Djavan, and Kenny G.

Don Grusin
In 1988, his smooth jazz-influenced Brazilian music came to the forefront with Festival – another album strongly featuring his work on nylon-string acoustic guitars. The following album, Color Rit, continued with a similar mood. He did however, change direction completely again with his straight-ahead jazz album Stolen Moments. Sounding similar to Wes Montgomery, Ritenour played alongside long-time collaborator, saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist Alan Broadbent, bassist John Patitucci (playing only acoustic) and drummer Harvey Mason. During that same year, he performed and composed the theme song of the Canadian TV series Ramona.

In 1991 Ritenour, together with keyboard player Bob James, formed the Grammy-nominated contemporary jazz group Fourplay. He left the hugely successful group in 1998 to continue with his own solo works. He was replaced by Larry Carlton. He paid tribute to the Wes Montgomery with the album Wes Bound, featuring covers of songs written by Montgomery. Also seen in this decade was a 1994 collaboration album with guitarist Larry Carlton called Larry & Lee.

Lee Ritenour's 70's Solo LP's
In February 2004, Ritenour completed a project looking back on his career involving musicians he has worked with throughout his career called Overtime. Overtime was recorded live in a studio in front of a small audience. It was released in early 2005, and is currently available as a singular audio CD, double-DVD set or singular HD DVD. Some of the musicians featured include Dave Grusin, Patrice Rushen, Ivan Lins, Dave Carpenter, Eric Marienthal, Harvey Mason, Alex Acuna, Kenya Hathaway, Taylor Dayne, Steve Forman, Nathan East, Chris Botti, Anthony Jackson, Melvin Lee Davis, and Ernie Watts, amongst many others.

His album entitled Smoke n’ Mirrors was released in late August 2006. His son Wesley makes his debut appearance as a drummer on the album at the age of 13. This album contains Ritenour’s version of Bill Withers’ 1978 hit “Lovely Day”.

In June 2010, in order to celebrate his fifty years as a guitarist, Lee Ritenour released the album 6 String Theory (in reference to 6 musical areas covered by the use of guitar). The album featured famous guitarists such as Vince Gil, Steve Lukather, Neal Schon, John Scofield, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Cray, Slash, Pat Martino, Mike Stern, George Benson and B.B.King, but also younger players such as Andy McKee, Joe Robinson and Guthrie Govan. Ritenour, Yamaha Corporation, The Berklee College of Music, Concord Records, Monster Cable, and D’Addario Strings collaborated to create the 2010 Yamaha 6 String Theory Guitar Competition. The winner of that international competition, that included guitarists from over 45 countries, was 16-year-old Canadian classical guitarist Shon Boublil. The competition in 2011 is continuing.

In 2012, Lee released Rhythm Sessions, which also features luminaries such as Chick Corea, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Dave Grusin, Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta, Nathan East, Patrice Rushen, Marcus Miller and many others. The album also features the winners of the 2012 6 String Theory rhythm section competition on the Dave Grusin track, Punta Del Sol. [extract from]
Tighten Up 45
This post consists of MP3's (320kps) ripped from my trusty vinyl copy of this album, and features full album artwork & label scans.  I have followed Lee Ritenour's career ever since his debut album 'Captain Fingers' from 1977 and was delighted to find this collaboration LP which features some of the  jazz rock artists in the business.  It is interesting to note that Lee actually released a solo album entitled Friendship one year earlier and was probably the impetus for releasing this collaborative masterpiece. I plan to post more of Lee's material in future, so stay tuned .
A1 Bullet Train 5:23
A2 Tighten Up 5:10
A3 The Situation 4:30
A4 Let's Not Talk About It 4:53
B1 Here Today Hear Tomorrow 5:20
B2 Waterwings 6:53
B3 The Real Thing 5:56

Friendship were:
Lee Ritenour (guitar)
Alex Acuna (drums)
Steve Forman (percussion)
Don Grusin (piano)
Abraham Laboriel (bass)
Ernie Watts (saxophone)