Peter Michael Hamel
Vertigo 6641 055, 1972
2-Lp set on German Vertigo circa 1972 brings us a spiritual journey of minimalism and creative spark, alone in the studio…tape running and overdubbing, often not listening to the previously recorded material. Hamel was doing multi-tracked organ, synths, piano and percussion in Germany at the same time as Riley, Glass and those guys were, quite forward-thinking. He worked with maestros Joseph Anton Reidl and Luc Ferrari, but never went in that conrete’ or collage direction as a style musically. Terry Riley is still doing live organ pieces just like these herein, and classical composers have struggled with this style for decades. Here in these discs we have 2 luscious sides of organ and synthesizer pieces with each instrument “beating” or modulating the other, simple rooted tones yet always moving with melody and logic; 1 side of prepared piano with a Cage influence, yet Hamel shows his prog/pop and Indonesian gamelan inclinations rhythmically and tonally. Nice! The last side is synthesizer overdubs with water and breath sounds, owing to Hamel’s heavy spiritual side and his immersion in this new minimalism. This record is still fresh now, and vibrates with a wonderful, contemporary accessibility and creative spark even after nearly 40 years. And this 2-disc set on Vertigo vinyl is rarer than a 2-dollar bill at this point.
Prestige 7547, 1968
Yes, the exclamation mark is in the title, as well it should be. Pat the jazz magician, folks saying “how (the hell) does he do that”? Post-Wes Montgomerian bop-chops aplenty with a soaring, melodic style and body groove that shakes up the mind with every riff, the big sound is already here in the room, and he’s inspired on this gig. Joe Farrell plays reeds and flute here along with a burning rhythm section and piano (Walton), and his style compliments Pat’s guitar direction, his solos setting up the anticipation for the next guitar jaunt. Pat’s made many records, and these older straight-ahead titles tend to be overlooked, “Pat” being a name associated with guitar sainthood it would, wouldn’t it, with all the stuff out there. Shoudn't! Blue label mono original, this one.
El Exigente (The Demanding One)
Flying Dutchman FDS-135 1970
A Chico live date with no information inside except the personnel, this one shimmers and shreds with live-gig improvisation and way-ahead-for-the-time sounds. Searing electric sax by Arnie Lawrence (never better), electric guitar by Bob Mann, and Steve Swallow on the electric bass. Lots of fuzz, and the horn sounds like a synth most of the time…maybe a Maestro attachment. As is Chico’s wont, the jams combine his tribal-like grooves with voodoo jazz vibe, and the soloists get to smoke away as Swallow does his usual thing with very melodic bass riffage. This begins to feel more like a monumental moment in time, as Chico and the men process Bitches Brew, White Room, A Love Supreme and Vaughn Williams all at once, gentle lyricism giving way to fire-y freakout. The guys are really listening to each other as well and the gig feels improvised and written out at the same time. Applause at the ends indicates immense satisfaction in the crowd. Never seen this on CD, either.
ABC ABDP-848 1974
One of my favorite soundtracks and best themes of all time, Chinatown never ceases to enchant me. Echo-y strings, piano and trumpet vividly recall the imagery of the film, and no less make a musical journey of their own with each listen. Amazing arranging and color shaping of the musical pallette, with harps, zither and percussion guarding the narrative and supporting every emotion conveyed in the musical saga. Small descriptive segments of ecstasy and sympathetic sound brought together as a perfect whole. Goldsmith did this more than a few times in his career (Islands In The Stream comes to mind) but Chinatown remains an iconic piece of cinematic history, and continues to deliver the goods. John Huston must have flipped (in a good way) when he heard this.
Music For Solo Performer (for enormously amplified brainwaves and percussion)
Lovely Music VR 1014 1982
2 people, Mr. Lucier and Pauline Oliveros, have electrodes attached to their scalps which are routed through amplifiers to loudspeakers, and solenoids controlling sticks and beaters. The speakers are placed on or near percussion instruments, and henceforth manipulated by the alpha waves of said performer, good bad and ugly. The sound manufactured is not composed or conceived. It is a result of the brian waves being transferred into sound by the near-by instruments beind vibrated by the speakers. A perennial party and sit-down dinner favorite, this record will be your constant companion on road trips and beach parties. No, but yeah, but seriously, I’m “blown away” by the music that can be made just by thinking. Sections of this piece are by turns calm and serene, and then popping with action and spirit, all in these performances sounded out percussively yet MUSICAL! What was Alvin thinking? Literally.
Timothy Leary Ph.D, Ralph Metzner Ph.D, Richard Alpert Ph.D
The Psychedelic Experience
Broadside Records BRX 601 1966 (Signed by Timothy Leary)
Fantastic document on LP record, of the principles and actions of the LSD experience, quite new in 1966. Recited by these 3 gents, this disc is the reading of portions of a text into the mind expansion and exploration of other states of consciousness via the cosmic voyage, in this case LSD, and the stages of change within the self and ego from the chemical and the "proper" way to attempt management of the ingestion of said drug and the results. It's a wonderful piece of spoken word and, the affecting delivery of each of the men’s tableaus on the quest for other forms of consciousness is hypnotizing and enthralling, especially Leary’s portions. Sound quality notwithstanding (as many Folkways pressings are sub-audiophile quality to say the least), the record is a compelling look at a time in our culture that changed history. This copy of the record was hastily signed by Leary, as related by the previous owner, whose father was an autograph collector.