Amoeblog

Eighteenth Day of May on Rykodisc: retro Brit-Folk on the cheap!

Posted by J. Mark Beaver, September 29, 2008 10:14pm | Post a Comment
eighteenth day of may
On hearing the eponymous debut by the British contemporary folkies  Eighteenth Day of May, one would be harp-pressed to claim that it was not recorded during the classic era of British Folk-Rock. American flautist/vocalist, Alison Brice, Swedish multi-instrumentalist Richard Olsen and their British cohorts have crafted a bright slab of pastoral folksong, including a nod to their legendary forefathers, Pentangle, with their cover of Bert Jansch's Deed I Do.

As was the case with releases by Pentangle nearly 40 years earlier, Eighteenth Day of May is a mixed bag. A few of the songs lag a bit and the overall air is fairly edgeless, but the ensemble playing and forward drive is often quite beautiful and evocative of that classic generation that first folded their electric guitars and vintage amps into the rich history of traditional British folksong.

I won't claim that you will replace your Fairport Convention or Incredible String Band's marker in the CD rack with this album, but at clearance pricing, there is certainly enough sublimity to justify the expense, and then some.

David S. Ware's Surrendered: killer jazz quartet's languishing gem

Posted by J. Mark Beaver, August 26, 2008 02:40pm | Post a Comment
David S. Ware Surrendered
I have to say that I do understand how an album as solid as Surrendered could get lost in the shuffle. David S. Ware has been recording under his own name since 1988, and in groups led by legendary names like Cecil Taylor, Andrew Cyrille and Barry Harris since the early 70's. In these last 20 years of releases under his own name, Ware has released about an album per year. So, where to start? And what are the chances that an album or two might slip through the cracks and end up in Amoeba's Clearance section?

Ware is considered by many to be a technical (and perhaps theological) descendant of John Coltrane. His tenor is big and brash, in a mold not unlike Pharaoh Sanders, Arthur Blythe or Archie Shepp. His facility is masterful, never neglecting the changes and yet pushing and pulling at the melodic core of the composition. He plays the whole range: he dives off the pier and swims far enough from shore to nurture tension, but he never lets go of his lifeline-- the strong melody within a strong composition. In fact, that's what pulls me to Ware over and over again. His albums are always so full of real composition. Songs are what he and his teams bring to the table, in this case, the killer quartet made up of pianist Matthew Shipp, percussionist Guillermo Brown, and a man I consider to be essential listening any and every time one has the chance, bassist William Parker.

Surrendered starts strongly with a tone poem of sorts called "Peace Celestial." Matthew Shipp holds the core of the piece with piano meditations conjuring Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett at his more internal. "Sweet Georgia Bright" follows, and is the album's most traditional "bop" composition, and it's the lesser for it. This quartet's strength is in the idiom of the post-Coltrane continuum. Tracks like the aforementioned opener, "Theme of Ages," the loping title track with its slow, even build reminiscent of Charles Lloyd's "Night-Blooming Jasmine," and even, to a great extent, "Glorified Calypso," tour that greater territory of improvisational and textural possibilities that the legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago liked to refer to as, "Great Black Music," rather than bind it within the limits and collected baggage of the term "jazz."

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Canadian For 'Yes!': FM's prog clearance masterpiece

Posted by J. Mark Beaver, August 5, 2008 12:00am | Post a Comment
In a recent edition of the L.A. Weekly’s Ask a Mexican column, someone asked why it was that so many young Mexican kids seemed gaga for Morrissey. The columnist thought the better question was why so few children of the imperialists (white kids) weren’t as equally gaga about some of the excellent music made by Latino musicians. Granted, as I hear my neighbor drive up blasting his stereo beyond what could possibly be comfortable for him inside the nuclear heart of that volume, I have to admit that much of what he plays for the neighbors sounds pretty good. Not necessarily something I would run out and buy, but I was far from hating it.

What’s that got to do with Canada? Good question, but in some ways, it's obvious. Canada is the Mexico of the Great White North, dont’cha know? It has only been the fact of a more-or-less common language that has allowed the very few Canuck rockers to break USA radio charts that have so far. Neil Young, Bare Naked Ladies, Bryan Adams, Alanis Morissette, Steppenwolf, Rush, Leonard Cohen; there aren’t many that spring to mind and most of them are not in my personal collection, but they built careers with American money without being AmericaFM Black Noisen or British. Good job, guys!

So, trawling thru the Red Sea of Clearance, I happened upon an album cover that has haunted me since my childhood. The vacant stare of the half-man/half-mannequin surrounded by the glowing hoop and splash of light has taunted me from Clearance bins for as long as I can remember being conscious of music. “Now’s the time,” I declared and grabbed it.

FM's Black Noise was in Clearance due to some condition issues, but it was there and cheap, so I took it. FM formed in Toronto in 1976, and Black Noise is their first album, from 1977. I hear a lot of Fragile-era Yes in their sound, some Jean-Luc Ponty, a splash here and there of Jan Hammer and a lot of the prog that defined the reigning Canadian supergroup of the day, Rush.  Perhaps it was the curse of the also-rans, the stigma attached to coming later than first with any particular sound that kept FM from being heard, or maybe we had already filled our Canadian quota for 1977. I certainly don’t mean to give the impression that FM were copy-cats, by any means. There’s enough Buggles in their sound to tilt them towards what was becoming known as New Wave and a bit away from the pack of dyed-in-the-wool proggers. Their drive is provided by fuzzed guitar, virtuoso drums and the central wail of Nash the Slash’s electric violin.

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Tracker's dusty and modern road songs on the cheap

Posted by J. Mark Beaver, July 9, 2008 02:14pm | Post a Comment
First find on the dock: This has been waiting in the wings for some time, in fact, it’s a little bit of a redo, as it’s a title I championed a few years ago in the Music We Like book. I‘ll take this opportunity to expand my earlier opinion.

Tracker - Ames  (Film Guerrero)
Tracker Ames
Tracker is, basically, a guy from Portland, OR named John Askew (not to be confused with the DJ of the same name) and whoever he collects around him when he’s ready to record and tour. This was the first album from 1999 and is almost completely played by Askew with some help from friends Adam Selzer (Norfolk & Western) and Erik Herzog (Buellton). I bought it solely on the strength of the album art and the weakness of the price tag. Thus, I was doubly rewarded.

In a number of ways there are similarities to the dynamics of Jason Molina’s Songs:Ohia/Magnolia Electric Company projects. Both are the aggregates of a single man’s songwriting and organizational vision. Both have an undeniably roots Americana base, but with a lot of layering, whether it’s voices, samples of classical music or electronic textures hazing around simple plucked banjo lines. Like Molina, Askew writes extremely strong melodies, and couples them with thoughtful and often mystifying lyrics.

The charm of Ames is due largely to its lack of self-seriousness. Askew lets a breath of ease into his writing and production. “Evan’s Getting It Together” is driven with some lazy and seemingly living-room recorded handclaps that work perfectly to prove that, as beautiful and lush as the songs here sometimes get, they are being played by some guys who are just trying to make some cool songs that get into your head. In fact, some of the song transitions (and there is a lot of ambient connective tissue) remind me of the great also-overlooked Purple Blue by Eric’s Trip, another group of dudes (and a dudette) who were just trying to make some cool songs.

Pearls from the Red Sea: Treasures from the Clearance Sections

Posted by J. Mark Beaver, July 9, 2008 02:13pm | Post a Comment
                                                                                                                                                                    buy four get one free , red tag, lonely, price, cheap, cds, clearance, redtag
What does an Amoeba blog have to do with that busy inlet of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Asia? Not a damn thing, really. The Red Sea to which this blog refers is that reservoir of red price tags that floats somewhere in the vicinity of the checkout counters at all three stores--that beguiling ruby pond that calls to you with promises of Buying Three and getting the Fourth absolutely FREE!
   
It’s a lonely sea, the Amoeba CD Clearance section, a bastard half-brother to the regular Rock or Soul or any genre section, really. But what I know, and I know that many of you know, too, is that CDs end up in the red tags for many reasons, many of which have nothing to do with the quality of the music on those sad, overlooked Lucite and aluminum discs. As it happens, some really great recordings sit around without the word getting out that they are great and need to be heard and cherished and talked about.

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