Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tom Zé - Todos os Olhos (1973)

Tom Zé might be from outer space. Of the Tropicalistas, Zé was probably the most avant garde and prone to Dadaist urges, and his first album was a clattering, messy masterpiece of the late 60s Brazilian movement. Then Tropicalia proper lost momentum and its two main figureheads (Gil and Veloso) were exiled. However he continued to explore musically into the 70s but, while many of his contemporaries essentially became pop stars, Zé fell out of the public eye which, to be frank, he was never really in to begin with.

Todos os Olhos contains some of Zé’s most experimental arrangements. Polyrhythm, polytonality, some wild time changes. You get the idea he’s making it up as he goes, but at the same time the music is exceedingly deliberate. Zé takes established Brazilian forms like samba and bossa nova and adds and subtracts until they become something totally his own. Yet for all the musical sophistication going on here, Zé makes it sound effortless, not to mention like he’s having a hell of a good time making it. It’s a lot of fun to listen to, too. I’m told he’s quite the lyrical surrealist as well, so I’m sure if I understood Portuguese there’d be a whole ‘nother level of subversion going on, but I can’t really comment. Needless to say, you should listen to this album. Oh, and also, the cover’s a photo of a marble in somebody’s butthole.

Listen to "Augusta, Angélica e Consolação"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pete Dello And Friends - Into Your Ears (1971)

First off, shout to all the loyal readers. Your continued patronage to this blog is very appreciated. Now if we could just get those damn Russians to quit trying to sell us penis pills or whatever, we'd be A-OK. Anyway...

Pete Dello was the founder and leader of Honeybus, a former next big thing in 1968 with the single “I Can’t Let Maggie Go”. Really, they released quite a bit of good material (there are any number of compilations available on the innernette) but the band never really lived up to the commercial promise of their hit. Dello left the band after pressure to tour behind the single.

This release pretty well exemplifies Dello’s sound. At times overly precious, the songwriting and arrangements are solid and the production on point. The melodies are impressive, even incessantly catchy. Sillier songs like “Harry the Earwig” and “Uptight Basil” make the album memorable. Choice cuts like “It’s What You’ve Got” and “Do I Still Figure in Your Life” make the album great. And there’s just something about Dello’s breathy vocals that’s just so appealing. None of the songs surpass the three-and-a-half minute mark, making Into Your Ears a relatively quick listen. The songs ensure you’ll want to do so often.

Listen to "Harry the Earwig"

Download Into Your Ears

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Incredible String Band - Wee Tam (1968)

I think this blog is haunted.

I don’t know why I haven’t posted about the Incredible String Band yet. I think I maybe thought they weren’t “obscure enough” or some bullshit. For those of our readers - if we still have readers and not just robot ghost posters - who aren’t familiar with the group, check here. Not to be lazy, I just think this is a better history than I could give without shark biting the entire entry.

Wee Tam was originally released in a two LP set as a companion piece to The Big Huge in the U.K. but, in true fashion, the U.S. record industry saw fit to release them both separately. Which is just as well I guess, because Wee Tam is the more solid of the two in my opinion. It’s hard to fuck with the one-two punch of The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion and The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter in the ISB catalogue, but I think Wee Tam comes closest. This album hits that sweet spot just before Mike Heron and Robin Williamson became complete and utter space cases.

The album starts with “Job’s Tears” which, in rather typical ISB fashion, contains more amazing melodies in one song than many of their contemporaries in the British folk scene would have across an entire album. As in past albums, they don’t just stick to folk of the British Isles. “Log Cabin Home in the Sky” is a pretty straightforward slice of Appalachian folk with just a touch of lyrical trippiness (trippyness?). Mike Heron is on top of his sitar game throughout the album, nowhere more evident than on “The Half-Remarkable Question,” arguably the album’s best track. The album closes on “Ducks on a Pond” which again borrows from American folk traditions, complete with Woody Guthrie quote.

While it may not be as strong as the two albums that came before it, Wee Tam is definitely worth the time. The more you listen to it, the more you’ll like it.

Also, check this video out. The sound is out of sync a little, but peep the tunics.

Listen to "Job's Tears"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Aphrodite's Child - End of the World (1968)

So yeah, we’ve fallen off but hey, what can you do? Anyway here’s another sporadic post.

I’ve been meaning to post about this one for a long time. Aphrodite’s Child was made up of London-based Greeks Lucas Sideras (drums), Demis Roussos (vocals, bass), Anargyros "Silver" Koulouris (guitar) and Vangelis Papathanassiou (keyboards). The latter went on to fame as, what else, Vangelis.

End of the World is probably not everyone's cup of tea. There is some seriously schmaltzy stuff on here (“Rain and Tears”, a hit in Europe, is probably the biggest culprit). But, in a way, that’s what makes it so charming. Vangelis does most of the composing/arranging, employing the mellotron pretty heavily, but Roussos’ raspy croon makes the album if you ask me. Standout tracks include “Mister Thomas” and the droney “Grass is So Green.” The closest touchstone might be the Moody Blues, but that comparison only goes so far. Aphrodite’s Child definitely brings their local flavor to things, especially on “The Shepherd and the Moon.”

Aphrodite’s Child would go on to make more adventurous and progressive music, with Vangelis at the helm (and to the chagrin of the rest of the band). This is probably best exemplified on 666, a concept album adapting the Book of Revelations. It’s a pretty tough listen, however. End of the World is better.

1. End of the World
2. Don't Try to Catch a River

3. Mister Thomas
4. Rain and Tears
5. Grass is So Green
6. Valley of Sadness
7. You Always Stand in My Way
8. The Shepherd and the Moon
9. Day of the Fool

Listen to "Grass is So Green"

Download End of the World