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Jazz Fusion/Soul/Prog

Deodato

Prelude & Deodato 2

Ray Davies

Themes from The Exorcist, The French Connection, The Sting and other great films & Flashpoint

Hiroshima

Hiroshima & Odori

The Main Ingredient

Euphrates River

 

Vocalion September 2018 SACD titles

This SACD reissue of flautist Dave Valentin’s fourth album, 1981’s Pied Piper, marks the continuation of Vocalion’s trawl through the vaults of possibly the foremost jazz/MOR label of them all: Arista GRP.

Arista GRP grew out of Grusin/Rosen Productions, which had been set up in 1975 by long-time friends and colleagues Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen who had first met each other in 1960 when Grusin, then working as Andy Williams’s musical director, hired Rosen, a drummer, as part of Williams’s touring band. Their paths would soon diverge, yet Grusin and Rosen reunited in 1973 when Rosen, by now a record producer and recording engineer, hired Grusin to write the orchestrations for singer Jon Lucien’s 1973 album Rashida, which in turn quickly led to the formation of Grusin/Rosen Productions (GRP).

During 1975-77, GRP masterminded albums by violinist Noel Pointer, guitarist Earl Klugh and singer Patti Austin. This period also included Dave Grusin’s fifth solo album, One of a Kind, for the Polydor label. It bore many of the hallmarks that would characterise the next stage in GRP’s evolution: stylish fusion numbers in lush orchestrations, captured in Larry Rosen’s immaculate recordings.

Grusin and Rosen’s work came to the attention of Arista Records’ President Clive Davis, who offered to house Grusin/Rosen Productions under the Arista banner, with all the attendant financial and distribution advantages that would bring, and so in 1978 the Arista GRP label was born, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Arista.

Arista GRP’s initial signing was a young flautist named Dave Valentin. Born in the South Bronx, New York in 1952 to parents of Puerto Rican origin, Dave Valentin studied percussion at New York’s High School of Music and Art before switching to the flute. He progressed so rapidly on the instrument that soon he was supplementing his studies by taking six months of private tuition with renowned flautist Hubert Laws.

Having graduated from the High School of Music and Art, Valentin paid his dues by playing and touring in the Latin bands of pianist Ricardo Marrero and percussionist Manny Oquendo. But, in 1977, Valentin was invited to play on the demo sessions for Noel Pointer’s Grusin/Rosen-produced album Phantazia; suitably impressed, Grusin and Rosen asked Valentin to participate in the upcoming sessions for Grusin’s One of a Kind album, which in turn led to Valentin becoming the first artist signed under the new Arista GRP deal.

Like Valentin’s previous album, 1980’s Land of the Third Eye, Pied Piper featured his touring band in addition to a starry cast of New York session musicians. Numbered among the latter were studio aces such as Marcus Miller (bass guitar), Buddy Williams (drums) and Crusher Bennett (percussion), all of whom had contributed towards creating the distinctive Arista GRP house style.

There’s much to savour here, with Valentin’s by now familiar blend of lush R&B and steamy Latin jazz. The former is represented by the Phyllis St. James-penned title track and Earl Klugh’s lyrical This Time, while Valentin’s touring band is featured to superb effect in the latter material, especially in Seven Stars, a buoyant Dave Valentin composition given wings by the close-knit playing of Tito Marrero, bass guitarist Lincoln Goines and percussionists Roger Squitero and Rafael DeJesus. The standout track, however, is undoubtedly pianist Bill O’Connell’s Dragonfly, a beautiful, almost celestial piece in which a beguiling theme and equally beguiling harmonies draw from both Valentin and O’Connell some truly inspired solos.

This reissue includes a newly written essay detailing Dave Valentin’s career and the history of the Arista GRP label; and, of course, there’s an in-depth discussion of the music itself.

Immaculately recorded by Larry Rosen and suoerbly remastered by Michael J. Dutton from the original stereo master tapes, both albums are presented here for the first time in high-resolution digital stereo, and they sound better than ever before. This Hybrid SACD is fully compatible with all CD players: the SACD layer contains the high-resolution stereo programme, the CD layer the standard 44.1kHz/16-bit CD stereo programme. The SACD layer is playable on any SACD-capable device, while the CD layer provides stereo playback on any standard CD player.

Oliver Lomax

While the passing of the August Bank Holiday may signify the unofficial end of summer in the UK, here at Vocalion we aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel on our own Summer of Quad, and our September slate of titles may be our most exciting group of quadraphonic SACD releases to date. Comprising seven albums across five hybrid quad/stereo discs, the artists that make up this month’s release may all have found common inspiration in jazz, but each followed their respective muses in wildly divergent directions, resulting in albums that run the stylistic gamut from soul, to funk, to jazz-fusion, and even rock and roll.

This month’s release sees Vocalion delving for the first time in to the back catalogue of the mighty Philadelphia International Records – a label as pivotal to the sound and direction of R&B and soul in the ‘70s as Motown was in the ‘60s – for no less than three albums by one of its cornerstones, the inimitable Billy Paul. United on a single disc are Paul’s two finest studio efforts for the label – his 1972 commercial blockbuster, 360 Degrees of Billy Paul, and its 1973 follow-up, the artistically triumphant concept album War of the Gods.

One of Philadelphia’s native sons, Paul exploded in to the public consciousness in the autumn of 1972 with the release of Me and Mrs. Jones, the first single culled from 360 Degrees, but he was far from being a “new” artist. Born in 1934, Paul was nearly 38 by the time the single was released, and had more than two decades of experience as a jazz singer, having made his professional debut by the time he was 16. The album also wasn’t his first outing with PIR principals Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff either – after first crossing paths with the duo in 1968 he released Feelin’ Good at the Cadillac Club (a studio record that replicated his live set) on their Gamble label, followed by Ebony Woman on their Neptune label, before his 1971 album, Goin’ East became PIR’s inaugural release. With each album, Gamble and Huff brought Paul further in to the R&B mainstream (while still being sensitive to his jazz roots) and with the release of 360 Degrees in 1972, everything fell in to place.

Recorded at Philadelphia’s legendary Sigma Sound Studios with PIR’s vaunted MFSB house band, the album overflows with the tight playing and smooth-as-silk string and horn arrangements that would become hallmarks for the label. Paul’s unique vocal style (along with the charisma and gravitas born from his life experience) also helps unite a diverse collection of songs, from the previously mentioned Me and Mrs. Jones (a slow-burning ode to marital infidelity that would go on to sell two million copies and win Paul a Grammy) to Gamble & Huff social consciousness groovers like I’m Just a Prisoner, Am I Black Enough For You and Brown Baby to soul-injected covers of Carole King’s It’s Too Late and Elton John’s Your Song.

Determined not to have Paul repeat the same formula employed on 360 Degrees to diminishing returns, Gamble and Huff went in an entirely different direction when they crafted his follow-up. As much an artistic statement as a musical one, 1973’s War of the Gods found Paul cast almost as a prophet, ruminating on a variety of existential and social topics including war and peace, life and death, and heaven and hell. In many ways the album was PIR’s answer to concept albums like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Norman Whitfield’s extended-length forays with the Temptations like Papa Was a Rolling Stone, especially on the mini-suite comprised of I See the Light and War of the Gods, which originally formed the entirety of the album’s first side. Paul doesn’t forget his pop roots on the flipside however, with the one-two punch of the wistful I Was Married and the jubilant Thanks for Saving My Life, the latter giving Paul another top-10 R&B hit. The best, however, is truly saved for last, with the album-closing Peace Holy Peace, a stunning, gospel-infused track that finds Paul delivering a prayer for peace backed by the 22-voice Dandridge Choral Ensemble.

1973 would prove to be a banner year for PIR, with many of its acts (including Paul, The O’Jays, and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes) enjoying chart-topping success. In December of that year, the label mounted a month-long package tour of Europe that featured Paul, along with label-mates The Intruders and The O’Jays, backed by the MFSB band. Gigs at the Hammersmith Odeon in London and Central Hall in Chatham were recorded, and highlights from those two jubilant shows comprise 1974’s Live in Europe. Featuring repertoire drawn exclusively from 360 Degrees and War of the Gods, the recordings find Paul stretching out on extended versions of some of his most well-known tracks including Me and Mrs. Jones, Brown Baby and Your Song in front of enthusiastic crowds, and displaying all of the charisma and showmanship that helped propel him to the top of the charts that year.

September also sees the continuation of our exploration of the quadraphonic output of Creed Taylor’s CTI Records. In the spotlight this month is George Benson’s 1973 release, Body Talk, an album that finds him deep in the midst of his reputation-making run for the label. Unquestionably one of the finest jazz guitarists to ever pick up the instrument, Benson was a child prodigy, and by his late teens his combination of taste and technique (both as part of Brother Jack McDuff’s quartet and on early solo outings) had begun to mark him as heir apparent to the great Wes Montgomery. That status was only furthered when Montgomery died of a heart attack in 1968 and his label, A&M, signed Benson and paired him with Taylor, who’d helmed Montgomery’s final (and most commercially successful) recordings. Under Taylor’s supervision, Benson would quickly establish himself as a star in his own right, beginning with 1969’s The Shape of Things to Come. Benson would continue to record at a prolific pace with Taylor, also issuing Tell It Like It Is in 1969 and The Other Side of Abbey Road in 1970, but it was Taylor’s decision to take his CTI label (which had been an A&M subsidiary up until that point) fully independent at the end of that year that would usher in Benson’s greatest successes.

In the wake of the split with A&M, Taylor began to record Benson in smaller ensemble settings that put the spotlight more squarely on his endlessly-inventive playing, and the move paid dividends immediately – 1971’s Beyond the Blue Horizon reached No. 15 in the jazz charts, and 1972’s White Rabbit did even better, reaching No. 7. The success of White Rabbit (with its attendant promotional and touring commitments) was such that it was nearly 18 months before Benson and Taylor could reconvene to record what would become Body Talk. Taylor, who seemed to have an uncanny grasp of which way the wind was blowing commercially, set the tone for the album by bringing in saxman and arranger Pee Wee Ellis, who’d been a pivotal member of James Brown’s late-‘60s lineup, arranging and co-writing hits for the Godfather of Soul that included Cold Sweat and Mother Popcorn. Also joining the sessions were CTI stalwarts Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette, and balancing out the album’s R&B inclinations, hard-bop electric pianist Harold Mabern.

Body Talk also marked the first full-album contribution from Benson’s guitar protégé, 19-year old Earl Klugh, who’d appeared briefly on White Rabbit. Genre mixing always carries the potential for catastrophic failure, but Body Talk more than answers the bell, thanks both to the pedigree of the assembled talent and Benson’s wilfulness as a leader. From the album opener, Dance (which sparkles with the same rhythmic intensity as Ellis’s work with James Brown) to the Latin-influenced title track, to the moody, slow-burning epic Top of the World, Body Talk proves itself to be a well-forged alloy of the rhythmic inventiveness of R&B and funk and the improvisational excitement of jazz.

This month also sees two of the quad albums we’ve received the most requests to reissue coming together, with the release of jazz-rock brass powerhouse Chase’s 1971 self-titled debut album, Chase, and 1974 swansong, Pure Music, on a single disc. In the wake of the platinum-selling successes in 1969 and 1970 of bands that combined rock and roll instrumentation with jazz-influenced horn sections like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago, major labels were eager to find the next “big thing” in the same mould. Signing with Epic in late 1970, Chase certainly benefitted from horn-rock gold rush, they weren’t simply a Johnny-come-lately cash-in – they were a breed apart, both in terms of pedigree and also instrumentation, featuring a one of a kind, four-trumpet horn section.

While many jazz-rock bands of the early 70s were really rock and rollers who’d had a little experience in high school jazz band, Chase was the real deal – the brainchild of leader and driving force Bill Chase, a Berklee-educated trumpet virtuoso with a remarkable four-octave range. Beginning in 1958, Chase began to make a name for himself in the big bands of Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, and finally in Woody Herman’s New Herd, where he spent more than half a decade as the outfit’s first chair trumpeter, also writing and arranging for the band. Tiring of the road, in 1966, Chase left Herman’s band and settled in Las Vegas, where he worked the “making the bread circuit” (as Herman called it) playing in various musicals and backing entertainers who played in the city. But by 1968 he’d grown creatively restless, and at the suggestion of his old boss, Herman (one of the first of the jazz “old guard” to embrace rock music), Chase began to work on original music, and in the summer of 1970 the band bearing his name played a three-week residency at Las Vegas’s Pussycat a’ Go Go club that led to a contract with Epic records.

For their 1971 debut album, the label paired the group with producers Bob Destocki and Frank Rand, the same duo who’d helmed the brass-driven #2 smash hit Vehicle for The Ides of March the previous year. The move proved to be a wise one when the album’s first single, Get It On, powered by lead vocalist Terry Richards’ gritty blue-eyed soul vocals and an instant classic horn riff, leapt up the charts and pushed the LP in to the US Top 40. The hit single is far from being the album’s only attraction however, with songs like the instrumental whirlwind Open Up Wide, a gospel-infused cover of Handbags and Gladrags and the jazzy, 14-minute album closing Invitation to a River all showcasing the group’s unique cascading four-trumpet sound, not to mention the instrumental virtuosity of its individual members. Unfortunately for Bill Chase, the success of the band’s first album was followed by the dreaded sophomore jinx when their second album, 1972’s complex and overly serious Ennea, fell flat with critics and fans who were expecting more of the free-wheeling excitement of Get It On. The album’s failure would fracture the original band’s lineup, and Chase’s personal problems were only compounded when he was forced to disband the group and declare personal bankruptcy.

However, he regrouped quickly, and by the end of 1972 he’d put together a new band and had begun working on new material. Over the course of the next 18 months the reconstituted Chase toured relentlessly – during this fallow period Chase experimented with a variety of band configurations, including trying out a sax/flute player, percussionist, and vibraphonist, but by the end of 1973 he’d returned to his signature four-trumpet sound. When the group’s third album, Pure Music, was released in March 1974, it revealed not only a new lineup but also a new sound. If Chase had been something of a jazz-fusion band ahead of its time in its earliest years, with the fusion movement in full bloom by 1974 it had found its moment on Pure Music, fully embracing the genre’s focus on funky rhythms and instrumental improvisation.

With only two of the album’s tracks featuring vocals (courtesy of the Ides of March’s Jim Peterik) the remainder of the album finds Chase and his band stretching out across four epic instrumentals, including the jazzy Weird Song #1, the hauntingly atmospheric Twinkles, and Bochawa, a song with a horn riff that builds in power like a tidal wave. Tragically, however, Chase’s comeback would come to an abrupt end less than six months after the release of Pure Music – en route to a gig, the light aircraft he was travelling in crashed, killing him along with three other members of his band. In the years since, his death has sometimes been reduced to the status of “rock and roll factoid”, but one listen to this pair of superb albums reveals just how vital and alive his music remains, even four decades after the fact.

And finally, rounding things out this month is another hidden gem from the extensive back catalogue of Vocalion fusion favourites Weather Report, 1975’s Tale Spinnin’. It’s often been said that with the warp-speed pace of the group’s musical evolution, and the nearly 30 different musicians that played alongside band principals Wayne Shorter (sax) and Joe Zawinul (keyboards) during the course of its 15 year lifespan, every album was a transitional album. For any fan of the group, it’s an axiom that rings very true, but perhaps never more so than on Tale Spinnin’. Following two critically-acclaimed avant-garde albums in 1971 and 1972 that were primarily acoustic, the group made a concerted turn toward electrified jazz-funk with 1973’s Sweetnighter. The move toward groove was a canny one commercially – Sweetnighter landed the group near the top of the jazz charts in addition to giving them their first appearances on both the pop and R&B charts, but it was at a cost: co-founding bassist Miroslav Vitouš would exit the group after a heated debate with Joe Zawinul over the band’s future direction following the album’s release.

If dabbling with funkier rhythms on Sweetnighter had been something of an experiment, with the recruitment of electric bassist Alphonso Johnson for 1974’s Mysterious Traveller, the band embraced their new identity completely. The album represented a quantum leap in the group’s sound in almost every regard, from its muscular grooves, to Zawinul’s extensive use of cutting edge synthesizer techonology, to an increased reliance on overdubbing, creating songs that were equal parts improvisation and orchestration. Reaching No. 2 in the jazz charts, Mysterious Traveller would be the breakthrough album in Weather Report’s crossover ascendancy when it made it all the way to No. 31 in the R&B Albums chart and No. 46 in the pop charts – no small feat for a record of challenging instrumental jazz. As successful as the album was, the group’s enhanced focus on rhythm took a toll on its percussionists, and when the Mysterious Traveller tour finished, drummers Ishmael Wilburn and Darryl Brown (who’d been brought in to buttress Brown mid-tour) along with long-time percussionist Dom Um Romão all departed the band, leaving it entirely drummerless at the close of 1974.

With an album due to Columbia, Johnson, Shorter and Zawinul regrouped in Los Angeles in early 1975 with legendary engineer/producer Bruce Botnick, known for his long association with both The Doors and Arthur Lee’s Love. Joining the trio were Brazilian percussionist Alyrio Lima and Philadelphian drummer Chuck Bazemore, but early rehearsals quickly revealed that Bazemore’s style didn’t mesh with the band’s sound, and he parted ways with the group. What could have been a difficult situation was resolved in a twist of serendipity – leaving the studio one day after Bazemore’s departure, the group ran in to Santana drummer Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, who had been playing on a session for Jean Luc Ponty in a nearby studio. Zawinul, who was a fan of Chancler’s work with Santana, asked if he’d come in and do a session with the group, and shortly thereafter Chancler joined Weather Report for a week’s worth of recording that would yield Tale Spinnin’.

Sandwiched as it is, between Mysterious Traveller and 1976’s Black Market (which introduced the world to the talents of fretless bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius), Tale Spinnin’ is often overshadowed by those twin behemoths – the sort of “misfortune” that only a band with a back catalogue as rich as Weather Report could suffer. But Tale Spinnin’ is much more than just an expressway from Mysterious Traveller to Black Market, it’s an album that stands on its own merits. Songs like The Man in the Green Shirt (a prototypical WR combination of an urbane melody with rhythmic ferocity) and the North Africa-tinged Badia offer a sunny, cosmopolitan antidote to Mysterious Traveller’s dark, foreboding aura, while jams like the funky Between the Thighs and the muscular Freezing Fire mark the end of the group’s extended-length forays before the more concise song forms that begin to take hold on Black Market. Sitting at the crossroads between Weather Report’s two eras, Tale Spinnin’s synthesis of long-form musical exploration and studio wizardry in many ways represents the best of both worlds for the open-minded listener.

All of the albums that make up this release have been meticulously remastered by Michael J. Dutton from the original discrete quadraphonic and stereo master tapes, and they all feature extensive newly-penned liner notes (with the exception of Billy Paul’s Live in Europe, which reproduces the album’s original sleeve notes) that offer history, context and analysis on these superb albums.
Vocalion Hybrid SACDs play in three ways – high-resolution multichannel (quadraphonic), high-resolution stereo and standard 44.1kHz/16bit CD stereo. The SACD layer (which contains both multichannel and stereo programmes) is playable on any SACD-capable device, while the CD layer provides stereo playback on any standard CD player.

David Zimmerman
Toronto, 2018

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Dutton Epoch – Havergal Brian, Ralph Vaughan Williams and John Ireland

Recording Havergal Brian’s Cleopatra
by
Lewis Foreman

In the happy days when the late John May’s antiquarian music catalogues were an anticipated regular event, I found myself with endless opportunities to acquire books and scores elusive in even the best music library. Over the years I must have spent hundreds of pounds. One of my greatest prizes from May & May’s catalogues was a mint copy of the vocal score of Havergal Brian’s prize-winning choral work The Vision of Cleopatra, composed in 1907.

Subtitled Tragic Poem for Orchestra, Soli and Chorus (in that order), Cleopatra had been issued by Bosworth & Co. in 1909, to allow its first (indeed only) performance to take place. It was Brian’s entry for the Norwich Triennial Music Festival’s Cantata Competition in 1908. The typographical treatment of the cover and title page would have been very much up-to-the-minute at the time, reflecting the latest Continental views of print design, all Vienna Succession and sans-serif, and underlining how modern it was in its musical treatment. Brian did not win and so his piece was not heard at Norwich, but he did come second, and when his setting was performed it was at the Southport Triennial Music Festival on 4 October 1909. Consequently, he inscribed it to that festival.

At the first performance the orchestra was the Hallé, the conductor [Sir] Landon Ronald. Later, during the Second World War, one of the few significant British publisher’s warehouses to be destroyed during the London Blitz was Bosworth’s, and with it was lost Brian’s unique full score, orchestral parts and probably most of the vocal scores as well. (It is piquant to remember that when Breitkopf & Härtel’s Leipzig warehouse suffered a similar fate in 1944, it was Brian’s mentor and friend Granville Bantock whose music was lost.) It is very difficult music to appreciate at the piano, but the only time we had heard any of Cleopatra was on 8 May 1982 at that year’s Havergal Brian Society AGM when pianist Peter Jacobs played the opening Slave Dance.

I have long thought it possible to rescue Cleopatra if the right person were to undertake the enormous task of re-orchestrating it. Its reappearance, now orchestrated in vivid period style, is thanks to the efforts of composer John Pickard. His realisation is an utterly convincing revelation, and was first heard when he conducted the Bristol University Choral Society and Symphony Orchestra at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol on 12 March 2016.

Thanks to the support of the Havergal Brian Society, Dutton Epoch has now taken its Havergal Brian series with Martyn Brabbins back to an earlier time in Brian’s career, with Cleopatra and a supporting programme. A magnificent lineup of young soloists features Claudia Huckle (contralto) as Cleopatra; Peter Auty (tenor) as Antony; the Irish lyric-coloratura soprano Claudia Boyle as Iris; and the mezzo-soprano Angharad Lyddon (who sang Cleopatra at the Bristol University premiere) as Charmion. Martyn Brabbins directed the English National Opera Orchestra and ENO Opera Chorus at Dutton Epoch’s sessions at St. Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb on 5-7 July 2017.

The programme was completed by Brian’s Two Herrick Songs for female chorus and orchestra (1912) – Requiem for the Rose and The Hag (his earliest surviving choral and orchestral pieces) – in a world premiere professional recording. The Concert Overture: For Valour and the Fantastic Variations on an Old Rhyme completed the proceedings. Excluding the Dutton historical Brian programme, this is the fifth disc (the sixth if you include the Cello Concerto, also recorded at St. Jude’s) in Dutton Epoch’s Brian series.

St. Jude’s, Edwin Lutyen’s iconic focus of the Garden Suburb, with its 178-foot spire, is a wonderful recording location for a large-scale work such as Cleopatra, especially in summer. With its hint of the Byzantine, and the murals by Walter Starmer, it seemed a suitable context for Brian’s music, while the entrance directly into the lofty tower transept and the informality of an improvised studio all contributed to the magic of the occasion. The soloists and the choir were under the tower, immediately behind Martyn Brabbins, the orchestra spread out before him in the nave.

The recording took place on three splendidly warm summer days at the beginning of July 2017. At the lunch break on the middle day I was delighted when Martyn Brabbins, John Pickard and the cast agreed to a group photograph outside in the sunshine, which I hope gives a good idea of the spirit and vigour they were bringing to the project.

L-R: Martyn Brabbins, Claudia Boyle, John Pickard, Angharad Lyddon, Peter Auty, Claudia Huckle

The first day was rehearsal. The big day for the soloists in Cleopatra was the second – in fact the first day of recording – but Antony and Cleopatra were also together in the passages not requiring the chorus for much of the third morning. At the very end of the session Claudia Huckle (Cleopatra) glanced up and the sun suddenly caught her face in a quite dramatic way. She was putting her music away, but I dashed over to her and asked if she would hold it while I tried to catch her with my camera, I hope successfully.

These were notably happy sessions, and the soloists and the orchestra impressed all present with their command of such unfamiliar repertoire. The score was sectioned for recording and so there was no complete performance in sequence, but the sections were substantial ones allowing everyone to get a true sense of the music and its underlying drama.

The cast impressed us all; a superbly vibrant group of young professionals all just making their mark in the wider operatic world, and their contributions were fresh and vivid. For example, the Irish soprano Claudia Boyle (singing the role of Iris) was notable for her delivery and vocal colouration before the microphone, remarkably animated in such passages as: “Her proud eyes glanced, Her neck seemed conscious of its loveliness, her lips, curv’d into beauty, parted with the expectancy of lover’s quick pain . . .”

The ENO Chorus were not as large as the student choir at Bristol, but you would not have known it from the sound they made, singing with considerable punch when required, and were also absolutely right in the “small chorus” moments. The women of the choir were miraculously controlled in the Two Herrick Songs, transforming one’s former impression of these atmospheric miniatures.
The session was completed by the two orchestral numbers – For Valour and the Fantastic Variations on an Old Rhyme – in which the playing of the ENO Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins’s direction gave us convincing performances of such natural flow and energy that one was left wondering why both pieces are not in the regular orchestral repertoire.

This programme of the music Brian wrote between 1907 and 1912 reveals that, in his time, Brian was already a composer of real achievement and a distinctive musical personality. It was his tragedy that he could not promote that assessment to his post-First World War audience. In fact, Brian’s command of the latest idioms of his day produced memorable music.

These sessions were a triumph for Martyn Brabbins and his fine orchestra and chorus, and the soloists. In a sense this is also a remarkable discovery for those who are not admirers of the later Havergal Brian – if you love Richard Strauss, Elgar and Bantock then this will be a discovery for you.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Bluebird, Rhapsodies and Variations
by
Lewis Foreman

Dutton Epoch’s summer 2017 recording sessions with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conductor Martin Yates took place in the orchestra’s new hall and offices immediately behind Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall. The spacious accommodation for the orchestra, the bright summer light and the extremely analytical sound all contributed to a memorable and distinctive session.

Many years ago, the late John Bishop was commissioned by the Vaughan Williams Society to establish a regular journal, and while assembling the first issue (which appeared in September 1994) he asked me to write an article on a VW-related subject that would generate interest and comment. I chose to write about the early and partially lost works of Vaughan Williams, which at that time were generally barred from performance. We were successful, in that my championship of a range of then unheard works was severely criticised by various writers long-associated with the composer. I was unrepentant and as, gradually over many years, we have been able to hear these lost or forgotten scores, it has become apparent that I was right, and the stature of Vaughan Williams has been increased and much lovely music returned to performance, mainly on compact disc.

Such revivals have involved much research in manuscripts and archives to identify what is to be played and how it is to be presented. Dutton Epoch first engaged in this practical research when they recorded John Wilson conducting VW’s impressive 20-minute Heroic Elegy and Triumphal Epilogue (CDLX 7237). However, Dutton Epoch’s expanding engagement with this repertoire came when conductor Martin Yates was introduced to the Vaughan Williams collection in the British Library, and he started to closely study the manuscripts, something that most previous commentators clearly had not done. His succession of wonderful VW discoveries has made his Dutton Epoch series, largely with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, a significant contribution to the Vaughan Williams repertoire.

The 2017 VW session featured more discoveries made in the Vaughan Williams manuscripts. This was a further exploration of what an earlier volume in Martin Yates’s Dutton Epoch series had called “Vaughan Williams early and late works” (CDLX 7289). This time we started with Norfolk Rhapsodies dating back to VW’s folksong-collecting in 1905, followed by his unplayed music for Maeterlinck’s The Bluebird from 1913, and folk-dance settings written for the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s gatherings between the wars, and ended with Gordon Jacob’s orchestration of the Variations for Orchestra (originally for brass band) from the year (1957) before VW died. It made for a fresh, varied and tuneful overview of VW’s achievement, albeit a comparatively unfamiliar one.

Completely unknown, even from many lists of VW’s music, is his score for an episode in Maeterlinck’s play The Blue Bird, which survives in piano score. In 1913 Vaughan Williams wrote incidental music to two plays by Maeterlinck, The Death of Tintagiles and The Blue Bird. The Blue Bird is the most familiar of these plays, but Vaughan Williams’s short score does not seem to have been orchestrated, suggesting, in fact, that it was never performed.

The Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck was all the rage with musicians and the public during the last decade of the nineteenth and the first couple of decades of the twentieth centuries, the most notable score, of course, being Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande. But many composers wrote incidental music for stage productions, and Vaughan Williams wrote his music in 1913, although the widely-used incidental music, which effectively sidelined VW’s score, was by his friend and colleague Norman O’Neill.

In the years before the First World War, Vaughan Williams wrote incidental music for many plays, including various Greek plays of which The Wasps is the earliest and the most familiar, owing to the popularity of the overture. There were also a variety of Shakespeare plays for F.R. Benson’s 1913 Stratford-upon-Avon season. His music for The Blue Bird presents a series of short fantastic dances comparable to Ravel’s later music in L’enfant et les Sortilèges or Bax’s ballet From Dusk till Dawn.

To hear all three Norfolk Rhapsodies in quick succession was in itself an education. Of course, it shouldn’t have been possible – two pages of No. 2 are missing and the Third Rhapsody is totally lost. Vaughan Williams, enthused by his success in collecting folksongs during winter-time visits to Norfolk in 1905, soon used his memorable discoveries in a variety of orchestral works. We know only the First Norfolk Rhapsody in the 1914 revision, but written in 1906 it was the start of a fascination with these folksongs, and it is said VW was intending to try to turn them into a Norfolk Symphony. The symphony never materialised, but the process he had started, particularly in the later revision of the First Rhapsody, might well be viewed as a kind of technical study for textures and instrumental treatment that later informed his A London Symphony.

The familiar First Norfolk Rhapsody is notable for the atmospheric treatment of the tune The Captain’s Apprentice, given prominence as a viola solo. It was good to find oneself so close to the atmospheric orchestral textures that conjure up the Fenland landscape in winter – this is indeed a landmark in British orchestral music. It came as a bit of a shock to realise that although written in 1906, and the revision first performed in May 1914, the First Norfolk Rhapsody was not published until 1925 and so it did not find a place in most people’s awareness until much later than we might have assumed, looking back.

The second and third Norfolk Rhapsodies date from 1907 and both were heard in the same concert in September that year. Withdrawn by the composer, the Second Rhapsody was long thought unplayable, as two pages had gone missing, that is until Stephen Hogger completed it with reference to the detailed programme notes of the early performances.

When we reach the Third Rhapsody, we are no long hearing a work by Vaughan Williams but the Norfolk March, a tribute by David Matthews based on the original programme notes of a work that is otherwise lost. All enthusiasts who have explored pre-1914 concert programmes will know in what detail the notes are given, in most cases virtually a blueprint for the piece, complete with musical incipits, keys and titles of tunes quoted. We are fortunate that such a note for Vaughan Williams’s Third Norfolk Rhapsody survives from 1907, for when the unique score and orchestral parts vanished during the First World War, it was all that remained.

David Matthews has followed this description in his post-2000 reading. Taking this musical blueprint, David Matthews tells us he has “followed this programme note for the most part as accurately as I could (I begin with a 29-bar introduction in an approximation to Vaughan Williams’s style). The treatment of the four folksongs in the first half of the piece, up to the end of the Trio, with straightforward repetitions in varied scoring, is perhaps more characteristic of Grainger. Up to this point the mood of the piece has been carefree: soldiers marching gaily off to war. But in this centenary of the worst year of the First WorId War, thoughts of what might have happened to those soldiers in 1916 caused me to make a drastic change from what Vaughan Williams would have done. Though I do not stray far from the programme note, the piece becomes suddenly dark and sinister, and the ‘fortissimo and largamente’ statement of Ward the Pirate is a grim funeral march. My coda begins with a wistful recollection of The Lincolnshire Farmer on solo violin, but ending with a kind of ‘last post’ on the trumpets, deliberately recalling Vaughan Williams’s trumpet solo in his Pastoral Symphony, his own First World War statement.”

The craze for open-air historical pageants and masques was a notable feature of the early years of the twentieth century. The Pageant of London in 1911 and the Pageant of Empire in 1924 were notable examples. Although we have a wide familiarity with Vaughan Williams’s espousal of folksong in a variety of oft-played works based on traditional tunes, many collected by VW himself, we have forgotten this inter-war enthusiasm for historical pageants and masques often featuring large groups of amateur singers, where folk music also had a role. The English Folk Dance and Song Society also promoted annual festivals at which Vaughan Williams was usually seen, as he had contributed to the music. Because most of his scores were not published and were often either for military band or idiosyncratic orchestral forces, they have been forgotten. Here, Martin Yates has unearthed a Little Folk Dance Medley, which comes down to us in the original orchestration by Vaughan Williams, the existence of contemporary orchestral parts suggesting it was played at the time. Written in 1934, it may have been for an EFDS event in 1935 (they were usually at London’s Royal Albert Hall). The music features a rapidly changing selection of English country dance tunes, mainly Morris tunes.

A short folksong work left in piano score, so probably never played, was the Little March Suite, in fact a typical short march on folksongs. This folksong quick march is in a familiar Vaughan Williams format, probably best known from the Sea Songs of 1923, music that seems to have been conceived for one side of a 12” 78-rpm disc. Here, Vaughan Williams sets three numbers; the second, On Board a Ninety-Eight, was collected by Vaughan Williams himself during his collecting tour in 1905, when it was sung to him by a fisherman, Mr Leatherby. Another short item that VW orchestrated for performance, but was then forgotten, was his miniature Christmas Overture (1934), another fragment probably associated with the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s annual festivals. This abbreviated Christmas Overture opens with a vigorous presentation of God Rest you Merry Gentlemen, with a middle section presenting the tune Boys and Girls Come out to Play, presumably to illustrate a thematic moment in the event.

In many ways the surprise of the sessions was Gordon Jacob’s orchestration of the Variations for brass band. Vaughan Williams continued writing music to the end and this substantial work appeared immediately before his Ninth Symphony in 1957. It was first performed as the test piece at the National Brass Band Championship at the Royal Albert Hall in October that year, where twenty-one leading bands played it in succession. Hearing it in its orchestral dress was a revelation. I have seen commentators remarking that the band version is more effective; I can only say that with a top-line orchestra such as the RSNO playing it, that is not my experience.

Throughout we find constant reminiscences of this work or that by VW. There are short passages and textures that would not be out place in the Fifth Symphony. The variations are strongly characterised, constantly changing, and the music is always engaging. Gordon Jacob, an old hand at Vaughan Williams’s music, has done an idiomatic job in adapting it from the band to the orchestra. It is full of surprises, for example the fifth variation, which is an increasingly extrovert waltz. The eighth variation, Alla Polacca, is an extended mini-movement running nearly two minutes and announced by a dynamic timpani solo while the strings are silent. Variation ten, a fast Fugato, has the character of a scherzo before the authentic voice of VW closes the proceedings with a typical Chorale. Gordon Jacob surely anticipated how VW would have scored this serene, short finale when he emphasised the strings and woodwind and eschewed the heavy brass until the triumphal closing bars.

John Ireland: A Downland Suite, Julius Caesar, The Overlanders
by
Graham Parlett

On 14 and 15 August 2017 sessions were held in the RSNO Centre, Glasgow, at which Martin Yates – that great champion of British music – conducted première recordings of John Ireland’s complete score for the Ealing Studios film The Overlanders, together with his incidental music for a radio production of Julius Caesar, and Martin’s own arrangement for full orchestra of A Downland Suite. The latter was originally written for the 1932 National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, and in 1941 Ireland arranged the Minuet and Elegy for string orchestra, his pupil Geoffrey Bush later working on the Prelude and final Rondo in similar style. In arranging the suite for full orchestra, Martin Yates returned to the original brass version and has produced a most enjoyable score that will delight all lovers of John Ireland’s music.

The recording sessions had begun with his impressive music for the Ealing Studios production of The Overlanders, a 1946 film telling the story of real-life events that had taken place four years earlier, when there were fears that the Japanese might invade Australia. This resulted in large numbers of cattle being driven across the Northern Territory from Wyndham in the west to Queensland in the east, a distance of roughly 1600 miles. The film was shot entirely on location there, and although the composer never went to that part of the world it is remarkable how he managed so effectively to evoke its wide, open spaces and to capture the spirit of its people. In 1971, Boosey & Hawkes published a five-movement suite arranged by Charles Mackerras and Two Symphonic Studies by Geoffrey Bush, based on sections from the score but with the original orchestration sometimes altered. For example, the original bass clarinet, tenor tuba and piano parts were either omitted or assigned to other instruments. This recording reinstates the original scoring, and we now have the opportunity of hearing the music complete, including a few episodes omitted from the final soundtrack.

In 1948, the composer had been asked to make a suite from the music but declined to do so, though he later joked about producing a Sinfonia Overlandia to match Vaughan Williams’s Sinfonia Antartica. It is a great pity that he never set about producing such a symphony, as parts of the score, especially in the sections entitled Night Stampede, Mountain Crossing and Water Stampede, contain some wonderfully dramatic music, which were superbly played by the RSNO. This contrasts with Ireland at his most romantic, as in the ravishing Love Theme and in a beautiful section for strings marked “Broad and noble,” with its nod to Tudor music, which links two versions of the recurring passage referred to in the manuscript as the Cheer-up Tune – one of Ireland’s catchiest numbers.

The final score recorded was the incidental music for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, written for a 1942 radio production and played here, for the first time, complete. It was left to the end of the sessions because it is scored not for full orchestra but for the unusual combination of woodwind, brass, percussion, piano and two double basses. In the manuscript Ireland adds a footnote that the three horns “must do their maximum, & do the duty of 6 players,” and so for the purposes of this recording six horns were used, together with four double basses instead of the two marked in the score. As may be expected, the score includes a number of fanfares and military marches as well as music illustrating several other scenes in the play, such as Ghost Music and Crowd Music. One of the most exciting sections is the Lupercalia Music, used for the scene in which Caesar holds a victory parade during this annual Roman festival and a soothsayer utters the famous warning “Beware the Ides of March.”

There was one section in which Ireland only sketched some music but never finished it, namely the Battle Music, which accompanies the final armed confrontation in October 42 BC between the two principal conspirators (Brutus and Cassius) and Mark Antony. By fleshing out the bare bones of these sketches, it was possible to reconstruct what the composer may have intended if he had had more time in which to complete the scene. As with the other two scores recorded at these sessions, the RSNO players and Martin Yates were on top form and entered wholeheartedly into John Ireland’s memorable music.

All session photos taken by Lewis Foreman
All session photos © Lewis Foreman/Dutton Epoch

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The Mood Modern – The story of two of the world’s greatest recorded music libraries: KPM (1956-1977) and Bruton Music (1978-1980)

AUGUST 2018

VOCALION BOOKS

The Mood Modern

The story of two of the world’s greatest recorded music libraries:

KPM (1956-1977) and Bruton Music (1978-1980)

Vocalion Books – a subsidiary of renowned reissue label Vocalion and leading independent classical label Dutton Epoch – presents its publishing debut: Oliver Lomax’s The Mood Modern. The product of extensive research, this new book tells the story of two of the world’s greatest recorded music libraries – KPM and Bruton Music.

Also known variously as mood, stock, background or production music, for decades library music has made an important though anonymous contribution to the broadcast media, supplying film, radio and television with innumerable themes and underscores.

The Mood Modern is three books in one, weaving together the separate strands of company history, biography and critical assessment of some of the most important music collectively produced by the KPM and Bruton libraries during the course of a quarter century, spanning the years from 1956 to 1980. At the heart of the book, however, is the Phillips family, one of Britain’s great music publishing dynasties, but in particular Robin Phillips (1939-2006).

The mid-1960s through the ’70s have come to be regarded as library music’s golden age. In Britain, it was when this somewhat mysterious branch of the music industry emerged from the chrysalis of its light music heritage, into a vibrant new era of modern, colourful sounds. Robin Phillips played a fundamental role in this transformation when, in 1966, he established a new library – the KPM 1000 Series. Robin would also introduce several new composers who would quickly become some of the best-known and most successful names in the library music field: Keith Mansfield, Johnny Pearson, Syd Dale, Alan Hawkshaw, James Clarke, David Lindup, Brian Bennett and Steve Gray among others. And thanks to Robin’s guidance, by the early ’70s the 1000 Series had become one of the world’s foremost libraries, its music a ubiquitous presence in countless films, documentaries, radio programmes and television series.

But in 1977, at the height of his success, Robin left KPM for ATV Music – taking with him his right-hand man, Aaron Harry, and the major composers – where he formed the Bruton library under the auspices of his brother Peter (who by now was ATV Music’s managing director) and show business mogul Lew Grade’s financial adviser, Jack Gill.

Drawing on interviews with members of the Phillips family (including Peter Phillips) and many of the composers, recording engineers, musicians and staff of both libraries, The Mood Modern tells the remarkable inside story of how KPM and, subsequently, Bruton came to be dominant forces in library music, both in Britain and internationally.

In addition to charting the origin and history of the music publishing firms – Keith Prowse and Peter Maurice – that merged to form KPM, The Mood Modern covers numerous related areas. These include the birth of Britain’s library music industry; the early British libraries and their inseparable link to the English light music tradition; how the arrival of commercial television in Britain led to the formation of the Keith Prowse library in 1956 under the aegis of its manager, Patrick Howgill, which paved the way for the KPM library; KPM’s legacy as a famous popular music publisher and its place in the history of Denmark Street (London’s Tin Pan Alley); Robin’s father, legendary music publisher Jimmy Phillips; the corporate manoeuvring that saw Keith Prowse, Peter Maurice and KPM bought and sold; and the clash with management that eventually caused Peter and Robin Phillips to leave KPM for ATV Music.

The importance of the recording engineer is acknowledged in The Mood Modern, and those who largely shaped the “sound” of the KPM and Bruton libraries are featured: Ted Fletcher, Adrian Kerridge, Mike Clements, Richard Elen (KPM) and Chris Dibble (Bruton Music). There’s detailed coverage of all the KPM 1000 Series’ overseas sessions – including personnel, dates, locations and what was recorded – and chapters respectively devoted to the sessions in Bickendorf, Cologne (along with the stellar lineup of international jazz talent that played on them) and in KPM’s two in-house studios. The Musicians’ Union embargo, which had forced British libraries to record much of their material on the Continent, is also scrutinised, as are the negotiations with the MU of the late ’70s that finally allowed British libraries to resume recording in British studios with British musicians.

As well as delineating the setting up of the Bruton library, its struggle to get established and the background of the parent company, ATV Music (itself a division of entertainment conglomerate Associated Television [ATV]), Bruton’s recording sessions and early output are placed under the spotlight.

Another aspect of The Mood Modern is the chapter-length biographical portraits of five of the KPM 1000 Series’ principal composers: Syd Dale, Johnny Pearson, Keith Mansfield, James Clarke and David Lindup. This is the first time that any of them have been the subject of an in-depth portrait, and these chapters take in many associated areas: KPM library offshoots Aristocrat, Radio Program Music and the KPM International series; the litany of famous and not-so-famous TV and radio themes within the KPM library; Lansdowne Studios; British jazz and pop; classical music; commissioned film and TV scores; BBC Television and Radio; Independent Television (ITV); the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society; the Performing Right Society; Phonographic Performance Ltd. and so much more.

A host of other composers also feature in The Mood Modern. These include KPM and Bruton stalwarts Laurie Johnson, Neil Richardson, Steve Gray, Dave Gold, Francis Monkman, Brian Bennett, Alan Hawkshaw, John Dankworth, John Scott, Duncan Lamont, John Fiddy and John Cameron as well as the KPM 1000 Series’ house bands, WASP and SHARKS.

Putting everything into further perspective is a thorough examination of the pre-1000 Series KPM library, and a chapter that focuses on a leading music editor of the ’70s, who describes the processes and equipment that were used in transferring library music onto the soundtracks of films, documentaries and television programmes.

The Mood Modern is not only a major study of a fascinating sector of the music industry, but also essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in soundtrack music.

The Mood Modern specifications:

– Publisher: Vocalion Books

– 486 pages

– Foreword by Keith Mansfield

– Hardback and paperback editions

– ISBNs: 978-1-9996796-0-6 (hardback) / 978-1-9996796-1-3 (paperback)

– Fully indexed

– Two sixteen-page photo sections, one in b&w, one in colour, both containing many never-before-published images: from the Phillips family archive, and of composers, musicians, recording sessions, catalogues, music scores and studio brochures

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Vocalion – New SACD Releases (July 2018)

 

Angela Bofill, 1979

With this month’s SACD release of Angela Bofill’s albums Angie and Angel of the Night, Vocalion continues to mine the vaults of Arista GRP, the legendary jazz-fusion/soul imprint established by pianist-arranger-composer Dave Grusin and recording engineer Larry Rosen.

Arista GRP grew out of Grusin/Rosen Productions, which the duo had set up in 1975 as an independent company. Thanks to their sterling work on albums by guitarist Earl Klugh, violinist Noel Pointer and singer Patti Austin, Grusin and Rosen’s company soon came to the attention of Arista Records’ President Clive Davis, who offered the pair a production deal. But as much as they had enjoyed operating on a freelance basis, Grusin and Rosen now desired more control over the product once they had played their part. “We wanted more of a logo deal,” Rosen asserted. “We wanted to establish our own name, because we felt there was an identity to what we were doing. And Clive said, ‘Fine.’” And so in 1978 the Arista GRP label was born, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Arista.

Arista GRP’s initial signing was flautist Dave Valentin (1952-2017). However, his Arista GRP debut, 1978’s Legends, became the label’s second release. The album that opened Arista GRP’s account would be devoted to the talents of a beautiful young singer named Angela Bofill, who at the time was also Valentin’s girlfriend. “Angela was brought to us by … Dave Valentin,” Grusin recalled. “He said, ‘Are you guys interested in a vocalist?’ We said, ‘Sure.’ So Dave brought Angela up to our offices. She presented us with a funky demo cassette she [had] made at home. We were both knocked out by the potential we heard on that cassette.”

Angela Bofill, 1978

Born in the Bronx in 1954 to a Cuban father and Puerto Rican mother, Angela Bofill grew up there and in the surrounding areas of Brooklyn, Harlem and Manhattan. Her father sang with the Afro-Cubans, the big band of legendary Latin jazz musician Machito, and the family home served as a meeting place for many of her father’s musician friends, an environment that encouraged and stimulated Bofill’s own love of music. She had soon developed a passion for the art of singing and began listening to the recordings of luminaries such as Billie Holiday, Celia Cruz, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick.

Bofill went to Manhattan’s Hunter College High School, during which time she also sang in New York’s prestigious All-City High School Chorus. After graduating from Hunter College, she enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music and undertook her first professional work, touring as part of the chorus of the Dance Theatre of Harlem ballet company. She had soon met Dave Valentin, who was then with pianist Ricardo Marrero’s band. Valentin managed to get Bofill the job as the band’s lead singer, and she found herself touring the length and breadth of New York, playing at bar mitzvahs, weddings and various other public events.

The albums featured on Vocalion’s SACD reissue – Angie (1978) and Angel of the Night (1979) – are the only ones she made for Arista GRP, and show off her beautiful, almost operatic soprano voice in sets that include material by Bofill as well as by songwriters such as the Nickolas Ashford-Valerie Simpson partnership.

Among the titles on Angie are the beguiling Under the Moon and Over the Sky, where Bofill’s voice soars over a backdrop that blends elements of funk, Latin and R&B, and to which Dave Grusin contributes a sophisticated arrangement. The infectious Baby, I Need Your Love, written by Bofill, has a rhythmic feel very similar to that of Feel Like Making Love from Bob James’s classic 1974 CTI album, One – which is at least partly due to Richie Resnicoff (acoustic guitar) and Ralph MacDonald (percussion) having played on both recordings. And The Only Thing I Would Wish For, which shares the rhythmic feel of the aforementioned Baby, I Need Your Love, is based on an attractive chord sequence and dressed in another beautiful Dave Grusin orchestration,

The follow-up album, Angel of the Night, begins with I Try, a ballad Bofill had written in her late teens after breaking up with her then boyfriend, drummer Buddy Williams, who somewhat ironically plays on this recording! The tempo shifts up a gear for Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s soul staple People Make the World Go Round. First recorded by The Stylistics on their eponymous 1971 debut album, the song here receives an exciting disco arrangement, which sets the scene for Bofill to deliver the socially conscious lyrics. Angel of the Night, on the other hand, combines a driving funk groove with a message of love and hope, and it proved to be a winning combination because alongside I Try it became Bofill’s signature song.

This reissue includes a newly written essay detailing Angela Bofill’s career and the history of the Arista GRP label; and, of course, there’s an in-depth discussion of the music itself.

Immaculately recorded by Larry Rosen and immaculately remastered by Michael J. Dutton from the original stereo master tapes, both albums are presented here for the first time in high-resolution digital stereo, and sound better than ever before.

This Hybrid SACD is fully compatible with all CD players: the SACD layer contains the high-resolution stereo programme, the CD layer the standard 44.1kHz/16-bit CD stereo programme. The SACD layer is playable on any SACD-capable device, while the CD layer provides stereo playback on any standard CD player.

Oliver Lomax

 

From a group of country-rock pioneers, to a gospel phenomenon turned soul survivor, to a pair of Brazilian jazz-funk expats, the artists who make up Vocalion’s July 2018 SACD multi-channel release all forged their identities by fearlessly mixing genres, and in the process created music bigger than the sum of its parts. The quadraphonic sound revolution of the ’70s cut across nearly every musical style and genre, and this month’s release of six albums (across three hybrid SACDs) serves as a core sample that illustrates the breadth of the format’s musical diversity.

Kicking things off are two 1974 albums from Poco, Seven and Cantamos. Recorded immediately after the departure of founding member (and principal songwriter) Richie Furay, the albums find the group reduced to a quartet, but with its signature blend of country twang and rock ‘n’ roll power undiminished. Beginning with 1969’s Pickin’ Up the Pieces, the band recorded a string of superb albums that earned them critical acclaim and a loyal following, and blazed a trail for the likes of the Eagles, Pure Prairie League and Emmylou Harris. But breakthrough commercial success proved elusive, and frustration began to eat at the band, particularly Furay, who’d seen several of his former bandmates (including Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Jim Messina and Randy Meisner) enjoying with their subsequent groups the kind of superstar status he craved. The situation finally came to a head just before the release of 1973’s Crazy Eyes, with Furay exiting Poco to form ill-fated country-rock supergroup the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, with songwriter J.D. Souther and former Byrd Chris Hillman. Ironically, Crazy Eyes would achieve a measure of the success Furay was after – one of Poco’s most successful albums, it spent six months in the Billboard pop charts, reaching No. 38.

Poco, 1974. (L-R: Rusty Young, George Grantham, Tim Schmit, Paul Cotton)

The remaining members of the band – pedal steel guitarist Rusty Young, bassist Timothy B. Schmit, drummer George Grantham, and guitarist Paul Cotton – immediately resolved to carry on without replacing Furay, and their letter of intent, Seven, arrived in April 1974, a scant seven months after Crazy Eyes. The album found the band taking a decidedly harder-rocking direction, and while the move befuddled some fans and critics at the time, in retrospect the material on Seven provides an excellent counterpoint to some of Poco’s gentler fare. Songs like Cotton’s hard-charging Drivin’ Wheel (featuring a fantastic Grantham drum solo) and Schmit’s funk-rocker Just Call My Name typify Seven’s more aggressive sound, but the album is by no means a one-note affair. Cotton’s Faith in the Families meshes the band’s acoustic country-rock sound with a touch of Latin jazz, and Young turns in one of the band’s all-time classics in Rocky Mountain Breakdown. A country pickin’ hoedown, it features a mandolin cameo from returning Poco charter member Jim Messina, who brings along his Loggins & Messina bandmate Al Garth to contribute fiddle to the track. Young’s emergence as a songwriter would be one of the defining characteristics of Cantamos, released in November 1974, just six months after Seven. After the hard rock detour of its predecessor, the album found the band returning to the country-inflected sound of its earliest recordings, placing the emphasis on their soaring vocal harmonies, and pushing elements like pedal steel and mandolin to the fore. After contributing only one song to each of the band’s previous two albums, Young breaks out on Cantamos, delivering three of the album’s finest tracks including the opener, Sagebrush Serenade, which takes a thousand-mile journey from its meditative acoustic beginnings to the chicken pickin’ showdown of its conclusion. Elsewhere, Cotton provides the album with its requisite (although slightly dialled back) rock quotient on songs like the anti-Manifest Destiny treatise Western Waterloo and the galloping One Horse Blue, while Schmit turns in a pair of country classics in Bitter Blue and Whatever Happened to Your Smile.

Both Seven and Cantamos boast quadraphonic mixes by the team of Harold J. Kleiner and Don Young, a duo with more pop and rock quad remix credits to their names than anyone in the entire industry. Their combined experience shines through on these two demonstration-quality mixes – out of print for nearly forty years, they make their high-resolution digital debut on this double-album compilation, along with their stereo counterparts, which also see their first high-resolution availability as part of this release.

 

Across a career that spanned more than five decades, there seemingly wasn’t a style of music with which vocalist Johnnie Taylor couldn’t find success, thanks to his powerful delivery and uncanny ability to take any song and make it his own. After singing in both doo-wop and gospel groups as a teenager, Taylor would spend most of the ’50s between two of America’s pre-eminent gospel groups – first the Highway Q.C.’s, and then the Soul Stirrers. At the dawn of the ’60s, Taylor would follow his friend and mentor Sam Cooke to secular R&B success. Signing with Cooke’s SAR label, he cut regionally successful singles like Rome (Wasn’t Built In A Day) and Dance What You Wanna (both written and produced by Cooke), and enjoyed his first Billboard Hot 100 charting single with 1963’s Baby, We Got Love. But when Cooke was tragically shot and killed in 1964, Taylor found his way to Memphis, where he signed with Stax in 1966. Taylor’s early Stax recordings made the most of his impassioned vocals by casting him as a bluesman, but it was when Detroit-born producer Don Davis arrived at the label in 1968 that Taylor truly hit his musical stride. Davis brought a unique approach to recording that combined Stax’s southern-fried horn charts and guitar-riffing with the tambourine-accented backbeats that had made Motown a dominant force on the charts, and Taylor’s first collaboration with Davis, 1968’s Who’s Making Love, yielded pay dirt immediately, reaching No. 1 in the R&B charts and No. 5 in the pop charts. With Davis at the helm, Taylor would enjoy similar success through the end of the decade and into the early ’70s with songs like Testify (I Wonna) and Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone. And while some of his ’60s soul contemporaries, like Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett, seemed to lose their way as the ’70s began, Taylor continued to adapt. He reinvented himself as a soul crooner and extended his commercial hot streak with lushly produced, highly polished hits like 1973’s Cheaper to Keep Her and epic ballads including 1974’s We’re Getting Careless With Our Love.

After nearly a decade with Stax, Taylor was one of the label’s last artists to jump ship when it plunged into bankruptcy partway through 1975. Wasting no time, he signed with Columbia Records, and it’s his first two albums for that label, 1976’s Eargasm and 1977’s Rated Extraordinaire, which are the subject of the second disc in this month’s release. With Taylor charting more than two dozen singles (including three R&B No. 1s) during his tenure at Stax, Columbia certainly had some expectation of success for the artist, but nothing could have prepared them for how well Eargasm’s first single, Disco Lady, would fare. A smash right out of the blocks, the song topped both the R&B and pop charts of Billboard, Cash Box and Record World, and become the first single to receive RIAA platinum certification when it sold in excess of two million copies.

Johnnie Taylor and producer Don Davis during the “Eargasm” sessions

The lazy narrative about Taylor’s move to Columbia says that he sold out his integrity and “went disco” in a bid for major-label success, but the truth is altogether different. Disco Lady, with its hypnotic bassline and relaxed-but-insistent groove, while certainly dancefloor friendly, was anything but a prototypical disco song –  it was, in fact, an R&B song about disco, as Taylor used to enjoy pointing out in interviews. Both Eargasm and Rated Extraordinaire were also a direct continuation of the way Taylor worked during his Stax years, having been produced by Don Davis and recorded in both Detroit and Muscle Shoals. The albums’ backing musicians feature a remarkable collection of R&B and funk luminaries, including P-Funkers Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins and Glenn Goins, the Muscle Shoals Swampers, and members of Motown’s vaunted Funk Brothers house band, including bassist James Jamerson and saxman Eli Fountain. Disco Lady is also far from the only attraction on Eargasm. An album as consistently strong as it is diverse, it finds Taylor deftly handling horn-drenched funk (Somebody’s Gettin’ It), sunshine soul (You’re the Best in the World) and slow blues (Running out of Lies); he also turns in one of his classic ballad performances on the album-closing Pick Up the Pieces. Rated Extraordinaire may not have enjoyed the same mainstream commercial success as its predecessor, but it’s an eminently listenable album, ranging from the heavy funk of Love is Better in the A.M. to the bouncy groove of Your Love is Rated X and the slow-burning intensity of Stormy.

Despite the fact that Taylor’s 1976 arrival at Columbia Records coincided with the label winding down its quadraphonic programme, the chart successes of Eargasm and Rated Extraordinaire meant that both albums received quadraphonic release. However, Eargasm was issued only as an SQ matrix-encoded LP, which means that the discrete 4-channel master gets its first-ever airing as part of this compilation. Rated Extraordinaire was issued on both matrix quad LP and discrete 8-track tape, but as one of CBS’s final quad releases in 1977 it was in print for little over 18-months, and is exceedingly rare as a result. Both of these quad mixes make their worldwide high-resolution digital debut as part of this release, as do the stereo versions of both albums.

 

Rounding out this month’s release is a disc featuring two albums from iconic jazz producer Creed Taylor’s CTI Records. Brazilian percussionist extraordinaire Airto Moreira’s 1973 CTI sophomore release Fingers is united with 1974’s Deodato/Airto In Concert, a live album culled from recordings made at a triumphant April 1973 gig staged in the wake of the smash crossover success of Deodato’s Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001). A master of more than 100 different percussive instruments, Moreira quickly found success stateside after he and his wife, Flora Purim, emigrated from their native Brazil in 1968. Moreira would play with Miles Davis for more than two years, appearing on 1970’s Bitches Brew and 1971’s Live-Evil, before leaving to play on Weather Report’s eponymous debut album in 1971. In 1972 he’d become a charter member of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever in its initial Latin-jazz configuration, serving as its only drummer over the course of two albums. In between his other musical commitments, Moreira also pursued a solo career, recording his first two albums for Buddah in 1970 and 1971, before signing with CTI in 1972 and recording his debut for the label, Free.

Airto and his group “Fingers,” 1973. (L-R: Flora Purim, David Amaro, Hugo Fattoruso, Airto, Ringo Thielmann, Jorge Fattoruso)

In early 1973, when Return to Forever took a radical left turn toward the rock-influenced brand of jazz fusion for which they’d become most well-known, Moreira left the group, and the move inspired him to embrace his solo career in earnest. His first three solo albums had been studio creations backed by a revolving cast of session musicians, but in the wake of his departure from Return to Forever, Moreira recruited the band that would back him on Fingers and take the album’s title as their name. Released in April 1973, Fingers, as the product of a self-contained working band, is an album quite unlike most of CTI’s other repertoire, which regularly made use of outside arrangers, string and horn sections, and individual session instrumentalists. One of Moreira’s finest outings as a leader, the album finds him tackling a range of material. It ranges from the Santanaesque opener Fingers (El Rada) and the percussion showcase Tombo in 7/4, to Latin jazz hybrids like Romance of Death, not to mention tracks like San Francisco River that effortlessly combine the sounds of South American folk with modern jazz.

Just as Moreira was recording Fingers in the spring of 1973, CTI was enjoying its biggest ever commercial success thanks to fellow countryman Eumir Deodato, whose debut album for the label, Prelude, yielded a No. 2 pop hit in Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001). In the wake of Deodato’s chart ascendancy, Creed Taylor arranged a concert event billed as The 2001 Space Concert to showcase Deodato and the rest of the CTI roster. It’s from that barnstorming 20 April 1973 gig at the Felt Forum in New York City that the recordings on Deodato/Airto In Concert are culled. Despite the concert garnering rave reviews both from critics and attendees, the recordings went unreleased for more than a year – in the interim, Deodato and Taylor fell out when Deodato’s second album underperformed commercially, leading him to leave CTI and sign with MCA before the end of 1973. Following the acrimonious split, Taylor dusted off the year-old Felt Forum multi-tracks and realised that Deodato had performed two unreleased songs at the concert that were scheduled to be included on his first album for MCA. The first was a cover of Steely Dan’s Do It Again, and the second, a track Taylor would call Tropea (in honour of Deodato’s hotshot guitarist), would turn out to be Whirlwinds, the eponymous title track of Deodato’s MCA debut. Taylor interspersed Deodato’s three tracks with three from Moreira, the original LP’s vague sleeve notes seeming to suggest that the two musicians had shared the stage together, when in fact Moreira’s band had opened for Deodato. Despite its jumbled running order and the possibly cynical financial motives for its release, In Concert remains an engaging listen – both Deodato’s and Airto’s thrilling live performances mean the only disappointment is that Creed Taylor didn’t decide to make it a double-LP set.

Despite being a small independent label, CTI enthusiastically embraced quadraphonic sound in the spring of 1973. For nearly a year, almost everything CTI released was quad-mixed by Creed Taylor and engineer Rudy Van Gelder at the same sessions that yielded the stereo mixes. Fingers and In Concert are no exception, boasting the same lush sonics that the stereo versions of these albums are known for. CTI’s quad program was scuttled when the label ran into financial trouble in early 1974, and its quad catalogue went out of print shortly thereafter. With Vocalion’s release last year of the disc compiling Deodato’s Prelude and Deodato 2, and now this disc compiling Airto’s Fingers and Deodato/Airto in Concert, the complete quadraphonic output of both of these legendary artists is now available in high-resolution digital sound.

As usual, Michael J. Dutton has carefully remastered the albums comprising this batch from their original stereo and quadraphonic master tapes*, and all three discs feature extensive, newly penned liner notes that chronicle and contextualise the making of these classic records.

Vocalion Hybrid SACDs play in three ways – high-resolution multichannel (quadraphonic), high-resolution stereo, and standard 44.1kHz/16-bit CD stereo. The SACD layer (which contains both multichannel and stereo programmes) is playable on any SACD-capable device, while the CD layer provides stereo playback on any standard CD player.

David Zimmerman

*The four-channel (quadraphonic) analogue masters of the Deodato/Airto in Concert album no longer exist. For this reissue, therefore, that album’s quadraphonic mix has been derived from CTI’s original SQ-encoded source.

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Vocalion – New SACD releases (April 2018)

 

Vocalion’s April 2018 release once again sees a widening of the scope of our industry-leading quadraphonic SACD reissue programme. Both rock and disco join our SACD release slate for the first time, with six ’70s classics (across three hybrid multi-channel SACDs) making their high-resolution bow in both stereo and quad. And for the jazz-fusion enthusiast, we also have a stereo-only reissue of a hidden gem from one of the genre’s standard bearers.

Headlining this month’s release is a disc compiling the debut and sophomore solo albums from multi-talented guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Rick Derringer, All American Boy and Spring Fever. When All American Boy was released in 1973, Derringer was only 25, but already an industry veteran of more than ten years – aged 16 with his group The McCoys he’d had a No. 1 hit with Hang On Sloopy, and the years following his professional apprenticeship had seen him playing with and producing both Johnny and Edgar Winter. All American Boy is best known for the hit single (and Derringer’s signature tune) Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo, but the remainder of the album is consistently strong, showcasing Derringer’s talent across a range of styles from foot stompers (Teenage Love Affair) to country rockers (Cheap Perfume) to throwback pop (It’s Raining). Co-produced with frequent Eagles collaborator Bill Szymczyk and featuring contributions from Edgar Winter, Captain Beyond drummer Bobby Caldwell and Joe Walsh with his Barnstorm band, All American Boy is widely considered to be Derringer’s highpoint as a solo artist.

Rick Derringer “Spring Fever” original LP inner sleeve

Derringer was working at breakneck pace in the year following the release of All American Boy. In addition to an increasing profile as a session guitarist, which saw him playing on records for the likes of Steely Dan and Todd Rundgren, Derringer also found time to produce and play on both Johnny Winter’s Saints & Sinners and the Edgar Winter Group’s Shock Treatment albums. As a member of Winter’s group, he’d embark on a colossal five-month, seventy-date tour in 1974 to promote Shock Treatment, and his extended road sojourn would have a powerful effect on his second solo effort, 1975’s Spring Fever. A decidedly more arena-rock-oriented affair than All American Boy (especially on tracks like the anthemic Don’t Ever Say Goodbye), Spring Fever saw Derringer backed by a core rhythm section comprised of Utopia bassist John Siegler, Frampton’s Camel drummer John Siomos and his old compatriot Edgar Winter on keyboards. It also featured guest appearances from the likes of the New York Dolls’ David Johansen and Return to Forever’s Chick Corea. While Spring Fever failed to replicate All American Boy’s commercial success (its only single, a cod-reggae remake of Hang on Sloopy, was a minor chart hit) the album redeems itself in its deeper cuts. Amongst them are a swaggering cover of Rufus Thomas’ Walking the Dog and Derringer’s own autobiographical Skyscraper Blues (both of which allow him to show off his blues chops), while the criminally underrated Aerosmithesque rocker He Needs Some Answers is so catchy that the title may as well be questioning why the song was never released as a single.

Rick Derringer

 

Canadian rock trailblazers The Guess Who are spotlighted on a disc that unites arguably their two finest latter-era albums, 1973’s #10 and 1974’s Road Food. After toiling in semi-obscurity for most of the ’60s, the group would hook up with producer Jack Richardson and sign with RCA records in 1968. Emerging from the unlikely musical mecca of Winnipeg, Manitoba, they’d release a string of Canadian and US hit singles through 1969 and 1970 that included These Eyes, Laughing, Undun, No Time and American Woman. However, just as American Woman was in the midst of its three-week run at No. 1 in the US charts in May 1970, tensions within the group boiled over and lead guitarist Randy Bachman quit the band. Vocalist and keyboardist Burton Cummings, bassist Jim Kale and drummer Garry Peterson regrouped quickly, enlisting hometown guitarists Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw to replace Bachman, scoring big later the same year with Share the Land. With the 1972 additions of guitarist Donnie McDougall (who replaced a departing Greg Leskiw) and bassist Bill Wallace (who replaced a departing Jim Kale) the band solidified what many fans and critics feel is their finest lineup. Unfortunately, that pedigree was no guarantor of success, as the band found out with the January 1973 release of Artificial Paradise, which failed even to crack the Top 100 US LP chart.

The Guess Who

Recorded in the immediate wake of Artificial Paradise’s disappointment (and released just five months later), #10 acts as something of a diary for how the group was feeling at the time, chronicling their collective exhaustion, disappointment and frustration. In contrast to its weary lyrical tone however, #10 finds a band at its peak both instrumentally and vocally, battle-hardened from nearly a year of relentless touring. From tracks like the frenetic Musicione (a remarkable combination of searing lead guitar and gorgeous vocal harmonies) and the epic rocker Cardboard Empire to country-inflected gems like Lie Down and Take It Off My Shoulders, #10 boasts a depth in both songwriting and playing that the band’s earlier pop hits would struggle to match.

Released in April 1974, Road Food covered many of the same topics as #10, but it also showed a realisation amongst the band that it didn’t have to entirely abandon its AM pop roots in pursuit of FM album credibility. The result was not only a more varied album, but also a more commercially successful one. The album’s first single, Star Baby, was a moderate hit, and its second single, Clap for The Wolfman (featuring a vocal cameo from legendary DJ Wolfman Jack) reached No. 6 in the US charts, making it the group’s first US Top 10 hit since 1970. Counterbalancing the album’s radio-friendly singles are some of the band’s best deeper album tracks, from the ominous One Way Road to Hell to the barbershop-meets-jazz (with a twist) of Straighten Out to the epic seven-minute album closer, The Ballad of The Last Five Years.

 

The Hues Corporation (L-R: Fleming Williams, H. Ann Kelley and Bernard “St. Clair” Lee)

Pop-soul trio The Hues Corporation are the subject of this month’s third disc, which pairs two of their most successful albums for RCA, 1974’s Rockin’ Soul and 1975’s Love Corporation. After honing their craft as a live act (primarily on the Tahoe-Vegas lounge circuit) for the better part of five years, the group found its way on to RCA’s radar after appearing in the 1972 Blaxploitation cult classic Blacula and featuring on its accompanying soundtrack. Seen by the label as something of a spiritual successor to another of its acts, The Friends of Distinction (who were in the process of breaking up at the time), RCA went as far as pairing the group with producer John Florez, who’d helmed the Friends’ hits Grazing in the Grass and Going in Circles. Their debut album, 1973’s Freedom for the Stallion, yielded a moderate hit with its eponymous title track, but when a follow-up single stiffed, the label was ready to give up on the album – and possibly the group. That is, until word filtered back to RCA from their A&R reps in New York that another track from the album, Rock the Boat, had become a sensation in the city’s underground dance clubs, or “discotheques” as they were increasingly becoming known. With this club success in mind (and anticipating radio play for the song), Florez went back into the studio and remixed Rock the Boat, enhancing the bass drum and bass guitar, and making the other rhythm instruments sound bigger and snappier – in the process creating one of the first of what would later become known as disco remixes. Released as a single with little fanfare in February 1974, the remix bubbled under for a couple of months, but the summer of 1974 saw disco music make its move from underground phenomenon to mainstream sensation, and Rock the Boat rode that wave right to the top of the pop charts in July. Selling a staggering two million copies before the year was halfway through, the song would become the first disco song ever to top the US pop charts.

In the aftermath of Rock the Boat’s worldwide success, RCA would issue The Hues Corporation’s sophomore LP, Rockin’ Soul. Released in November 1974, it would produce another Top 20 pop hit for the group with its dancefloor-oriented eponymous title track. The album also features New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint’s I’ll Take a Melody, the swinging Barry White ballad How I Wish We Could Do It Again, and Ease on Down the Road (from the hit Broadway musical The Wiz), along with five other originals from group founder/manager (and Rock the Boat writer) Wally Holmes. RCA also wisely included John Florez’s remix of Rock the Boat on Rockin’ Soul – while it may have been unusual to have the same studio recording on two consecutive albums, Florez’s remix was the hit version that most listeners were familiar with, and from a commercial standpoint there was no reason not to include it.

1975’s Love Corporation found the group working with wunderkind producer David Kershenbaum, who’d go on to produce hits for Joan Baez, Joe Jackson and Duran Duran amongst others. The swirling strings and syncopated hi-hat of its Philadelphia soul-influenced title track would net the group another moderate hit, and much like that song, the influence of Philly soul (which was dominating the R&B charts at the time) is felt strongly throughout the rest of the album. Other standout tracks include the Holmes original When You Look Down the Road, which features a gorgeous three-part vocal harmony set against a slinky funk backdrop, and Danny Moore’s Follow the Spirit, which recalls some of the O’Jays work from the same period. Despite the breezy nature of some of the songs on these two albums, the musical accompaniment is top-notch. Immaculately produced and arranged, they feature a cadre of some of the decade’s finest studio talent, including Larry Carlton, Joe Sample and Wilton Felder of the Crusaders, future Toto keyboardist David Paich, drummers Jim Gordon and Ed Greene, as well as sax players Ernie Watts and Tom Scott.

 

The Weather Report “Night Passage” lineup (1980) L-R: Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Peter Erskine, Jaco Pastorius, Robert Thomas, Jr.

While it may seem like a stretch to suggest that a Grammy-nominated album that made it to No. 2 in the Billboard Jazz LPs chart is underrated, in the highlight-strewn fifteen-year recording career of Weather Report, 1980’s Night Passage is exactly that. With an approach that emphasised collective improvisation and continuous rhythmic movement over individual soloists, the avant-garde explorations of the group’s eponymous 1971 debut and 1972’s I Sing the Body Electric fulfilled the promise of Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew fusion innovations, arguably more so than Davis’s own subsequent albums. A mid-decade move toward heavy funk on albums like Sweetnighter, Mysterious Traveller and Tale Spinnin’ put the band not only at the vanguard of the fusion movement, but also in the enviable position of being critically lauded and commercially successful.

With a reputation for scintillating band interplay, the group was almost as well known for a lineup that was in a state of constant flux, with principals Wayne Shorter (sax) and Joe Zawinul (keyboards) joined by a revolving cast of some of jazz’s best players. The band would see bassists Miroslav Vitouš and Alphonso Johnson, and drummers including Alphonse Mouzon and Chester Thompson, pass through its ranks across its first half-dozen studio albums, none of which featured the same lineup twice. The recruitment of fretless electric bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius in 1976 ushered in the group’s most successful period, beginning with 1977’s platinum-selling Heavy Weather, which yielded a genuine radio-friendly hit single (and jazz standard) in Birdland.

The addition of Pastorius was also the first building block in what would become the group’s longest lasting (and most highly regarded) lineup, a process that was completed when drummer Peter Erskine joined the band for the tour supporting 1978’s Mr. Gone. After years of receiving consistently glowing reviews for their albums, Mr. Gone saw the band coming in for some condemnation, with some reviewers (most notably DownBeat, in a scathing 1-star review) suggesting that the album’s more highly orchestrated (and heavily overdubbed) sound had robbed it of its excitement. The criticism seemed to light a fire under the band to reassert its dominance as an improvisational unit – the first result was 1979’s Grammy-winning 8:30, a live album culled from a series of incendiary shows at the end of the Mr. Gone tour.

The recording of 8:30 proved to be such a positive experience for the group that when it came time to record an album of new material in 1980, they elected to pursue a hybrid approach that leveraged the intensity of their live performances with the sonic possibilities of a studio setting. Expanded to a quintet for the first time since 1977 by the addition of jazz-trained hand drummer Robert Thomas, Jr., the band honed their new material on the road for nearly six months before entering LA’s The Complex studios, where one of its soundstages was transformed into an impromptu concert venue. On 12 and 13 July 1980, Weather Report would play two shows each night in front of an invited audience of 250, with the best of those performances culled to produce Night Passage. The layers of overdubs from the band’s previous two albums are supplanted by a much more immediate improv-centric approach, from the shuffle groove of Zawinul’s bop-influenced eponymous album-opener to the aptly named Fast City, where both he and Shorter take remarkable solos. Speaking of Shorter, Night Passage finds him at the forefront of the group possibly more than on any other album, his deft touch on the sax evident throughout, including on the gauzy ballad Dream Clock and an energetic cover of Duke Ellington’s Rockin’ in Rhythm. Pastorius is also given ample room to shine, turning in his finest composition in the meditative waltz ballad Three Views of a Secret, not to mention a staggering bass solo in the middle of Port of Entry. Although Night Passage wasn’t this lineup’s swansong (they’d record one more album in the midst of disintegrating), it remains a high-water mark in their vast discography.

 

Michael J. Dutton has meticulously remastered all four discs that make up this month’s release from the original stereo and quadraphonic master tapes, maintaining their original tonality and dynamic range for optimal sound quality. Each disc is also accompanied by extensive, newly-written liner notes.

This release marks the worldwide high-resolution debut of the stereo mixes of all seven of these albums, and the first time that the Derringer, Guess Who and Hues Corporation quad mixes (which have been out of print since the late ’70s) have been available in any digital format.

David Zimmerman, Toronto, 2018

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New Dutton Epoch release – April 2018

Dutton Epoch release – April 2018

Dutton Epoch enjoyed a very active recording programme during 2017, all now coming together for a series of remarkable CD issues.  The first batch features the BBC Concert Orchestra at Watford, together with the Royal Northern Sinfonia at Gateshead with conductors Martin Yates, David Lloyd-Jones, Ronald Corp and John Andrews.

W.S. GILBERT & ALFRED CELLIER

The Mountebanks

John Andrews, BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Singers

2CDLX 7349

The year started with a five day recording session at Watford, from 18 to 22 January.  The programme was John Andrews’ revival of a charming and entertaining light opera, in fact the ‘G & S’ operetta that Sullivan didn’t write.  W. S. Gilbert’s composing partner in this enterprise was Alfred Cellier, musical man of the theatre and Richard D’Oyly Carte’s Music Director at London’s Opera Comique, where he was experienced in conducting the nightly runs of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most successful operettas, and later took H.M.S.Pinafore to the USA, and The Mikado to Australia.  His closeness to the team included working with Sullivan to extract the overture of Pirates of Penzance from its parent score at the last possible moment. In fact Cellier was helping Sullivan write Sullivan! Thus when in the late 1880s there came a pause in Gilbert and Sullivan’s co-operation, Gilbert had a new partner available to step in and take the load.  Sadly it actually came too late for poor Cellier, who died on 28 December 1891 before he had completed scoring his opera. The music director of the Lyric Theatre stepped in and completed it and it was first seen in January 1892, and ran for 229 performances with a provincial tour.  There were occasional amateur productions but it was forgotten after the Second World War.

The scheduling of the recording days was based upon the availability of the singers and so those present never got to hear the music in sequence – a magic that only became apparent when the first edit was circulated to participants.  The BBC Concert Orchestra sessions customarily start after lunch on the first day which then continues until the late evening.  So we had a first day running 2:30 to 5:30 and 6:30 to 9:30.  The remaining days started at 10:30 and went through to a 5:30 finish.  Thus the various soloists sang their numbers in succession on any particular giving a particular perspective on the music.

In fact it quickly became apparent that Cellier achieved a distinctive sound in his orchestrations and as the sessions started with the four movement Suite Symphonique of 1878 (the last movement became the Overture to The Mountebanks) we had every opportunity to enjoy this inventive contribution to mid-Victorian orchestral music.  So the story that The Mountebanks must have been Cellier writing latter day Gilbert and Sullivan is far from true; here is a delightful d’Oyly Carte work that has a life of its own, and we have to thank The Amber Ring for producing new performance material.  J. Donald Smith who has edited the multiple sources to establish the recorded text writes ‘it is a masterpiece in its own right’.  This is surely the case and it needs to be heard to appreciate its many charms in this vivid exploration.

CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD

Violin and Piano Concertos

Northern Sinfonia, Martin Yates, Leon McCawley, Sergey Levitin

CDLX 7350

Four sessions later the Dutton team reassembled in the wooded ambiance of Hall One at The Sage in Gateshead on 2nd June, for a two day recording with the Royal Northern Sinfonia conducted by Martin Yates.  In this very sympathetic acoustic for more classically scored music, three early Stanford manuscripts were heard.  This had been very much Martin Yates project and he had edited them from the original scores, found in Newcastle University Library – presumably a legacy of the late Frederick Hudson.  These manuscript works consisted of the Concert Overture dated July 30 1870 – reputed to be the earliest Stanford ms extant; and two concertos: the Concerto in B flat for Piano and Orchestra dating from 1873 and the Violin Concerto of 1875.  The soloists were pianist Leon McCawley and Sergey Levitin, violin.

The Piano Concerto is a charming work with poise and an engaging flowing solo line, but the Violin Concerto in D major is a much more ambitious canvas, completed on 2 September 1875, and already showing how quickly the young Stanford was maturing.  Soloist Sergey Levitin again joined the Dutton team to explore unfamiliar repertoire and impressed at a first hearing with the authority he brought to the music.  Stanford had intended it for a virtuoso of his time, the Italian violinist Guido Papini, but in the event it was never played.  Here elements of Stanford’s mature style are becoming apparent and one wonders why Stanford never included it among his numbered concerti.

Taking account of the splendid acoustic at The Stage and the amiable working atmosphere with all concerned it was good to hear Stanford’s early music come to life so vividly, and the soloists project their discoveries with such commitment.

EDWARD ELGAR

Short Orchestral Works

David Lloyd-Jones, BBC Concert Orchestra

CDLX 7354

Dutton’s ninth recording session in 2017 saw a return to Watford and the BBC Concert Orchestra on 18 and 19 September, for sessions with conductor David Lloyd-Jones, exploring Elgar’s short orchestral works, many of them familiar, and all played in David’s newly published authentic editions in his Volume 23 of the Elgar Complete Edition.  As he writes in his booklet note for Dutton they ‘could be considered as representing the very essence of Elgar’.  There were many magical moments as we were taken through this Elgarian panorama by a man who having edited all the editions being played had them in his very bones.  This extended from the very earliest Air de Ballet – Lloyd-Jones calls it ‘an Elgarian apprentice work ‘– of 1881, first heard in Worcester that year by the local Worcester orchestra, led by Elgar himself. It was long forgotten and lost but now makes a charming start to this recorded repertoire.

In the acoustic of the Collosseum (familiar to an earlier generation as Watford Town Hall) this was a rewarding recording session as a succession of familiar themes were shaped by an orchestra that was as clearly revelling in its delights as their conductor.  And yet we were hearing much of it through new ears.  Sevilliana, Salut d’amour, Three Bavarian Dances, the Minuet Op 21 and the familiar Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit. May-Song with the ad-lib harp part, the first recording of Canto Popolare  (from In the South) in a version for small orchestra, and the orchestral version with solo of the song Pleading.  The choice of soloist in Pleading is optional but it was an inspiration to give it to solo violin, and as we heard Charles Mutter’s delicate soaring violin line it was immediately obvious that this is the correct scoring, and the music becomes another of those Elgar violin lollipops. It was a magical couple of days and it was so good to hear all these pieces together in one place on such a sympathetic occasion.

INA BOYLE

Ronald Corp, BBC Concert Orchestra, Benjamin Baker, Nadège Rochat

CDLX 7352

Still at the Watford Collosseum, on 8 to the 10 October, with the BBC Concert Orchestra Dutton rounded off its 2017 recording season with a programme of music by the Irish student of Vaughan Williams, Ina Boyle, who died in 1967. Conductor Ronald Corp had first taken an interest in Ina Boyle for Dutton back in 2012 when he conducted her orchestral tone poem The Magic Harp on a Dan Godfrey celebration programme for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.  For those who have never heard her music more than one person present was comparing it to E.J.Moeran.  Six works were recorded all written between 1919 and 1942.

The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra of 1935 was played by Benjamin Baker with a sweet tone.  This is a rhapsodic work in which the three movements are played without a break.   Corp and the soloist managed the current of the music with sympathetic attention to detail but never losing the ebb and flow of a delightful discovery.

Boyle wrote three symphonies and it was good to hear the earliest of these, with the subtitle Glencree (‘In the Wicklow Hills’) which dates from 1924-1927.  Maybe almost a programmatic three movement tone-poem, a succession of musical tourist postcards – ‘On Lacken Hill’ – ‘Nightwinds in the Valley’ – ‘ Above Lough Bray’, but the energy of the middle movement when heard in the hall persuaded one that this was indeed  a work of some stature whose appearance on disc is long overdue.

A short piece for cello and orchestra, Psalm, dating from 1927, was powerfully played by the young cellist Nadege Rochat, and the programme was completed by four short orchestral works: Overture for orchestra (1934);

Wildgeese (1942); A Sea Poem: Theme, variations and finale for orchestra (1919)

and Colin Clout  (‘A Pastoral after Spenser’s “Shepherd’s Calendar”) (1921).

These were very enjoyable sessions and as work followed work Ina Boyle was revealed as a composer of some personality and engaging invention; everything we heard was a delight. Conductor Ronald Corp was clearly as enthusiastic as those in the control room and the BBC Concert Orchestra responded with their customary sympathy for the music.  This was Dutton’s 56th CD programme with the Concert Orchestra and as ever one was just amazed at how they projected the music even at a first take.  Producer Neil Varley (who recorded all four CD programmes covered in this note) was the authoritative and encouraging voice on the talkback.

LEWIS FOREMAN

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Vocalion New Releases Jan 2018

 

From the top of the pop charts to the heart of Nashville, Vocalion’s January release celebrates the music of two of the most popular vocalists of the 60s and 70s, along with the guitar stylings of one of country music’s most pivotal figures. Maintaining Vocalion’s industry-leading commitment to bringing the widest range of quadraphonic material to SACD, this new release features six albums across four hybrid multichannel discs.

The New Year is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings, rebirth and renewal, and headlining this release are two albums that represented all of those things to Art Garfunkel. Alongside his partner (and childhood friend) Paul Simon, Garfunkel had spent most of the 60s crafting some of the most critically and commercially successful pop music of the decade – a string of iconic hits that included The Sound of Silence, Homeward Bound, Mrs. Robinson, Cecelia and Bridge over Troubled Water. But Garfunkel was suddenly a man without a country in 1971, when Simon unceremoniously ended their collaboration shortly after the duo won a raft of Grammy awards for their multi-platinum juggernaut, Bridge over Troubled Water.

The split took its toll on Garfunkel, who studiously avoided music in its immediate aftermath – working first as an actor, and then spending a year as a prep school maths teacher. But when he re-emerged as a solo artist with 1973’s Angel Clare, it was clear that Garfunkel was ready to re-embrace his first love and to do it on his own terms. Co-produced with long-time Simon & Garfunkel collaborator Roy Halee, the album found Garfunkel backed by many of the studio musicians from Bookends and Bridge over Troubled Water, along with newcomers like Jim Gordon, Larry Carlton and Michael Omartian. More than 18 months in the making, the album would be hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the most lushly produced pop albums ever made.” Angel Clare would yield three successful singles – the Jimmy Webb-penned All I Know (which peaked at #9 in Billboard’s Hot 100 and spent four weeks at #1 in the Adult Contemporary chart), along with a calypso-fied take on Van Morrison’s I Shall Sing and Paul Williams & Roger Nichols sentimental Traveling Boy, both of which enjoyed success on both the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts.

Emboldened by Angel Clare’s success, Garfunkel pushed even further out of his comfort zone for 1975’s Breakaway. To do this, he enlisted the help of star producer Richard Perry, who’d helmed a string of hits for some of the biggest names in music, including US #1s for Harry Nilsson (Without You), Carly Simon (You’re So Vain), and Ringo Starr (Photograph and You’re Sixteen). Conceived as a romantic album by Garfunkel and Perry, Breakaway featured songwriting contributions from both established writers such as Stevie Wonder, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Bruce Johnston, as well as emerging talents like Gallagher & Lyle and Stephen Bishop. The epitome of a big-budget album, it was recorded at no less than eight different studios, with an all-star cast that included musicians from bands like Little Feat, The L.A. Express, and the Plastic Ono Band, not to mention Andrew Gold, Nicky Hopkins, David Crosby and Graham Nash. Breakaway would yield two more Adult Contemporary #1s for Garfunkel – his reworking of the jazz standard I Only Have Eyes for You (which also topped the charts in the UK) and its eponymous title track, which bristled with British pop sensibility courtesy of Scotland’s Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle. However, the album’s one stylistic outlier is arguably biggest attraction – My Little Town, Simon & Garfunkel’s first recording collaboration since 1970. A classic Simon composition, the song’s cynical, hard-driving look at the constrictions of small town life stood in stark relief to the duo’s gorgeous vocal blend, which sounded as if they hadn’t been apart for a moment in the intervening five years. Released as a joint single (it would also feature on Simon’s 1975 album, Still Crazy After All These Years), the track would continue Simon & Garfunkel’s winning ways on the charts, peaking at #9 in the Hot 100 and spending two weeks at #1 in the Adult Contemporary charts.

Widely regarded by both fans and critics as the pinnacle of Garfunkel’s solo output, these two classic albums are expanded with extensive new liner notes that chronicle both their creation and the events that led up to their making.

We move to Nashville next, for a disc that compiles two albums chronicling some of country songbird Lynn Anderson’s earliest (and biggest) hits for Columbia Records. Discovered by Chart Records label boss Slim Williamson when she accompanied her mother (an accomplished songwriter who’d written hits for Merle Haggard) on a trip to Nashville when she was just 18, Anderson would go on to record a string of top-10 country hits for the label through the latter half of the 60s. But it wasn’t until she signed with Columbia in early 1970 and relocated to the Nashville area with her husband Glenn Sutton that she became a bona fide superstar. Sutton, one of the prime architects of the “countrypolitan” sound (an approach to country music that emphasised lush orchestral and vocal backings, with pop crossover success squarely in its crosshairs) would produce all of Anderson’s early work for the label. The pair would work at a prodigious pace, recording and releasing three albums in 1970 alone. It was that third 1970 album, Rose Garden, which propelled Anderson in to the musical stratosphere, when its title track became one of the most successful songs of 1971. Reaching #3 in the US pop charts (and #1 in the country charts) the single was also an international crossover smash, finding the upper reaches of the pop charts in more than 15 countries worldwide. Replicating the lightning-in-a-bottle pop success of Rose Garden proved difficult in the following years, but Anderson remained a stalwart on the country charts, with a four subsequent number one singles in the next three years, along with ten albums in a row in the country top 20. The second album in this compilation, Lynn Anderson’s Greatest Hits, collects many of the chart successes she had for Columbia both before and after Rose Garden’s breakthrough. Drawn from the first eight albums she recorded for the label between 1970 and 1972, it contains the country #1s You’re My Man and How Can I Unlove You along with top-10 hits like Cry, Listen to a Country Song and Stay There ‘til I Get There.

Just around the corner from Columbia’s Nashville recording studio is RCA’s historic “Nashville Sound” studio, and it was there that country guitar virtuoso and producer Chet Atkins recorded the two albums that make up the final disc in this release. One of the most important figures in the evolution of country music, Atkins first signed as a recording artist with RCA in 1953. By 1957 he’d been put in charge of the label’s Nashville division, but his newly-assumed production duties didn’t put a dent in a recording career that often saw him release three or even four albums a year. As a producer, Atkins was a key figure in the development of what became known as the “Nashville Sound” – by supplanting honky-tonk country staples like fiddle and steel guitar with elements from 50s pop music like strings and backing vocals, he was one of a handful of producers who helped rescue country music from the commercial doldrums it found itself in after the rise of rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-50s. By the late 60s, Atkins had become so valuable to RCA that they’d made him a vice president of their country division, giving him oversight over everything that it recorded and released. The extra workload did slow the pace of his recording career somewhat, but Atkins still managed to put out an album every year. It’s from this period that the two albums featured on this compilation are culled – 1967’s Picks the Best, and 1973’s Superpickers. Both critically acclaimed (Picks the Best was a Grammy winner and Superpickers was nominated twice) these two albums show two very different sides of Atkins’ world-famous “thumb and two fingers” picking style. Picks the Best finds Atkins in easy listening mode across a selection of well-known melodies including You’ll Never Walk Alone, Insensatez (How Insensitive) and El Paso, backed by a gentle rhythm section and a bed of strings. Superpickers explored another of Atkins’ passions – improvisation. The album finds him backed by an all-star cast of nearly a dozen of Nashville’s best studio musicians including Johnny Gimble, Charlie McCoy, Weldon Myrick and Hargus Robbins. Atkins affords ample solo opportunities to all of his cohorts across a selection of country gems, and in turn they coax some of his most agile jazz-infused playing in years. The result is an album that flows like a down-home jam session from beginning to end.

As with all of Vocalion’s previous SACD offerings, all of the albums that make up this release have been meticulously remastered by Michael J. Dutton from the original quadraphonic and stereo master tapes, and maintain their tonality and dynamic range as intended by the original producers and engineers.

Vocalion Hybrid SACDs play in three ways – high-resolution multichannel (quadraphonic), high-resolution stereo and standard 44.1kHz/16bit CD stereo. The SACD layer (which contains both multichannel and stereo programmes) is playable on any SACD-capable device, while the CD layer provides stereo playback on any standard CD player.

David Zimmerman

Toronto, 2018

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Dutton Epoch October/November 2017 New Releases

Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Daniel Barenboim, Artur Rubinstein, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Charles Gerhardt …

Dutton Epoch has revived some of the finest recordings made by CBS and RCA during the quadraphonic boom of the 1970s, and presents them across six individual SACDs.

Leonard Bernstein’s Concert for Peace, a protest at the Vietnam War, took place in Washington Cathedral during January 1973 and featured a spellbinding performance of Haydn’s Mass in Time of War. Here it’s coupled with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic’s reading of Haydn’s Symphony No. 96, “Miracle”. James Levine conducts the London and Chicago symphony orchestras in Mahler’s First and Fourth symphonies respectively; also featured is Levine and the CSO’s recording of Brahms’s First Symphony, which has been remixed in quadraphonic sound especially for this limited edition reissue. Daniel Barenboim and Artur Rubinstein’s cycle of Beethoven piano concertos were recorded with the London Philharmonic in 1975, and are widely considered the definitive interpretations. However, the four-channel recordings were issued in Japan only and thus are extremely rare – this reissue makes available once more the quadraphonic versions of Concertos Nos. 3 & 4.

The New York Philharmonic under Pierre Boulez is heard in an all-Stravinsky programme comprising Petrushka (“immortal hero of every fair in all countries,” according to the composer), the early Scherzo Fantastique of 1907-08, Symphonies of Wind Instruments and the Diaghilev-commissioned Pulcinella Suite. Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra present a wonderfully authoritative reading of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, originally recorded in 1978; augmenting this reissue is Maazel conducting the New Philharmonia, the Ambrosian Singers and mezzo-soprano Yvonne Minton in Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody, recorded during November 1976 at All Saints Church, Tooting.

A disc devoted to the music of film composer Dimitri Tiomkin rounds off this release. RCA house-conductor/producer Charles Gerhardt leads the National Philharmonic Orchestra in music from Hollywood classics Lost Horizon, The Guns of Navarone, The Big Sky, The Fourposter, Friendly Persuasion and Search for Paradise. Recorded at the Kingsway Hall in brilliant, full-bodied sound by Decca engineer Kenneth Wilkinson, this reissue also includes a suite from Tiomkin’s score for The Thing from Another World, which makes its debut in quadraphonic sound.

All the music has been remastered from the original analogue tapes (stereo and quadraphonic), and these SACDs are fully compatible with standard CD players.

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Vocalion – October 2017 New Releases


Vocalion’s October 2017 release places the accent on soulful, funky sounds with a clutch of classic albums spread across three separate SACDs.

Flautist extraordinaire Dave Valentin, who passed away earlier this year (2017) at the age of 64, was not only one of the instrument’s great virtuosos but also a leading exponent of Latin jazz. Born in the South Bronx in 1952, he grew up listening to the music of such Latin icons as Johnny Pacheco, Richard Egües, Tito Rodriguez and Tito Puente. By the age of ten he was playing percussion in New York’s Latin clubs and by sixteen had enrolled at New York’s High School of Music and Art as a percussion major. Switching to flute, he studied with Hubert Laws and later joined the bands of pianist Ricardo Marrero and percussionist Manny Oquendo. Turning pro in the early ’70s, he would perform in Africa, Brazil and the Philippines, play with Latin supergroup the Fania All-Stars at Madison Square Garden and begin to receive plaudits from music industry giants such as Quincy Jones.

In 1977, Valentin was invited to play on the demo sessions for violinist Noel Pointer’s Phantazia album, which was being overseen by GRP, the production company of arranger-composer-pianist Dave Grusin and recording engineer Larry Rosen. Grusin and Rosen were so impressed with Valentin that they asked him to participate in the sessions for Grusin’s upcoming One of a Kind album. Unbeknownst to Valentin, Grusin and Rosen were also about to sign a deal with Arista Records that would see the creation of a new imprint, Arista GRP. On the lookout for artists, Grusin and Rosen immediately thought of Valentin, who quickly found himself on the receiving end of a recording contract.
Valentin’s first two albums for Arista GRP, 1978’s Legends and 1979’s The Hawk, were both critical and commercial successes, and his third album, 1980’s Land of the Third Eye, which Vocalion has reissued, continued that thread, balancing funk and R&B with the flautist’s unique brand of Latin jazz. The album contains the jazz-funk staple Sidra’s Dream, while other tracks include covers of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Fantasy and The Doobie Brothers’ Open Your Eyes, plus two Valentin originals. The flautist is backed by an all-star lineup featuring Marcus Miller and Lincoln Goines (bass guitars), Buddy Williams and Tito Marrero (drums), Dave Grusin (keyboards), Michael Viñas (guitar) and Roger Squitero (percussion). This reissue, comprising both standard PCM CD and high-resolution stereo SACD layers, marks Land of the Third Eye’s first ever appearance in CD or SACD format, and includes a lengthy liner note detailing Valentin’s career and music.

From CTI, the imprint of legendary jazz producer Creed Taylor, comes the albums Prelude and Deodato 2, both of which showcase the talents of Brazilian keyboardist-composer-arranger Eumir Deodato. A native of Rio de Janeiro, he began his career in the early ’60s working for Luiz Bonfá, Marcos Valle and Antonio Carlos Jobim before moving to the US in 1967 where he quickly made a name for himself – he would soon start arranging for luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and Milton Nascimento.

His work on Nascimento’s 1969 album Courage brought him into contact with Creed Taylor, and when Taylor set up CTI in 1971, he wasted no time in engaging Deodato’s arranging skills. Deodato’s early CTI work included his beautiful orchestrations for Astrud Gilberto and Stanley Turrentine’s 1971 album Gilberto with Turrentine, and by 1972 Deodato himself had earned a solo contract with the label. He struck gold with his first effort, the aptly titled Prelude, thanks to Creed Taylor’s penchant for getting his artists to record jazz/crossover versions of well-known classical pieces. In Deodato’s case, it was the Sunrise fanfare from Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, which had become popular through its use in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Deodato’s funked up, Fender Rhodes-laden reimagining of it brought both him and CTI chart success – it would become an international hit – and while it casts a long shadow over the remainder of the album, Prelude nevertheless contains several other gems. Notable among them is the Latin-flavoured jazz of Carly & Carole (Deodato’s tribute to singer-songwriters Carly Simon and Carole King) and the low-slung funk of September 13, powered by Billy Cobham’s muscular drumming.

The sequel, Deodato 2, recorded during April and May 1973, adhered to the same formula: funky originals alongside his interpretations of various classical pieces. And although it failed to emulate the success of its predecessor, Deodato 2 is arguably the better album, containing one of Deodato’s finest compositions in the dramatic Skyscrapers – sounding for all the world like a theme in search of a film – and superb jazz-rock adaptations of The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin and George Gershwin’s immortal Rhapsody in Blue. Both Prelude and Deodato 2 feature stellar lineups, including CTI regulars Ron Carter and Stanley Clarke (basses), Billy Cobham (drums), Hubert Laws (flute) and Airto Moreira (percussion). As well as the original stereo mixes, Vocalion’s reissue includes the quadraphonic mixes of both albums (their first ever appearance in digital format), which were made by Rudy Van Gelder at his historic studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Heard in four-channel sound, both Prelude and Deodato 2 are given new and exciting life, and rounding out this reissue is a detailed essay giving the full lowdown on Deodato and the music itself.

The final title in this batch compiles two albums fronted by music industry mogul Cecil Holmes. After a stint at the Casablanca label, where he was National Vice President and Manager of R&B Operations, he joined CBS Records in the early ’80s. As the label’s Vice President of Black Music A&R, he would spend the next ten years shaping the careers of Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross, overseeing Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing comeback and unwittingly ushering in the second coming of the boy band era when he gave New Kids On The Block their first recording contract in 1986. But before all of that, he’d been with the New York-based Buddah Records, where his acumen as an A&R man had earned him multiple industry awards and numerous gold records; he’d also been instrumental in signing Gladys Knight & The Pips and had shepherded the careers of leading artists including The Isley Brothers, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions.

Holmes himself was no musician, so when he decided to be the frontman for an album drawing together themes from the Blaxploitation genre, he turned to arranger-composer Tony Camillo as the man who would put it all together. The result was 1973’s The Black Motion Picture Experience on the Buddah label. Credited to The Cecil Holmes Soulful Sounds, it was performed by an all-star studio orchestra (including bassist Bob Babbitt and drummer Andrew Smith) and featured mean, funky takes on Blaxploitation staples such as Isaac Hayes’s Shaft, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly, Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man and Billy Preston’s Slaughter.
Encouraged by the album’s success (it sold a reported 100,000 copies in its first year), Holmes quickly commissioned a follow-up, Music for Soulful Lovers. Released towards the end of 1973, it looked to the then current crop of hits by soul music luminaries including Barry White, The Stylistics, Stevie Wonder, Al Green and others. And Tony Camillo was on hand once more to provide a series of groovy arrangements performed by a studio orchestra comprising many of the musicians who’d contributed to The Black Motion Picture Experience. The album also includes three original songs by Tony Camillo (two of which have Holmes himself laying down his best Barry White-style love rap), prefiguring Camillo’s own solo success with his band Bazuka, which had a US Top 10 hit in 1975 with the song Dynomite. Vocalion’s reissue marks The Black Motion Picture Experience’s and Music for Soulful Lovers’ premiere digital release, and this Hybrid SACD contains the original stereo and quadraphonic mixes of both albums.

Michael J. Dutton has remastered everything from the original tapes, ensuring that this wonderful music reaches the ears of 21st-century listeners the way it’s supposed to.

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Vocalion August SACD Release


For Vocalion’s August release, we’ve taken a deep dive in to the vaults of the RCA and Columbia labels, and surfaced with a treasure trove of recordings from the heyday of quadraphonic sound. Covering country, rock, R&B and jazz fusion, this new release of five albums across four SACDs represents Vocalion’s most varied slate of quadraphonic offerings to date.

Leading off are two albums (compiled on one SACD) from RCA country-rock stalwarts Pure Prairie League, which find the band making the most of the unlikeliest of second chances. The Ohio natives recorded two albums for RCA in 1972, but just as their star was beginning to rise, original lead vocalist Craig Fuller was jailed for draft evasion. Unable to tour without him, record sales stalled and RCA dropped the group. Flash forward a year and the remnants of the band had regrouped with ex-Sacred Mushroom vocalist and lead guitarist Larry Goshorn, and embarked on nearly 18 months of college campus touring. This would create a level of grassroots support for the group that RCA couldn’t ignore, especially when they managed to sell nearly three times as many albums as an unsigned band in 1974 as they did when they were with the label in 1972.

After signing with RCA for the second time in late 1974, the band paired up with super-producer John Boylan for the two albums that comprise this reissue, 1975’s Two Lane Highway and 1976’s If the Shoe Fits. Boylan, who’d been pivotal in Linda Ronstadt’s early success (including the recruitment of a backing band that would go on to become the Eagles) and who would produce Boston’s breakthrough debut album immediately after, was perfectly suited to taking Pure Prairie League’s road-honed interplay and elevating it with a layer of studio polish. If contemporaries like The Byrds, Poco and the Eagles were on the rock side of the country-rock railroad track, Pure Prairie League found itself a little more on the country side. Both Two Lane Highway and If the Shoe Fits have plenty of rock sensibility (and were both Billboard Top 40 hits as a result), but they also never forget where they came from, boasting plenty of pedal steel, banjo, and chicken pickin’ – not to mention guest appearances from the likes of Chet Atkins, Don Felder and Emmylou Harris. This new double album compilation marks the high-resolution debut of both the stereo and quadraphonic mixes of these albums.

Making its worldwide digital debut as part of this release is The Jimmy Castor Bunch’s 1973 hidden gem, Dimension III. To say that Castor, a multi-talented R&B singer/songwriter/producer/arranger/saxophonist (and self-proclaimed “Everything Man”), had a colourful career would be an understatement. Starting as a doo-wop singer, by the age of 15 Castor (almost by accident) had become the author of a hit single when neighbourhood friends Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers covered his own group’s I Promise To Remember as the follow-up to their smash hit Why Do Fools Fall In Love, taking the song to No. 10 in the US R&B charts in 1957. Plying his trade as an arranger and studio musician for most of the next ten years, Castor would go from doo-wop singer to sax-playing Latin soul bandleader. His new group landed a leftfield hit in 1967 with Hey Leroy (Your Mama’s Calling You), a song that perfectly paired Castor’s gonzo sense of humour with his ability to craft an irresistible groove.

Castor’s uncompromising attitude would lead to a fall out with the label that released Hey Leroy and he’d return to relative obscurity in the following years, but by late 1971 his band (now called The Jimmy Castor Bunch) had signed with RCA. His first album for the label (which one critic described as “grunge funk”) seemed destined to stay underground, but when FM radio DJs started playing the album cut Troglodyte (Cave Man) it became a word-of-mouth sensation. Released as a single in early 1972, it made it to the upper reaches of both the US Pop and R&B Top 10. A second album was rush-released by the end of the summer but underperformed, and an obvious cash-in single, (Luther the Anthropoid (Ape Man), didn’t even crack the Top 100. Castor, who feared being pigeonholed, knew he had to change things up and Dimension III was the result.

Eschewing much of the aforementioned “grunge funk” and scatological humour of his previous two RCA albums in favour of sophisticated horn and string arrangements and a stronger focus on melodic songwriting, Dimension III sees Castor employing every one of his many talents to great effect. Castor divided the album into vocal and instrumental sides, and the vocal side finds him tackling a wide array of R&B, from modern cinematic funk to sweet soul and even a little bit of the doo-wop of his youth. On the instrumental flipside, Castor stretches out as a soloist for the first time on one of his records, proving in the process that his sax playing may be the most polished of all his talents.
One of the first QuadraDisc LPs that RCA ever released, Dimension III holds the unique distinction of being a “single inventory” title, meaning the four-channel quadraphonic mix was the only mix of the album done, as the label wanted to tout the backwards compatibility of quadraphonic records with existing stereo systems. In the wake of Castor’s acrimonious departure from RCA in late 1973, the label took Dimension III out of print and it has remained that way – until now. This new SACD edition presents the original quadraphonic mix in all its glory, along with a stereo fold-down of the quad mix – more than forty years later the universal compatibility of the QuadraDisc fulfilled in a way its inventors could never have imagined.

Another album making its high-resolution debut in both quadraphonic and stereo is Carlos Santana and Alice Coltrane’s 1974 genre-bending collaboration, Illuminations. Equal parts rock, free jazz and jazz fusion, the album was part of the culmination of Santana’s most prolific period, one that between solo and group activity saw him release seven albums in less than three years. When the hit-making original Santana band, beset by escalating internal strife, imploded in late 1971 following a disastrous South American tour, it could have easily spelled the end of Carlos Santana’s recording career. Instead, it had the opposite effect. Santana’s quest to challenge himself both musically and spiritually in the wake of this turmoil would fuel a prodigious output that included 1972’s Caravanserai, 1973’s Welcome and 1974’s Borboletta with the Santana band, and solo collaborations with Buddy Miles (1972’s Live!) and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin (1973’s Love Devotion Surrender) along with the release of a sprawling triple-LP live album (1974’s Lotus) in Japan.

Released just a month before Borboletta in September 1974, Illuminations stands as a unique entry in Carlos Santana’s nearly fifty-year recording career. Brought together by a shared interest in Eastern philosophy, along with Santana’s love for John Coltrane (it was the two Coltrane covers on Love Devotion Surrender that had caught Alice Coltrane’s initial attention), the album is a departure from everything Santana had done previously. As Santana said in his 2014 autobiography The Universal Tone, “the music really took me farther away from that classic Santana sound than almost any other recording – farther away but closer to where my heart was.” Although it’s co-billed to Santana and Coltrane, the album is a collaborative one in the truest sense, with saxophonist Jules Broussard and keyboardist Tom Coster afforded equal space for solo exploration alongside Santana and Coltrane – no single musician dominates proceedings. Mention must also be made of the rhythm section, which includes Miles Davis/Bitches Brew alumni Jack DeJohnette on drums and Dave Holland on bass, and Alice Coltrane’s sweeping string arrangements – the grand vista in front of which the instrumental excursions take place.
Not only was Carlos Santana one of Columbia’s most popular artists, but between solo and group endeavours he was also their most prolific single producer of quadraphonic product, with all twelve of his efforts between 1969 and 1977 seeing a quad release. The Santana albums are regarded by many quad enthusiasts as the gold standard for the format, and Illuminations – the first of these historic studio albums to be released in high-resolution – is no exception.

Last, but far from least, is jazz fusion trailblazer Return to Forever’s studio swansong, Musicmagic. Recorded after the breakup of the group’s longest lasting and most commercially successful lineup, the album finds founding members Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke supported by keyboardist-vocalist Gayle Moran, drummer Gerry Brown and a four-piece horn section headed by CTI sax man (and returning RTF charter member) Joe Farrell. The departure from Return to Forever of guitarist Al Di Meola and drummer Lenny White – who’d appeared on 1974’s Where Have I Known You Before, 1975’s Grammy-winning No Mystery and 1976’s platinum-selling Romantic Warrior – has divided fans for forty years. But Musicmagic offers a fascinating insight into Chick Corea’s unquenchable thirst to satisfy his creative muse at almost any cost. Gayle Moran’s lilting vocals on Musicmagic have also proved equally divisive, and while they aren’t the first on a Return to Forever record (Flora Purim was the featured vocalist on their initial two albums in 1972) they certainly add a new wrinkle to the band’s sound. At first blush, Musicmagic may seem like the classic “sell-out” album, where a band adds a vocalist in the hope of mainstream fame, but Moran’s voice is employed more as a textural or arrangement tool. Often, it bookends or divides the long instrumental workouts for which Return to Forever is famous, rather than becoming the focal point of the album. While Musicmagic may have a slightly more urbane, refined feel than the fireworks unleashed by the band’s previous lineup, it’s no less fascinating or challenging. Corea’s and Clarke’s gifts for harmony and melody are placed centre stage, and the music is often so highly arranged and rhythmically intricate that at times it approaches the progressive rock territory of bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Yes.

Released in April 1977, Musicmagic holds the somewhat ignominious distinction of being the last quadraphonic popular music release ever by Columbia Records. Somewhat paradoxically though, it’s also one of the best – the product of nearly ten years’ experience by one of the market leaders in the format. Because it was released so late in the day, the quad version of Musicmagic enjoyed the briefest print run of any Columbia release, becoming a highly sought-after item in the years since. Vocalion’s new SACD aims to rectify this superb album’s status as a rarity, making the quad mix available for the first time since 1979, alongside its stereo counterpart in high resolution.
All the albums in this release feature new and extensive liner notes, and have been expertly remastered by Michael J. Dutton from the original master tapes to maintain their original tonality and dynamic range.
Vocalion Hybrid SACDs play in three ways – high-resolution multichannel (quadraphonic), high-resolution stereo and standard 44.1kHz/16bit CD stereo. The SACD layer (which contains both multichannel and stereo programmes) is playable on any SACD-capable device, while the CD layer provides stereo playback on any standard CD player.

David Zimmerman

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