Archive for August, 2008



The music on this John Cale bootleg is beautiful. I really wonder why this recórding from”The Art Project, Munich” (Philharmonie, 06.09.1992) was never officially released – maybe the entire show if available.

I love the way the strings interact with Cales piano and I honestly think that these versions of “Cordoba” and “Dying On The Vine” are amongst the best ones out there. I love the way he do them kind of up-tempo, it really suits the songs.”Fear” is also very interesting eventhough i don’t think it surpasses the original version on the “Fear” album from 1974. The sound quality is really good throughout most of it, although the strings at times (“Paris 1919”) sound a little crunchy because they get too loud, but I like it.

Tracklist:

1. Broken Hearts / 2. Paris 1919 / 3. Heartbreak Hotel / 4. Cordoba / 5. Dying On The Vine / 6. Fear / 7. Life Under Water / 8. Hallelujah / 9. The Queen And Me / 10. Rage Against The Dying Of The Light (not listed on cover)

Sources:

1-8: Art Project Munich, Germany, September 6, 1992 featuring BJ Cole, Bob Neuwirth, the Soldier String Quartet, and the Barbershop Choir / 9: studio outtake from More Fans promo CDEP / 10: ?

No Link.

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Next week we will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the premiere of “Die Dreigroschenoper” (“The Threepenny Opera). The opening night audience at Berlin’s “Theater am Schiffbauerdamm” didn’t quite know what to expect when the curtain rose on “The Threepenny Opera” on August 31, 1928, but after the first few musical numbers they began to cheer and call for encores. 80 years later this is still a milestone – so it is a good occasion to share some more recordings of this great work.

Performed in 1930 by the cast and orchestra of the 1928 Berlin premiere (except for Willi Trenk-Trebitsch, the Mackie of the 1929 Prague premiere), this extraordinary recording must be the last word in genuine, unvarnished “authenticity.”

Even the remastered sound is amazingly good and life-like. The half-spoken, half-sung delivery captures the biting sarcasm of Brecht’s text as well as the abrasive bitterness and sinuous lyricism of Weill’s melodies, underlined by the punchy, swinging rhythms and indigenously jazzy sound of the orchestra. The result is an uncanny evocation of a historical period and its atmosphere. One can smell the smoky nightclub air, see the garish colors, and feel the unbridled sensuousness. This “abridged” version offers 13 familiar numbers, with most strophic repeats omitted, but includes alternate versions of several songs in French.

There are also two songs from “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny”, a long “scene” by Wilhelm Grosz, and two songs each by Rudolf Nelson and Friedrich Hollaender (who wrote the music for the film “The Blue Angel”), two of them sung by Marlene Dietrich with her inimitable lascivious sensuality.

If you’re at all familiar with the Dreigroschenoper and all its incarnations, be sure to check out this album. It’s the closest you could get to an ‘original’.

This album is another release of the “Die Dreigroschenoper Berlin 1930” recordings posted earlier on this blog, but without four alternate versions (two of them sung by Bertolt Brecht himself).

Calypso Atrocities (1959)


This calypso compilation was released in 1959 on the Cook label.

The irrepressible Small Island Pride performed the first six calypsos on this 1959 release (“Apple Vendor,” which takes the sexual metaphors that gave “Taxi Driver” its bite and extends them even further, is especially strong, and the instrumental “Me Ting is Mine” is slinky and danceable), and the calypsonians who followed came close to matching him. “Neighbor Jacquelline” is a furious exchange between Mighty Wrangler, his band, and the backing chorus – “swizzle it, swizzle it, sweet like syrup,” Wrangler sings, and the tent is set a-swirling. (Needless to say, this calypso too is a sexual metaphor, stretched almost to the breaking point.) Lord Commander’s “You Can’t Finish Pleasing People” takes up where Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business (If I Do)” left off, and the wryly argued legal casuistry of “No Crime, No Law” inspired Derek Walcott to compare Commander to “Germany’s best poet of this generation, Bertolt Brecht.”

Tracks:
101 Mama Loves Mambo
102 Banner Roll
103 Mildred Don’t Cry
104 Apple Vendor
105 Doggy in the Back Door
106 Whey You Want to Touch it For
201 Me Ting is Mine
202 The Wrestler
203 You Can’t Finish Pleasing People
204 No Crime, No Law
205 Neighbor Jacquelline
206 Sailor Man in Donkey Pants

Calypso Atrocities (192 kbps)

Count Owen’s middle period mento album, “Calypsos Down Jamaica Way” was originally published in 1960 on the label “Kalypso”, a subsidiary of “Melodisc”.

Mento is a Jamaican music style that is largely unknown outside of that is the grandpappy of reggae. For a ska or reggae fan, mento sounds familiar and exotic
and sometimes unfamiliar. Mento recordings are difficult to come by, but worth seeking out. It’s music that lifts my spirits and relaxes my mind whenever I hear it.

During mento’s middle period of the 1960s, Count Owen became prolific, as he recorded a string of five LPs that moved from mento to ska to rock steady.

“Down Jamaica Way” is the first Count Owen LP. It sticks to traditional rural mento instrumentation, and for the most part, repertoire.

Tracks:
01. Goodbye To Rome
02. Go Fife Go
03. Yours
04. Island In The Sun
05. Aye Aye Aye
06. Lawd Some Man Could A Smart
07. Careless Hands
08. The Weed
09. Melody D’amour
10. Kingston Town
11. Out The Fire
12. The Last Watch

Count Owen & his Calypsonians – Calypsos – Down Jamaica Way (1960)
(192 kbps)

Lord Kitchener (born Aldwyn Roberts) shares with Mighty Sparrow the title of the world’s best known Calypso singer.

He began his career in Trinidad and won his first Road March award for singing in 1946. In 1948, Kitch emigrated to England in the company of singer Lord Beginner and newsreel footage of the time shows him singing “London Is the Place for Me.”

In less than two years, he and Beginner were recording for EMI. Kitch enjoyed massive popularity in England. In the 1950s, he toured West Africa and enjoyed a big hit there with his single, “Nora.”

Like many calypsonians, Kitch drifted toward soca and in 1978 hit the charts with “Sugar Bum Bum.” Additonally noted for his hit single, “Give Me the Ting,” he died February 12, 2000 at the age of 77.

Here is his album “King Of Calypso”, released in 1965 on Melodisc.

Lord Kitchener – King Of Calypso (1965)
(192 kbps, front & back cover included)

After all the “difficult” Brecht/Eisler stuff it´s time for some finde calypso… Here´s Lord Jellico´s album “A Man and Calypso”, released in 1966 on the Hilary label.

As with Afro-Cuban and Jamaican music, calypso reflects both the intense sorrows of slavery (and rural poverty) and the joys of life and liberation.

More like gospel than blues, it is a lyrical tradition with origins in Europe, Africa, and tropical regions from the Americas to India. Originating in Trinidad in the West Indies, calypso, also called cariso, spread throughout the Caribbean islands.

Lord Jellico – A Man And Calypso (1966)

(192 kbps)

Hanns Eisler and his wife, Lou, spent the last five years of their exile in southern California, where he supported his family by composing film scores for RKO Studios—winning Oscar nominations in 1943 and 1944.

One of his most remarkable works—a cycle of art songs, or “lieder”, titled the “Hollywood Songbook”—was completed in this period. In a mixture of styles (twelve-tone, romantic, blues), the cycle is based on poems by Brecht, Goethe, Shakespeare, Mörike and Hölderlin.
As a whole, they confirm Eisler’s reputation as one of the most able composers of lieder in the 20th century.
Like his other work, the songs are communicative and direct—some of them last no more than one or two minutes.

Free of sentimentality, they nevertheless express a concentrated emotional clarity. The German baritone Matthias Goerne offers this admiring assessment: “For me, this chance discovery of this huge body of work by a real 20th century composer was a revelation, in that here was an artist comparable, in my opinion, to Brahms. The integrity, the consciousness of the times is so very great in Eisler that I was inspired to combine his songs with those of Schubert…. [O]ne might say that the ‘Hollywood Liederbuch’ is the ‘Winterreise’ of our times.”

Here´s the interpretation of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Aribert Reimann on piano:

Hanns Eisler Hollywood Songbook (Lieder of the Exile)
(192 kbps, ca. 61 MB)

This Tomato release from 1981 features collaborations between Hanns Eisler and Bertolt Brecht sung by Sylvia Anders, a german actress and musical comedy star, daughter of the famous tenor Peter Anders, who is at the forefront of the current trend toward revival of the traditional german cabaret.
Sylvia Anders acting and colloquial delivery of the words are so strong that it´s easy to overlook her accomplished classical musicianship and vocal technique in “Failure in Loving” and the melodically very difficult “Hollywood Elegies”. She sings in English; clearly it´s not a language she uses every day, but it brings these songs to a broader audience. Her accent and authentic german cabaret style help place Eisler´s work in its historical context.
Th accompaniments, originally for piano or chamber ensemble, are played sometimes on piano, sometimes on a synthesizer, and sometimes by the guitar, vibraphone, bass and keyboard of the Stephen Roane Quartet, in jazz arrangements by Justus Noll (a german theatre composer) and by Heiner Stadler, the producer of the record and an accomplished jazz composer in his own right.
It my be surprising to hear something as straight-forward as the “Solidarity Song” accompanied by one of the most elaborate jazz arrangements of all, but on the other hand Eisler – who knew that music menat for pracitcal use must often be rearranged to suit new situations – might have found that the fresh musical ambience gives his familiar melodies a new edge.

Hanns Eisler / Bertolt Brecht Collaboration (new link)
(192 kbps, ca. 60 MB)

Gisela May was, along with Helene Weigel and Lotte Lenya, one of the definitive postwar interpreters of the music composed for Bertolt Brecht by Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau. Onstage professionally since 1942, in 1962 Gisela May became the first Madame Cabet in the Berliner Ensemble’s production of “Days of the Commune” and Frau Kopecka in “Schweyk in the Second World War”, both with texts by Bertolt Brecht and music by Hanns Eisler. The latter coached her in the last year of his life, thus providing a living musical link from the past to the present.

The husky simplicity of her voice particularly suited Eisler–who despised sentimentality and valued clarity of expression.

The power of Brecht’s poetry shines through her delivery of songs like the astonishing “O Falladah, Die Du Hangest”–written from the angle of an exhausted horse lying helplessly on a busy street as a mob of desperate Depression-era Berliners carve up her living body for meat. This is not a comfortable image–but Brecht is showing us that economic injustice has uncomfortable consequences.

Compare “O Falladah” with the “Song of the Invigorating Effects of Money” and the listener begins to understand that Brecht and Eisler deserve to be remembered not only as talented agitators for Marxist revolution but also as acute observers of human nature. One cannot say if the results of the famous Brecht-Eisler collaboration are timeless, but they certainly have a long shelf life.

Also noteworthy in this album are the “Song of the Moldau” and two anti-war hits–“Song of the Woman and the Soldier” and “Song of a German Mother.” Note also the contrast between Eisler’s lively, jazz-influenced style and Dessau’s sometimes plodding treatment of songs from Brecht’s later plays, which constitute the second half of the CD.

Like other albums in Edel’s “Berlin Classics” series, the Gisela May CD offers digitally-remastered analog recordings from the GDR (East German) recording industry. One of the ironies of the political and economic collapse of GDR socialism is that its musical treasures–like the songs recorded on this CD–are now reaching new audiences in the West through the resources of the capitalist music industry.

Gisela May – Brecht-Songs
(192 kbps, front cover included)

This album really is a collector’s item: These recordings of Brecht/Eisler political songs from the Weimar years have documentary character and value. They are sung by Ernst Busch, along with an early 50s recording by the Berliner Ensemble of the songs from Brecht’s “Die Mutter”.

Among other things, they chronicle what was special about the aspect of Hanns Eisler´s composing that had clearly emerged since 1928 as the new fabric of “Kampfmusik” (“battle music”): In the genre of politically operational songs and ballads; in the genre of new-style film scores, such as that to “Kuhle Wampe”, for which the “Solidaritätslied” (“Song Of Solidarity”) was composed; in the genre of scores for the “epic theatre”, for the historically new type of didactic piece by Bertolt Brecht, and in the genre of the “Wiegenlieder” (“Cradle Songs”) – the attempt to renew a traditonal, highly simple form of vocal popular music by direct reference to the contemporary socio-political awareness of opposition.

The present recordings primarily chronicle the specific manner in which this compositional practice, new at that time, was interpreted. They let us hear and sense how much the incomparable delivery of the great actor and singer Ernst Busch helped shape the form of “battle music”. What is more, the songs and ballads were accompanied at the piano by Eisler in countless performances or rehearsed and conducted by the composter himself fro gramophone recordings by “Homocord” in Berlin around 1930. By the way, the Homocord recording of the “Lied der Baumwollpflücker” (“Song of the cotton pickers”) won first prize at the Leipzig Gramophone Exhibiton at the beginning of 1931. Hanns Eisler also played an active part in rehearsing his music for the performance of Brecht´s stage play “Die Mutter” (“The Mother”) in 1951. Accordingly, there is every justification for describing the recordings of this album as “authentic”.

Hanns Eisler Historic Recordings (new link)
(192 kbps, front cover included)