Archive for October, 2009

On 5 April 1933 Kurt Weill advised the artistic director of the Parisian ensemble “Les Ballets 1933” Boris Koncho, to cable Bertolt Brecht in Italy and request that he come immediately to Paris and start work with him that very same week. Brecht agreed and the two threw themselves into the creation of The Seven Deadly Sins. It took them only a few days to outline the story of the girl Anna, who is being sent by her family on a journey through seven American cities in order to scrape money together for a house by dancing. Her parents and brothers are dreaming of a little house in Louisiana, one that is supposed to be finished upon Anna’s return after seven years. Anna’s personality, torn by the cut-throat demands of making a living as a dancer as well as by her all too human needs (the “deadly sins” that are violating the typical rules of accumulating capital), splits. The first Anna, represented in the ballet as a singer, is the rational one who will stop at nothing to reach her goals. The second Anna, however, the dancer, yields to her needs and thus threatens the family’s acquisition of their dream home. In spite of Anna’s personality conflict, the plan succeeds: Anna I is able to control Anna II time and again.
For his Marxist critique on capitalism, Brecht made use of stereotypical “Americanisms” that had existed in his own texts of the late 1920s, for instance in The Lindbergh Flight and Happy End. But here, under altered political signs, they coalesce into a cliché-laden anti-Americanism which came to full flowering during Brecht’s exile works around 1940, where the movie paradise of Hollywood (one of Anna’s stopovers in The Seven Deadly Sins) was being depicted as hell. But in 1933, no doubt, neither Brecht nor Weill could foresee that an odyssey not unlike Anna’s lay just ahead of them. For the time being, they experienced exile in Europe and Weill was confident that it would not last very long. In 1934 the composer noted in an interview given in Paris: »I felt a need for a change of air already in Berlin last year«. Indeed Weill’s exile began less chaotically than it did for others in his plight. It is true that he started) if a part for his wife, the German dancer Tilly Losch, could be secured and 2) if the German composer Kurt Weill would participate in one way or another.

Weill, who had come to Paris with the feeling of »starting all over again« with Paris as his “new home,” considered the commission as a first step in building a reputation in his newly adopted city. He initially suggested Jean Cocteau as librettist. Shortly thereafter Brecht’s name was suggested, who Parisian audiences knew from his successful one-act plays in the Salle Gaveau in December 1932 and from Die Dreigroschenoper (“The Threepenny Opera”), but who was little known otherwise.

Hence a group of collaborators who had been one of the most successful teams for the musical theater during the Weimar Republic joined forces during their French exile. However, this period was gone by now and there was doubt as to whether the success of Die Dreigroschenoper and Mahagonny could be repeated. Other collaborators were soon asked to join in, including the set designer Caspar Neher, who had been involved in earlier Weill-Brecht productions and who had served as co-author in Weill’s opera Die Bürgschaft (“The Pledge”) in 1931. The conductor Maurice Abravanel was also enlisted, a former composition student of Weill’s who had become a close friend and confidant on artistic issues (a role he was to retain until Weill’s death). Last but not least, Weill’s wife Lotte Lenya was cast for the part of Anna I. She was separated from Weill at the time (divorce papers had already been filed) and had begun a new relationship with the tenor Otto Pasetti. Pasetti was also given a share in the production of the Deadly Sins as part of the male quartet. The artistic team Brecht/Weill had broken up just two years earlier, when in the course of rehearsals for a performance of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (“Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny”) Brecht had denounced Weill as a »phony Richard Strauss« and had threatened to push him down the stairs »in full regalia.«

Thus, the large group of émigrés who gathered in Paris in 1933 created a work that would likely have never taken place had they not been forced to flee Nazi Germany. This was not the new beginning in a new artistic environment Weill had hoped for, but rather a collaboration of exiles who would likely never have worked together again under different circumstances. It is true that Weill’s and Brecht’s plans for further projects never ceased; some ideas were still discussed during their later American exile in an intense series of letters. But the fact that no work actually materialized from their American period points to their increasingly divergent views and artistic concepts. Forced to accept one another’s differences and preferences, it is with the Seven Deadly Sins that their potential as a team reached its zenith. Brecht’s work focused on social criticism, while Weill’s score emphasized Anna’s human frailty and psychological conflicts.
Weill designed his music in seven movements which correspond to the seven stages of Anna’s journey as well as to the »deadly sins«, framed by a prologue and an epilogue. Each movement includes adaptations of popular forms like waltz, foxtrot, march, shimmy, and tarantella, which Weill synthesizes with symphonic effects more successfully than in any of his previous collaborations with Brecht. A motif is presented in the first measure (one heard in all the movements until the work’s conclusion) which both connects the piece musically and serves as a leitmotif for Anna’s deep sadness. Thus a score of great emotional expression and sonic intensity emerges which is sometimes reminiscent of a Mahler symphony. In stark contrast, the passages written for Anna’s family are often conceived in more humorous tones. Weill’s choice for these bars is a male quartet scored in close harmony, in a style evoking German romantic glee-club singing as well as the style of the Comedian Harmonists with their extremely high tenor parts and accentuated bass lines. This particular vocal ensemble, which Weill had a packing up after Hitler had come to power (when he learned about his position at the very top of the Nazi’s »blacklist«), leaving Berlin in company with the set designer Caspar Neher and his wife Erika. But on his arrival in Paris movie deals with Jean Renoir and René Clair were awaiting him, deals that Weill had set in motion earlier in Berlin (probably out of his desire for »a change of air«). In addition there was a wealthy young Englishman living in Paris, Edward James, who had been among the many renowned intellectuals who attended a highly praised performance of Weill’s and Brecht’s Mahagonny Songspiel and the school opera Der Jasager (“The Yes-Sayer”) at Paris’s Salle Gaveau in December 1932.

In early 1933 George Balanchine and Boris Kochno (two former employees of the famous ballet manager Sergei Diaghilev) had founded a ballet company, which would have been a risky business if they hadn’t secured Edward James as a patron. James was willing to finance the complete »Ballets 1933« on two conditions: 1lready used with special effect in Mahagonny, is put to especially witty use here, with Anna’s incessantly moralizing mother scored as a bass.
As opposed to the previous Weill concert including the much praised Mahagonny and Jasager performances, the Seven Deadly Sins was met with bewilderment by the French audience (and not just because the work was entirely sung in German). German émigrés living in Paris, however, many of whom had attended the performance, were enthusiastic and considered it »a grand evening«; as Walter Mehring reports: »Artists and interpreters were celebrated by an elite in the fashion to which one was accustomed in the great age of German theater art.«

To be celebrated by an elite surely was not Weill’s goal. Though he considered the Seven Deadly Sins to be his best production to date, it found little success in any of its early performances: not in Paris, where the first performance of the Seven Deadly Sins took place on 7 June 1933, nor in England, where the production traveled to at the end of June, nor in Copenhagen in 1936.
It was not until Lotte Lenya’s recording of the ballet in 1956 that the piece gained the public’s approval. This newly appreciative audience, however, was unaware that Weill’s music had been significantly adjusted to accommodate the voice of the 57-year-old Lenya, specifically via transposition to a fourth below its original pitch level. This adjustment naturally had a dramatic effect on Weill’s earlier Parisian version. Maurice Abravanel recalled in 1989 that Lenya was in a dilemma because »she had no voice and she wanted to sing it, and so the big misunderstanding is that this is the way Kurt wanted it. Never!« As it happens, this transposed version is the more familiar, and has been performed by jazz and cabaret singers time and again. Its original version, first recorded in the 70s, has always been presumed suitable only for fully trained operatic voices.

With her unique interpretation of Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins, Marianne Faithfull furnishes proof of the contrary. Taking the original version as a point of departure, Faithfull sings Anna’s part transposed down a full octave. (Linernotes)

This album combines Marianne Faithfull´s recordings of “The Seven Deadly Sins” live on June 5th, 1997 at Konzerthaus, Vienna with her live recordings of some other Kurt Weill songs like “Alabama Song” and “Pirate Jenny” on February 9th, 1998 at Grosser Sendesaal, Radiokulturhaus Vienna. Both recordings were done with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra coducted by Dennis Russell Davies.

No link due to a complaint.


There are two reasons why calling this album “The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie” rather than some variation on the greatest hits idea makes sense. First, Guthrie was out singing these songs before there ever were any Billboard charts to help defiine exactly what constituted a hit. Second, although this album starts with Guthrie himself singing “This Land Is Your Land,” clearly his most famous and most popular song, the track shifts to the song being sung by the Weavers. Guthrie sings a few songs and few duets, but mostly his songs are sung by other artists. So what we have here is a tribute album, originally a double-album now on a single CD, that represents some of the best first and second generation folk singers who followed in the path blazed by America’s troubadour.

The first generation would be those artists that actually got to play with Guthrie, which would be not only the Weavers with Pete Seeger (the artist who most closely followed in Guthrie’s footsteps), but also Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. The next generation is represented on the album by Odetta, Joan Baez, and Country Joe McDonald. Yes, there is an authenticity to hearing Guthrie sing his songs that nobody else can touch, but there is something to be said for other artists replacing his rawness with more of the inherent beauty of his songs (the same way Peter, Paul & Mary did for Bob Dylan). The track information above is incomplete, so here is who sings what on “The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie”:

1. “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie/The Weavers
2. “Do Re Mi” by Cisco Houston
3. “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh” by The Weavers
4. “Pastures Of Plenty” by Odetta
5. “Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)” by Cisco Houston
6. “900 Miles” by Cisco Houston
7. “Roll On Columbia” by Country Joe McDonald
8. “Hard, Ain’t It Hard” by Woody Guthrie & Cisco Houston
9. “Dirty Overhalls” by Woody Guthrie
10. “Riding In My Car (Take Me)” by Woody Guthrie
11. “Ship In The Sky” by Cisco Houston
12. “The Sinking Of The Reuben James” by The Weavers
13. “Rambling Round Your City” by Odetta
14. “Jesus Christ” by Cisco Houston
15. “When The Curfew Blows” by Country Joe McDonald
16. “1913 Massacre” by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
17. “Talking Fishing Blues” by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
18. “Curly Headed Baby” by Cisco Houston
19. “Jackhammer John” by The Weavers
20. “The Great Historical Bum” by Odetta
21. “Pretty Boy Floyd” by Joan Baez
22. “Buffalo Skinners” by Jim Kweskin
23. “Hard Travelin'” by Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston & Sonny Terry

A folk-music delight from beginning to end!

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(192 kbps)

“Electric Ladyland” was the third and final album by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released in 1968 on Reprise Records. Written and produced by Jimi Hendrix, the album is seen as the peak of Hendrix’s mastery of the electric guitar, and is frequently cited as one of the greatest rock albums of all time. It is not only the last of his albums released as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but also the last of Hendrix’s studio albums to be professionally produced under his own supervision. After “Electric Ladyland”, Hendrix spent the remaining two years of his life attempting to organize a new band and recording a breadth of new songs.

The “Electric Ladyland Outtakes” features demos/studio outtakes/rough mixes that were recorded during 1968 and 1969 plus some Drake Hotel Demos, New York City, NY April 1968. This album offers an excellent insiders’ view at how Jimi worked and how he developed his songs in the studio.

1. Have You Ever Been To (Electric Ladyland) [instrumental backing track]
2. All Along The Watchtower [basic track without overdubs/effects]
3. Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That [unreleased track with Noel Redding on vocals. Based on an instrumental called My Little One]
4. Come On (Part 1) [alternate take]
5. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) [an early studio-take – a breakdown because Jimi makes a mistake for once!]
6. Room Full Of Mirrors [an early version]
7. Gipsy Eyes [an early rehearsal take with onnly guitar and drums]
8. Gipsy Eyes [rough mix with different guitar overdub]
9. House Burning Down [rough mix]
10. Cat Talkin’ To Me [instrumental backing track of an unreleased song]
11. Cat Talikn’ To Me [track 10, different take, with overdubbed Mitch Mitchell vocals]
12. Taking Care Of No Business [a real Jimi Hendrix oddity – complete with horn arrangement. Unreleased.]
13. Angel [demo recorded at Jimi’s apartment – just his voice and electric guitar]
14. 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) [same as track 12]
15. 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) [early studio take]
16. 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) [a “vocal” mix – no bass and drums]
17. Valleys Of Neptune…Arising [unreleased song – a session – like runthrough with only Jimi on guitar/vocals and Mitch on drums]
18. Valleys Of Neptune…Arising [a gentle, flowing instrumental version of the song. A Fleetwood Mac “Albatross”-like-arrangement showing that Jimi really could play]
19. Freedom [an early rehearsal take]

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(256 kbps, cover art and tracklist with comments included)

Group 1850 is an interesting, if sometimes exasperating, late-’60s Dutch band who ranks among the most accomplished and original Continental rock acts of the era, though they made little impression in English-speaking territories. Starting as a more or less conventional beat band in the mid-’60s, they had taken a turn for the more psychedelic and bizarre by 1967. Determined to drive into the heart of the psychedelic beast, their songs (performed in English) are quite eclectic for the era, shifting from doom-laden tempos with growling vocals to sunny, utopian passages with breezy harmonies.

“Agemo’s Trip to Mother Earth” was one of the most ambitious psychedelic albums to emerge from continental Europe in the late ’60s. The LP’s nominal concept was, like many early such endeavors, obscure, involving something like the journey of Agemo from a paradise-like planet to the more chaotic imperfection of Earth.

Musically, the record owes a lot to late-’60s British psychedelia (particularly of the Pink Floyd school), with hints of the onset of progressive rock in its less-conventional passages. Although plenty of melodic shifts, celestial organ, wiggling distorted guitar, harmony vocals, Gregorian chant-like singing, Mothers of Invention-like horns, beatific respites (on “Reborn”), and general freakiness entertainingly convey the exploration of new psychic territory, it ultimately lacks the lyrical and musical cogency of, say, late-’60s Pink Floyd. At times the bold weirdness gets self-indulgent, throwing in phased drum soloing, solemnly intoned spoken female romantic exclamations, and multilingual murmuring.
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(192 kbps, cover included)

Rock ‘n’ roll comes in many different shapes and sizes, and on the night of April 26, 1970, it came to the Fillmore West in the form of a barrel-chested Irishman in a silk shirt and flares.

At 24 years of age, Van Morrison had already experienced the sort of career rollercoaster that less robust singers preferred to stretch out over a lifetime. The blue-eyed soul of his early work with Ulster pub-rockers Them had been all but abandoned in favor of darker, more introspective material on his seminal solo recordings; but the grit and bluster of a Belfast childhood spent devouring R&B records would always be evident in his feral howl. Onstage, his portrayal of detached cool and sweaty bravado was just a veneer; a mask for the sensitive and difficult poet that often retreated to his home in Northern Ireland to escape the torments of the music industry (sometimes to the detriment of his career). It was likely these retreats, however, that kept his talent so pure for so long, allowing him to beat a totally unique path through the dense forest of popular music.
The release of “Moondance” in February of 1970 saw Van taking his rhythm and folk in a sweeter, jazzier direction. His band clearly relishes the opportunity to showcase the album’s material before a sedated Fillmore crowd. Stumbling only at the beginning of the obligatory “Brown Eyed Girl,” the group delivers flawless renditions of most of the “Moondance” favorites, then brings the pitch to a glorious crescendo with nearly 13 minutes of “Cyprus Avenue” from “Astral Weeks” – dig the Otis Redding “wall of horns.”
After 39 years of constant rotation, it’s hard to think of some of these songs as fresh, but the live context adds a warm dimension and enriches the album versions by showing how close to “7 guys playin’ in a room” they really are. Not a lot of surprises for big Van-heads, but those new to his canon will be treated to a solid overview of what are arguably his best and most famous albums. This is the real stuff; before The Commitments and “Rattle and Hum”, Irish soul had one name – and it was Van.

1. Moondance
2. Glad Tidings
3. Crazy Love
4. Come Running
5. The Way Young Lovers Do
6. Everyone
7. Brown Eyed Girl
8. And It Stoned Me
9. These Dreams Of You
10. Caravan
11. Cyprus Avenue
12. Into The Mystic

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“The Joel Bernstein Tapes” is a lovely set of acoustic soundboard recordings from Neil Young´s November ’76 tour. These recordings were the favourite performances of Joel Bernstein who was a photographer/artsit friend of Neil’s (he took some of the most famous shots of Neil).

This all acoustic boot includes songs not yet released and songs that didn’t appear for many years, including an early version of “White Line”, among others.

1. Campaigner (Boston, 26th)
2. Old Laughing Lady (Atlanta, 24th)
3. Human Highway (Madison, 14th)
4. Tell Me Why (Chicago, 15th)
5. After The Goldrush (Houston, 11th)
6. Harvest (Boston, 22nd)
7. Mr. Soul (New York City, 20th)
8. Here We Are In The Years (Atlanta, 24th)
9. Journey Through The Past (Boston, 22nd)
10. Heart Of Gold (Fort Worth, 10th)
11. A Man Needs A Maid (New York City, 20th)
12. White Line (Fort Worth, 10th)
13. Give Me Strength (New York City, 20th)
14. No One Seems To Know (Boulder, 7th)
15. Mellow My Mind (New York City, 20th)
16. Too Far Gone (Boulder, 6th)
17. Needle And The Damage Done (Atlanta, 24th)
18. Pocahontas (Atlanta, 24th)
19. Roll Another Number (Boston, 22nd)
20. Losing End (Atlanta, 24th)
21. Love Is A Rose (Houston, 11th)
22. Sugar Mountain (Atlanta, 24th)

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(256 kbps, artwork included)

Irascible, demanding, bullying, and probably a genius, Charles Mingus (1922-1979) cut himself a uniquely iconoclastic path through jazz in the middle of the 20th century, creating a legacy that became universally lauded only after he was no longer around to bug people. As a bassist, he knew few peers, blessed with a powerful tone and pulsating sense of rhythm, capable of elevating the instrument into the front line of a band. But had he been just a string player, few would know his name today. Rather, he was the greatest bass-playing leader/composer jazz has ever known, one who always kept his ears and fingers on the pulse, spirit, spontaneity, and ferocious expressive power of jazz.

Mingus is considered one of the most important composers and performers of jazz, a pioneer in bass technique, and he recorded many highly regarded albums. Dozens of musicians passed through his bands and later went on to impressive careers. Mingus was also influential and creative as a band leader, recruiting talented and sometimes little-known artists whom he assembled into unconventional and revealing configurations.

Nearly as well known as his ambitious music was Mingus’ often fearsome temperament, which earned him the nickname “The Angry Man of Jazz.” His refusal to compromise his musical integrity led to many on-stage eruptions, exhortations to musicians, and dismissals.

This gig from the later years of Mingus’s career is just a treat to listen to. A wonderful broadcast recording it will take you on a jazz ride from traditional bebob grooves and forms through rapid, angular tempo shifts and into the pure chaos of avante-garde atonality and right back to traditional bop and even some 12-bar blues (and Mozartean piano breaks, for colour). It’s an almost a perfect, if non-sequential, history of jazz, often within a single tune.

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“A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It’s hard for me to relate to that. I mean, it, you know, people enjoying that type of pain, you know?”
– Bob Dylan, on “Blood on the Tracks”

The story goes like this: In September, 1974, Bob Dylan hired a handful of NYC musicians, went into the studio, and recorded the batch of tunes that came to be known as “Blood on the Tracks”. Dissatisfied with the results, Dylan scrapped everything, and then traveled to Minneapolis, where he re-recorded the songs that were then released on the official album. But the New York sessions are widely available, and reveal a fascinating glimpse into the heart and mind of a mercurial singer and songwriter.

This album contains the original New York session recordings taken directly from a mint condition test pressing of the intended release. Half of the tracks are the actual released versions, the other half on this album were thrown away in favor of the Minneapolis versions.

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(32o kbps, complete artwork included)

The first MacKenzie tape was recorded November 23 and December 4, 1961 in the home of Eve and Mac MacKenzie, friends of Dylan during his early years in New York City. The tape is fragmentary and often muddled. The story goes that Anthony Scaduto managed to surreptitiously record as much of the tape as he could while visiting with the MacKenzie’s during research for his authorized biography of Bob Dylan. As the story goes, he had to hide his portable tape recordeder everytime someone entered the room.

The second MacKenzie tape is more interesting than the first because by the time of this recording Dylan was already an established star. In fact, this tape (or most of it anyway) was made the very afternoon of the famous Town Hall concert, April 12, 1963.

Like the first MacKenzie tape, the sound quality is dismal, but since it contains a few rarities like I Rode Out One Morning and Long Time Gone, it’s worth seeking out. The setting is informal and the performances offhand and relaxed. Some of the material at the beginning of the tape could possibly be from an earlier session.

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Patti Smith moved to New York in the late 1960s and, over the next few years, while living with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, established a reputation as a writer of fierce vision and uncompromising originality. She trafficked in the underground theater scene (where she collaborated with playwright Sam Shepard on the play Cowboy Mouth) and published poems in small press editions, which, along with her published rock criticism, established Smith in the New York arts scene of the early 1970s.
Her February 1971 poetry reading at St. Mark’s Church, where rock critic Lenny Kaye joined her for three songs on guitar, opened the door for her future recordings. The two hit it off right away, discovering a shared interest in obscure rock records. Two years later, Smith and Kaye reunited for a concert in celebration of Rimbaud, and the seeds for a band were sown. Adding Richard Sohl on piano the following year, the trio found regular gigs in and around New York.

The tracks 1-12 are from her mentioned very early poetry reading at St. Mark´s Church, and some parts of shows from 1973 and 1974 are “filler” for this collection (tracks 13-23).

1. Ha! Ha! Houdini!
2. Four Interesting Positions Of A Retired Child Star
3. Mary Jane
4. Lono Lord
5. Renee Falconetti
6. Bitch
7. Death By Water
8. Seventh Heaven
9. Amelia Earhart
10. Flying Saucers
11. Piano
12. The Amazing Tale Of Skunkdog

NYC 1973, venue unknown
13. Brian Jones
14. Prayer
15. Jesus Christ

Max’s Kansas City, NYC 1974
16. We’re Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together
17. I’m Wild About That Thing
18. Harbor Song
19. The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game
20. Piss Factory
21. We Three
22. Land
23. Neo Boy – Hey Joe

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(cover art included)