Archive for November, 2011


Opal – Early Recordings

The neo-psychedelic group Opal formed in the mid-’80s, featuring former Rain Parade guitarist David Roback and former Dream Syndicate bassist Kendra Smith. Initially, the group was called Clay Allison, but the group dropped the name after one single; Roback, Smith, and drummer Keith Mitchell released the remaining Clay Allison tracks under their own name in 1984 on the “Fell From the Sun” EP. After its release, the group adopted the name Opal and released an EP, “Northern Line”, in 1985.

“Early Recordings'”is a collection of songs by David Roback and Kendra Smith that date from 1983-1987; they were released under both the Opal and Clay Allison band monikers.

While Opal’s “Happy Nightmare Baby” is more representative of the group’s richly textured brand of neo-psychedelia, the stripped-down “Early Recordings” compilation is an even better example of David Roback and Kendra Smith’s remarkable songcraft.

Released in the wake of the group’s breakup, the album collects the majority of tracks from the “Fell From the Sun” and “Northern Line” EPs, along with a handful of outtakes and unreleased cuts, all spotlighting Opal’s more subdued, acoustic-folk side. Peeling away the mystical haze which enshrouded “Happy Nightmare Baby”, the songs are plaintive and stark, exposing the emotional complexity at the band’s core – the wistful “Empty Box Blues” and the haunting “Harriet Brown,” both previously unissued, are unmatched in their beauty and grace.

Opal – Early Recordings

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The neo-psychedelic group Opal formed in the mid-’80s, featuring former Rain Parade guitarist David Roback and former Dream Syndicate bassist Kendra Smith. Initially, the group was called Clay Allison, but the group dropped the name after one single; Roback, Smith, and drummer Keith Mitchell released the remaining Clay Allison tracks under their own name in 1984 on the “Fell From the Sun” EP. After its release, the group adopted the name Opal and released an EP, “Northern Line”, in 1985.

“Early Recordings'”is a collection of songs by David Roback and Kendra Smith that date from 1983-1987; they were released under both the Opal and Clay Allison band monikers.

While Opal’s “Happy Nightmare Baby” is more representative of the group’s richly textured brand of neo-psychedelia, the stripped-down “Early Recordings” compilation is an even better example of David Roback and Kendra Smith’s remarkable songcraft.

Released in the wake of the group’s breakup, the album collects the majority of tracks from the “Fell From the Sun” and “Northern Line” EPs, along with a handful of outtakes and unreleased cuts, all spotlighting Opal’s more subdued, acoustic-folk side. Peeling away the mystical haze which enshrouded “Happy Nightmare Baby”, the songs are plaintive and stark, exposing the emotional complexity at the band’s core – the wistful “Empty Box Blues” and the haunting “Harriet Brown,” both previously unissued, are unmatched in their beauty and grace.

Opal – Early Recordings

A big number and high variety of actions is expected for November 23-28, 2011, due to the 13th transport of high level active atomic waste (the so-called Castor transport) from the reprocessing unit (plutonium factory) La Hague in France to the temporary repository in Gorleben, Germany.

To support the protest against nuclear waste dump in Gorleben (Wendland, Germany), we post the classic album “Bauer Maas – Lieder gegen Atomkraftwerke”. It was released in 1979 on the “Pass-Op” label and contains tracks by Frank Baier, Fiedel Michel, Schmetterline and  more. This compilation contains protest songs against the atomic power plant in Kalkar.

VA – Bauer Maas – Lieder gegen Atomkraftwerke
(~160 kbps, cover art included, two tracks from the original album are missing)

More information about the protest action can be found via https://www.gorleben-castor.de/index.php or https://www.x-tausendmalquer.de/.

“Gentleman” is both an Africa 70 and Afro-beat masterpiece. High marks go to the scathing commentary that Fela Anikulapo Kuti lets loose but also to the instrumentation and the overall arrangements, as they prove to be some of the most interesting and innovative of Fela’s ’70s material.

When the great tenor saxophone player Igo Chico left the Africa 70 organization in 1973, Fela Kuti declared he would be the replacement. So in addition to bandleader, soothsayer, and organ player, Fela picked up the horn and learned to play it quite quickly – even developing a certain personal voice with it. To show off that fact, “Gentleman” gets rolling with a loose improvisatory solo saxophone performance that Tony Allen eventually pats along with before the entire band drops in with classic Afro-beat magnificence.

“Gentleman” is also a great example of Fela’s directed wit at the post-colonial West African sociopolitical state of affairs. His focus is on the Africans that still had a colonial mentality after the Brits were gone and then parallels that life with his own. He wonders why his fellow Africans would wear so much clothing in the African heat: “I know what to wear but my friend don’t know” and also points out that “I am not a gentleman like that!/I be Africa man original.” To support “Gentleman,” the B-side features equally hot jazzy numbers, “Fefe Naa Efe” and “Igbe,” making this an absolute must-have release.

Fela Kuti – Gentleman (1973)
(320 kbps, front cover included)

“Gentleman” is both an Africa 70 and Afro-beat masterpiece. High marks go to the scathing commentary that Fela Anikulapo Kuti lets loose but also to the instrumentation and the overall arrangements, as they prove to be some of the most interesting and innovative of Fela’s ’70s material.

When the great tenor saxophone player Igo Chico left the Africa 70 organization in 1973, Fela Kuti declared he would be the replacement. So in addition to bandleader, soothsayer, and organ player, Fela picked up the horn and learned to play it quite quickly – even developing a certain personal voice with it. To show off that fact, “Gentleman” gets rolling with a loose improvisatory solo saxophone performance that Tony Allen eventually pats along with before the entire band drops in with classic Afro-beat magnificence.

“Gentleman” is also a great example of Fela’s directed wit at the post-colonial West African sociopolitical state of affairs. His focus is on the Africans that still had a colonial mentality after the Brits were gone and then parallels that life with his own. He wonders why his fellow Africans would wear so much clothing in the African heat: “I know what to wear but my friend don’t know” and also points out that “I am not a gentleman like that!/I be Africa man original.” To support “Gentleman,” the B-side features equally hot jazzy numbers, “Fefe Naa Efe” and “Igbe,” making this an absolute must-have release.

Fela Kuti – Gentleman (1973)
(320 kbps, front cover included)

Hanns Eisler was a composer with a social conscience, but, like the poet in one of these songs, he reaped only anguish. Driven from his native Germany where his music was banned by the Nazis, he went to California and wrote excellent film scores, but was unable to reconcile himself to Hollywood’s mass culture, leaving him a stranger in a foreign land. These songs – like so much in the extraordinary Entartete Musik” series – express the experience of actual and spiritual exile, with its aching yearning for a home that no longer exists. Most of the texts are by Eisler’s friend and fellow exile, Bertolt Brecht; together they create a grim picture of bleak desolation in the midst of material plenty. The songs are connected by a feeling of isolation and despair at the state of the world, as well as a pervasive strain of desperate humor and irony. The sense of rootlessness is most clearly reflected in the songs’ abrupt, incomplete-sounding endings. The musical language is eclectic but highly original, ranging from echoes of Schubert, intimations of the serialism Eisler learned from Schönberg, to cabaret songs. Eisler was finally deported back to Germany during the McCarthy era, having never attained the stature he deserved. Matthias Goerne’s incomparably velvety, variable, expressive voice and riveting inward concentration give the tragedy of the uprooted exile’s loneliness a shattering emotional impact, and pianist Eric Schneider is terrific. It is interesting to compare Goerne’s approach to that of baritone Wolfgang Holzmair, who uses a much drier sound and very pointed diction, underlining the songs’ cabaret style to give them a stinging, sardonic sarcasm with stiletto-like sharpness.

“An issue of major importance, hugely impressive. Goerne has obviously been smitten by these wonderful, neglected songs: he calls them ‘the 20th century Winterreise´ and in performances as gripping as these it is hard to contradict him. They are Eisler’s songs of exile, written in Hollywood while the Germany for which he felt both passionate revulsion and deep nostalgia sank into the abyss. Most of the 46 short songs are settings of poems by Brecht, some written specifically for Eisler, but they also incorporate ‘mini-cycles’ to texts by MOrike and Eichendorff, two poems by Blaise Pascal (set in English) and one or two others including a single poem by Eisler himself.
The songs are not here sung in the order in which Eisler eventually published them, but the sequence chosen makes poignant dramatic sense, chronicling Brecht’s and Eisler’s horror at what was happening in Germany, their flight and exile, their reaction to the alien world of Hollywood and meditations on Germany’s vanished past, hideous present and uncertain future. As performed here, the cycle ends with a loving homage to Schubert, ‘On Watering the Garden’, followed by the haunting and moving ‘Homecoming’, a vision of Berlin obliterated by bombardment, and by the intense and characteristically Eislerian lyricism of ‘Landscape of Exile’ (‘The ravines of California at evening…did not leave the messenger of misfortune unmoved’). These were Eisler’s first Lieder since his student days, and to convey his epic theme in a sequence of miniatures he ranged across all the styles available to him, from a terse, Schoenberg-derived angularity via Berlin cabaret towards, more and more as the sequence proceeds, deliberate evocation of Schubert, Schumann and Mahler.

They demand a prodigious expressive range from any singer who undertakes them. Goerne can sing ‘On Suicide’ with a mere thread of sound without ever losing the quality of his voice but can then swell in an instant to a formidable fff for the last syllable of the terrifying final line (‘People just throw their unbearable lives away’). The sheer beauty of his voice is just what those many homages to the Lied tradition need. His English is pretty good, his diction immaculate, and he makes a memorably sinister thing of the seventh Hollywood Elegy (set in English; Brecht’s German original is lost), that horrifying image of a man sinking in a swamp with a a ‘ghastly, blissful smile’. Goerne has done nothing better; this is a masterly and profoundly moving achievement. His pianist is first-class, the recording admirable.” –  from: Gramophone (1/1999)

Hanns Eisler – Hollywood Songbook (Matthias Goerne)
(192 kbps, front cover included)

Franz Josef Degenhardt was born in Schwelm, Westphalia. After studying law from 1952 to 1956 in Cologne and Freiburg, he passed the first German state bar examination in 1956 and the second in 1960. Degenhardt joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1961, but was forced out in 1971 because of his support for the German Communist Party (DKP), which he joined in 1978.

From the early 1960s onward, in addition to practicing law, Degenhardt was also performing and releasing recordings. He is perhaps most famous for his song (and the album of the same name) “Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern” (“Don’t Play With the Grubby Children,” 1965), but has released close to 50 albums, starting with “Zwischen Null Uhr Null und Mitternacht” (“Between 00:00 and Midnight,” 1963), renamed “Rumpelstilzchen” (“Rumpelstiltskin”); his most recent albums “Krieg gegen den Krieg” (“War against the War”) and “Dämmerung” (“Twilight”) came out in 2003 and 2006.

In 1968 Degenhardt was involved in trials of members of the German student movement, principally defending social democrats and communists. At the same time, he was – in his capacity as a singer-songwriter – one of the major voices of the 1968 student movement. On his 1977 album “Wildledermantelmann” he criticized many of his former comrades from that era for what he saw as their betrayal of socialist ideals and shift towards a social-liberal orientation. The album’s title (roughly, “man with velour coat”) mocks the style of clothing they had supposedly adopted.
Notably, the songs on Degenhardt’s 1986 album “Junge Paare Auf Den Bänken” (“Young Couples on the Benches”), along with the song Vorsicht Gorilla (“Beware of Gorilla”) on the 1985 album of the same name, are his translations into German of chansons by the French singer-songwriter Georges Brassens, spiritually perhaps one of his closest musical allies.

Degenhardt has also written several novels, most in a rather autobiographical vein, among others: “Zündschnüre” (“Slow Matches”, 1972), “Brandstellen” (“Scenes of Fires”, 1974), “Der Liedermacher” (1982) and “Für ewig und drei Tage” (“For Ever and Three Days”, 1999).
He was a cousin of the Catholic Archbishop of Paderborn, Johannes Joachim Degenhardt, who died in 2002. He is also the brother-in-law of the American-born illustrator Gertrude Degenhardt, who has designed many of his album covers for him. Degenhardt lived, till his death in this week, in Quickborn, Kreis Pinneberg, in Schleswig-Holstein.

Franz Josef Degenhardt – Aus diesem Land (Live)
(320 kbps, front cover included)

Franz Josef Degenhardt was born in Schwelm, Westphalia. After studying law from 1952 to 1956 in Cologne and Freiburg, he passed the first German state bar examination in 1956 and the second in 1960. Degenhardt joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1961, but was forced out in 1971 because of his support for the German Communist Party (DKP), which he joined in 1978.

From the early 1960s onward, in addition to practicing law, Degenhardt was also performing and releasing recordings. He is perhaps most famous for his song (and the album of the same name) “Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern” (“Don’t Play With the Grubby Children,” 1965), but has released close to 50 albums, starting with “Zwischen Null Uhr Null und Mitternacht” (“Between 00:00 and Midnight,” 1963), renamed “Rumpelstilzchen” (“Rumpelstiltskin”); his most recent albums “Krieg gegen den Krieg” (“War against the War”) and “Dämmerung” (“Twilight”) came out in 2003 and 2006.

In 1968 Degenhardt was involved in trials of members of the German student movement, principally defending social democrats and communists. At the same time, he was – in his capacity as a singer-songwriter – one of the major voices of the 1968 student movement. On his 1977 album “Wildledermantelmann” he criticized many of his former comrades from that era for what he saw as their betrayal of socialist ideals and shift towards a social-liberal orientation. The album’s title (roughly, “man with velour coat”) mocks the style of clothing they had supposedly adopted.
Notably, the songs on Degenhardt’s 1986 album “Junge Paare Auf Den Bänken” (“Young Couples on the Benches”), along with the song Vorsicht Gorilla (“Beware of Gorilla”) on the 1985 album of the same name, are his translations into German of chansons by the French singer-songwriter Georges Brassens, spiritually perhaps one of his closest musical allies.

Degenhardt has also written several novels, most in a rather autobiographical vein, among others: “Zündschnüre” (“Slow Matches”, 1972), “Brandstellen” (“Scenes of Fires”, 1974), “Der Liedermacher” (1982) and “Für ewig und drei Tage” (“For Ever and Three Days”, 1999).
He was a cousin of the Catholic Archbishop of Paderborn, Johannes Joachim Degenhardt, who died in 2002. He is also the brother-in-law of the American-born illustrator Gertrude Degenhardt, who has designed many of his album covers for him. Degenhardt lived, till his death in this week, in Quickborn, Kreis Pinneberg, in Schleswig-Holstein.

Franz Josef Degenhardt – Aus diesem Land (Live)
(320 kbps, front cover included)

Prinzessinnengärten

Next Friday, November, 18, our friends from the Zero G Sound DJ Collective will spin again some records at the club “west germany” in Berlin-Kreuzberg. This time they will select reggae, rocksteady, ska and dancehall tunes.

Their dj-set will be a part of a nice event with live music and djs celebrating the urban gardening project “Prinzessinnengärten”.

Nomadisch Grün (Nomadic Green) launched Prinzessinnengärten (Princess gardens) as a pilot project in the summer of 2009 at Moritzplatz in Berlin Kreuzberg, a site which had been a wasteland for over half a century. Along with friends, fans, activists and neighbours, the group cleared away rubbish, built transportable organic vegetable plots and reaped the first fruits of their labour.

For a video about the Prinzessinnengarten with english subtitles click here

 

Next Friday, November, 18, our friends from the Zero G Sound DJ Collective will spin again some records at the club “west germany” in Berlin-Kreuzberg. This time they will select reggae, rocksteady, ska and dancehall tunes.

Their dj-set will be a part of a nice event with live music and djs celebrating the urban gardening project “Prinzessinnengärten”.

Nomadisch Grün (Nomadic Green) launched Prinzessinnengärten (Princess gardens) as a pilot project in the summer of 2009 at Moritzplatz in Berlin Kreuzberg, a site which had been a wasteland for over half a century. Along with friends, fans, activists and neighbours, the group cleared away rubbish, built transportable organic vegetable plots and reaped the first fruits of their labour.

For a video about the Prinzessinnengarten with english subtitles click here