Archive for December, 2013


The compilation “Where Will You Be Christmas Day?” shows many sides of Christmas – from Jesus born in the manger to Leroy Carr spending the holiday in jail – and provides a compelling contrast to the commercialized Christmas we know today.

A holiday compilation with a difference, this assembles a couple dozen Christmas-themed recordings from 1917-1959 that represent roots music of all stripes – blues, gospel, early jazz, early country, Appalachian folk, and even some ethnic sounds of Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Italy, and Ukraine. There are some pretty famous names here, like Leadbelly, Bessie Smith, and Lightnin’ Hopkins, as well as some artists who are not as famous but still pretty renowned, like Rev. J.M. Gates, Buell Kazee, and the Maddox Brothers & Rose. Yet as was the case on the Dust-to-Digital label’s extraordinary six-CD box set of 1902-1960 spirituals, “Goodbye, Babylon”, there are a host of names here that will be known almost exclusively to serious old-time music collectors. That in itself makes this a pretty interesting and offbeat Christmas anthology. But even if you care nothing for rare record values, it’s certainly rawer, more heartfelt, and just more musically interesting than the vast majority of what you’ll find in the holiday bin. It’s also a reminder of a time when Christmas discs could be relatively joyful and sincere expressions of religion and merrymaking, rather than just excuses to make a quick buck by cashing in on the time of the season. It makes for superior roots music listening whether you’re in the holiday spirit or not, but some of the better tracks to keep an ear out for include the Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers’ jovial Dixieland jazz-style “Christ Was Born on Christmas Morn,” with its thrilling high female background vocal swoops; Leadbelly’s highly rhythmic, infectiously joyous “Christmas Is A-Coming”; the exuberant early calypso of Lord Executor’s “Christmas Is a Joyful Day”; the shuffling flamenco-like verve of Los Jibaros’ “Décimas de Nacimiento”; and the electric blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Happy New Year,” which verges on rock & roll.
Note, also, how the tracks are sequenced almost like a chronological celebration of holiday themes, starting with Vera Hall Ward’s “The Last Month of the Year,” moving on through Leadbelly’s “Christmas Is A-Coming” and Kansas City Kitty’s “Christmas Morning Blues,” and wrapping up with Hopkins’ “Happy New Year.”
This album deserves a four-star rating for its general musical value; judged by the standards of Christmas/holiday releases, it easily rates a full five stars.         

VA – Where Will You Be Christmas Day?
(320 kbps, cover art included)

Happy X-Mas!      

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The compilation “Where Will You Be Christmas Day?” shows many sides of Christmas – from Jesus born in the manger to Leroy Carr spending the holiday in jail – and provides a compelling contrast to the commercialized Christmas we know today.

A holiday compilation with a difference, this assembles a couple dozen Christmas-themed recordings from 1917-1959 that represent roots music of all stripes – blues, gospel, early jazz, early country, Appalachian folk, and even some ethnic sounds of Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Italy, and Ukraine. There are some pretty famous names here, like Leadbelly, Bessie Smith, and Lightnin’ Hopkins, as well as some artists who are not as famous but still pretty renowned, like Rev. J.M. Gates, Buell Kazee, and the Maddox Brothers & Rose. Yet as was the case on the Dust-to-Digital label’s extraordinary six-CD box set of 1902-1960 spirituals, “Goodbye, Babylon”, there are a host of names here that will be known almost exclusively to serious old-time music collectors. That in itself makes this a pretty interesting and offbeat Christmas anthology. But even if you care nothing for rare record values, it’s certainly rawer, more heartfelt, and just more musically interesting than the vast majority of what you’ll find in the holiday bin. It’s also a reminder of a time when Christmas discs could be relatively joyful and sincere expressions of religion and merrymaking, rather than just excuses to make a quick buck by cashing in on the time of the season. It makes for superior roots music listening whether you’re in the holiday spirit or not, but some of the better tracks to keep an ear out for include the Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers’ jovial Dixieland jazz-style “Christ Was Born on Christmas Morn,” with its thrilling high female background vocal swoops; Leadbelly’s highly rhythmic, infectiously joyous “Christmas Is A-Coming”; the exuberant early calypso of Lord Executor’s “Christmas Is a Joyful Day”; the shuffling flamenco-like verve of Los Jibaros’ “Décimas de Nacimiento”; and the electric blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Happy New Year,” which verges on rock & roll.
Note, also, how the tracks are sequenced almost like a chronological celebration of holiday themes, starting with Vera Hall Ward’s “The Last Month of the Year,” moving on through Leadbelly’s “Christmas Is A-Coming” and Kansas City Kitty’s “Christmas Morning Blues,” and wrapping up with Hopkins’ “Happy New Year.”
This album deserves a four-star rating for its general musical value; judged by the standards of Christmas/holiday releases, it easily rates a full five stars.         

VA – Where Will You Be Christmas Day?
(320 kbps, cover art included)

Happy X-Mas!      

“Ella Fitzgerald – At Newport” presents recordings from the Newport Jazz Festival, July 1957.

 Unfortunately, Ella Fitzgerald had some problems with her band members. It’s unclear how much time Fitzgerald had spent with her trio, though she makes her unhappiness known while trying to jump-start them to a quicker tempo on “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and “April in Paris.” Finally, she gets the band in line, delivering crowd-pleasing renditions of “Lullaby of Birdland” and the terrific scat piece “Air Mail Special,” which must have set the park on fire.

Though it’s far from a perfect set for Ella Fitzgerald, “At Newport” says more about her respective career than any great show could.

Ella Fitzgerald – At Newport (1957)
(new link with all tracks, 256 kbps, cover art included)

“Ella Fitzgerald – At Newport” presents recordings from the Newport Jazz Festival, July 1957.

 Unfortunately, Ella Fitzgerald had some problems with her band members. It’s unclear how much time Fitzgerald had spent with her trio, though she makes her unhappiness known while trying to jump-start them to a quicker tempo on “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and “April in Paris.” Finally, she gets the band in line, delivering crowd-pleasing renditions of “Lullaby of Birdland” and the terrific scat piece “Air Mail Special,” which must have set the park on fire.

Though it’s far from a perfect set for Ella Fitzgerald, “At Newport” says more about her respective career than any great show could.

Ella Fitzgerald – At Newport (1957)
(new link with all tracks, 256 kbps, cover art included)

Zupfgeigenhansel was a German folk duo, one of the most successful groups to emerge on the German folk scene in the 1970s. It consisted of Erich Schmeckenbecher and Thomas Friz. The group was named after the collection of folk songs of the same name, which was published in 1909.

The group started playing in folk-clubs, mainly in southern Germany, in 1974. They then started appearing on the radio programme Liederladen of the Südwestfunk broadcasting station. They released their first album, Volkslieder I for the Pläne record company in 1976, and later in the year their second album, Volkslieder II. In 1978 they received the award of “Artists of the Year” in one of the categories of the German Phonoakademie. The texts of their folk songs reflect the stories of the “simple” people of the past century, whether about love, trouble, courage, pride, disdain of leaders and priests, or resistance to the military. They disbanded in 1985.

The album “Kein schöner Land” was recorded during July / September 1983 at Conny’s Studio, Neunkirchen-Wolperath, and released on the Musikant label.

Tracklist:
01. Neues Wanderlied
02. Nehmt Abschied
03. Fun wos lebt a jid
04. Gesang der Edellatscher.mp3
05. Zogen einst fünf wilde Schwäne
06. Muß i denn
07. Lügenlied
08. Nargaritkes
09. Lindenballade
10. Ein schönes Land
11. Dire-gelt (bonus track)
12. Tsen Brider (bonus track)

Zupfgeigenhansel – Kein schöner Land (Musikant 1983)
(192 kbps, cover art included)

Porgy and Bess” is a 1957 studio album by jazz vocalist and trumpeter Louis Armstrong, and singer Ella Fitzgerald collaborating on this recording of selections from George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. In 2001, it was awarded with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, a special achievement prize established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have “qualitative or historical significance.” The album was originally issued on the Verve label in 1957.

There have been many recordings of the music from the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess, but this is one of the more rewarding ones. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald sing all of the parts, performing some of the play’s best melodies. Unfortunately, there is not much Armstrong trumpet to be heard, but the vocals are excellent and occasionally wonderful, making up for the unimaginative Russ Garcia arrangements assigned to the backup orchestra.               

Tracklist:

Tracklist

A1 Summertime 4:58
A2 I Wants To Stay Here 4:38
A3 My Man’s Gone Now 4:02
A4 I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’ 3:52
A5 Buzzard Song 2:58
A6 Bess, You Is My Woman Now 5:28
B1 It Ain’t Necessarily So 6:34
B2 What You Want Wid Bess 1:59
B3 A Woman Is A Somtime Thing 4:47
B4 Oh, Doctor Jesus 2:00
B5 Medley: Here Come De Honey Man – Crab Man – Oh, Dey’s So Fresh & Fine 3:29
B6 There’s A Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon For New York 4:51
B7 Oh Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess? 2:36
B8 Oh, Lawd, I’m On My Way! 2:57

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Porgy And Bess (1957)
(256 kbps, cover art included)

Porgy and Bess” is a 1957 studio album by jazz vocalist and trumpeter Louis Armstrong, and singer Ella Fitzgerald collaborating on this recording of selections from George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. In 2001, it was awarded with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, a special achievement prize established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have “qualitative or historical significance.” The album was originally issued on the Verve label in 1957.

There have been many recordings of the music from the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess, but this is one of the more rewarding ones. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald sing all of the parts, performing some of the play’s best melodies. Unfortunately, there is not much Armstrong trumpet to be heard, but the vocals are excellent and occasionally wonderful, making up for the unimaginative Russ Garcia arrangements assigned to the backup orchestra.               

Tracklist:

Tracklist

A1 Summertime 4:58
A2 I Wants To Stay Here 4:38
A3 My Man’s Gone Now 4:02
A4 I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’ 3:52
A5 Buzzard Song 2:58
A6 Bess, You Is My Woman Now 5:28
B1 It Ain’t Necessarily So 6:34
B2 What You Want Wid Bess 1:59
B3 A Woman Is A Somtime Thing 4:47
B4 Oh, Doctor Jesus 2:00
B5 Medley: Here Come De Honey Man – Crab Man – Oh, Dey’s So Fresh & Fine 3:29
B6 There’s A Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon For New York 4:51
B7 Oh Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess? 2:36
B8 Oh, Lawd, I’m On My Way! 2:57

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Porgy And Bess (1957)
(256 kbps, cover art included)

 
Down in the Valley is a folk-opera in one act by composer Kurt Weill and librettist Arnold Sundgaard, initially composed and conceived for the radio in 1945 then rewritten and produced in 1948. It uses famous American tunes to carry the story (including “Down in the Valley”, “The Lonesome Dove”, and “Hop Up, My Ladies”) and connected by original choral music.

This short opera, originally running only about 20 minutes, was conceived as the first of a series of radio operas by Olin Downes, the music critic of The New York Times, and a businessman named Charles McArthur. The radio idea eventually fell through for lack of a sponsor, although Maurice Abravanel conducted an audition recording that was never broadcast. Hans Heinsheimer, the director of publications at Schirmer, approached Weill with a request for a school opera like “Der Jasager” for production by the opera department of Indiana University School of Music. Weill expanded and simplified Down in the Valley to a 40-minute version, and the revised version had its world premiere at that university in Bloomington, Indiana in 1948, directed by Hans Busch (son of Fritz Busch) and conducted by Ernst Hoffmann. Alan Jay Lerner’s wife, Marion Bell, played Jennie. The piece was soon broadcast on NBC radio. In 1950, it was broadcast on NBC television. It was subsequently produced in July 1952 in Provincetown, New York at the Provincetown Playhouse, directed by Tony Randall.
In 1960, the piece was played in German at the Staatstheater in Hannover, directed by Hartmut Goebel and conducted by Walter Born, with “Die sieben Todsünden”. In 1984, PBS Television broadcast the piece, directed by Frank Cvitanovich and conducted by Carl Davis. It was filmed in England by the Moving Picture Company. In September 1995, it was presented in Kansas City at the Lyric Opera, directed by Francis Cullinan and conducted by Russell Patterson. The work has also been performed numerous times by amateur forces. It has received a number of recordings.

The opera begins in a jail the night before an execution and is told in flashback form.
Brack Weaver, a teenager, falls in love with a girl, Jennie, after an Appalachian prayer meeting. But her father wants her to go to a dance with his shyster creditor, Thomas Bouché, who the father thinks will bail him out of his money troubles. Jennie disobeys and goes to the dance with Brack.
At the dance, the villain gets drunk and threatens the hero with a knife. The two fight, the villain dies (by his own weapon), and Brack is condemned to be hanged. On the night before his execution, he escapes to spend his last hours with Jennie, before turning himself in to meet his fate.

This recording with Marion Bell (soprano), William McGraw (baritone), Kenneth Smith (bass-baritone), Ray Jacquemot (bass-baritone), Richard Barrows (vocals), Robert Holland (tenor), Roy Johnston (bass), Jeanne Privette (soprano), Carole O’Hara (contralto), Ralph Teferteller (vocals)
RCA Victor Chorus, RCA Victor Orchestra, and Peter Herman Adler (conductor) was released on a 10″ on RCA in 1950.

Kurt Weill – Down In The Valley (1950)
(256 kbps, front cover included)

 
Down in the Valley is a folk-opera in one act by composer Kurt Weill and librettist Arnold Sundgaard, initially composed and conceived for the radio in 1945 then rewritten and produced in 1948. It uses famous American tunes to carry the story (including “Down in the Valley”, “The Lonesome Dove”, and “Hop Up, My Ladies”) and connected by original choral music.

This short opera, originally running only about 20 minutes, was conceived as the first of a series of radio operas by Olin Downes, the music critic of The New York Times, and a businessman named Charles McArthur. The radio idea eventually fell through for lack of a sponsor, although Maurice Abravanel conducted an audition recording that was never broadcast. Hans Heinsheimer, the director of publications at Schirmer, approached Weill with a request for a school opera like “Der Jasager” for production by the opera department of Indiana University School of Music. Weill expanded and simplified Down in the Valley to a 40-minute version, and the revised version had its world premiere at that university in Bloomington, Indiana in 1948, directed by Hans Busch (son of Fritz Busch) and conducted by Ernst Hoffmann. Alan Jay Lerner’s wife, Marion Bell, played Jennie. The piece was soon broadcast on NBC radio. In 1950, it was broadcast on NBC television. It was subsequently produced in July 1952 in Provincetown, New York at the Provincetown Playhouse, directed by Tony Randall.
In 1960, the piece was played in German at the Staatstheater in Hannover, directed by Hartmut Goebel and conducted by Walter Born, with “Die sieben Todsünden”. In 1984, PBS Television broadcast the piece, directed by Frank Cvitanovich and conducted by Carl Davis. It was filmed in England by the Moving Picture Company. In September 1995, it was presented in Kansas City at the Lyric Opera, directed by Francis Cullinan and conducted by Russell Patterson. The work has also been performed numerous times by amateur forces. It has received a number of recordings.

The opera begins in a jail the night before an execution and is told in flashback form.
Brack Weaver, a teenager, falls in love with a girl, Jennie, after an Appalachian prayer meeting. But her father wants her to go to a dance with his shyster creditor, Thomas Bouché, who the father thinks will bail him out of his money troubles. Jennie disobeys and goes to the dance with Brack.
At the dance, the villain gets drunk and threatens the hero with a knife. The two fight, the villain dies (by his own weapon), and Brack is condemned to be hanged. On the night before his execution, he escapes to spend his last hours with Jennie, before turning himself in to meet his fate.

This recording with Marion Bell (soprano), William McGraw (baritone), Kenneth Smith (bass-baritone), Ray Jacquemot (bass-baritone), Richard Barrows (vocals), Robert Holland (tenor), Roy Johnston (bass), Jeanne Privette (soprano), Carole O’Hara (contralto), Ralph Teferteller (vocals)
RCA Victor Chorus, RCA Victor Orchestra, and Peter Herman Adler (conductor) was released on a 10″ on RCA in 1950.

Kurt Weill – Down In The Valley (1950)
(256 kbps, front cover included)

Michael Bloomfield was one of America’s first great white blues guitarists, earning his reputation on the strength of his work in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. His expressive, fluid solo lines and prodigious technique graced many other projects – most notably Bob Dylan’s earliest electric forays – and he also pursued a solo career, with variable results. Uncomfortable with the reverential treatment afforded a guitar hero, Bloomfield tended to shy away from the spotlight after spending just a few years in it; he maintained a lower-visibility career during the ’70s due to his distaste for fame and his worsening drug problems, which claimed his life in 1981.      
      
Michael Bernard Bloomfield was born July 28, 1943, into a well-off Jewish family on Chicago’s North Side. A shy, awkward loner as a child, he became interested in music through the Southern radio stations he was able to pick up at night, which gave him a regular source for rockabilly, R&B, and blues. He received his first guitar at his bar mitzvah and he and his friends began sneaking out to hear electric blues on the South Side’s fertile club scene (with the help of their families’ maids). The young Bloomfield sometimes jumped on-stage to jam with the musicians and the novelty of such a spectacle soon made him a prominent scenester. Dismayed with the turn his education was taking, his parents sent him to a private boarding school on the East Coast in 1958 and he eventually graduated from a Chicago school for troubled youth. By this time, he’d embraced the beatnik subculture, frequenting hangout spots near the University of Chicago. He got a job managing a folk club and frequently booked veteran acoustic bluesmen; in the meantime, he was also playing guitar as a session man and around the Chicago club scene with several different bands.

In 1964, Bloomfield was discovered through his session work by the legendary John Hammond, who signed him to CBS; however, several recordings from 1964 went unreleased as the label wasn’t sure how to market a white American blues guitarist. In early 1965, Bloomfield joined several associates in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a racially integrated outfit with a storming, rock-tinged take on Chicago’s urban electric blues sound. The group’s self-titled debut for Elektra, released later that year, made them a sensation in the blues community and helped introduce white audiences to a less watered-down version of the blues. Individually, Bloomfield’s lead guitar work was acclaimed as a perfectly logical bridge between Chicago blues and contemporary rock. Later, in 1965, Bloomfield was recruited for Bob Dylan’s new electrified backing band; he was a prominent presence on the groundbreaking classic “Highway 61 Revisited” and he was also part of Dylan’s epochal plugged-in performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. In the meantime, Bloomfield was developing an interest in Eastern music, particularly the Indian raga form, and his preoccupation exerted a major influence on the next Butterfield album, 1966’s “East-West”. Driven by Bloomfield’s jaw-dropping extended solos on his instrumental title cut, “East-West” merged blues, jazz, world music, and psychedelic rock in an unprecedented fashion. The Butterfield band became a favorite live act on the emerging San Francisco music scene and in 1967, Bloomfield quit the group to permanently relocate there and pursue new projects

Bloomfield quickly formed a new band called the “Electric Flag” with longtime Chicago cohort Nick Gravenites on vocals. “The Electric Flag” was supposed to build on the innovations of “East-West” and accordingly featured an expanded lineup complete with a horn section, which allowed the group to add soul music to their laundry list of influences. The Electric Flag debuted at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and issued a proper debut album, “A Long Time Comin'”, in 1968. Critics complimented the group’s distinctive, intriguing sound, but found the record itself somewhat uneven. Unfortunately, the band was already disintegrating; rivalries between members and shortsighted management – not to mention heroin abuse – all took their toll. Bloomfield himself left the band he’d formed before their album was even released. He next hooked up with organist Al Kooper, whom he’d played with in the Dylan band, and cut “Super Session”, a jam-oriented record that spotlighted his own guitar skills on one half and those of Stephen Stills on the other. Issued in 1968, it received excellent reviews and moreover became the best-selling album of Bloomfield’s career. “Super Session”‘s success led to a sequel, “The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper”, which was recorded over three shows at the Fillmore West in 1968 and released the following year; it featured Bloomfield’s on-record singing debut.
              
Bloomfield, however, was wary of his commercial success and growing disenchanted with fame. He was also tired of touring and after recording the second album with Kooper, he effectively retired for a while, at least from high-profile activities. He did, however, continue to work as a session guitarist and producer, and also began writing and playing on movie soundtracks (including some pornographic films by the Mitchell Brothers). He played locally and occasionally toured with Bloomfield and Friends, which included Nick Gravenites and ex-Butterfield mate Mark Naftalin. Additionally, he returned to the studio in 1973 for a session with John Hammond and New Orleans pianist Dr. John; the result, “Triumvirate”, was released on Columbia, but didn’t make much of a splash. Neither did Bloomfield’s 1974 reunion with Electric Flag and neither did KGB, a short-lived supergroup with Barry Goldberg, Rik Grech (Traffic), and Carmine Appice that recorded for MCA in 1976. During the late ’70s, Bloomfield recorded for several smaller labels (including Takoma), usually in predominantly acoustic settings; through Guitar Player magazine, he also put out an instructional album with a vast array of blues guitar styles, titled “If You Love These Blues, Play ‘Em as You Please”.

Unfortunately, Bloomfield was also plagued by alcoholism and heroin addiction for much of the ’70s, which made him an unreliable concert presence and slowly cost him some of his longtime musical associations (as well as his marriage). By 1980, he had seemingly recovered enough to tour in Europe; that November, he also appeared on-stage in San Francisco with Bob Dylan for a rendition of “Like a Rolling Stone.” However, on February 15, 1981, Bloomfield was found dead in his car of a drug overdose; he was only 37.

Tracklist:
1) Eyesight to the Blind
2) Women Lovin’ Each Other
3) Linda Lou
4) Kansas City
5) Blues in B-Flat
6) Medley: Darktown Strutter’s Ball / Mop Mop / Call Me a Dog
7) I’m Glad I’m Jewish
8) Jockey Blues
9) Between the Hard Place and the Ground
10) Don’t Lie to Me
11) Cherry Red
12) Uncle Bob’s Barrelhouse Blues
13) Wee Wee Hours
14) Vamp in C
15) One of These Days

Mike Bloomfield – Initial Shock – Live Between 1977 And 1979
(256 kbps, cover art included)