Archive for May, 2014

Given that the Weavers evolved out of the politically oriented Almanac Singers, and that this album was released during a period when Peter, Paul & Mary and other folk groups were reviving their songs with commercial success, calling it “The Weavers’ Almanac” evoked their past in a newly fashionable present.

Having reached the best-seller charts twice the previous year, the group seemed on the verge of regaining its popularity, and this album must have been intended to foster that comeback. But though the performances were as effective as ever, this collection of songs, among them such stirring and topical works as the Depression-era standard “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?,” “Fight On,” and “Which Side Are You On?,” failed to return the group to its old prominence.

Erik Darling left the group, which carried on with Frank Hamilton, but by late 1963, following a last-gasp reunion concert, the Weavers were on their last legs. In retrospect, this is an enjoyable album, though it lacks the fervor of the Weavers’ younger competitors of the day.

The Weavers – Almanac (1961)
(vinyl rip, 192 kbps, front cover included)


An interesting and varied set of folk recordings originally done for Diane Hamilton and Patrick Clancy’s “Tradition Records” between 1955 and 1961, “Folk Roots: The Sound of Americana” may not exactly live up to its title but it does feature some striking recordings, most notably Odetta’s powerful version of “Chilly Winds,” Etta Baker’s spry guitar instrumental take on “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad,” Barbara Dane’s stirring “Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot,” and Mrs. Edd Presnell’s chiming dulcimer run-through of “Amazing Grace.”

Also worth noting is John Jacob Niles’ affected vocal (he sounds like Tiny Tim gone dramatically folky) on “The Death of Queen Jane,” a recording that is almost perversely fascinating. Lord knows no Appalachian ballad singer ever sounded like that no matter how much moonshine he might have put away.

Folk Roots – The Sound Of Americana
(192 kbps, front cover included)

Photobucket “Confiteor

Die bunten Bilder, die das Leben malt
Seh’ ich umdüstert nur von Dämmerungen,
Wie kraus verzerrte Schatten, trüb und kalt,
Die kaum geboren schon der Tod bezwungen.

Und da von jedem Ding die Maske fiel,
Seh’ ich nur Angst, Verzweiflung, Schmach und Seuchen,
Der Menschheit heldenloses Trauerspiel,
Ein schlechtes Stück, gespielt auf Gräbern, Leichen.

Mich ekelt dieses wüste Traumgesicht.
Doch will ein Machtgebot, daß ich verweile,
Ein Komödiant, der seine Rolle spricht,
Gezwungen, voll Verzweiflung – Langeweile!”
– Georg Trakl

He played the role of Hauptmann (Captain) Gerd Wiesler in the Oscar-winning film “Das Leben der Anderen” (“The Lives of Others”, 2006), for which he received the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Gold, at Germany’s most prestigious film awards, the “Deutscher Filmpreis” (“German Film Awards)”; and the Best Actor Award at the 2006 European Film Awards.

After leaving school, Mühe was employed as a construction worker and a border guard at the Berlin Wall. He then turned to acting, and from the late 1970s into the 1980s appeared in numerous plays, becoming a star of the Deutsches Theater in East Berlin. He was active in politics and denounced “Communist” rule in East Germany in a memorable address at Alexanderplatz on 4 November 1989 shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. After German reunification he continued to appear in a large number of films, television programmes and theatre productions. In Germany he was particularly known for playing the lead role of Dr. Robert Kolmaar in the long-running forensic crime series “Der letzte Zeuge”.
Ulrich Mühe, who sadly died July, 2007, was a German film, television and theatre actor.

In the last years he also became a popular reader of audio books, for example “”Der kleine Prinz” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and “Ich bin eine Welt” by Georg Trakl.

The poet and writer Georg Trakl was born as the son of the ironmonger Tobias Trakl and his wife Maria Catharina, nee Halik, on February 3, 1887 in Salzburg. At the age of 13, Georg Trakl began writing poetry. He studied pharmacy in Vienna and simultaneously began to publish his first poems.

Trakl was also interested in literature, music, painting and architecture. Between 1910 and 1914 Georg Trakl wrote his most important works. In 1912 Trakl temporarily worked as a military pharmacist in Innsbruck. His search for stability in life was fruitless, and following excessive drug use, Trakl fell into deep depression. In 1912 Georg Trakl’s poem “Vorstadt im Föhn” was published in the Innsbruck cultural and political journal “Der Brenner”, whose editor was his friend and benefactor Ludwig von Ficker. All subsequent poetic work by Trakl appeared in the monthly issues of this journal.

Karl Kraus also published poems by Georg Trakl in the journal “Die Fackel”. During this time, Trakl met Oskar Kokoschka and Else Lasker-Schüler. In 1913, the publisher Kurt Wolff published Georg Trakl’s book of poetry “Der jüngste Tag”.

Georg Trakl volunteered for World War I, where he served on the Eastern Front in the Galician town of Grodek as a medical officer. As a consequence of his traumatic experiences of the war, Georg Trakl suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a military hospital in Krakow. During his convalescence in the Krakow hospital, Trakl wrote his poems “Grodek”, “Im Osten” and “Klage”. Georg Trakl committed suicide on November 3, 1914 in Krakow. Today, Georg Trakl is considered one of the most extraordinary poets and most important exponents of Austrian Expressionism.

“Trakl creates pure compositions of autonomous metaphors. Each metaphor has a more-or-less definite emotional tonality and combines with the other metaphors…in a incoherent sequence of images. Yet each poem has an inner coherence, not the coherence of logical thought, but of a musical composition. The metaphoric image acts somewhat like a note in a musical score indicating that a cerain tone or chord is to be played.” (Sokel)
The tone and progression of Trakls poetry is often dreamlike, but the imagery is more likely found in a nightmare: decay, death, twilight, nature (in decay), religious symbolism. The verses are bleak but with a certain warmth, somber with a hint of transcendence.

Georg Trakl – “Ich bin eine Welt” (Ulrich Mühe)
(192 kbps, front cover included)

For more informations about Georg Trakls and english translations of his poetry, please check out

“Verboten und verbannt” – “forbidden and banned” – a phrase used with Jewish composers whose music was proscribed by the Nazis brings to mind more than musical censorship, but also the atrocities that culminated in the Holocaust.

While some of the composers represented by this phrase died before the Third Reich, others lived through it, and like the works of their predecessors preserved on this recording, they endured the horrors of this dark period of the twentieth century. This recital is an attempt to use music of composers so wrongly branded and proscribed to reverse the situation and make the label “Verboten und verbrannt” into an emblem of their merit. The best explanation of the purpose of this recital from the 2005 Salzburg Festival is included in the liner notes by Gottfried Kraus:
“As in previous years, the programme extended over two evenings, the first of which featured Hampson alone, whereas for the second he was joined by femail colleagues who shared his commitment to the subject. In both he confronted his festival audience with the works of composers whom the National Socialists had banned, outlawed, driven into exile and in some cases even murdered. Both programmes were titled “Verboten und verbannt” (“Forbidden and Banned”). Hampson’s aim was not so much to engage on a political level with one of the darkest chapters in human history. Instead, he wanted to show that art is ultimately more powerful than evil and brute force. Many of the songs and composers’ names, especially in the second programme, may well have been unfamiliar to his Mozarteum audience, while even familiar works such as Mendelssohn’s “Auf Flügeln des Gesanges,” which opened both programmes, functioning as a kind of motto, and Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, which brought the first evening to a close, appeared in a new and different light when heard in their present context.The result was certainly not a lieder recital in the customary sense of the term, but a festival concert as it ought to be be, a distinction that it owed not only to the choice of programme and its intelligent structure but also to the way in which the audience was prepared. . . .”

This recording preserves the recital from 18 August 2005 and provides an excellent overview of the Lieder by a body of proscribed composers. With Mendelssohn’s “Auf Flügeln des Gesanges” (“On the wings of song”) opening the program, the connotes a conventional Lieder recital through the use of this familiar song that has been part of many such performances since its composition. Just the same Mendelssohn’s “Altdeutsches Frühlingslied” is another song that transcends the artificial boundaries connected to nationality and politics, but rather communicates the poet – and the composer’s – experience of rebirth. These and other selections of Mendelssohn’s songs evoke the nineteenth century, a time when Mendelssohn would have been known and admired, but hardly forbidden and banned. These songs anchor the recital in the tradition of the German Lied, an element that is wholly part of the culture in which the other composers worked. It was not an idiom for social, religious, or political activity, but rather an artistic milieu that crossed any of those artificial boundaries. This hardly means that prejudice or labeling were unknown. While it may have been less so for Mendelssohn, Mahler faced the anti-Semitic press, and the bias against his Jewish nationality certainly influenced the reception of his music in lifetime and afterward.
With Meyerbeer, the songs represent an unfamiliar side of the composer, who is known best for grand opera. The three selections chosen for this recital show Meyerbeer’s facility with the Lied in two settings of Heine and one of Michael Beer. The first two are somewhat conventional Lieder, but the third, “Menschenfeindlich” shows a more dramatic and, to a degree ironic, side of Meyerbeer. This song calls for a tight ensemble between the singer and the pianist, and the applause included in the recording demonstrates the audience’s appreciate for this bravura piece. Wit the songs of Zemlinsky that follow, the harmonic idiom is more complicated. Mit “Trommeln und Pfeifen”, for example, Zemlinsky is a wonderfully colorful setting of Liliencron’s Wundhorn-like text, with modal inflections in the vocal line that underscore the sung text. Of Schoenberg’s Lieder, the setting of Viktor Klemperer’s verse in “Der verlorene Haufen” is highly evocative, and its proximity to Pierrot lunaire emerges in the passages of Sprechstimme and the pointillistic writing in the piano that underscores the vocal line in other places. Schoenberg’s proximity to Mahler and, by extension, the nineteenth-century Lied tradition may be found in his more conventional setting “Wie Georg von Frundsberg von sich selber sang” (“Mein Fleiß und Müh ich nie hab’ gespart”), with its text from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn”.

The modernism that Schoenberg expressed in his songs is part of the idiom that Alban Berg adopted for his own style, and in so doing both created music that eventually became associated with artistic decadence. It is possible to hear Berg’s challenges to convention in even the early songs included in this recital, with a piece like “Schlummerlose Nächte” poised keenly between traditional structure and turn-of-the-century innovation. Other Lieder are, perhaps, less experimental, with the fine examples from the young composer Erich Zeisl being a bit anachronistic. Mahler has the final word with this set of five Rückert-Lieder found at the close. Four of the songs were on the program, with the last, “Liebst du um Schönheit” offered an encore.

This recording preserves essentially all of Hampson’s performances of this important part of the 2005 Salzburg Festival. It is no surprise to find Hampson balancing the attention to the lines of text with the execution of the musical line and never at the expense of one over the other. His phrasing of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder is exemplary, with the comfortable ensemble with Rieger apparent on those pieces and throughout the recording. It is a fine contrbituion on various counts, with the sometimes infrequently performed literature here executed masterfully. The focus of the recital itself merits attention for its supra-musical motivation whcih, in this live recording were hardly lost on the audience. The overall quality of the reproduction is fine, and while some of the audience and stage sounds sometimes intrude on several selections, such details contribute the sense of immediacy that the audience itself experienced. While music that was forbidden and banned by the Third Reich has been the subject of various books and articles, as well as London’s series of recordings labeled “Entartete Musik” – proscribed music – this concise exploration of the subject speaks volumes. – James Zychowicz

(192 kbps)

Benga is the king of Kenyan dance music and the Victoria Kings (along with Shirati Jazz) are the foremost exponents of the style.

Boisterous, bouncy bass-led guitar dance music (with the fast-jumping bass line contrasted against high-pitched guitar lines and upper-register falsetto voices), the benga beat is one of East Africa’s most contagious. It’s sparkling, zingy influence can be felt in the musical styles of many of Kenya’s neighbouring countries. The Victoria Kings hail from Suna in the hills of South Nyanza towards the border with Tanzania. “The Mighty Kings Of Benga” features songs from the golden age of benga in the late ’70s and early ’80s. All were originally released as singles (by the band’s own Oula Record Company) and all became African top sellers. This album brings the sound of benga from the shores of Lake Victoria to a living room near you.

Victoria Kings – Mighty Kings Of Benga
(192 kbps, front cover included)

Had the chance to see a wonderful Sun Ra concert this week with bandleader Marshall Allen.

Of all the jazz musicians, Sun Ra was probably the most controversial. He did not make it easy for people to take him seriously, for he surrounded his adventurous music with costumes and mythology that both looked backward toward ancient Egypt and forward into science fiction. In addition, Ra documented his music in very erratic fashion on his Saturn label, generally not listing recording dates and giving inaccurate personnel information, so one could not really tell how advanced some of his innovations were. It has taken a lot of time to sort it all out (although Robert L. Campbell’s Sun Ra discography has done a miraculous job). In addition, while there were times when Sun Ra’s aggregation performed brilliantly, on other occasions they were badly out of tune and showcasing absurd vocals.

Sun Ra consistently maintained he came from another planet – and his taste in clothes and harmonies lent some credence to the claim – but he also felt he could connect with a broad terrestrial audience, which is why he continually released singles on his Saturn label. Some of these singles were his trademark space-jazz, but most of them were more down-to-earth-doo-wop, blues, R&B vocals, swing standards, novelty songs and big-band dance numbers. Yet they all had the Sun Ra touch, which made them weird and worldly all at once.

Back in the mid-’50s, bandleader Sun Ra decided to get his music to his audience through a more direct process by starting his own label, Saturn Records. Equal parts creative futuristic vision and small-time Southern R&B bandstand hustle, these 45s were pressed in unbelievably small quantities (sometimes in runs of only 50 copies), making them the holy grail of Sun Ra collectibles. The collection of singles runs a neat 30-year time-frame and features everything from Sun Ra with an embryonic form of his Arkestra doing backup duties behind doo-wop groups and R&B slopbucket singers like ‘Space Age Vocalist’ Yochannon to wild-ass sonic experiements from the late ’70s into the early ’80s that would have atmospherically fit on any of his avant-garde albums. Pieced together for this release from the contributions of private collectors around the world — and sonically cleaned up far beyond the audio capabilities of the original vinyl they were pressed on — these 49 three-minute opuses will alternately confuse, astound, confound, delight, and illuminate Sun Ra fans of all stratas of involvement. A major piece of puzzle that is the man, now in place.

Sun Ra – The Singles CD 1
Sun Ra – The Singles CD 2
(192 kbps, front cover included)

Of course they never played live in Tokio, so this is another album by the german polit-rock-band Schröder Roadshow.

With their anarchistic slogans and subversiv statements, their great live shows and their sarcastic humor the were a very important part of the german polit rock subculture.

Enjoy it!

1. Fette Ratten
2. So ein Tag so wunderschön wie heute
3. Die Verfolgung und Ermordung des Rockundroll, dargestellt durch die Musikertruppe des Hospizes zu Vicht unter Anleitung des Herrn von Schroeder, Teil 1
4. Die Verfolgung und Ermordung des Rockundroll, Teil 2
5. Asche im Wind
6. Wer sich nicht wehrt, lebt verkehrt
7. Barbara
8. Annemie
9. In toten Einbahnstraßen
10. Schrei dich frei

Schröder Roadshow – Live in Tokyo (192 kbps)

“Songs of the European Workers’ Movement” is an excellent collection of workers’ songs from European countries.

Each song is individual, being performed by singers and musicians from its country of origin. The styles vary from the solo ballad of France’s “Les Temps des Cerises” to the brass band and choir of Ireland’s “Watchword of Labour”.

In addition to songs representing the European countries, “The Internationale” was recorded as a traditional song of the working classes in all countries, as well as the “Arbetslose Marsch” (march of the unemployed), sung in Yiddish in memory of the Jewish workers´movement which perished in the holocaust.

Völker hört die Signale – Songs of the European Workers´ Movement
(192 kbps)

“Trotz alledem ” is a fine compilation of workers’ songs and socialist hymns.

It presents classics like “Die Internationale”, “Einheitsfrontlied” and “Brüder zur Sonne, zur Freiheit” in german language.

Trotz alledem – Arbeiterlieder (192 kbps, front cover included)

Alton Ellis is one of the best Jamaican vocalists to have emerged during the ska and rocksteady periods in the ’60s. His singing prowess remained intact through the reggae, dancehall, and ragga years as well, proving that his uniquely soulful delivery and impeccable phrasing could transcend reggae’s many changes.

Recording with his preferred producer Clement Dodd, Ellis cut “Sunday Coming” around 1969-1970 at Dodd’s legendary Brentford Road studio. Most likely backed by the producer’s Sound Dimension band (featuring the great Jackie Mittoo as arranger and organist), Ellis offers up a typical set of originals and choice covers from the day’s charts. On the handful of tracks Ellis co-wrote with Dodd, breezy medium-tempo cuts like “It’s True” and “The Picture Was You” particularly stand out; the buoyant soul-based rocksteady beats, occasional jazz chords, and sweet harmonies all seem to be part of a musical setting in which Ellis thrived.

The point is substantiated by great Ellis performances on similarly disposed covers like the Guess Who’s “These Eyes,” Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “You Make Me So Very Happy,” and the Junior Walker hit “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love).” Ellis also shows some musical flexibility with his funky James Brown-inspired jam “Alton’s Groove” and the fine roots reggae track “Reason in the Sky”; he even proves his contemporary relevance on two impressive tracks from 1994, including the updated rocksteady cut “Joy in the Morning” and a digitally enhanced number entitled “The Winner.” This disc is one of Ellis’ best and comes highly recommended to newcomers and reggae enthusiasts alike.

Alton Ellis – Sunday Coming
(320 kbps, front cover included)