Archive for January, 2015

Heiner Goebbels’s music-theatre work “Black on White” was put together during several months of rehearsal with Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt’s Theater am Turm in 1996. Its flickering, erratic musical surface combines elements of composed music, improvisation, musique concrete and spoken text, reflecting the composer’s previous work as an improviser and theatre director.

“Black on White,” a masterful if sometimes frustrating concoction of chaos and discipline, was built around the astonishingly flexible Ensemble Modern, whose members play in constant motion. They wind through a stage full of debris, set up a triumphant arch made of ladders, take up their horns and march in formation across a phalanx of benches. When a proscenium arch is sent keeling to the ground, nobody flinches.

The backbone of this motley score is jazz, all kinds of jazz: the jagged, glassy rhythms of be-bop, the baroque frenzy of Ornette Coleman, the stately quiver of a New Orleans funeral. But Goebbels drapes a great many other sources on that solid frame. In one especially haunting episode, the plaintive sound of a Jewish cantor recorded in the 1920s floats above an accompaniment of hard-edged chords.

“Black on White is also an affectionate and curiously moving tribute to the German playwright Heiner Muller, whose taped voice is to be found reading parts of Edgar Allan Poe’s parable, Shadow, at various points in the piece. Ensemble Modern are not only called on to speak and sing while playing their normal instruments, but to form impromptu ensembles of saxophones and brass instruments and what sounds like a group of toy violins in the eerie coda. Other sonic delights include a toccata for teapot and piccolo, a gargantuan fantasy for sine tone and didjeridu, and a surreal concert aria for six sampled Jewish cantors and a contrabass clarinet.
You may have guessed by now that I enjoyed listening to this CD. It is true that the recorded sound can be a little dry in places and there were times when I missed the visual element of the musictheatre piece in performance. Nevertheless, Black on White is a powerful and imaginative statement, humorous and intense in equal measure. Great credit is due to Ensemble Modern, Südwestfunk and RCA themselves.” –  Martyn Harry
(192 kbps, front cover included)
Versatile German composer Heiner Goebbels conceived this tribute to Hanns Eisler, combining some of his most famous chamber music and songs with jazz-inspired improvisations and audio collages.


The songs, mostly to texts by Brecht, are expressively interpreted by actor Josef Bierbichler. The recording is based on a “staged performance” that has introduced a new generation of music lovers to Eisler‘s music.

“Don’t illustrate your feelings but comment on them musically. Be objective” (Eisler). This is precisely what Heiner Goebbels provides with his uplifting “Eislermaterial”, one of the musical high points of the late 1990s and one of my favourite Eisler interpretations. “Eislermaterial”combines the best elements of music theatre with an inward brand of drama normally associated with chamber music. It’s a genuine class production, a concept album of the highest order, superbly performed and vividly engineered. I cannot imagine that any sensitive listener will fail to respond.

Goebbels takes Eisler at his word, “commenting” by allusion, gesture, violent musical juxtapositions and some ingenious sound painting. Nothing is tawdry or gratuitous and the texts, mainly by Bertholt Brecht, have a biting, straight-to-the-heart quality that cries out for the sort of tangy treatment Goebbels gives them. Eisler-Goebbels switches from Twenties-style ferocity to understated melancholy, often segueing on the back of instrumental squawks, shudders or scrapes. Think in terms of Kurt Weill visited by Michael Nyman and Uri Caine, then refined and refashioned in a style that is very much Goebbels’ own. Rather than employ a trained singer for the various songs Goebbels opts for an actor, Josef Bierbichler, whose tender but frail vocalising invariably suits the mood.

Heiner Goebbels was born in Neustadt, Germany, on August 17, 1952, relocating to the Frankfurt area at age 20 to study music and sociology. He first achieved notoriety in 1976 upon premiering a number of works, including “Rote Sonne,” “Circa,” and “Improvisations on Themes by Hanns Eisler,” most performed in conjunction with the “Sogenanntes Linksradikales Blasorchester”.

Concurrently, Goebbels also collaborated with Alfred Harth and beginning in 1982, he served as a member of the longstanding art rock trio “Cassiber”.
He further expanded his growing oeuvre with a series of theatrical, film, and ballet scores and during the mid-’80s began writing and directing audio plays of his own, seeking his initial inspiration in the texts of Heiner Mueller.
Beginning in 1988, Goebbels also turned to authoring chamber music with the Ensemble Modern, and in 1994 completed “Surrogate Cities,” his first major composition for symphony orchestra.

Heiner Goebbels & Ensemble Modern & Josef Bierbichler -Eislermaterial
(192 kbps)

Sixty years after the recordings were first released, Woody Guthrie’s odes to the Dust Bowl are presented in their third different configuration.

RCA Victor Records, the only major label for which Guthrie ever recorded, issued two three-disc 78 rpm albums, “Dust Bowl Ballads, Vol. 1” and “Dust Bowl Ballads, Vol. 2”, in July 1940, containing a total of 11 songs. (“Tom Joad” was spread across two sides of a 78 due to its length.).
Twenty-four years later, with the folk revival at its height, RCA reissued the material on a single 12″ LP in a new sequence and with two previously unreleased tracks, “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “Dust Bowl Blues,” added.
Thirty-six years on, the Buddha reissue division of BMG, which owns RCA, shuffles the running order again and adds another track, this one an alternate take of “Talking Dust Bowl Blues.”

But whether available on 78s, LP, or CD, “Dust Bowl Ballads” constitutes a consistent concept album that roughly follows the outlines of John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath”. (Indeed, “Tom Joad” is nothing less than the plot of the book set to music.) The story begins, as “The Great Dust Storm (Dust Storm Disaster)” has it, “On the fourteenth day of April of 1935,” when a giant dust storm hits the Great Plains, transforming the landscape. Shortly after, the farmers pack up their families and head west, where they have been promised there is work aplenty picking fruit in the lush valleys of California. The trip is eventful, as “Talking Dust Bowl Blues” humorously shows, but the arrival is disappointing, as the Okies discover California is less than welcoming to those who don’t bring along some “do[ough] re mi.”
Guthrie´s songs go back and forth across this tale of woe, sometimes focusing on the horrors of the dust storm, sometimes on human villains, with deputy sheriffs and vigilantes providing particular trouble. In “Pretty Boy Floyd,” he treats an ancillary subject, as the famous outlaw is valorized as a misunderstood Robin Hood. Guthrie treats his subject alternately with dry wit and defiance, and listeners in 1940 would have been conscious of the deliberate contrast with Jimmie Rodgers, whose music is evoked even as he is being mocked in “Dust Pneumonia Blues.”

Sixty years later, listeners may hear these songs through the music Guthrie influenced, particularly the folk tunes of Bob Dylan. Either way, this is powerful music, rendered simply and directly. It was devastatingly effective when first released, and it helped define all the folk music that followed it.

Woody Guthrie was born on July 14th, 1912 in Okemah, Oklahoma, so this year we can celebrate his 100th birthday!

Woody Guthrie – Dust Bowl Ballads (1940)
(192 kbps, front cover included)

During the reigning years of San Francisco headband Country Joe and the Fish, singer and songwriter Joe McDonald took some time out to head to Nashville and record a pair of solo albums with the city’s top session men.

Released on the iconic Vanguard Records, these two albums saw McDonald take a broad left turn, away from psychedelia and deep into the traditional folk and country music that had helped inform his earlier years as a radical-political folksinger.
Indeed, the first of these two albums, Thinking of Woody Guthrie, was a heartfelt, play-it-straight tribute to the daddy of them all (the radical-political folksingers, that is). It is an album that does justice to the man who wrote all of the songs on it. Joe McDonald conveys all of the ranges of Woody’s line of sight, from the migrant’s resigned take on life (“Pastures Of Plenty”), to the dust-storm-beset people of Gray, Oklahoma (“So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh”)to a guarded endorsement of the (then) major strides in technology for the greater good (“Roll On Columbia”). McDonald sings all of them with conviction and is backed by Nashville pros with talent to burn. Even “This Land Is Your Land” gets a vitality to it that’s totally unexpected but great to hear.
(256 kbps, front cover included)

Like their West Coast contemporaries Sly and the Family Stone, the Chambers Brothers shattered racial and musical divides to forge an incendiary fusion of funk, gospel, blues, and psychedelia which reached its apex with the perennial 1968 song “Time Has Come Today.”

Musical siblings George Chambers (bass/vocals), Willie Chambers (guitar/vocals), Lester Chambers (harmonica/vocals), and Joe Chambers (guitar/vocals) were raised on rural gospel in their native Mississippi before switching over to folk and then soulful blues and R&B-fueled rock. The Chambers Brothers’ recordings issued by the Los Angeles-based Vault label were nearly four years old when “Feelin’ the Blues” hit the streets in 1970. The band’s style had changed quite drastically from old-school blues, soul, and pop to the longer psychedelic jams heard on their international hit “Time Has Come Today.” Although the mixture of live and studio selections gives the collection an odds-and-sods vibe, several of the performances are among the best of the Vault Records-era material.

Somewhat contrasting with the album’s title, the Chambers actually cover a wide spectrum of music on “Feelin’ the Blues”. Their roots can be heard throughout the flawless interpretation of the sacred standards “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and the excellent “Travel on My Way.” Similarly, the midtempo reading of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” offers the Chambers an opportunity to subtly return to their gospel origins with call-and-response backing harmonies. The proceedings are far from being pious, however, as the quartet harmonizes the chorus of “Too Fat Polka” during one of the instrumental breaks. Perhaps wishing to remove some of the sting from the real storyline, the reworking of “House of the Rising Sun” – according to the spoken introduction – is told from the point of view of the receptionist (huh?) at the infamous bordello. Had the Chambers Brothers decided on a more straightforward translation, the song could easily have been one of the album’s best. Other tunes worth spinning include a version of Bobby Parker’s “Blues Get Off My Shoulder” – in a longer form than on 1968’s “The Chambers Brothers Shout!” – and the comparatively brief but effective update of the jazzy “Undecided.”


A1 Girls, We Love You
A2 I Got A Woman
A3 House Of The Rising Sun
B1 Don’t Lose Your Cool
B2 Just A Closer Walk With Thee
B3 Blues Get Off My Shoulder
B4 Travel On My Way
B5 Undecided

The Chambers Brothers – Feelin´ The Blues (1970)
(320 kbps, cover art included)

In 1986, the Dutch anarchist punk group the Ex marked the 50th anniversary of the Spanish Revolution (in which factions led by two anarchist trade unions, the CNT and the FAI, waged a successful revolt against Franco’s fascist leadership, until Franco defeated the people’s forces with the help of German, Italian, and Russian troops) with the release of “1936: The Spanish Revolution”.

This ambitious release paired four songs on two 7″ singles with an impressive 144-page hardcover book that featured several short essays on the revolution, along with a remarkable collection of photographs taken by journalists aligned with the revolutionary forces. If the book is hardly the final word on the Spanish Revolution, it’s a powerful and enlightening visual document that casts a fresh light on a major historical event little understood by most of nowadays people.

In many ways, the book is such a strong piece of work that the music which accompanies it nearly pales in comparison, though it certainly finds the Ex in excellent form. The lyrics to all four songs were adapted from songs and essays by leaders of the 1936 revolt, with two in Spanish and two in English; on “El Tren Blindado” the band even trades in their traditionally jagged electric guitar sound for an acoustic arrangement that approaches the tone of Spanish folk music. Rabble-rousing has always been high on the Ex’s list of priorities, and this music – especially the passionate “They Shall Not Pass” and “People Again” – find them inviting the spirit of the revolution as if it occurred five minutes ago, not 50 years past. It’s heady, powerful stuff. This remarkable package was reissued in 1998, with the two 7″ singles replaced by a pair of 3″ CD’s, and it’s well worth seeking out for students of radical history as well as followers of passionate, uncompromising rock & roll.         


A1 They Shall Not Pass 3:47
A2 El Tren Blindado 3:06
B1 Ay Carmela 3:13
B2 People Again 4:30

The Ex – 1936 – The Spanish Revolution (1986)   
(256 kbps, cover art included)

 Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the passage of 70 years since the January 27, 1945, liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet soldiers. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz I and nearby Auschwitz II-Birkenau were the extermination camps where an estimated 1.1 million people—mostly Jews from across Europe, but also political opponents, prisoners of war, homosexuals, and Roma—were killed in gas chambers or by systematic starvation, forced labor, disease, or medical experiments. About 200,000 camp inmates survived the ordeal. Today, a number of heads of states and aging survivors will attend a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary at the site in Poland, now maintained as a museum and memorial.

A Yiddish Winterreise is a sequence of songs from the Yiddish repertoire devised by opera singer and cantor Mark Glanville, recreating the original, Schubertian journey in a Holocaust context. The singer reflects on the life and world he has just seen destroyed as he flees the Vilna ghetto. Minor-key or modal melodies may evoke a sense of sadness, yet a deep-hearted joy, even triumph, are often equally evident.

An unusual disc title deserves explanation, though this disc’s somewhat clunky subtitle provides an answer of sorts. It is in essence `a sequence of songs from the Yiddish repertoire devised by opera singer and cantor Mark Glanville, recreating the original, Schubertian journey in a Holocaust context. The singer reflects on the life and world he has just seen destroyed as he flees the Vilna ghetto. Minor-key or modal melodies may evoke a sense of sadness, yet a deep-hearted joy, even triumph, are often equally evident.’ [Naxos]
The arranger of many here, and excellent pianist, Alexander Knapp analyses the salient features of much of the music – its indebtedness to mid nineteenth century `German classical harmony’ and its frequent adoption of the minor key, straightforward form and rhythm and the use of improvisatory passages. He has not sought to improve the original melodic lines but has responded to them in a personal way, whilst respecting their essence. What emerges therefore is a sequence of songs, the poets or writers of which range chronologically from Levi Yitzchok, who was born in 1740. Mordecai Gebirtig, Abraham Brudno and Moshe Nadir died between 1942 and 1944. Both Aklexander Olshanetsky and Janot S. Roskin however died in 1946. The disc opens with the sonorous declamation of the traditional Khosn bazingns (Singing for the Bridegroom) and then leads on to the journey proper where the poet’s town is ablaze. Fear, anger, and injunctions to quench the flames are the mileposts of this song but the journey is not all pogrom and flight. The putative wanderer’s mental journey takes in landscape and rabbi, hearth and home, parents and children, Messiah and orphan, the chosen texts illuminate his mind’s imaginative conjunctions and consonances between settings, a kind of sub-conscious or indeed conscious internalised self-communing. Therefore there are nostalgic-romantic settings, of which the reverie that is Vilna is the most prominent. The jaunty settings of What Will Happen When the Messiah Comes and The Rabbi has Bid Us be Happy attest to a double laced irony, the injunction to `be happy’ sounding too much like an emotional forced march. Moments of self-pity, melismatic vehemence and fiery declamation fuse in Raisins and Almonds. The tenth setting is a of Schubert’s Der Lindenbaum, an infusion that conjoins the German with the Yiddish in which language it is set. Further in the journey the impassioned and anguished peaks reached in Habeit mishomayim (Look Down from the Heavens) attest to the tormented weight pressing on the traveller though he soon relaxes to the cimbalon evocations of Der rebe Elimelekh (Rabbi Elimelech). These lead to a series of songs on childhood of which Kleyner yosem (Little Orphan) is very beautifully and simply done. In the context the twenty first setting, Un a yingele vet zey firn (And a Little Boy Will Lead Them) has some quite striking, indeed startling harmonies in the context of the journey. This questing harmonic writing, which becomes more and more incursive, leads toward the penultimate song, that urges one never to forget to say Kaddish. This in turn leads to the final setting, a spoken recitation of the Kaddish, which not only acts as a cyclical corollary of the opening recitation but which also functions as an act of praise and of deliverance. This is a story of survival after all. Glanville is the singer who guides us through this internalised human landscape. He is the orator and inquisitor, the mediator and the innocent. His voice rises to pitches of crises of recall; sinks into gauze-gentle recollections of childhood. It is the voice of rebuke and regret, the voice that embraces but must stifle self-pity. It is the voice that goes on. He and Alexander Knapp form a harmonious ensemble and have been finely recorded. There are full English texts. — MusicWeb International, Jonathan Woolf, August 2010

A Yiddish Winterreise – A Holocaust Survivor´s Inner Journey Told Through Yiddish Song (Mark Glanville, Alexander Knapp)
(256 kbps, cover art included)

This is a wonderful recording of what can be called Theodorakis’ most prolific composition ever.

“Axion Esti” (“praised be”) on texts of Nobel prize winning author Elytis combines elements of byzantine-, western classical- and greek folkmusic. Written in the late fifties for classical and popular orchestras and male soloists, recitant and choir and first recorded in 1964 with Bithikotsis as the popular singer it soon became theodorakis’ best selling album within Greece. The rightwing government of that time had actively discouraged musicians to take part in the recording process which meant that the score was not given its full scope and potential but it still remains an undeniable classic. A few other recordings have been made since, among them one in swedish and a new greek version with Yorgos Dalaras as soloist and Theodorakis conducting, a version which because of a dull sounding live recording has never much appealed to me.

So here we have “Lobgepriesen sei”. One has to get over the initial shock of hearing this “greekest of greek music” sung in german but it soon becomes apparent that the translation has been done with the utmost respect for the colour and the cadanse of text and music and that the live performance is outstanding. Theodorakis himself conducts the east german musicians and Lakis Karnezis appears as bouzouki player as he did on the original version. – Pieter U. Hendriks

The titles of the three sections make it clear that “Axion esti” is a liturgy, albeit a secular one, which follows a threefold development line: the poet´s birth, suffering and visionary foresight in the form of a lyrical first person is supported at a second level by the history of the Greek nation – from the “genesis” of the liberation of Crete (home to the poet Elytis) from the Turkish domination in 1912, through the “passion” during the second world war, to the utopia of a more peaceful future. A third, higher level is achieved by a general, human hope of winning the eternal battle of good against evil and creating a new, better world.


A1 I. Genesis (I Iénesis) 5:56
II. Passion (Ta Páthi)
A2 1. Und hier, so sieh! Bin ich (Idhú Eghó Lipón) 2:39
A3 2. Lesung: Der Marsch an die Front (I Poría Pros To Métopo) 4:10
A4 3. Nur diese eine Schwalbe (Éna To Chelidhóni) 3:03
B1 4. Berge um mich her mein fester Grund (Ta Themélia Mu Sta Vuná) 5:23
B2 5. Mit Dem Lüster der Sterne (Me To Líchno Tu Ástru) 3:17
B3 6. Lesung: Der große Exodus (I Megháli Éksodhos) 3:35
B4 7. Höre, reine Sonne der Gerechtigkeit (Tis Dhikeosínis Ílie) 4:30
C1 8. Intermezzo 3:14
C2 9. Purpurn färbte Mmch das Blut (Tis Aghápis Émata) 4:04
C3 10. Kirchen, gestickt ins Lichtmuster des runden Himmelsdoms (Naí Sto Schíma T’Uranú) 3:09
C4 11. Lesung: Weissagung (Profitkón) 6:23
C5 12. Ich öffne den Mund (Ànigho To Stóma Mu) 3:26
D1 13. Ich ziehe in ein Land hinab, fernab von hier (Se Chóra Makriní) 2:44
D2 III. Lobgepriesen sei (Axion Estí) 16:06

This is a live recording from the concert on October 16, 1982 in Leipzig with Gothar Stier (bariton), Gunter Emmerlich (bass), Friedrich Wilhelm Junge  (speaker), the “Beethoven-Chor des VEB Elektromaschinenbau Sachsenwerk Dresden”, the “FDJ-Chor der EOS Kreuzschule Dresden”, the “Kinder-Kammerchor der Dresdner Philharmonie”, the “Orchester der Hochschule für Musik “Carl Maria von Weber” Dresden”, directed by Mikis Theodorakis.

Mikis Theodorakis – Axion Esti – Lobgepriesen sei (Eterna, 1983)
(256 kbps, cover art included)

Kurt Tucholsky (January 9, 1890 – December 21, 1935) was a German journalist, satirist and writer. He also wrote under the pseudonyms Kaspar Hauser, Peter Panter, Theobald Tiger and Ignaz Wrobel. Born in Berlin-Moabit, he moved in 1924 to Paris and in 1930 to Sweden.
Tucholsky was one of the most important journalists of the Weimar Republic. As a politically engaged journalist and temporary co-editor of the weekly magazine Die Weltbühne he proved himself to be a social critic in the tradition of Heinrich Heine.
He was simultaneously a satirist, an author of satirical political revues, a songwriter and a poet. He saw himself as a left-wing democrat and pacifist and warned against anti-democratic tendencies – above all in politics, the military and justice – and the threat of National Socialism. His fears were confirmed when the Nazis came to power in 1933: his books were burned and he lost his citizenship.

Here is a collection of chansons, prose and letters by Kurt Tucholsky, performed by artists like Gisela May, Günter Pfitzmann, Helen Vita, Hanne Wieder, Grete Weiser, Kate Kühl and Ernst Busch.

Kurt Tucholsky – Chansons, Prosa, Briefe
(192 kbsp, ca. 99 MB)

There´s an interesting blog out there that contains a selection of the works of Kurt Tucholsky (1890–1935), translated into English:

“The german Rolling Stones – but a lot more clever.” – Bernhard Jogschies in “Sounds”, 1981

Schroeder Roadshow was – besides Ton Steine Scherben – the german political rock band in the seventies and eighties of the last century. They supported the squatter movement and became a subculture cult band with their anarchistic slogans and subversiv statements.

In difference to most of the other bands of this political rock scene – Ton Steine Scherben, Floh De Cologne, Checkpoint Charlie and many more – they had a more ironical and sassy approach. Their trade mark was a subversiv and anachistic humour, solid life gigs and absolutly no respect to nobody.

Here´s their last release, a live recording from the “Werner – das Rennen”-festival on the Hartenholm airport, where the band played nearly with all original members in front of 200.000 people. This cd re-relaese includes three bonus tracks.

1) Eintritt
2) Menschen
3) Bonn bei Nacht
4) Dach der Welt
5) P6
6) Städte
7) Helja
8) Herzas
9) Schrei dich frei
10) Fette Ratten
11) Hurra
12) Nimm meine Hand

Schröder – Live beim Rennen (192 kbps)

Schroeder´s lead singer Gerd Köster is still active in the music scene, maybe you want to check out his website.