Nocturnal Admissions

Between 1972 and 1977, Bryan Ferry, with and without Roxy Music made 9 of my favorite albums.
In the early-mid ’70′s, Roxy Music was about the coolest band around. They made 5 of them, each one better than the last.
They weren’t childhood friends. They weren’t childhood friends. Bryan found everyone through advertisements in Melody Maker.

In early 1970 he auditioned for King Crimson, as a replacement for Greg Lake. Although Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield felt his voice was unsuitable, they were impressed enough to help the fledgling Roxy Music get a contract with E.G. Records.

Andy Mackay replied to Ferry’s advertisement, not as a keyboard player but a saxophonist and oboist, though he did have a VCS3 synthesizer. Mackay knew Brian Eno from university days, as both were interested in avant-garde and electronic music. Although Eno was a non-musician, he could operate a synthesizer and owned a Revox reel-to-reel, so Mackay convinced him to join the band as a technical adviser. Before long Eno was an official member.

In June 1971, Paul Thompson responded to an advertisement placed in Melody Maker, “wonder drummer wanted for an avant rock group”.

Originally naming the band Roxy, Ferry changed it when hearing of an American band with the same name. “Roxy Music” was partly an homage to old cinemas and dance halls, and partly a pun on the word rock.

In October 1971 he advertised in Melody Maker seeking the “Perfect Guitarist”. Phil Manzanera was one of about twenty players who auditioned. However, Manzanera did not get the gig; the successful applicant was David O’List, former member of The Nice. The group were impressed enough with Manzanera that he was invited to become Roxy Music’s roadie, an offer which he accepted.

Bands of brothers tolerate conflicts better than a bunch of free agents. Roxy Music was never stable. They didn’t even even have a permanent bassist, but rather a rotating group of temps.

Davy O’List was edged out due to some kind of altercation with Paul Thompson prior to getting their record deal. In the meantime, roadie Phil Manzanera had secretly learned all his parts. Their first BBC sessions feature O’List. It’s interesting to compare and contrast their styles.

Bryan Ferry pursued a solo career concurrent with Roxy Music, using wonder drummer, Paul Thompson, and Roxy’s rotating bass players. Andy Mackay is the only member, besides fired Eno who doesn’t participate. He was replaced by Mel Collins. Chris Spedding largely handles the guitars, although Davy O’ List and Phil Manzanera both make appearances.

Three of the four solo albums are dominated by covers. In fact he was one of the first to tackle material not normally associated with rock n roll.
“In Your Mind” (1977) is all original material.

Then two things happened. In 1977 Jerry Hall left him for Mick Jagger, and “The Great Paul Thompson” quit due to musical differences.

Ferry’s “The Bride Stripped Bare” (1978), and Roxy Music’s “Manifesto (1979) suffer greatly from his absence, and instead feature the slick hired gun sound he’s mostly stuck with ever since.

Paul Thompson’s return did wonders for Roxy Music’s 2001 reunion tour and the reulting 2002 double live album.

In March 2005, it was announced on Phil Manzanera’s official site that the band, including Brian Eno, would record an album of new material. The project would mark the first time Eno worked with Roxy Music since 1973′s “For Your Pleasure”. After a number of denials that he would be involved with any Roxy Music reunion, on 19 May 2006 Eno revealed that he had contributed two songs to the new album as well as playing keyboards on other tracks. He did, however, rule out touring with the band. Had the record been released as a Roxy Music album, it would have been the first album since “Manifesto”* on which original drummer Paul Thompson performed. The album has, however, been released as a Bryan Ferry solo album entitled Olympia.

I’m glad they didn’t call it a Roxy Music album.

This compilation comes from his first four, 1973-77. The Roxy Music titles are covers.

Enjoy!
BBJ

Nocturnal Admissions

Nocturnal Admissions Too

*although Thompson is listed as a member of the band, two other drummers are also credited, and the drums, overall, lack any of Thompson’s signature sound.

(Before) Before And After

The cover art is a silk screen print I made in 1978.

I vaguely knew Eno as the guy Eddie Jobson replaced in Roxy Music. At the time I was only familiar their third and Eno-less album, “Stranded” (1973).
I picked “Here Come The Warm Jets”, Eno’s first, because it looked slightly glam, and the title Zappa/Beefheart/Alice Cooper loony. The song titles were just as nuts.
Then I saw that Robert Fripp and John Wetton, two of my favorite musicians from my favorite band, King Crimson were involved.
Buying it was a no-brainer.
It’s Proto-punk Glam rock is nothing like the ambient works he’s largely known for today.
“Baby’s On Fire” features a Robert Fripp solo over 3 minutes long, which stands as some of his most fiery work.
From “Here Come The Warm Jets” to “Burning Airlines Give You So Much More”,
“Taking Tiger Mountain(By Strategy)”, from 1974 is much less ramshackle, but fortunately just as quirky.
When “Another Green World” came out in 1975, things were changing. About half of it is instrumental, pointing the way to his groundbreaking ambient work, “Music For Airports”(1978).
Unlike his previous albums, which were recorded in a very short time, “Before and After Science” (1977) was two years in the making. I never got into that one. I thought it was a little slick and bland.
My original plan for this mix was to be career spanning. I began by listening to Disc 3 of the irritatingly packaged and annotated Eno Vocal Box.
It consists of “R.A.F.” b-side of “King’s Lead Hat”, cuts from “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” an impressive yet ultimately dull album, 90′s collaborations with John Cale, “Nerve Net”, and the withdrawn “My Squelchy Life”.
While it wasn’t entirely without charm, it bored me to death. So much so that I nearly gave up.
Fortunately I decided instead to start from the beginning.
There is something in his first 3 albums, that has been missing for decades.
It was before he knew what he was doing. Before success, acclaim, and high profile productions for other artists.
I’m a fan, and he’s been a huge influence on my work as a musician, and a painter. While I like and respect his recent work, these early attempts at rock stardom continue to scratch my itch for art damaged excellence.

Two songs are technically by Phil Manzanera. “Miss Shapiro” is from “Diamond Head” (1975). Eno co-writes and sings. “Third Uncle” is from “801 Live” (1976). He is the vocalist and writer. Backing musicians are the usual suspects.

Enjoy!
-BBJ

(Before) Before And After

Or

Before Too

A fun fact I ran across:

Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (Chinese: 智取威虎山; pinyin: zhì qǔ wēihǔ shān) is a Chinese film from 1970, during the height of the Cultural Revolution. The film was directed by Xie Tieli and was based on a contemporary Beijing opera, one of the eight model plays allowed during the Cultural Revolution. The story is based on the novel Lin hai xue yuan (林海雪原) and tells the story of an incident in 1946, during the Chinese Civil War.
Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy has been identified as one of the most watched films of all time. Official Chinese government statistics claimed a total audience of 7.3 billion through the end of 1974. The large audience can be attributed to the fact that few films were produced during the Cultural Revolution, and almost all earlier films were banned; nevertheless, the average village held ten film showings per year, and failure to attend could have been seen as a sign of political deviation. Hence, Chinese citizens would have been expected to see the film multiple times during the Cultural Revolution era.

Glam Slam

With the sad passings of David Bowie, and Dale “Buffin” Griffin, it seemed only right to put together a tribute to “The Golden Age Of Rock n Roll”.

Right away I was reminded all that glitters isn’t necessarily “Glam”. In fact there isn’t that much of it as the whole era collapsed the minute it became a category. But the influence continues. Many elements that seemed new are now standard features.

Glam checklist: Theatrical make-up and stage persona. Image conscious with a fondness for fifties styles and POP Art mashups. Saxophones, female back-up singers, Flashy lead guitar stylist as foil to singer. Muscular rhythm section. Elements of prog.

Even though there is no Glam without Bowie, he doesn’t appear. Instead Bauhaus represents with their faithful, lively rendition of “Ziggy Stardust” (1982, number fifteen on the UK singles chart), illustrating how glam morphed into goth. Just because the dinosaurs are gone doesn’t mean we’re not surrounded by birds. If you know what I mean.

In the valley of The New York Dolls, you mean. Generation X’s “Valley Of The Dolls” is straight up glam. It’s only missing chick singers and saxophones. From their sophomore effort. When they were still a band.

“Rock Star” is from “Velvet Tinmine” a collection of obscure UK singles from the era (1973-5), and is by Bearded Lady. I found a page in wikipedia and there is really nothing to know.

“Needles In The Camel’s Eye”, worked so well for Todd Haynes during the opening of “Velvet Goldmine”. It’s the most successful part of the movie.

A lot of art rock got lumped in with glam, and Kevin Ayers wore the make-up. “Interview” is kind of a bookend to David Essex’s “Rock On”.

Queen knocks it out of the park with “Now I’m Here”. Epic on every level. Sheer Heart Attack indeed.

Enjoy!

Glam Slam

Chillin’ With Miles

 
(Take It Or Leave It)

Despite producing the original sessions, Teo Macero was not involved in putting the set together, and is adamant that they should never have been released in this form. “I hate it,” he says. “I think it’s a bunch of shit, and you can quote me on that. And I hope you do. It has destroyed Miles and made him sound like an idiot. It’s a terrible thing to do to an artist when he’s dead. Those records were gems, and you should leave them as gems.”

It’s too bad most people think of “Bitches Brew” when the subject of electric Miles comes up, because it’s one of the least interesting of the period. Along with Agartha and Dark Magus, it would be an easy to think the whole era a funked up bore. It was that way for me until I got hold of “The Complete On The Corner Sessions”. I was familiar with Bill Laswell’s “Panthalassa”, but distrusted his approach. I don’t always like his interpretations, for instance his re-imagination of Bob Marley is pretty terrible.
I’d never heard the original “On The Corner”, but it’s reputation is pretty poor as many of his Jazz fans found the long funky pieces “not jazz”, and boring. I loved the unreleased jams Teo thinks are shit. It’s what opened my ears to Miles. Next I collected “The Complete Jack Johnson”, then “The Complete In A Silent Way”, and “The Complete Bitches Brew”.
I think Teo’s pissed because it’s pulled the curtain back showing how he and Miles manipulated hours of tape to construct a product instead of letting the jams speak for themselves.

“Chillin’ With Miles Davis” is a nice companion to the official releases. It’s for those who think they don’t like electric Miles. These tracks are really important in the scheme of things. He is making ambient music, he is anticipating dub. You can tell they were exploring unknown territory. Everyone is really listening and trying to make it work. Miles purposely got musicians to play out of comfort zones. That’s why this is so special.

Miles, inspired by Jimi Hendrix, and Sly Stone, set out to make rock n roll and reach a younger audience. I’m sure he figured it would be easy, after all it was being made by young cats without training, but he found Rock is deceptively simple, and it took him awhile to get his groove on.

I wanted to make an ambient album, I’d read somewhere that Brian Eno had been influenced by “He Loved Him Madly” and used it as a rough guide for texture and pacing in his ambient works, so I started with that and “Guinnevere” (“Bitches Brew” outtake). I made a cd, and while reviewing, realized that no matter how much I love it, “He Loved Him Madly” is too damn long, so I snipped off the first ten minutes, where a natural break occurs and a drum beat is introduced. This differs from the released version in that there are no overdubs or edits (save mine). It’s the original Jam.

“The Big Green Serpent” is another “BB” outtake. it’s a fragment, marred by a slight breakdown with conversation. I cut about 40 seconds.
In order for everything to fit on a cd, I trimmed about a minute no one will miss off the end of “Guinnevere”. Everything else “as is”.

I finished it off with “Go Ahead, John part One” (Jack Johnson outtake), which isn’t all that ambient, but a terrific bluesy closer with great solos by Miles, and John McLaughlin’s stunning guitar.

I heartily disagree with Mr. Macero. It has not destroyed Miles and made him sound like an idiot. This material enhances both Miles catalog and reputation, and in no way casts the artist in a poor light.

Link in comments.

It’s also here

Special Thanks to Willard for turning me onto the music.

Number Fifty

As usual it’s been too long since I posted anything of substance. I look at some of my favorite sites, and there’s something new posted every day and I have to think that they must not do anything else except blog. Either that or I’m very slow. Probably a bit of both.  Even this began as a zip file I just wanted to throw up, and now I’m into more than an hour spent writing practically nothing.
As stated previously the blog began as a series of mix cd’s made in response to the demise of my evil i-Pod. I called them now that’s what I call bullshit as a comment on the popular series of Top 40 compilations called Now That’s What I Call Music.  It was a way of processing the ton of music coming my way through friends, downloads, and occasional purchases while I was driving two hours down to South Jersey on surfari.
Many songs posted were originally featured on the cd’s.

I made the first one for Memorial Day weekend in 2006. Here is number 50.

A swell compilation of highlights from the blog so far. It will fill a blank cd nicely, or remain files you can do with what you please.

You can find the link in the comments.

Mine looks like this

Music To Traverse The Ceiling By

 
 

Different than the original, yet the same, too

Different than the original, yet the same, too

I had to post something to get that bad taste out of my mouth, and rehabilitate Brian Eno’s legacy instead of dwelling on an unfortunate, if lucrative, association.

I love this version of “1/1″ by Bang On A Can.
I think Eno’s original has benefited by being played by live musicians.
The fact that they were able to score Music For Airports is remarkable.
I usually play this version these days because I like the way the instruments and the room sound.

I admit the first time I heard Music For Airports I was underwhelmed. It was new, and sounded like Fripp And Eno without the electric guitar, which I needed as an anchor. I think because of the piano I gravitated to “1/1″ soonest. In the three decades since it has found a comfortable spot in my psyche. Airport ambience would benefit greatly by it’s presence.

A few years ago I picked up the version by The Bang On A Can All-Stars.

Here’s a brief excerpt from their 1998 liner notes:

“What Eno didn’t imagine was that his piece would be realized with live musicians. In his analog studio, methodically stringing out bits of tape and looping them over themselves, he hadn’t anticipated that a new generation of musicians would take his music out of the studio and perform it on live instruments in a public forum. Over at Bang On A Can we have always searched for the redefinition of music, exploring the boundaries outside what is expected……..All of the music on this disc has been created by living people in real time. Each of the four movements was recorded in a whole take on analog tape.”

Bang On A Can All-Stars: Maya Beiser, Robert Black, Lisa Moore, Steven Schick, Mark Stewart, and Evan Ziporyn

Back of original album

Back of original album

These are the liner notes from the initial American release of Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports / Ambient 1″, PVC 7908 (AMB 001)

AMBIENT MUSIC

The concept of music designed specifically as a background feature in the environment was pioneered by Muzak Inc. in the fifties, and has since come to be known generically by the term Muzak. The connotations that this term carries are those particularly associated with the kind of material that Muzak Inc. produces – familiar tunes arranged and orchestrated in a lightweight and derivative manner. Understandably, this has led most discerning listeners (and most composers) to dismiss entirely the concept of environmental music as an idea worthy of attention.

Over the past three years, I have become interested in the use of music as ambience, and have come to believe that it is possible to produce material that can be used thus without being in any way compromised. To create a distinction between my own experiments in this area and the products of the various purveyors of canned music, I have begun using the term Ambient Music.

An ambience is defined as an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint. My intention is to produce original pieces ostensibly (but not exclusively) for particular times and situations with a view to building up a small but versatile catalogue of environmental music suited to a wide variety of moods and atmospheres.

Whereas the extant canned music companies proceed from the basis of regularizing environments by blanketing their acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncracies, Ambient Music is intended to enhance these. Whereas conventional background music is produced by stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty (and thus all genuine interest) from the music, Ambient Music retains these qualities. And whereas their intention is to `brighten’ the environment by adding stimulus to it (thus supposedly alleviating the tedium of routine tasks and levelling out the natural ups and downs of the body rhythms) Ambient Music is intended to induce calm and a space to think.

Ambient Music must be able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.
BRIAN ENO

September 1978

I spent a great deal of time staring at the diagrams on the back cover. This was a tremendous influence on my understanding of music. At the time I had no idea composers like John Cage routinely drew pictures instead of scoring music.

For fun I include Fripp and Eno’s “Evening Star”, their most concise and fiery collaboration, from their 1975 album Evening Star.

1/1
Evening Star