1997 Records To Die For Page 6
ANN ARBOR BLUES & JAZZ FESTIVAL 1972
Atlantic SD 2-502 (2 LPs only). 1972. Michael Cuscuna, Tunc Erim, prods.; Jimmy Douglass, prod., eng.; George Piros, mastering. AAA. TT: ca 84:00
Hound Dog Taylor, Koko Taylor, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Dr. John, Junior Walker, Bonnie Raitt (with and without) Sippie Wallace, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Freddie King, Luther Allison, Johnny Shines, Otis Rush, and Sun Ra & His Solar-Myth Arkestra---all recorded live outdoors by Jimmy Douglass and mastered by George Piros. Reissued on Seedee? I don't know. If it has been, get it! If not, hit the used-record bins. Don't expect to find it, though; I've seen only one copy in my life---mine. Sound? Your walls and ceiling disappear, leaving you in the great outdoors. Vinyl reissue, please!
SMALL FACES: Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
(British) Immediate IMSP 012 (LP). 1968. Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, prods.; Glyn Johns, eng. AAA. TT: 38:30
This rightly beat out Sgt. Pepper in the 1968 New Musical Express poll. The famous round cover apes a tobacco tin, but that's not what those Small Faces were smoking when they made this! Steve Marriott had the best banshee pipes in rock. On "Lazy Sunday" you'll hear the deepest, most dynamic bass and the sweetest, most open top-end you've ever heard on a rock record. The rest of it is just as Glyn-Johns---brilliant---but only on the Brit original. Skip the limp, pathetic American first press. Squeezing this sonic monster onto a CD (Sony Music Special Products AK 46964) is like trying to put your mouth over the Grand Canyon. If you can't find the LP, open wide!
JAMES HORNER: Jumanji (original soundtrack)
Epic Soundtrax EK 67424 (CD only). 1995. James Horner, prod.; Shawn Murphy, eng. AAD. TT: 51:08
Jumanji is my third R2D4 choice in the past four years for an original movie soundtrack by the composing-engineering team of James Horner and Shawn Murphy. The movie, a masterpiece of computer-generated special effects, is improved by Horner's remarkable score, which befits this science-fiction tale of magic, horror, and childhood. The score was very much in the background when I saw the movie, so I would never have known how brilliant it is without hearing this CD.
Horner has captured an incredible range of divergent moods here: the playful, summery themes of the children, the sinister music-box-like central theme depicting the enticing but deadly Jumanji game, and the final horror of a conga jungle drum mixed with a wailing male voice---a soul damned to be trapped in the game forever. Like the Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger scores I selected for early R2D4 entries, Horner and Murphy exploit the entire sonic spectrum. Contrast the subwoofer rumblings in "First Move" with the clanging, cacaphonous percussion mixed with old auto-horns and band-organ effects in "Monkey Mayhem." Switch then to the beautiful, lilting melody for flute and clarinet in the 11-minute title track. This mix is a new departure for Horner, who has moved from driving, riveting, pulsing action-movie themes to using the power of the orchestra to create a full palette of emotional moods, from joy to horror.
MICHEL JONASZ: La fabuleuse histoire de Mister Swing
WEA (West Germany) 2292-42338-2 (2 CDs only). 1988. Michel Kintzig, prod.; Patrick Clody, Guy Marseguerra, Patrice Cramer, engs. DDD. TT: 96:51
Totem Acoustic's Vince Bruzzese introduced me to this set at HI-FI '96 in New York. Michel Jonasz's solo vocal "Si si si le Ciel" on this all-French live concert album stopped me in my tracks. Even though I knew better, I just sat and enjoyed this high-energy vocalist, backed up by a wonderful group, "the angels," with Stephan Montonaro and Larry Cohn on keyboards, Arno Lucas on drums, and Reggie McBride on bass. Jonasz writes his own lyrics and music, though I can't say the songs on this double album adhere strictly to any concert format I'm familiar with. It's not unusual for Jonasz to go on for 8-10 minutes, singing multiple variations, scat-singing or using his voice like a musical instrument. My favorites on this album, beside the syncopated, reggae "Si si si le Ciel," are "Ne garde Rien" and the wonderful show-stopping title song, which seems to gather energy, excitement, and all-involving joy as band, singer, and audience jam effortlessly. This album is never far from my CD transport or car stereo.
SMALL FACES: The Anthology (1965-1967)
Deram 31453-3284 3 (2 CDs). 1996. Remastered by Gary Moore, ??? TT: 84:39
With the brass of early Kinks, the rhythmic toughness of Ray Charles, and a melodic sense approaching the Beatles', Small Faces were a true pop supergroup, though virtually unknown in the States. Theirs was a blend of contagious songwriting and muscular musicianship, best evidenced in transcendent singles like "Sorry She's Mine" and "I Can't Dance With You," as well as on instrumentals like "Almost Grown" and "Grow Your Own." The proof is in Ronnie Lane's massive bass, Steve Marriott's archetypal vocals, Ian McLagan's keys, and Kenney Jones's Keith Moon-inspired drumming. We all know that critics can at times be overdramatic, but this set is truly something to crow about. One of the year's best reissues.
BOBBY FULLER: Shakedown! The Texas Tapes Revisited
Del-Fi DFBX 2902 (2 CDs). 1996. Gary Tanenbaum, Randy Fuller, prods.; Charlie Watts, Paul Tavenner, engs. ???. TT: 2:10:37
With alternate versions of "I Fought the Law," "Nancy Jean," and "Nervous Breakdown," as well as home recordings and rare studio takes, Shakedown! is a great (and official!) anthological sendoff to the West Texas rocker once poised to inherit the Buddy Holly crown. Recorded between 1961 and 1964, the 50 tracks here include all seven of Fuller's Texas-label singles---every master take of the unreleased material, in addition to alternates. It's a thoughtful, often revelatory compilation that serves to enlarge Fuller's standing in the all-time pantheon of rock.