Archives for posts with tag: Peter Hammill

Here’s my pick of the best music of the year that came my way that proved to have the most lasting impressions on me.

Happy Holidays

-mf-

1) Lisa Gerrard – The Twilight Kingdom (Gerrard Records)

2) Johannes Dimpflmeier – Untitled (and/OAR)

3) David Sylvian – There’s A Light That Enters Houses With No Other House In Sight (Samadhisound)

4) Ian Holloway – There Is Nowhere Here (Quiet World)

5) Alio Die & Sylvi Alli – Amidst The Circling Spires (Projekt)

6) Peter Hammill – All That Might Have Been… (Fie! Records)

7) Lino Capra Vaccina – Antico Adagio (Reissue) (Die Schachtel)

8) Lost Girls – Lost Girls (3 Loop Music)

9) Edvard Graham Lewis – All Over (Editions Mego)

10) Automat – Automat (Bureau B)

11) Hildur Guðnadóttir – Saman (Touch)

12) Beck – Morning Phase (Capitol Records)

13) Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde Records)

14) Tape – Casino (Häpna)

15) Jean-Louis Matinier / Marco Ambrosini – Inventio (ECM Records)

16) Superconnection – La Mer (M=minimal)

17) Black 47 – Last Call (self-released)

18) Elodie – Traces Ephémères (La Scie Dorée)

19) Max Richter / Daniel Hope – Berlin By Overnight (Deutsche Grammophon)

20) Peter Murphy – Lion (Nettwerk)

21) Psychic TV – Snakes (Angry Love Productions)

22) Kangding Ray – Solens Arc (Raster-Noton)

23) Pan Sonic – Oksastus (Kvitnu)

for your pleasure

Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

Island Records (1973)

For Roxy Music’s second album For Your Pleasure, two separate producers were employed to take the reigns in the studio. The tracks on side one were done by Chris Thomas, a veteran from working with bands like Procal Harum and Climax Blues Band amongst others and for the tracks on side two, the talents of John Anthony were employed. Anthony had worked with Van Der Graaf Generator for their first four records including the classic’s H To He Who Am The Only One and Peter Hammill’s first solo Fool’s Mate, as well as bands like Lindisfarne and the early Genesis lp’s Trespass and Nursery Cryme. The fact that there are two different producers on this record is not something I believe one would automatically recognize on first hearing since both sides share many similarities in sound but differ slightly in content and this difference only becomes apparent on repeated listenings.

The band:

Brian Ferry – Voice, Keyboards

Andrew Mackay – Oboe, Saxophone

Phil Manzanera – Guitar

Paul Thompson – Drums

Brian Eno – Synthesizer, Tapes

John Porter – Bass

I regard this album as the natural next step in progression from the first self titled lp Roxy Music of 1972 but taken as a distinct recording on its own, I feel it is leaps and bounds past the first record in terms of a band’s maturity. Where the first record was obviously earth shattering and nevertheless unique when it came out in 1972 in that there was simply nothing like it that came before, For Your Pleasure solidified the concept of avant garde rock as a new genre on the scene. Roxy had a strange hybrid of sounds going on at the time, obviously glam but other disparate vibes like 50’s R&B and proto-ambient Berlin school Kosmiche, a la early Kraftwerk and Can, but none of these other genres were obvious but merely hints, teases. You had a sense of the different, the new, but you didn’t quite know from where. Circus Magazine gave it a ‘For Savory Tastes Only’ vote and those were the albums that I mostly bought, usually without the slightest chance of hearing them before a purchase. I was rarely disappointed.

I do remember being totally fascinated by the Circus Magazine article and couldn’t wait to pick this lp up. The cover alone was the clincher for me, with Amanda Lear walking a panther on a leash on the front cover only to flip it over and see Bryan Ferry as a limo driver waiting for Miss Lear to finish her stroll and take her (and the panther) home. As someone in grammar school with an over active imagination, this was fodder for my juvenile fascinating. The inner gatefold was even more alluring. As a neophyte guitar player, never did I see so many strange guitars before like a Hagstrom Swede, Gibson Firebird and a Weissenborn slide guitar amongst others being held by the band members and it would be many years before I would actually have the chance to play any of them for real.

After hearing the album at home for the first time, it instantly opened my eyes to a type of music that was both fascinating to me as well as totally new and fresh, completely different from the Led Zeppelin, Who, Beatles & Stones records that I heard non stop growing up being played in the house (along with a heavy dose of Caruso and Sinatra records). But I couldn’t get enough of this record. Soon after, I remember it started to get played on WNEW-FM radio.

In the 1970’s, there was a great FM station named WNEW-FM and along with DJ’s such as Allison Steele (The Nightbird) and several others, jettisoned Progressive rock onto a very thirsty listening audience that was ripe to hear something new and fresh after the break up of The Beatles. When I think back at the importance of this radio station in the development of many artists to Americans, it is astounding, for without this pioneering group of DJ’s, this new British Invasion would have certainly failed and fallen flat. It also opened the door to other stations such as WQIV-FM, a pioneer in quadrophonic sound broadcasting over the airwaves, with the progressive tastes of its main DJ Rosko and it also motivated countless college radio stations to flourish and play new and interesting music well into the 90’s in radio. FM radio the way it used to be.

In all of its idiosyncrasies, For Your Pleasure stands as a unique document in music history as well as in Roxy Music’s long and outstanding career. A natural progression from their first album and not quite like their next lp Stranded, released later the same year and with Brian Eno gone and replaced by Eddie Jobson and John Porter on bass replaced by Johnny Gustafson.

track order:

Do The Strand

Beauty Queen

Strictly Confidential

Editions Of You

In Every Dream Home A Heartache

The Bogus Man

Grey Lagoons

For Your Pleasure

Do The Strand and Editions Of You hark back to the first lp and portray their 50’s etiquette, both strong single material, but ironically were not released as singles until 1978. Beauty Queen, Strictly Confidential and In Every Dream Home A Heartache have more elements of Krautrock and glimpses of what would become ambient years later.

Side two opens with The Bogus Man, a nine minute sci-fi fest of echoed guitar, sax, oboe & synth sounds and bizarre vocalizations from Ferry mimicking ska guitar parts with a completely steady and trancelike beat throughout. Infectious and ethereal. Grey Lagoons follows and quickly changes the momentum back to a 50’s R&B swingbeat heard on parts of the first side and consisting of brilliant sax, harmonica and guitar solos by Andy Mackay, Brian Ferry and Phil Manzanera in the mid section with Brian Ferry pumping away on the piano in Jerry Lee Lewis fashion while not playing the harmonica. Some great backing vocals are heard at the end, probably an overdubbed Brian Eno, hinting at what he would develop on his solo albums and future Talking Heads albums to come.The album closes with the title track For Your Pleasure, a song sounding quite unlike anything ever done before with heavy use of some haunting tape loops, a tribal drum beat and ending with some spoken words by Judi Dench. This song went on to inspire countless 80’s post punk bands including ClockDVA, Magazine, Wire and Coil, all have numerous moments in their own histories that can be traced back to this one song alone. Tape loops were nothing new at this point, case in point being The Beatles extensive tape production in Revolution No. 9 from The White Album several years prior. But it is here where I feel they were used in an entirely new way and formed one template for things to come. Overall the second side is the more adventurous side of the two and probably what solidified Circus Magazine’s vote of “For Savory Tastes Only”.

In conclusion, For Your Pleasure stands as a landmark in musical history as well as in the Roxy Music discography in that it challenged preconceptions of what rock n’ roll was all about and paved the way for what was to come. An experiment that motivated countless bands to follow and truly a remarkable work of art. One of the most important recordings of the 1970’s.

damage cd

 SYLVIAN | FRIPP – DAMAGE

(Virgin Records 1994)

As the story goes, Robert Fripp approached David Sylvian sometime in 1993 to be the new singer for King Crimson and embark on a tour of Japan. David Sylvian, flattered, told Fripp thanks but no thanks due to the incredible amount of baggage that comes with a position like that and to then pursue on yet a new chapter of what was the continuing story of King Crimson, would be too much to bear for any sane vocalist to undertake. I agree. Leave that one alone. Crimson had its share of ups and downs throughout the years, with some brilliant accomplishments and some not so brilliant but worthy attempts no less.

Later that year, ‘The First Day‘ lp appeared and with it a new chapter for both David Sylvian and Robert Fripp. This was not the new King Crimson that Robert Fripp envisioned to say the least, but a bright new musical tangent which was done in an upstate New York studio with Jerry Marotta on drums and Trey Gunn on Chapman Stick, with added incidental vocals by singer Ingrid Chavez.

In December of that same year, a tour was begun of Japan and the UK with Trey Gunn on Chapman Stick and Michael Brook on guitar and Pat Mastelotto (replacing Jerry Marotta) on drums, and this recording is taken from the London show of the tour. There is in fact a video from a Japanese show titled Live In Japan (1995) that has the same songs (and more) but obviously different takes on them and that is worth finding for comparison’s sake but overall I do like this performance over this other live one just mentioned. I must admit that I have had the original edition of this cd since it first came out and it remains a recording that I have played endless times. I seem to know every nuance of the mix by now, some things which I love, but some things that have always irked me. Produced by David Botrill and Robert Fripp and mixed by David Botrill at Real World Studios. Comprised mostly of songs from The First Day and with additional pieces from David Sylvian’s Gone To Earth album from 1986. As a general rule of thumb, this first edition was mixed as a live recording to portray a live performance. Loud, dynamic, a bit raucous in spots. The audience is always present between the songs and one cannot mistake this for anything but a live recording. One thing that always irked me was the slightly shrill sound of Robert Fripp’s guitar synth, especially during his leads. It seemed it was mixed a bit too upfront and in your face and with a tad too much high end for my tastes, but I usually overlooked those sonics as this is some of his most brilliant guitar playing of his career, and just enjoyed the intensity and playing for what it is. Knowing that Fripp did indeed want this band to be the new Crimson has tainted my view of the album, it sounds like a new Crimson album for the most part, with the exceptions of a few songs.

The song Damage opens the set as an introspective and melancholy setting without drums and this song has always been a favorite of mine all of these years. A predominately vocal & Prophet synthesizer piece, with added sparse incidental interplay between Fripp & Gunn making for a very understated orchestrated performance. To the point and absolutely beautiful in execution. Gods’ Monkey and Brightness Falls are next and this is where you hear the Crimson intent the most. This version of Gods’ Monkey kick’s ass! A rendition of Rain Tree Crow’s Every Colour You Are follows and I can’t help thinking that this live version tops the original studio one by a mile, as wonderful and immortal as that version (and record) is. The musical conversation between all involved here is mesmerizing and they are all in perfect sync with one another, not a note out of place. Firepower from The First Day continues the high energy but in a nod towards Fripp’s Exposure masterpiece from 1977, with obvious vocal references to Brian Eno‘s vocals on the title track Exposure, where Eno chants “E X P O S U R E” in the background and Sylvian on this song chants “F I R E P O W E R” in it’s background. I have never seen a reference to this fact in any review I have read about this release throughout the years. Not one. I chalk this up to a lot of reviewers not being actual musicians or producers and / or not knowing an artist’s full discography as they should.

Gone To Earth is next. This version of the song from the album of the same name is quite different from the original and is brought into an ensemble setting as opposed to the sparse, abstract vocals / acoustic guitar and very Bowie-esque  Scary Monster’s sounding electric guitar of Fripp of the original. Two very different versions with two very different elements at play. 20th Century Dreaming (A Shaman’s Song) continues the Exposure reminiscing with an exhilarating version and all out guitar assault from all involved. This might be the highlight of the album. I can almost hear a version of this being done with Peter Hammill on vocals because this version has Van Der Graaf Generator written all over it as did some of the pieces on Exposure like I May Not Have Had Enough Of Me But I’ve Had Enough Of You and Disengage, both intense Peter Hammill work outs. Sylvian is no slouch on guitar and here they all achieve perfection together. A very different version of Wave from Gone To Earth is next. I find this version lacks the nuance and sophistication that the original possessed and this is obviously due to different musicians in question and a different setting entirely but this newer version is enjoyable all the same, with a constant pulse supplied by Mastelloto. Riverman, Darshan (The Road To Graceland), Blinding Light Of Heaven (a new song) and The First Day (another new song) closes the set. These last tracks taken as the closing segment for me are varied in approach, Riverman taken from Gone To Earth again, lacks the sophistication of the original studio recording due to its live setting, but in no way lacks the intensity and purpose. Darshan (The Road To Graceland) is a rock tour de force of overtones and textures with musical passages being traded off between the participants in call and answer fashion, building to a climax and making for a very danceable and funky tune. The original version on The First Day is more of a tribute to Miles Davis’s On The Corner days as is some of the rest of that album. Blinding Light Of Heaven (another new song), here on this version of Damage is the one sore thumb for me. I feel it’s slightly rushed and cluttered sounding and would have been much better interpreted slower and less frenetic. The record closes with The First Day, again a drumless melancholy moment for Sylvian to stretch out his vocals on and a fitting close to an exceptional live concert.

track order:

Damage

God’s Monkey

Brightness Falls

Every Colour You Are

Firepower

Gone To Earth

20th Century Dreaming (A Shaman’s Song)

Wave

Riverman

Darshan (The Road To Graceland)

Blinding Light Of Heaven

The First Day

damage remaster

Sylvian | Fripp – Damage remaster

(Venture / Virgin 2001)

2001 brings with it a remastered Sylvian | Fripp – Damage edition which is quite different from the first issue. This one, produced and mixed by David Sylvian at his own Samadhi Sound studio in New Hampshire. I bought this album a bit after it had come out since I mistakenly thought it was just a reissue of the original box edition mentioned above that was destined to go out of print due to its 24 carat gold cd and a package beautifully designed by Russell Mills, and just assumed this was the same cd in a trimmed down jewel case. It is not.

The two discs are impossible for me to say which one do I prefer over the other, that is simply not the point. The fact that they are both exceptional works and different from one another are enough for me to accept their own individual worth and are both available for the listener to enjoy. The 2001 remaster is intentionally stripped of its live ambiance and a good deal of the live sound added to each instrument on the original recording is gone. This mix is an intimate reworking of the same recording done several years afterwards with a totally fresh approach, one I feel is a more balanced mix with each instrument expertly sitting amongst each other with none of the frenetic competition that is part of the original version’s sound. Mastellotto’s drums are perfectly balanced with one another and their canon-like reverb-drenched sound has been tamed and that is the key to this recording. When they were stripped back of their live feeds, it afforded the rest of the instruments to breathe better and now are all are in proper balance with one another. The shrill effect I got from some of Fripp’s original guitar synth lead parts is now gone and Sylvian’s vocals are much warmer and clearer and do not seem to be competing with the band. Even Ingrid Chavez’ vocals are much more defined and distinct and add yet another layer to the textures of this recording. (There is an old story going around that Fripp produced Peter Gabriel II with everything on 5, producing a very flat and ‘safe’ recording as a result. Apparently this fact was divulged by one of the musicians on the album.) The sound of that album always bothered me no matter what the reasons were and it’s a shame since there are some masterful songs on that one like White Shadow and D.I.Y. That is one recording that I would love to hear a remix of!

All of these subtle changes lends the recording to have more of an impression that it is studio recording and farther from the reality that indeed it was done in a live hall setting to my ears. An interesting concept that was first done on King Crimson’s Starless And Bible Black, but that album was intentionally stripped of all audience noise, thus fooling the listener into thinking it was done in a studio. Why, I do not know. I am sure most Crimson fans do not even know this to this day.

One thing I must say is the remix of Blinding Light Of Heaven is absolutely outstanding and is one of the highlights of this cd, as opposed to the reservations I had with the original. Every instrument seems to be in place now and the frenetic sound I attributed to overplaying and rushing the tempo on Blinding Light Of Heaven are now tamed and every instrument breathes, giving the song a new meaning for me here and a joy to listen to.

One of the aural treats of the Damage remastered disc is actually hearing Michael Brooks’ beautiful guitar parts which suffered from being mixed down and mostly buried on the original. His work on Peter Murphy’s Cascade comes to mind instantly, an impression impossible to get from the original release. What he is doing perfectly works with Trey Gunn’s dual handed Stick parts and now Fripp’s guitar parts sit in much better with the other’s. A case of an over anxious Fripp & Botrill at the controls for the first disc maybe? I do know guitar synths are a different beast altogether to record properly and must be done with care. Who knows, but again, both discs are exceptional and are a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

The order of songs has been slightly changed on the remaster:

God’s Monkey

Brightness Falls

Every Colour You Are

Jean The Birdman

Firepower

Damage

Gone To Earth

20th Century Dreaming (A Shaman’s Song)

Wave

Riverman

Blinding Light Of Heaven

The First Day

The song Darshan (The Road To Graceland) has been left off and replaced with Jean The Birdman on the remaster.

To conclude, I feel the original is a great document to portray a live situation and it does represent the concert performance appropriately, warts and all. The remixed version bring it into a different light altogether and is much more in lines of what Sylvian would do if he had complete control, which I believe he did have from the liner notes. Both have their place in musical history and both are extremely enjoyable and important steps in the growth of both Fripp and Sylvian’s careers. They will forever be favorites for me.

Overall, as I find myself listening to these two discs recently again, it never fails to strike me for both David Sylvian and Robert Fripp, respectively, were thankfully always trying new things and challenging themselves and their audiences along the way. These two discs stand the test of time and are both excellent additions to anyone with a predilection for art rock, post punk progressive and / or ambient with an edge.

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