Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 22. 1973
'Third down, 110 to go":
Jesse Winchester. Warner Brothers WBS 2102. Reviewed by P.F. O'Dea.
Jesse Winchester is an Amerikan, domiciled [unclear: n] Canada since 1969 when he moved there to escape the draft. 'Third down, 110 to go" is [unclear: his] second album — the first was released over[unclear: eas] about two-and-a-half years ago and was pervaded by bitterness — the result, one [unclear: issumes], of his forced expatriation. Fortu- [unclear: latcly], this gem of an album finds him in a much happier state of mind.
Sessions for the album began with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, the same group that supplied the backing for Jams Joplin's Pearl". Relations between Winchester and the band grew strained and fell apart in the studio, however, so he handpicked a different set of session men. None of those he came up with are "known", but their performance is all that could be wished for. Three tracks were recorded in 1970 under the guidance of Todd Rundgren, but they are similar stylistically to the later material.
No strings of adjectives this time around: quite simply. Winchester is a genius, in the only sense of the word. If you buy one album this year, make it this one. Using acoustic guitar, flute and puno with consummate artistry, he's attained a standard that most artists could struggle for all their lives and still never come near.
Of the 13 songs only one runs to over three minutes, and each one says more within its alloted time span than most other performers could say with an entire album. I hesitate to select single tracks because of the overall consistency, but the opener, "Isn't that so", seems to me to be one of the two highlights. The seemingly simple guitar backdrop sets an uneasy mood for a fine critique of plausible, but fallacious reasoning: "Didn't He know what he was doing putting eyes inside my head?/ If He didn't want me watching women/ He'd a left my eyeballs dead" ....... "You've gotta go where your heart says go/ Isn't that so?"
The other outstanding track is North Star, a perverse, brilliantly sustained flight of allegorical fancy, underscored by a solo acoustic guitar: "Does the world have a belly button/ I can't get this out of my head/ Cause if it turns up in my yard/ I'll tickle it so hard/ that the world's gonna laugh to wake the dead".
Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player:
Elton John. DJM DJL 34722.
The Lady's Not For Sale: A&M AML 34704
Drift Away: Dobie Gray. MCA MAPS 6470.
Elton John's "Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player", is a reprise, with variations, on his last release, "Honky Chateau". That album marked an abrupt change of direction for the John—Taupin team after the vapid excesses of "Madman Across the Water" and this one continues it. It is not, as the weekend muckrakers would have us believe, the best album released so far this year. It is, however, a carefully planned, logical extension of the "back to basics" approach formulated on "Honky Chateau", and that's enough to ensure that it is a pudgy Englishman's personal best.
The album is based on a sequence of American-orienta led fantasies, extending from the recreation of a 1950's style in "Crocodile Rock" to heavy-handed social commentary in "Texas Love Song", which conjures up a menacing "Easy Rider" — type scenario: "You long hairs are sure gonna die/ Our American home was clean till you came/ and kids still respected the president's name.... then you came along with your drug crazy songs/ Goddamit, you're sure gonna die".
"Teacher, I need you" and "I'm going to be a teenage idol" are also rooted in nostalgia, and are successful for all that, but the best cut is the catchy single release, "Daniel". Elton, doubling on "flute" mellotron and electric piano, and Ken Scott on A.R.P. synthesizer make full and fitting use of the electronic instrumentation to frame Taupin's best ever lyric. Full marks to Festival for the lavish presentation, which includes a 12-page book of coloured photographs and lyrics.
The same company is also responsible for the Rita Coolidge release. Ms Coolidge's only real claim to fame was as a backing vocalist, but somehow she's managed to talk enough bread out of Herb Albert for three solo albums. It must be something to do with having the right connections — many of whom have pitched in to supply the music for "The Lady's Not for Sale" They include Carl Radle. Jim Keltner, Kris Kristotterson and the seemingly inseperable Kunkel—Sklar duo, but they sound as if they know they're backing a loser, and play like a soulless version of Booker T and the MGs. Everything works, but it lacks any distinctive quality which would set it apart from the 30 or so albums released every week.
Above them, Rita has assembled a goodly collection of lyrics from pens as diverse as Marc Beno, Dylan and Kristofferson. The unfortunate part is that she sings them with a voice as bland and as uninteresting as vanilla instant pudding, as mechanically as a primer reciting the alphabet. Her gentle approach makes even a tune like "Bird on the Wire" too saccharine to take. It has absolutely none of the anguished desperation of the Cocker or Hardin versions, nor the bitter pathos inherent in the Cohen original. Given the familiarity of the song it should be easy enough to listen to. Not so. After about 45 seconds your concentration wanders. I wonder where she'd be if she wasn't screwing Kristofferson.
Dobie Gray, mercifully, is something else again. He represents MCA's attempt to crash the soul market dominated by Stax, Tamla and Atlantic. With "Drift Away", produced in Nashville by Mentor Williams, they've made a promising start. Like Elton John's album the stand out track is the single release, which gives the album its name. Basically, it's a bittersweet paen that can only be described as cathartic: "Day after day I'm more confused /yet I look for the light through the pouring rain /you know that's a game I hate to lose /and I'm feeling the strain /ain't it a shame ....give me the beat boys and free my soul /I want to get lost in your rock and roll and drift away". The lyric is expressively put across by an appropriately intense vocal, nestling neatly into a sympathetic dual guitar backdrop, which pushes the song through several verses and then dissolves into an incredible acapella section. The rhythm section doesn't mess around either, they're tight and round out a pop masterpiece that could give a lot of pointers to other singers who burble about their fanciful notions of "reality" and such like from behind a lack of sensitivity.
There's nothing else on the album that matches that. In fact when he slows down the tempo he comes out sounding a lot like a syrupy O.C. Smith, notably on "We had it all". His forte is medium and up-tempo numbers — particularly impressive is his rendition of Duck Dunn's "Rocking Chair", and his own. "City Stars" which is brilliantly lit by Weldon Myrick's stabbing steel guitar licks.
The remainder of the album is slightly above par Tamla-type material, competently performed but not music that leaves much of an impression. Most albums these days can be boiled down to a single. This one is no exception, but if Gray can sustain the quality of the single for an entire album the results will certainly be worth hearing.
Argent, Epic SBPC 474095. Reviewed by Richard Best.
Now here's a nice competent album from Argent. Nice blue cover of the boys swimming underwater in a London pool and eight nice innocuous songs.
Argent, as we all know, are — for the most part — The Zombies. And whether it matters, the only place I've ever seen the odd Argent album is in the omnipresent "Sale/Chuck Out Bins".
"In Deep" is adequate. Like Free though, it's also all highly predictable — die chord changes come exactly where you expect them and Russ Ballard's tunes have that (for me) annoying quality of 'deja yu'.
Peter Rotherham would be pleased to hear the Socialist-inspired "It's Only Money Parts 1 and 2" with a mass of Grand Funk and Ticket (yes!) vocals. Family's Roger Chapman probably died in the arse at Rod Argent and Chris White's "Be Glad", an almost infallible rip-off from "Save Some for Thee" from Family's 1971 "Fearless" album.
Excuse the vapid cover notes and it's a fair enough album. A wee bit of it is quite excellent and no one could be unmoved by the soul in the six-minute "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You".
Aaah, slut. Gimme some Roxy Music any day.
"Songs of Joy", "The Latin Splendour":
Werner Muller and his Orchestra. (WRC)
Ineptly titled, "Songs of Joy" covers a wide span of diluted music in capsule form varying from Bach to Satie. It all makes for very pleasant listening as the emphasis is on melody, harmony and arrangement, but I have my reservations on the treatment of this type of music, even by groups of this kind. At times, Werner Muller sounds like a cross between the Philadelphia Orchestra and Franck Pourcel. More to the point is "Latin Splendour" in which a large instrumental combination brings into play the many evocative and torrid sounds of this fine ensemble.
"Liza with a "Z": Liza Minnelli,
"Live Concert at the Forum": Barbra Streisand (CBS).
Her first album to win her an award since she attained stardom, "Liza with a "Z" " is a musical showcase for the gregarious talent of Liza Minnelli. With such a flexible organ (which sounds like her mother Judy Garland at times) she manages to extend every shred of sentiment to this selection as she flits from one note to another, from one mood to another, and with the greatest of case. Particularly noted, is her handling of "Mr Mammy" and "Bye, bye Blackbird".
Barbara Streisand's fans will recognise a number of hits taken from other previous albums especially "Funny Girl", still her best LP so far. Some are new versions with a more updated treatment, not always to her advantage as she seems to be under stress at times. "People" for instance does not measure up to the original stage arrangement, although "Mr Man" remains virtually unchanged. Nevertheless, in this "live" recording, her magnetism is still very much in evidence.
Immortal Performances: RCA
When the long-playing record was first introduced, the recording companies stored the masters of their old 78 rpm's m vaults where they were soon to be forgotten. It was only after experimenting with new techniques such as recording the highlights of an entire show or the "live performance" that requests for re-issuing some of the more popular 78 rpm's on LP's started to trickle in. At first, these requests were ignored. The reason given was that it was not profitable to release these old records in view of the limited demand. In some cases, the masters were lost. But when a small but dedicated band of music lovers started to record their, old jazz and opera 78 rpm's on to LP's and sell them to an ever-growing public, the major labels were obliged to take note. Especially, when one "bootlegger" flouting international, commercial practices, re-recorded a complete library on to LP's without prior permission and set himself up in business under the conspicuous name of "Jolly Roger". In the long run, the pirating of private property was stopped by court action but by then the lesson had been driven home. The recording companies were now ready to press their own masters. The result: a fabulous wealth in musical recordings by famous artists was immediately available. Not only were they preserved for posterity by means of improved reproduction techniques, but students were in a position to listen to some of the finest renditions in musical history. And this is how "Immortal Performances" came about— a collection of "unforgettable voices in unforgotten performances".
The list includes "Caruso. 1904-1906" (Italian and French operas). "Golden Age" (voices of Caruso, Galli-Curci, Schipa, De Luca) 'The Art of Lawrence Tibbett" (opera and concert), "Richard Crooks", "John McCormack" (opera); "McCormack singing Songs of Sentiment", "Galli-Curci" (opera). "Unforgettable Voices in Unforgettable Performances" (Caruso, Sigrid Onegin, Rose Ponselle, De Luca, Lily Pons, Zinka Milavon, Johanna Gadski, Pasquale Amato, Margaret Mattenaucr, Florence Quartarare, Ramon Vinay, Emmy Destinn), "Jeanetter McDonald and Nelson Eddy" (Vintage Series), "Kirsten Flagsted".
The Glory of the Harpsichord:
Rafael Puyana. "Concertos for Violin and Strings": Vivaldi. Luciano Vicari, Walter Gallozzi, Roberto Michelucci, Anna Maria Cotogni, Felix Ayo, violins (Philips).
The age of the greatest glory of the harpsichord can be situated between the 16th and late 18th centuries. Derived from a plucked string instrument which had been used since ancient times, the harpsichord served to emphasise the new harmonic orientation of ensemble music and as an important medium for the flourishing solo keyboard work. The music on this recording, composed over a period of almost three centuries in most countries of Western Europe, shows the capacity of the harpsichord for expression as a solo instrument in works of varied mood and style. Even though the harpsichord was to slip in popularity at the end of the 18th century in favour of the more powerful tone of the puno, it still remains as an aura of musical grace and sensitivity a potential factor in a musical world where the combination of sound involves the deep with the delicate.
As a composer, Vivaldi is noted for his architectural quality, his almost dainty and serence elegance of style in expressing sound to serve purely musical instincts. Although he has written opera, religious music and symphonies, Vivaldi has mainly acquired a reputation in the concerto form and this predilection is possibly due to his standing as a famous violinist and virtuoso. These Concertos belong to both his ecclesiastical and secular periods and are very easy to listen to.
Beethoven. Bernstein/ N.Y. Philharmonic; Ormandy/Philadelphia Orch; Szell/Cleveland Orch; Rudolf Serkin, Leon Fleischer, Philippe Entremont, pianists; Mormon Tabernacle Choir (CBS).
Greatest Hits: Tchaikovsky. Bernstein/N.Y. Philharmonic; Ormany/ Philadelphia Orch (CBS).
Suites From The Great Operas: Mozart. London Symphonic Band (CBS).
Overtures (Rienzi, The Flying Dutchman), Venusberg Music, Siegfried Idyll: Wagner. Sawallisch/ Vienna Symphony Orch. (Philips)
These recordings represent the outgrowth of an initiative taken several years ago by Peter Munves, merchandising director of Columbia Records in New York. A firm believer in the lowbrow syndrome, Munves deliberately picked the melodic fragments of a composer of his choice as performed by top artists and packaged the selection under the title of "The Greatest Hits" as if they belonged to the pop scene. The series, which featured over 20 composers, was an instantaneous success. "Melody is what turns man on", claims Munves. "melody is for the people." The "greatest hits" of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky have been issued individually as two-record sets and it is fairly obvious that selecting the proper material remains a very important function. In this case, I would find it difficult to disagree with this judicious choice: Beethoven (First and Final Movements of Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 Pastorale, 3 Eroica, 9 Chorale; First Movements of "Moonlight" and "Pathetique" Sonatas and Concerto No. 5 Emperor; Turkish March, Fur Elise, Minuet). Tchaikovsky (Waltzes from "Nutcracker Suite", "Serenade", "Sleeping Beauty", "Eugene Onegin", "Swan Lake"; "Andante Cantabile", 1812 Overture, "None but the Lonely Heart", Capriccio Italien, Barcarolle, Trepak).
The Mozart opera suites are from " The Abduction from the Seraglio", "Don Giovanni", "The Marriage of Figaro" and "The Magic Flute", all performed by an unusual aggregation of woodwind and brass instrumentalists to which have been added a harp and double bass. It is refreshing to listen to these 46 musicians, drawn mainly from well-known London orchestras as they create sounds which make Mozart even more likeable.
The Wagner selections were written at a time when the composer was immersed in Romanticism and ideas of political and social upheaval. In this, Wagner found much of his inspiration not only in the rigid, nationalistic concepts of German mythology but also in the modem outlook of "Young Germany", a group of writers whose most prominent member was the poet Heinrich Heine, who inspired the legend of the Flying Dutchman. "Rienzi" is based on a story by the English novelist, Bulwer Lyton.