Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Marbles - The Marbles 1970

by Richie Unterberger
The Marbles are well known to serious Bee Gees fans for covering a number of Bee Gees compositions, as well as being produced by Barry Gibb. Those expecting a sort of Bee Gees Jr., however, will be sorely disappointed by The Marbles' sole, eponymous album, even if five of the 12 tracks were penned by the Brothers Gibb. It's a far more blustery, orchestral brand of pop/rock than the relatively tender one mastered by the Bee Gees in the late '60s, even when they're doing some songs the Bee Gees themselves recorded back then (like "I Can't See Nobody" and "To Love Somebody"). Most blustery of all is Graham Bonnet's overbearing voice, which sounds a bit like a cross between Tom Jones and the Righteous Brothers, painting mental pictures of some tuxedoed guy sweating it out on the northern England cabaret circuit, his bulging neck muscles turning red with the effort. The pop and soul covers -- including "A House Is Not a Home," "Storybook Children," and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" -- are rendered schmaltzy by both the vocals and arrangements. The Marbles' few attempts at their own songwriting (numbering only three) are better though not great, convincingly emulating the bittersweet aspects of the early Bee Gees, though sometimes with even more ornate orchestration than the Bee Gees employed. It's of most interest to Bee Gees fans, though, for the inclusion of three Brothers Gibb compositions the Bee Gees didn't record at the time on their own records: "Only One Woman" (a number five British hit), "The Walls Fell Down," and "By the Light of a Burning Candle." They're characteristic of the Bee Gees' late-'60s style, but given such a bombastic treatment that you can't help wishing that the Bee Gees had done them instead. The 2003 CD reissue on Repertoire adds six bonus tracks, including mono single versions of four tracks from the LP and two 1969 B-sides.

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: Pop/Rock
Original Release Date: 1970
Label: Repertoire

Monday, 4 March 2013

Brand X - Livestock (1977)

Brand X is a classic jazz fusion band, noted for including Phil Collins in its ranks. Its original incarnation was active between 1974–1980. Other important members were John Goodsall (guitar) Percy Jones (bass), Robin Lumley (keyboards) and Morris Pert (percussion).

Recorded live at Ronnie Scott's Club, London, Sept. 1976, Hammersmith Odeon, London and The Marquee Club, London, August 1977, this release was the required evidence that the first two albums weren't just a lot of studio trickery. It seems these hefty slices of performance were selected to make the next logical step in the creative progression after Unorthodox Behaviour and Moroccan Roll. Overall, probably the mellowest and spaciest Brand X album, though it still kicks pretty hard in a couple of spots.

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: Jazz-Rock
Original Release Date: 1977
Label: Toshiba EMI Ltd

John Goodsall- guitar
Percy Jones- bass
Robin Lumley- keyboards
Morris Pert- Percussion
Phil Collins- drums (tracks 2, 3 & 5)
Kenwood Dennard- drums (tracks 1 & 4)

The live adventures of the mathematically minded and mellow-eastern Brand X. Livestock is one of the most subdued-sounding live albums I own; percussion percolates, basses bubble, keyboards creep and guitars growl in this arid, exotic landscape. Concert albums that feature new material (as this does) are interesting animals, and a very different animal than The Bruford Tapes. Bruford’s live album was raw, raucous and familiar. Livestock is a calculated exploration of old terrain and new lands. It’s a little like getting half a new album with some live versions tacked on, as close to an EP as sits on the Brand X shelf. Thus it’s the least essential of the first four albums. The timing of its release is also questionable. Was the clamor for another Brand X album so great after six months, or did Charisma see Livestock as a last opportunity for the band to cash in on Collins’ cachet? Collins himself is replaced by Kenwood Dennard on two tracks, perhaps because of conflict with the Wind & Wuthering tour, and this does effectively answer the question many people were asking of where Collins’ loyalties would lie when push came to shove. Genesis came first, Brand X second, and the third album all but stated that. So Livestock is at the same time a short celebration and a slight hissing of air from the Brand X balloon. After you’ve purchased everything up to Product, looking in Livestock for something to snack on is the logical next step. Personally, I prefer my fusion more explosive. The music of Livestock, like Soft Machine, consists more of gentle eruptions and complex patterns, typical of music constructed by keyboardists and drummers. The subsequent Masques has more soul and spirit, so feel free to skip ahead and save Livestock for another day. All Music Guide

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Vital Information - Global Beat (1986)

Truly one of the greatest 'modern' jazz albums. The album is filled with with wonderfully energetic music. 'Johnny Cat', the song that has gotten air time in local San Francisco Bay Area radio stations was the most popular song, but moody songs like 'In a Low Voice' really show the talents of these well known artists in this genre. I just hit the repeat button for hours to listen to my favorite song on this CD: 'Novato'. Steve Smith is amazingly talented and the talent that he assembles for this album is most impressive. ~ Reviewer: william moore (Jersey City, NJ)

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: Jazz-Fusion
Original Release Date: 1986
Label: Columbia

Steve Smith / drums, cowbell, synths
Dean Brown / guitar
Tim Landers / bass
Dave Wilczewski / alto, soprano & tenor saxes
Tom Coster / keyboards, DX7, harmonica

Guest Musicians :
Ray Gomez / pickin`guitar, guitar
Mike Fisher / percussion
Andy Narell / steel drums
Prince Joni Haastrup / voice, talking drum, shaker
Kwaku Daddy / congas, talking drum, percussion
Barry Finnerty / guitar
Armando Peraza / Bongoes, percussion
Jeff Richman / guitar
Brad Dutz / tablas, percussion

In addition to serving as the drummer of one of the all-time definitive arena rock acts, Journey (during their most successful period from the late '70s through the early '80s), Steve Smith has also played with a wide range of other artists. Born on August 21, 1954 in Brockton, MA, Smith began drumming at the age of nine, when he took lessons from respected big-band drummer and instructor Bill Flanagan. Subsequently, Smith played a variety of musical styles (swing, R&B, hard rock, fusion, big band, etc.), and enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. In October of 1976, Smith signed on with jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, touring as a member of his band, and appearing on the album Enigmatic Ocean (1977). After briefly serving as the drummer for Ronnie Montrose's band in 1978, Smith was invited to join Journey, who were in the midst of a musical switch -- from fusion to arena rock. The group couldn't have picked a better-suited (and versatile) drummer than Smith, as he manned the kit on such mega-hit albums as Evolution (1979), Departure (1980), Escape (1981), and Frontiers (1983), during which time Journey became one of the U.S.' most successful rock bands.

But at the peak of Journey's success, Smith was fired by singer Steve Perry (who supposedly wanted to go in a more "soulful" direction). Undeterred, Smith shifted his attention to the more musically challenging and varied outfit Vital Information, which he had founded in 1983 while still a member of Journey. Vital Information issued albums on a regular basis throughout the '80s (including such standout titles as Global Beat and Live Around the World: Where We Come from Tour 1998-1999, among others). He also joined the all-star jazz/rock outfit Steps Ahead in 1986 and stayed with them until 1993. Smith joined a reunited Journey (who had been on hiatus since 1987) during the late '90s, resulting in a brand new studio album, Trial by Fire (1996), and a proposed world tour. But on the eve of the tour, Perry discovered that he had a degenerative hip condition, and the tour was ultimately scrapped entirely. In addition to his recording with Journey and Vital Information, Smith has either recorded or toured with Steps Ahead, Randy Brecker, Allan Holdsworth, Frank Gambale, Stanley Clarke, Mariah Carey, Ahmad Jamal, Stuart Hamm, Tony MacAlpine, Dweezil Zappa, Y&T, and many others. Smith also enjoys helping other drummers, as he has given clinics all over the world throughout the years (even issuing an instructional video in 1987), and was voted "Number One All-Around Dummer" in Modern Drummer Magazine's reader's poll from 1987 though 1991. In 2001, Modern Drummer again voted for Smith, but this time he was among one of the Top 25 Drummers of All Time; the next year the magazine voted Smith into their Hall of Fame.

Among Vital Information's most notable albums of the '90s and 2000s are Vitalive! (1991), Easier Done Than Said (1992), Ray of Hope (1996), Show 'Em Where You Live (2002), and Come on In (2004).