Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)

Well, basically, this is a classic, selling millions (I guess).  Some don’t get used to rap, but no doubt: this is very funky music (check Suck my Kiss). Sometimes a bit folky (Breaking the Girl) to get a break from the right in your face music. Of course it had some major hits: Give it Away and Under the Bridge. The last bunch of the tracks are more rock oriented.

Production wise (I know, it’s an ugly word), the album is right into your face. Immediately in the first song – The Power of Equality – listen to the drums: they’ve been recorded twice. Split extreme onto the left and right channel. Normally a technique used to create heavy guitar tracks. Here, it creates some heavy drums. The guitar on this album is kept direct and very transparent. The bass, well, is low and funky.

Mick Karn – The Tooth Mother (1994)

The other day I listened to Mick Karn’s The Tooth Mother and realized that this type of music – he called it Feta Funk – will not be created any more. For two reasons this is a shame. Firstly, Mick Karn has died recently due to cancer. That, in it self is very sad. Secondly, the music was unique. Two important factors plays a role in this. One is Mick Karn’s exceptional bass playing. A self-taught bass player, making his name in the band Japan,  he ended up with a style that has no comparison and no following in the world. His sliding notes on the fret-less bass gave his style some ethnic edge. He also played the bass clarinet, which featured his music frequently. The other characteristic of his music wa the frequent participation by David Torn.

This CD is feta funky for sure. If CDs could smell this would smell gorgeous, like a Mediterranean dish. The opening track Thundergirl Mutation clearly presents what this music is about: funk, prominent bass, experimental guitar tracks. The second track -Plaster the Magic Tongue- introduces bass clarinet and vocals. The vocals are not that OK, to be honest.

But the best has yet to come. Well basically the rest of the tracks are very good, maybe a bit inaccessible. But hey, who said that listening to music should be easy?

 

 

Steven Wilson – Insurgentes (2009)

A solo project by Steven Wilson. Interesting, but will it be different from all the other projects he undertakes? Well yes and no: it depends with which ones it’s being compared. In short, it mostly sounds like Porcupine Tree, with some Bass Communion and No-Man influences. The general mix is somewhat more spacy or roomy. Maybe Insurgentes is even revisiting the sound and songs of the early Porcupine Tree. I think it’s in general more melodic and laid back than the last Porcupine Tree albums, which were more going to the heavier side of rock music. As such I think it is a welcome additional to the already large catalog produced by Steven Wilson.

Still I wonder when he’d play with equally avant garde musicians outside his own circle. I bet he can be more adventurous than he is on this record.

What I like is the attention to detail to the release in a large book with two cds and a dvd. amd many pictures. It’s not cheap, but worthwhile. And it is the means to battle downloading illegal copies. That is, the real fans and those that can pay it will buy it will not upload it to torrent sites. And if you do, Steven Wilson assures us he will track you down.

Terje Rypdal – If Mountains Could Sing (1994)

This record is a fusion between guitar oriented rock and classical music. This sounds quite like a dodgy record, in a similar vain as Yngwie Malmsteen. But no, this is a totally different kind of fusion, or at least a different kind of rock music and a different kind of classical music. No Bach or Mozart whatsoever, this is more the modern kind of classical music.

The record consists of some pieces by a small rock band. Rock band? Well, sort of: a three-piece band guitar, drums and double-bass and electric bass. The small band leaves a lot of room for improvisation, not the kind with trillions of notes per minute. Most pieces have an airy, roomy and laid back feel to it.

Other pieces are performed by a small string ensemble, relatively unstructured while other pieces are performed by a combined ensemble. The balance between the rock, and jaz  and classical influences is really good, it blends perfectly. Terje Rypdal, being on the scene quite some time, has a really beautiful tone on his guitar. His use of volume and tremolo is superb. Maybe there’s something special about Scandinavian musicians (cf. Jan Garbarek). What is true is that the label ECM that puts out his records has a good reputation of compiling a good catalogue of musicians and records similar to Rypdal’s.

Atomic Opera – For Madmen Only (1994)

This obscure band come out of the same corner as King’s X and Galactic Cowboys: heavy rocks with melodic beatlesque  vocals and harmonies. I like it. This here record is nice but – this maybe unfair – it is not as good as the aformentioned other bands. Still an occasional spin in the player is nice. The only thing that worries me it the religious tendencies in the band and in the early works of King’s X. Then again, if the music’s nice enough, I can overcome this drawback.

Peter Erskine – Sweet Soul (1992)

Imagine a lazy Sunday, it’s rainy.The perfect ambiance to put on Peter Erskine’s Sweet Soul. Erskine is one of the leading drummers that knows to excel technically, but also perfectly accompanying a soloist. Many drummers try producing records, but mostly they fail and dissolve into technical displays of drumming.  This record is jazz oriented, sometimes with a smaller, then with a larger ensemble. And no electronics whatsoever. Although I most admit, his electronic adventures are not that unsuccessful. I don’t play this record too often. But if I do, it’s quite an enjoyment. Also, because of John Scofield’s playing on the title track. This track is played so slowly and laid back: in short, beautiful.

Steve Vai – Flex-Able (1984)

Wow, this really blew my mind. Of course I heard of Steve Vai as he played with Frank Zappa. Then, one time falling asleep late at night radio presenter Diewertje Blok played Lovers are Crazy, a weird song. But I liked it, and had to have it. So I went to the record store that imported from the US. The guy behind the counter made sure to put on side two which started with … The Attitude Song. Yikes, this was awesome. I mean, I knew my fair share of renowned guitar players already back then (e.g. FZ, Holdsworth, Fripp, diMeola), but this was different. This maverick knew how to get the extremes from the guitar abusing it in all sorts of ways and still have the finesse to be subtle. Recorded at his home studio with the help from some friends it turned into a record that is fresh, spontaneous, aggressive and subtle. Production wise it is sub-professional but that is a good thing, because it makes the record sound honest.

For different reasons, the highlights are Little green Men, The Boy/Girl Song, Call It Sleep, The Attitude Song.

PS The record sleeve I have is different from the one in this post. I have the white sleeve with the mouse smelling the cheese. I believe it’s one of the first pressings. Sweet!

Frank Zappa – Tinseltown Rebellion (1981)

This is a very nice live album by FZ. The band is tight, mostly playing golden oldies and an occasional new song. TRB has some fine fine guitar solo’s and spectacular drumming by Vinnie Colaiuta, especially during those guitar solo’s. Of course his drum fill in the first bars of Pick Me, I’m Clean is fingerlicking good. Also note the perfectly sounding snare drum. In Zappa’s band, Vinnie Colaiuta had his finest moments. In later years his playing became less outspoken, having less identity. A special mention of Bob Harris who has a star performance in Love of My Life: high notes will never be the same.

If I’m correct this was the first record having the running gag of “Another great Italian”, with Warren Cuccurullo imitating Al diMeola’s playing.

Also it seems this is the second time FZ refers to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The first time was the sleeve of We’re Only In It for The Money.

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (1974)

This record is one of the few responsible for my enduring love for music. When I heard it for the first time, I was amazed this was even possible in music (I was about 14 years at that time). Especially the title track and Fracture are complex but so adventurous, and agressive. Trio, on side one of the record, is also a very beautiful piece of music: a very romantic improvisation by four musicians. From what I understand is that Bill Bruford decided not play, probably because he felt he couldn’t contribute something substantial to the improvisation. Still, he is rightfully so credited for it along with the other that did play along. The Nightwatch is yet another beautiful piece of work.

Robert Fripp  as always developed some intricate guitar parts and contributes some raw lines. John Wettons is responsible for Fender bass (using a plectrum) and vocals, which I like a lot. David Cross plays the violin, a contribution characterizing KC in that particular period. Bill Bruford has learned a lot from Jamie Miur (member at the time of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic) playing a lot of (tuned) percussion, as well as the drums.

It was years later that I found out – because KC didn’t mention it anywhere in the liner notes – the record was recorded at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Netherlands. Later, in 1997, the entire concert was released on the cd Nightwatch.