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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 12. 1969.

Records — The Wall-to-Wall Epidermis will not Bloom


The Wall-to-Wall Epidermis will not Bloom

The first pop sensation of 1969, the 9-piece band Blood. Sweat and Tears, is something new in the field of commercial music-making. It derives several of its members from jazz groups and classical music courses as well as from the more familiar sources. Its product reflects this, a mighty big band sound that fuses jazz, classical and blues influences in a rock format—the bent is there, too, in places.

The album, Blood, Sweat and Tears (CBS), opens and closes with the beautiful "Variations on a Theme by Eric Satie (First Movement)", though the fade-out footsteps and door slam are a bit corny. In between, there are a variety of tracks, written by the group ("Sometimes in Winter", "Spinning Wheel"), by Traffic ("Smiling Phases"), by Laura Nyro ("And When I Die"), and even by a Tamla consortium—"You've Made Me So Very Happy", which is currently featured on a single. They come on with piano solos, flute solos, guitar and harmonica solos, trombone, trumpet and alto sax solos, and in the lengthy "Blues—Part II" a chance for organ, drums and bass. The strong helping of brass gives an overall coherence to the album. The vocals are a trifle disappointing and the lyrics are sparse, but the musical arrangements and the proficiency of the instrumentalists make this a stand-out LP. It strikes a balance between the styles of two other albums that have just been released, the heavy sound of the Cream's final LP, Goodbye (Polydor), and the baroque improvisations of the Nice LP Ars Longa Vita Brevis (Immediate), and personally I like it better than either.

The first crop of Apple albums has token a long time to mature in the orchards of the local EMI record company. Still to reach fruition here are LPs by folk-singer James Taylor, rocker Jackie Lomax and popster Mary Hopkin. In our sterile land the Lennon-Ouo nudie effort Two Virgins is unlikely ever to blossom forth in the full glory of its "wall-to-wall epidermis". However, the release in New Zealand of Wonderwall Music by George Harrison (Apcor/ Sapcor 1) and the Modern Jazz Quartet's Under the Jasmin Tree (Sapcor 4) are hopeful signs of a greater harvest from the Apple tree. A recent and interesting offshoot of Apple Corps in England is the subsidiary 'specialist' label Zapple. It has been variously reported that this label is recording esoteric music, poetry readings and interviews with such notables as Picasso. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Charles Olsen, Allen Ginsberg, Lord Buckley and Richard Brautigan. The first product apparently consists of another recorded episode in the continuing story of John and Yoko (their own ballad is due for single release soon) entitled "Life With the Lions—Unfinished Music No. 2" and featuring a happening at Cambridge earlier this year and a recording of Yoko's miscarriage last year (what taste!); and a second album that goes by the name of "Electronic Sound" and features George Harrison playing around on a Moog Synthesier. Ask for them and perhaps the record company will get round to releasing them sometime.

No-one is likely to miss the contents of the Two Virgins LP ("Unfinished Music No. 1), although it can be imported by the fanatic From Track Records, 58 Old Campton Street, London WI (it was too hot for EMI to handle even there). It consists of a collection of distorted noises and continual screeching totally devoid of melodic content. The sleeve, however, is something else. It displays John and Yoko starkers, front on the front side, rear on the back side, and comes complete with discreet brown paper bag. The couple are there in toto, no coy shading or posing, but the effect is completely non-erotic and an uglier sight has yet to be seen! An inspired piece of image-busting, that has sold some 300,000 copies in the States besides several thousand that were seized at Newark Airport.

Fortunately, Wonderwall Music by George Harrison, which is freely available, has a more considerable musical content. Reviewers have rated the music above the film of which it is the soundtrack. It contains some of the best stuff any of the Beatles have written. Some of the pieces are disjointed and inconsequential away from the context of the film, but there are beautiful snatches of Orientalism and several very attractive themes. The score is instrumental, except for the occasional voice on tracks like "Singing Om", and instruments range from sacrod and tabla to jangle piano and flugelhorn. Harrison's "Dream Scene" sequence (5.33) pre-dates the Lennon-McCartney collage "Revolution No. 9" and sems a much more effective piece. Among all the Indian-influenced tracks it is a delight to come upon "Cowboy Music", a jog-trot piece in true Western trail style. The album comes with pull-out sheet giving more comprehensive information (list of musicians, special thanks to EMI Bombay, date of recording: Dec. 1967, etc.) than most rock records.

How the Beatles cot the Modern Jazz Quartet onto their label is anyone's guess, but in Under the Jasmin Tree (stereo only) they present a very cool and controlled programme, with Milt Jackson's vibes naturally to the fore. Tasteful, but not for rockers.

They'll be more inclined to pick up (probably have already) Beggar's Banquet, the Stones' recording of more than a year ago which has finally reached these shores (minus its lavatory wall sleeve); This latter would have been most appropriate to the album's theme of "low life". Jogger uses simple repetitive forms to celebrate the down-and-outs, the outcasts, the devil. Each song, whether country, blues or rock based, is a variation on this theme—"Street Fighting Man", "Prodigal Son", "Stray Cat Blues", in fact, all "The Salt of the Earth". The album has been acclaimed by the 'hip' and 'aware' critics who look forward to the revolution. The Stones have a firmer control of their materials and music than was the case in the Satanic Majesties experiment with electronics. It is more satisfying than, though not as skilful or entertaining a package as the Beatles double-LP, which appeared overseas at the same time. Though the Stones' work is different and often much better than theirs, Jagger is inspired by the Beatles. We look forward to the next round. It is even rumoured that the Rollins Stones are to set up their own record company and label, called, would you believe, Pearl?

A note to all devotees of the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey—the film soundtrack with its magnificent score has just been released by MGM, and not before time!