Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 23. September 24, 1969
Records — I' Faith, 'tis a Blinding Sound
I' Faith, 'tis a Blinding Sound
Blind Faith (Polydor 583059) Ok, so it's here, the album by Stevie Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Rick Grech (who looks unaccountably like the displaced Jack Bruce)—and, yet, it does live up to expectations. Even if Philips have chickened out on the cover here it really is the music that matters, and this music is very good. Comparisons with Blind Faith's ancestral groups may be odious, but I did listen to a friend's collection of Cream albums before I picked up this LP later in the day. The sound is perhaps lighter and tighter, the bass work not so dominant as in the previous line-up. I like it better, With Winwood's vocals on every track, and his keyboard work as well, the Traffic influence is marked (that group is worth another listen, too). The set takes off with two Winwood penned numbers and Stevie's soaring strangled voice sails in and out of the pounding, together instruments. Then into the rock-tock Buddy Holly number of other years, "Well All Right", which gets the modern heavy treatment. The religious implications of the group's handle are fulfilled in Clapton's "Presence of the Lord", which closes Side 1. It is one more example of the search for the spirit which now seems to characterise the rock generation. The song moves on from Billy Preston's "That's the Way Cod Planned It" with which it has some personnel in common. The second verse ends on the minor key and goes into a frantic guitar break that would surely blow their minds if played in chapel or church. "Sea of Joy" opens t'other side. The most obvious feature is the distinctive contribution of Rick Grech on electric violin— it works, too. Now we meet Son of Toad, another Ginger Baker tour de force where everyone has a chance to bang out a solo. It occupies two-thirds of the side and this time it's called "Do What You Like". The message is:
'Do right use your head
everybody must be fed
get together break your bread
yes together that's what I said
do what you like'
and these verses enclose some great solo work. Winwood is first off, on the upper register of an organ-like instrument, which shoots into the whining, tearing guitar of Clapton and then the milder bass work of Grech. It's great to sit in the sun and go to sleep midway through this number, when suddenly Baker explodes among his incredible array of percussion. The vocal is repeated and the album closes with the noise of the studio falling apart. I fell apart too.
The Best Of Nina Simone (PHS 600-298). This album offers ten special numbers taken from the catalogue of one of Nina's earlier labels, 45 minutes of peculiar beauty and musicianship, of the beautiful bitterness of the lady's low-register voice. The songs are "I Loves You, Porgy", "Mississippi Goddam", "Sinnerman". "See-line Woman", "I Put a Spell On You", "Break Down and Let It All Out", "Four Women", "Wild Is the Wind", "Pirate Jennv", and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood". All are meaningfully interpreted. If this sounds like another blurb, too bad— she's worth it. Miss Simone is not polite. She is strong enough not to need it. The ten minute workout on "Sinnerman" features the incessant chanting of 'power, power' for half its length. The tense instrumental break is based on the native African rhythms with cool counterpoint clapping. There is no gospel escape here but an insistent demand for involvement in life. She is the prefigurement of Black Power. Nina uses the ghostly dark pirate ship of Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera as another symbol of the revolution, in a searing 'in concert' performance. Her tale of the unfortunate "Four Women" is frank and allusive. There is no mention on the disc of Miss Simone's various backing muzo's though Nina does play her own bluesy piano. She uses it to sweeping effect on the old movie theme "Wild Is the Wind". There is a touch of Jethro Tulls to the opening flutes of "See-Line Woman", but it is Nina's powerful styling on each song that really makes this album.
Leonard Cohen—Songs From A Room (CBS-SBP473667). His earlier "Suzanne", breathed in French by Francoise Hardy is the ultimate experience. Leonard Cohen has a 'body' thing going for him. Here he sets the sensual imagery of his poems to music for another album-full of songs. They are love songs and death songs, with gentle string backings to his guitar in the melaneholoy Nashville Dylan bag "I Threw It All Away", for instance. He shares his record label and his record producer (Bob Johnston) with Dylan and he even manages to look a little like the revered Robert. Still, there is room for both, even if Cohen's performances have not escaped a certain sameyness. He gives an expressive rendering to the biblical "Story of Isaac", with a topical sting in the tale. This is echoed on too t'other side in "The Butcher". Cohen also conveys the ambiguity of "The Partisan", penned by Anna Marly—Hy Zaret.
Johnny Winter (CBS-SPB473664) We wouldn't even mention the cover portrait of this guitarist, or mention the fact that Johnny is an albino, or ask the inevitable question 'Can a white man sing the blues?, but what else can I say that is irrelevant to the music inside. You sec. I hate to put down a record that someone might enjoy, and they're raving about Johnny overseas. But I tried this blues with my breakfast and it gave me indigestion. Winter's screeching voice turns me off. The liner notes get all choked up about the fact that 'Johnny feels the blues is emotional, rather than technical, even emotional rather than musical.' I don't know. His guitar playing is excellent, especially on "Be Careful With a Fool". But I still don't like him. And anyway, how did Willie Dixon get mixed up in this. Winter has an earlier recorded album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, out here quite soon. Jes be warned.
The Original American Folk Blues Festival (Polydor International 109012). Ah, now I'm reconverted. If this is the real thing, this is good. It was recorded in Hamburg in 1962 on the European tour of American bluesmen with such formidable names as Memphis Slim, T-Bone Walker, Willie Dixon, Jump Jackson, Sonny Tern, Brownie McGhee, John Lee Hooker and Shakey Jake. Track one opens with "We're gonna rock, we're gonna roll," and they do, with a slow rolling sound, dominated by the piano of Slim and Walker. The vocals are shared round while Jackson and Dixon, on drums and bass respectively, lay down the rhythm for each song. These songs line up in a fanciful way: "Hey Baby", "I Wanna See My Baby", "Love My Baby", "Shake It Baby". "Let's Make It Baby", "I'm Crazy 'Bout You Baby", "Bye, Bye Baby". A gas. There's no screeching, just expressive singing. The copious liner notes in the fold-out sleeve are historical and erudite but very interesting. Someone else describes the actual spirit at the studio session and concludes with the lines:
'It was a night, take it for all in all,
I shall not look upon its like again.'
Hamlet had the Blues, man. Too much! The first European Tour was so successful they organised a second and recorded that, too. This is also being released, so watch for it.
Underground Double Album (Polydor 184190/1). Here is a sampler of acts in the Polydor International stable, a somewhat disjointed album, as such samplers usually are. But it does feature top-line groups: Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, (Side 1), Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience (Side 2), The Velvet Underground (Side 3), Mothers of Invention (Side 4). The first two sides, of English origin, are the best, and it is perhaps unfortunate that the LPs are not available separately. The Velvet Underground, part of Andy Warhol's environmental Exploding Plastic Inevitable, need the movies and lights for full effect. Still, you can blast your speakers with the throbbing volume of "I'm Waiting for the Man". Frank Zappa, Mother Superior of the Mothers of Invention, I have always found rather pretentious. He recently confronted the students of the London School of Economics for a lecture which was later described as an "embarrassment spectacular, an explosion of non-communication". His statement that 'I'm in favour of being comfortable. I'm not hot on demonstrations' was ill received by the prodemos, who compared him with Bob Hope. His music is clever, intellectual, and supposedly satirical but has little body response. Devastating titles like "Plastic People .
Record One carries the classic Julie Driscoll/Brian Auger version of Donovan's "Season of the Witch". Also, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown (whatever happened to him/them?) doing the fire thing. Arthur manages to say 'Oh, it's so hot in here' just like Tiny Tim. Side 2 is the stand-out, with Cream on "Politician" and "Passing the Time", where a dying fairground organ and poignant strings make for pleasant surprise. The side also features Jimi Hendrix crooning 'If the hippies cut off their hair, I don't care' and displaying his prowess on electronic stereo guitar in three numbers which rumble into the floor. Good stuff.
* * *
All the Lovin' Spoonful albums featuring John Sebastian, one of the best songwriters of the sixties, have been deleted from the Pye catalogue. They are Do You Believe In Magic, Daydream, Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful, and Everything Playing. There are still some copies of these LPs, available now for about $2, in the local record stores.
Who's jealous of the festival-goers at Woodstock and the Isle of Wight. The insular Kiwi is restricted to listening to recordings of these musical happenings. And to hear any such records he is largely at the mercy of local radio. But what does he get? Such inspired shows as 'Top of the Pops From London' and 'Big Beat Ball' offer what little airtime is available to any rock material outside the Top Sixty. The deadening repetition of this set list has been thinly disguised in the newly named 'Frontline', 'Nightride', and 'Groovin'', with the very occasional album track thrown in. But it is the album that contains almost all the worthwhile material being produced in rock today: when do we get to hear these? And when do we get to hear the classic singles of the past decade? The local stations do manage generously to scrape together a whole hour per week for Folk and a whole hour per week for Blues. Thursday nights on 2ZB offer some little ray of hope with the 'Hi There' format, but even this is rapidly disintegrating. Come back Nick Price, come back Craig Pollock (versatile man that, taking his bass voice on tour with Carmen). Midge Marsden, where are you?
There's Stuart MacPherson, of course— where is he? Stuart seems to be suffering a severe case of Paddy O'Donellism. His specialty lately has been Beatle-baiting— you know, aren't they naughty boys being busted for drugs (about two years alter they kicked the narcotic habit), isn't McCartney a naughty boy becoming a father only six months after legal marriage: "Dot and I are proud to announce the arrival of our first-born, and we've been married three years". Such arrant twittery is supposed to stun the moral conscience of the Capital. It is a pity that attempts to enliven a musical show wih topical comment so quickly degenerate into pompous moralising. We all enjoy a six week break at the moment.page 11
The subtle balance between dull cliche-clotted fab-talk and the ego expanding personality push is hard one to strike. We can do without the ingratiating jingles puffing a single announcer for a start. An informed interest in the music being played is a first essential for any DJ. Too many locals make the small but significant mistake of speaking of this group or that as him' or 'he'. The right name for the artist being featured is the least we can expect.
For some time David Mahoney has been a favourite announcer. I sent him a toothbrush once with which to clean the steps of Broadcasting House. But he does have a line in goon talk and little giggles, sending himself and the system up, which is continually appealing.
On the other hand, Morris The Thing King is a dear. So think Lila, Arthur of Nae-nae (of fond memory), Conn, Gwynne, Marjorie and a host of other ageing house-wives. Some of them are young, though, and for them Morris is a father figure who can be depended on for a Wise word about the weather on his way to work this morning. Morris antagonised rockers a long way back by objecting to his callers asking for certain groups: "It's not that sort of show, you know, you've just had three hours". But they didn't play anything I liked then, either. It was a real blow when the Seekers broke up; however they're still fondly preserved in at least one piece of black plastic among the programme dept's vast stock. Yet, these 'ring-in shows do have a recognised therapeutic effect on the city's lonely-hearts, and we wont scoff at that.
One can always (after 5 pm, that is) turn to 2YC, where the music is good and the announcers are irrelevant. They contrive to be as drily impersonal towards one as it is possible they might be. I have actually been enjoying Wagner's Der Ring on this station, on alternate nights for the past fortnight. No options, you see.