Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Free Spirits - Out Of Sight And Sound (1966)

It is said that wikipedia is a somewhat accurate barometer of the relative ubiquity of a band, or writer, or anything, for that matter. Suffice to say that in reviewing the Free Spirits, I am doing so in favor of pulling them out just a touch from otherwise obfuscated obscurity. Originally recommended to me by Master Cianan, himself a treasure trove of rarified goodies, I was completely floored when I heard this album. Everyone by now realizes my obvious bias towards free-wheeling jazz and my sincere disgust in tired blues licks, so it will surprise no one that I like this album. The best way to describe it musically, I think, is that it's a fairly standard collection of pop songs from the 60s in the vein of the Fab Four gone horribly awry -- that is to say, they pissed all over them and added some snazzy brass backdrop. The first song, "Don't Look Now (But Your Head Is Turned Around) is an explosive rock-jazz fusion with the most insane saxophonist. No idea who he is, but he plays over and around everything like he's Robin Goodfellow; and yet when he's not doing so, he's fitting nicely in all the right places. In fact, I can't really think of a piece of music that isn't purely jazz where the saxophone seems more important to the music than any other instrument. Seriously. My faves: "Bad News Cat," "Cosmic Daddy Dancer," "Sunday Telephone" and the aforementioned "Don't Look Now." Oh, and the sitar on "I'm Gonna Be Free" is rad. Check this out if you can. B-

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Robert Fripp & Andy Summers - I Advance Masked (1982)

I would first like to mention to those who believe I make sense sometimes that I am soon to be on a very lengthy hiatus in which I may have little to no internet access and therefore am relinquishing control of my site to the perfunctory authority of automatic blogging. Having written numerous reviews in recent days to prepare for such a situation, I therefore apologize fore and aft, hither and thither, etc & etc, for not being able to, perhaps, join in our sometimes rabid discussions. Please know that I have ensured as much insanity for your future reading pleasure (every week, I promise) and hope that I can randomly visit and play the elder berry to your succulent snark. Bob and Cianan: please play nice. So there. Ahem.

The problem with having such disparate but equally excellent guitarists work together is that it's like taking two complete meals and combining them. Suppose that, as an example, Andy Summers is Yorkshire pudding and Robert Fripp is moussaka -- would you want to eat those things together? Well, I would, because in this instance, it's really good. Don't believe me? The title track is proof enough, where Andy does what he's known for doing, which is completely understated textural melodies; and Fripp, true to form, snakes around everything like a blind arpeggio monster. "New Marimba" features a similarity in tone to what Fripp was currently doing with KC and is positively sinister sounding; "Hardy Country," in contrast, sounds very lush and beautiful. In fact, much of the music -- all instrumental, if you couldn't have guessed -- is much more impressionistic and mood-oriented than posing as cohesive, recognizable song types. This is not to say this an album of egocentric noodling, but that the bridge-chorus format many are used to is not present here. That said, there is an interweaving of short little vignettes in-between the longer suites ("Under Bridges Of Silence," "Lakeland/Aquarelle," et al) and I personally find little to embrace in them. Since much of the good in the album comes from the meshing of Fripp and Summers, not fleshing out anything for more than a few minutes doesn't excite me as much. Additionally, given some context, it seems that Andy felt the need to exercise some ideas he couldn't while with the Police, and Fripp -- well, he does whatever the fuck he wants, so this is de rigeur for him. Music is music, after all. B-