Fabulosos Calavera (1997) by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

Categories: 1997 and Music.

In 1997, I fell in love with Grosse Pointe Blank, the only romantic comedy that was violent enough for my 15 year old soul to feel okay about liking. I liked it so much I went out and bought the soundtrack. (Well, the first soundtrack as there’s a Volume 2 I never purchased.) It was the one of the few contemporary albums I owned at the time (everything else was Beatles). On that CD was a song called “Matador” by this band. Read More

Kooper Session (1970) by Al Kooper, Shuggie Otis

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Al Kooper tries to capture lightning in a bottle again, replicating the old Super Session format this time with Shuggie Otis and a complementary change in sound. Both halves have their hits and misses but, for me, there is enough here to enjoy, even if this isn’t anything revelatory. The two halves definitely appeal to different tastes too, so that’s something that might put some people off, though I find the gospel and R&B stuff a refreshing change of pace for Kooper. 7/10 Read More

The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper (1969)

Categories: 1968, 1969, and Music.

Much like Super Session (the studio version of this record), this album suffers a little from happenstance: Mike Bloomfield had a habit of wearing himself out and he’s not present on all tracks (much like on Super Session where he was replaced for half of it by Stephen Stills). But he’s present on most (and Carlos Santana is one of his replacements). Read More

We Became Snakes (1986) by Saccharine Trust

Categories: 1986 and Music.

A lot has been made of the latent jazz influences on hardcore and post hardcore bands – Black Falg is supposed to have listened to Free Jazz for example. But never was I expecting a hardcore band to make music you might actually confuse with jazz. There are times on this bizarre, crazy record that you could possibly mistake these guys for one of the “Downtown” NYC jazz combos trying to incorporate punk and metal into their music in the 80s. But then, the lyrics come back, and you are reminded that this is indeed rock music. This is a Read More

God (1981) by Rip Rig and Panic

Categories: 1981 and Music.

It’s no secret the influence American funk had on post punk. But Rip Rig + Panic take that influence to extremes not seen in the rest of the movement.And the influence isn’t limited to funk, but extends to many different forms of African American music, including jazz, which should come as no surprise given that the band is named after a Roland Kirk album. The result is certainly the funkiest post punk record I’ve ever heard, as well as the most soulful. It’s also far and away the most jazz oriented, even more so than a band like The Birthday Read More

The Grass is Greener (1970) by Colosseum

Categories: 1970 and Music.

I didn’t realize this was a weird, US-only hybrid album when I bought it. I somehow convinced myself it was their most recommended album (I guess I was listening to some US critics…). Anyway… The influence of Cream is particularly heavy here, on the opening track and the Bruce cover (even though it wasn’t a cream song). It’s kind of shocking but it also acts as the missing link between Cream and so much jazz and prog rock. The album is a hybrid of things not usually found together: jazz rock and prog rock. At their most jazzy, they don’t Read More

Buy (1979) by James Chance and the Contortions

Categories: 1979 and Music.

Take English post punk, add some free jazz, some Pere Ubu and some Magic Band (specifically the slide guitar) and you get this record. New to No Wave (it seems), this is totally not what I thought this was going to sound like. I thought it was going to be Branca-eque detuned guitar industrial noise. The surprise is a pleasant one. This is some energetic stuff that combines the confrontational nature of the most extreme punk of the day, with all that makes English post punk good, with a whole ton of other things I like. It’s pretty wonderful stuff Read More

Instrumental Asylum (1966) by Manfred Mann

Categories: 1966 and Music.

Jazz fusion and jazz rock barely existed, if they existed at all, when this bizarre EP was recorded. Manfred Mann drops their pop music and their lead singer for a horn section and keyboard and vibraphone (!!!) solos on fairly radical covers of rock and pop songs. What did Jack Bruce do to this band? Despite its brevity, this is a bit of a landmark recording for what it suggested and for beating nearly everyone else to this genre (to the best of my knowledge). The jazz influence is more soul jazz than anything else, but it’s still rather remarkable. Read More

The Royal Scam (1976) by Steely Dan

Categories: 1976 and Music.

My first Steely Dan record doesn’t really endear me to them. (Nor does reading that Aja is mellower…) I love jazz, but I can’t say I love R and B with a jazz influence, which is what this sounds like to me. Too much R and B, not enough jazz, for my tastes. I like some of Fagen’s lyrics – a lot of them – and I think I would like this band if they were a little more into jazz rather than “jazzy.” But this is just not my thing. It’s well done, it has surprisingly decent lyrics, but Read More

Strange New Flesh (1976) by Colosseum II

Categories: 1976 and Music.

Note: I have never listened to the original Colosseum… “Dark Side of the Moog” gets things off to a great start, despite its title, with some typically bonkers (“mathy” is probably the word we would use now) European jazz rock. I used to eat this stuff up when I was younger, and still have a deep appreciation for people who can play like this. But things take a turn – quite a turn – when that damn vocalist starts singing. I mean…where did they find this guy? It’s like the band decided that this crazy jazz rock stuff was just Read More

Aoxomoxoa (1969) by the Grateful Dead

Categories: 1969 and Music.

This is the first Dead studio album to come after the ridiculous mindfuck that was Anthem of the Sun. This is much more representative of the Dead as a band (and, with hindsight, we can say especially as a band in the studio) but it’s far less interesting as a record. That’s not to say it’s bad, not at all. It’s just not crazy and life changing. In retrospect we can view it as a transition from the psychedelia and avant rock of their early records to the country and roots of the next year. But for the most part Read More

Blues for Allah (1975) by the Grateful Dead

Categories: 1975 and Music.

This is kind of shockingly middle of the road, given what I know of the Dead. I am kind of tempted to say they sound like Steely Dan here, though I hardly know what Steely Dan sounds like. This is a little too polished and safe for me, though I appreciate the musicianship and their attempts at incorporating at least somewhat unusual musical influences (for jazz rock). Disappointing given the album’s reputation. 7/10 Read More

Live/Dead (1969) by the Grateful Dead

Categories: 1969 and Music.

Before this album was released, I suspect much of the world didn’t realize what the Dead actually sounded like. After all, they had only been around for a couple of years and their studio albums to this point didn’t exactly give you an idea of what they were like on stage (which, as we know, was where they shone). I don’t think it’s hyperbole to rank this among the greatest live rock albums ever made: no official live rock album had ever sounded like this before – nothing contained such long performances, nothing contained so much improvisation (and of such Read More

Projections (1966) by the Blues Project

Categories: 1966 and Music.

To some extent, I can see how the Blues Project could be dismissed as second rate Paul Butterfield, especially in their jammiest moments. But that criticism misses the vast stylistic variety the band displays (for the time), touching on garage rock and folk rock (and other genres) in addition to the blues jams. (Certainly the PBBB never wrote anything like Katz’s contributions, though that’s both a bad thing and a good thing.) The band inhabit a really weird place – not quite rock enough to fit in with bands such as Cream, not quite blues enough to fit in with Read More

Trojan Jazz Festival (2010) by theHEAD

Categories: 2010 and Music.

This album gets off to a weird note when the opening of the first track sounds straight out of early ’70s Roxy Music. But things definitely pick up after that. The set is apparently totally improvised, and the interaction between the players is pretty solid. This band has managed to find a relatively unique niche where they integrate a lot of should-be-cheesy synthesizers into music that is definitely not cheesy and which stays interesting even when it seems like things should be getting boring. 8/10 Read More

Ancient (2004 Blocks) by Deep Dark United

Categories: 2004 and Music.

This is a shock coming after their debut. Where their debut lacked songs, felt like a brain-dump with no editing, opted for some pretty cliche sounds in the production department and generally seemed to try to hide what competent musicianship existed, this is the opposite. This sounds like a band this time out, rather than some people tinkering around in the studio with their friends. And they actually sound like they can play all of the time. And there are some actual songs written (more than two). The lyrics are still often pretty cringe-worthy, but on the whole this is Read More

Look At / Look Out (2008) by Deep Dark United

Categories: 2008 and Music.

This appears to be some kind of live album, only there is no crowd noise (save on the final track). At least one song from Ancient is repeated (albeit in a very different version) and there is an introduction that feels like it belongs to a live album (even if, again, there is no crowd response). My guess is that it is one of these fake live albums, like jazz bands often did in the ’50s and ’60s, when they would record live in a studio and pretend it was a club. But either way, that doesn’t really matter. As Read More