Thursday, 25 July 2013

1976 Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers

The Modern Lovers, 'Roadrunner'

Info: There's not a lot to say about Jonathan Richman's early life that would differ much from many other burgeoning musicians of the 1970's. Born in Massachusetts in 1951, began playing the guitar at the age of 15 and he was a massive Velvet Underground fan. After making a handful of appearances in Boston in his teens he decided to move to New York in 1969 to pursue his career as a musician, working odd-jobs to support himself while he looked for venues to perform in, however, his unique vocal style and music were not received well and he returned to his hometown for one last crack of the whip. It was at this stage that he formed The Modern Lovers, after a few line-up changes, along with future Talking Heads keyboard player, Jerry Harrison and future Cars drummer, David Robinson. 

The Modern Lovers one and only album had a fraught beginning, recorded in 1973 on the Warner label, Richman told them that he was so sick of the songs on the album that he was unwilling to perform them live. As a result, Warner Bros. refused to release the album, and it wasn't until 1976 that the small Beserkly label purchased the master tapes for $2,300 and put the recordings out. The album was a critical success despite the time lapse, and it was also unusual insofar as The Modern Lovers were considered the original punk pioneers, and by 1976, the punk era was in full swing. To give an example or two, The Sex Pistols almost immediately added 'Roadrunner' (above video) to their setlist as a cover and track 4 on the album, 'Pablo Picasso' would later be covered by David Bowie and John Cale himself, one of Richman's Velvet Underground idols. 

I first came across 'Roadrunner' back in April, 2003, when Mojo magazine issued a booklet with their monthly issue titled 'Ultimate Jukebox', featuring the 100 best 45's singles, with The Modern Lovers hit coming in at number 11 on the list, squeezed between The Beatles' 'Paperback Writer' and The Byrds' 'Eight Miles High'. Back then I attempted to collate all 100 singles, which I managed bar one or two songs, but it wasn't for a long while after that I actually heard the full Modern Lovers album. You can certainly hear The Velvet Underground influence throughout, it's quite pared down production-wise and Richman's vocals would not be out of place on a VU album, but there is also a feeling at times, such as 'Astral Plain', of early 1950's rock n' roll and even The Doors in other parts. Track 8 is one of my favourites, 'Girl Friend', a much faster pace than the previous tracks and very much having that punk sound that would be developed into a manic wall of sound by later bands. Ultimately though I can't get it out of my head when I listen to this album that vocally and at times musically it really reminds me of Joe Strummer on 'London Calling'. This once off album is certainly a piece of rock history, and while it's not a perfect album by any means, Richman's child-like persona is enjoyable and he doesn't take himself too seriously, unlike his music.

Track Listing:

1. Roadrunner
2. Astral Plain
3. Old World
4. Pablo Picasso
5. She Cracked
6. Hospital
7. Someone I Care About
8. Girl Friend
9. Modern World

Monday, 8 July 2013

1975 Keith Jarrett - The Kӧln Concert

Keith Jarrett, Kӧln Concert, Part II C

Info: I've always been impartial to a bit of piano, quite possibly, because like many Irish children I was forced to learn when young, although I hated piano practice at the time, something must have stuck with me through to adulthood. The only songs I remember enjoying playing were the intro to Eastenders (god help us) and Marc Cohn's 'Walking In Memphis', years later I regret not being able to play the piano, but as The Faces once sang 'I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger'. Also, who doesn't enjoy a bit of Chopin in the background while burning meat on the frying pan. 

I came across this amazing album when going through '1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die' and liked it instantly, it also became a bit of a soundtrack for last year's holiday in the south of France, could I sound any more poncey? Believe me I could, but on to who Mr.Jarrett is now and some info about the album itself. Born in Pennsylvania in 1945, Jarrett is mostly known for his solo work as a classical pianist, but his career began playing jazz piano with Art Blakey and Miles Davis among others. From a very young age he displayed immense talent, began playing the piano aged 3, and making his first formal appearance at the age of 7 playing classical works by the likes of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. Later on, Jarrett would attend music college in Boston, moonlighting as a pianist in cocktail bars, before moving to New York where he joined Blakey's Jazz Messengers, subsequently having great success with The Charles Lloyd Quartet who were pioneering free-form jazz at the time, recording the hit 1966 album, Forest Flower, a beat and hippie favourite. After the break-up of the Lloyd Quartet Jarrett formed his own trio, and it was following a Paris performance attended by Miles Davis and his group that Jarrett was recruited into their set up. Notable works with Davis include his Live at the Fillmore East album, and 1970 Isle of Wight performance which is on Bitche's Brew Live.

The Kӧln Concert album along with his solo Japanese Sun Bear Concerts (1976) were to become Jarrett's most successful recordings, indeed, the Kӧln album became the highest-selling piano album in history. Whilst achieving relatively good acclaim, his studio recordings were no match for his solo live performances. For me the magic lies in the fact that they are completely improvised, Jarrett sat down at the piano on the stage in front of a silent audience, and just let the music pour out of him, and it works incredibly well, so much so that each listen is like hearing the album for the first time, bar the odd marker. Looking like someone who had wandered through Woodstock and ended up in an auditorium, with his flower-power outfit and large afro, Jarrett pulls of wonderfully ponderous music which is so easy to get lost in such is his gifted piano-playing. I would describe the feeling listening to the Kӧln Concert as sitting in a small boat and setting off down the pianist's stream, not knowing where you are going or where you will end up, the melody of the piano playing carrying you along and a few bumps here and there when he reaches his crescendo. A joy to get lost in and an album for all occasions, I highly recommend it and the previously mentioned Sun Bear Concerts, a 10 LP recording (now compressed onto 6 cd's) performed over five concerts in Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo and Nagoya in Japan. So, get yer Jarrett on with either of them, you'll be glad, and probably become a better person while you're at it.

Track Listing:

1. Part I         26:15
2. Part II a     15:00
3. Part II b     19:19
4. Part II c       6:59