Richie Havens – Stonehenge (1970)

Richie Havens
STONEHENGE
Released 1970, Stormy Forest

    Open Your Eyes     2:48
Minstrel     3:28
It Could Be The First Day     2:15
Ring Around The Moon     2:05
Baby Blue     4:50
There’s A Hole In The Future     1:59
I Started A Joke     2:51
Prayer     2:54
Tiny Little Blues     1:57
Shouldn’t All The World Be Dancing     7:58

    Richie Havens – guitar, autoharp, sitar, koto, vocals
Warren Bernhardt – organ
Daniel Ben Zebulon – drums, conga
Monte Dunn – guitar
Donny Gerrard – bass
Ken Lauber – piano
Bill Lavorgna – drums
Eric Oxendine – bass
Bill Shepherd Singers – string arrangements
Paul “Dino” Williams – guitar

“To all the temples built by man of stone and other transient material: I wish to live to see them all crumble into truth and piles of light!
    And to the temple where divinity resides, even with all your newcomers: How quiet!
    To divinity: (the socio-physio-spiritus-harmonious-concludus) It is a pleasure to know you!


     And least and last, to the body, the substance, the hull, the distinguished main portion, the vessel of molecular pilots and passengers, and its power receiving, transmitting, perceiving, transcending equipment: The truth temple, I’ve seen your face, the earth and its inhabitants, a magnanimous collection.  Concentrate on your heartbeats, regulate your breathing even so that flowers may live.
 – Richard P. Havens “

On Monday
April 22, Richie Havens passed away.  I
saw Richie play a few times in small clubs and was lucky enough to have talked with him briefly one such occasion.  He was always approachable and interested in
talking to his fans after a performance.
Here was this man who was a living legend of his generation, with an
instantly recognizable style and always-evocative musical presence, and he
seemed genuinely just grateful that people came to hear him sing.  In a way it seemed this fact was all that
mattered – that people were still listening.
   Note that I did not say “grateful that people still came to hear him sing” because
this had nothing to do with his age – he was well into his 60s the last time I saw him perform – or out
of some pop-singer’s vanity to feel relevant.
It mattered that people were still listening because he still believed
in the urgency of his message as much as he did when he started out.  His message
and his music had not changed much in a half century of recording and
performing, and he put them both across to us in a voice that never
wavered.  He had a wise voice, ageless
and now quite literally eternal.  You can listen to his singing on “Mixed Bag” (1967) and follow it with “Wishing Well” (2002) and be forgiven for thinking they were recorded around the same time.
     He will forever be associated with the opening scenes of the Woodstock film that captured him improvising the tune “Freedom” at the end of a nearly three-hour set, killing time for the rock bands to get their gear to the stage.  And he continued to represent the best utopian qualities of that historic moment soon to be overshadowed by the excesses of the era.  As most of his contemporaries succumbed to various combinations of self-destruction, greed, madness or mediocrity, he continued waging peace for the rest of his career.  He became the most refreshing of anachronisms.  A person who believed – really believed – that music could change the world one person at a time.  A figure who seemed incapable of cynicism in his music or his life.  Hell, he could even make promotional work for the cotton industry sound noble.
You can’t go wrong with any of Richie’s first ten or so albums, and Stonehenge is lodged right in between two of my favorites – the double album “1983” and “Alarm Clock.”  The latter LP was his highest charting success, largely on the heals of an inspired version of ‘Hear Comes The Sun.’  While Richie was a fantastic songwriter he sort of became known for his covers of other peoples’ hits and giving them his personal stamp.  Usually songs associated with sixties counterculture folk/rock icons like Donovan, The Beatles, and Dylan.  Here he tackles “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” a song so good it is probably impossible to do a bad version of it, and the Bee Gee’s “I Started A Joke,” which also happens to be one of my favorite tunes (as I mentioned when blogging about Ronnie Von’s Portuguese adaptation of it over here).  The album opens with a tune by gospel artist Leon Lumkins, “Open Our Eyes,” also recorded by Funkadelic and which would  become the title track of an Earth, Wind and Fire album a few years later.  Havens version is better than both and more moving, as well as truer to the original.  It’s a lovely prayer to begin a recording.
    I won’t give a song-by-song account because if you have never sat down and listened to it then you should just enjoy your own subjective impressions.  “Minstrel From Gaul” is a recognized classic and a song he never stopped playing live.  He shifts from the tender “It Could Be The First Day” to the angular “Ring Around The Moon” seamlessly.  The song “Prayer” brings us back to gospel territory and reminds us of Richie’s roots singing in vocal groups and doo-wop.  It’s a Havens composition and the last one on the album to feature real vocals; it also seems that Richie may have overdubbed all the harmonies himself, if the album jacket credits are trustworthy. The instrumentation throughout the LP is changed up constantly, presenting new textures, and the arrangements are all excellent.  Also, unlike his first couple of LPs – and I mention this only because I was just listening to them yesterday and today – this one was recorded and mixed really well, which helps things a lot.  The record kind of tapers off a little towards the end with the rather disposable instrumental “Tiny Little Blues” (dobro fans will be pleased by an unexpected appearance from David Bromberg) followed immediately by an eight-minute freakout jam (lyricless but with some spoken word) that closes the proceedings.  It is tempting to think they needed to fill ten more minutes and had no more songs left, but Havens often managed to insert something experimental or vaguely improvisatory into his early records.  And this intense finale, “Shouldn’t All The World Be Dancing” is shot through with Havens ecological, spiritual, and anti-war sentiments.  It is a surprisingly dissonant way to close a record, perhaps the musical rendering of his call in the liner notes to see “all the temples built by man… crumble into truth and piles of light.”  Richie Havens didn’t live to see that vision come to fruition here on Spaceship Earth.  But he did leave us a huge body of work through his searching.
Listen to a little piece of it today.
Also: MORE AUTOHARP!
I could post a YouTube clip to something off this album but why not share the original recording of that Lumkins tune:

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Terry Callier – Occasional Rain (1972)

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Terry Callier
Occasional Rain
Cadet Records, 1972
This reissue, 2008 Verve (B0011107)

 1. Segue No. 1 – Go Ahead On
2. Ordinary Joe
3. Golden Circle
4. Segue No. 5 – Go Head On
5. Trance On Sedgewick Street
6. Do You Finally Need A Friend
7. Segue No. 4 – Go Head On
8. Sweet Edie. D
9. Occasional Rain
10. Segue No. 2 – Go Head On
11. Blues For Marcus
12. Lean On Me
13. Last Segue – Go Head On

    Bass – Sydney Simms
Contralto Vocals – Shirley Wahls
Drums – Robert Crowder
Engineer – Gary Starr
Guitar – Terry Callier
Harpsichord, Organ, Producer – Charles Stepney
Piano – Leonard Pirani
Soprano Vocals – Kitty Haywood, Minnie Riperton

Recorded at: Ter-Mar Recording Studios, Chicago, Illinois.

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This Sunday past I heard from a friend that Terry Callier had passed away at his home in Chicago.  I don’t know why or how when some performer’s leave us, they leave behind a bigger sense of loss than others.  Maybe it’s because with Terry there was always the feeling that he still had a lot more to say, and maybe the assumption that he would just keep on saying it at his own leisurely pace.  The news is too sudden for me to digest fully.

Whenever a person hears a Terry Callier record, they ask themselves how it is that they had never heard him before that moment.  Of course there are plenty of artists who never got their due during their lifetime, but it is hard to fathom how Terry’s early records could have been eclipsed by so much pedestrian music of lesser quality at the time.  At least his story had happier ending, with his work finding recognition many years later and drawing him out of musical retirement to make a handful of satisfying records.  Not to diminish his second flowering, but his albums on the Cadet label will always be the ones many of us cherish the most.  There just hasn’t been anything quite like them before or since.

Although I have tended to favor “What Color Is Love”, probably because ‘Dancing Girl’ was the first of his songs I ever heard, the album Occasional Rain (which preceded it, but only slightly) is really every bit it’s equal, and set the tone for the rest of his career.  How could any artist put out two records of this astounding caliber in the same year?  This one has almost a concept-record feel to it due to the songs being strung together by acoustic guitar/vocal segments of folk blues (“Go Head On”) that recall Terry’s coffee-house days (captured on the album “The New Folk Sound…”)  His voice still has the heavy vibrato, a common enough trait among folk singers of the 60s, but the similarilty pretty much begins and ends there.   The Cadet recordings show the flowering of Callier’s participation in Jerry Butler’s songwriting workshop in Chicago.   The song “Do You Finally Need A Friend” actually debuted the previous year on the fantastic “Jerry Butler Sings Assorted Songs With The Aid of Assorted Friends and Relatives” (Mercury ST-61320) on which he also appears uncredited along with Curtis Mayfield.   Butler also has a writing credit on  “What Color Is Love” and workshop members Larry Wade and Charles Jones contribute to that album as well as this one.

Looking at those album credits I got to thinking that we should just be grateful we had Terry Callier walking amongst us mere mortals for as long as we did.  Jumping out off the page were two names of his colleagues who left us far, far too young. Keyboardist, producer and arranger Charles Stepney, who would later work with Earth Wind & Fire on their most interesting records and was also a  founding member of The Rotary Connection, died in his 30’s from a heart attack.  And then there is fellow Rotary alumnus Minnie Riperton, who I had never really noticed in the credits until Sunday, and who sings beautifully as always in Stepney’s choral arrangements.  She died in her 30’s from breast cancer.  Another Rotary Connection member, Shirley Wahls, also sings on the record.  Phil Upchurch, one of Cadet’s ubiquitous session players, is absent from this session but would play on Terry’s two following efforts with great results.

Stepney deserves massive amounts of credit for the power of this album and Terry’s other Cadet recordings.  And he has received that credit, especially from Terry himself.  If you need convincing, you can check out earlier versions of some of these songs on the collection “First Light.”  Those versions are impressive because they show the intensity of Callier’s songwriting and highlight (by virtue of his absence) just how much Stepney helped him realize his musical vision.  “Occasional Rain” is the most ‘produced’ of his three Cadet albums, but that isn’t a negative in this case because these are artists on the same wavelength.   (Contrast this with the desultory rerecordings of some of these songs on the Electra release “Turn You To Love.”) The psychedelic baroque-pop of Ordinary Joe probably has Stepney’s “producer’s stamp” most clearly on it, opening the record with strong stylistic overtones of Rotary Connection and mixed as if it could be a huge hit.   But this was no ordinary song, and too extraordinary and unclassifiable for mass consumption even in an era of relative experimentation in popular music.  Groovy harpsichord and some churchy organ; that infectiously catchy melody – how could this song NOT be huge in a fair world?  Maybe it was the brilliant lyrics and vocal delivery that swings from soul, to scat singing, to a blues shout.  It was just too real for the radio.  As a lyricist-poet Callier had a special talent for oscillating between earthy grit, tender nuance, and cosmic musings, sometimes all in the same song.  The intimacy of “Golden Circle,” the darker burned-out realism of “Trance On Sedgewick Avenue” – Terry could make ordinary moments into something transcendent, then turn around and translate the abstract and spiritual into familiar, achingly human terms in the next tune.    And it is no hyperbole to call him a genuine poet.  You could try just reading the words to “Occasional Rain” to a room full of people and hear their cadence, see how they work as compositions even separated from the music:

There was rain today
And crystal blue was hidden by a cloudy gray
A sudden shower come to chase the sun away
Occasional rain
Damn the weatherman
He seems to work against me any way he can
And he’s been dealing tear-drops since the world began
And occasional pain

And blue you, don’t believe I’m talking to you

The light is shining through you- still you will not see
Blue you- think I’m trying to undo you
When I only want to seek the Truth
And speak true

I can’t tell you when

But someday soon we’ll see the sun re-born again
And there’ll be light without as well as light within
And occasional rain 

Fucking brilliant, isn’t it?

The record closes with the majestic “Lean On Me” that is arranged like a series of crescendos leading to one massive climax.  It is kind of ironic that this record was released the same year as Bill Wither’s massive hit of the same title and of similar sentiments.

Speaking of which, the irony did not escape me of listening to this record over and over while the entire northeastern seaboard of the US was being drenched by a hurricane.  It also struck me how listening to Terry Callier is like being sheltered from the storms of the world.  His work had a certain warmth in common with other writers from the frigidly cold metropolis of Chicago, placed at the crossroads of Memphis and Detroit, New York and L.A., always a few steps removed the hype and the drama, and always carrying himself with grace.

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Banda de Pífanus de Caruaru – Programa Ensaio 1999

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Banda de Pífanos de Caruaru
Progama Ensaio (1999)
SESC São Paulo Collection
“A Música Brasileira Deste Século por sue Autores e Intérpretes”

1. Bendito
2. A Briga do Cachorro com a Onça
3. Levando o Santo
4. A Bandinha Vai Tocar
5. Pega Pra Capar
6. Despedida de Novena
7. Cantiga de Lampião
8. Saudades de Caruaru
9. Esquenta Mulher

Sebastião Biano – Pífanos
João Biano – Zabumba
Gilberto Biano – Tarol
Amaro Biano – Surdo
José Biano – Prato

Recorded for Programa Esnaio on October 14, 1999, directed by Fernando Faro.

In this installment of the TV program Ensaio (audio-portion only here), the Banda de Pífanos de Caruaru play some of the career highlights of their repertoire and tell some interesting stories about the origins of the band, playing for the bandit / cangaçeiro Lampião in the early 20th century, playing the nine nights of a religious ‘novena’, and a kick-ass recipe for sarapatel. The band is still going today in 2011 although I’ve never caught them live. This is a good companion disc to the studio album on Marcus Perreira shared here last week.

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Luiz Paixão – Pimenta Com Pitú (2006)

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Luiz Paixão
“Pimenta Com Pitú”
Released 2006
Label: Independent
Produced by Renata Rosa and Hugo Lins
Recording engineers: Zé Guilherme, Marcilio
Mixing engineers: Zé Guilherme, Térence Briand, Mathieu Pion
Mastered by Térence Briando and Mathieu Pion
Graphic layout – João Lin
Photos – Michele Zollini

Recorded at the Universidadde Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) studios in January and February of 2005. Mixed at UFPE stuios and Nyima (Saint Jean de la Ruelle, France)

1 Baião de cavalo marino (Domínio Público)
2 Ponta de pedra (Sidrak)
3 Forró de cambará (Seu Luiz Paixão)
4 São Gonçalo do Amarante (Domínio Público)
5 Forró bem temperado (Seu Luiz Paixão)
6 Toada do cavalo (Seu Luiz Paixão)
7 Pimenta com pitú (Seu Luiz Paixão)
8 Arrumadinho (Seu Luiz Paixão)
9 Parari (Biu Roque)
10 Forró de vó (Seu Luiz Paixão)
11 Pisa pilão (Domínio Público)
12 Toada solta (Domínio Público)
13 Machucado (Seu Luiz Paixão)
14 Viuvinha (Sidrak)
15 Amor, amor, amor (Domínio Público)

musicians:

Seu Luiz Paixão: rabeca
Sidrak: voz
Guga Santos: bombo, mineiro
Dó: pandeiro e vocais
Maica: vocais
Renata Rosa : vocais
Pepê: cavaco
Hugo Linns: contrabaixo
Ana Freire: triângulo
Carlos Amarelo: zabumba
Mina: pandeiro e voz
Biu Roque: baje e vocais
Guga Santos: mineiro e vocais

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I probably should have shared this record a few weeks ago, but I forgot I had this album sitting around…. And it’s a shame, because it is a LOT more listenable than “Pastoril”, the other album seasonal Pernambucan music I put up on the blog the other week. But it’s not too late — this music is still being performed right up until Three Kings Day (the 6th) where some of the biggest events take place that feature CAVALO MARINO music. And that’s what this disc primarily is, music you would hear at a presentation of Cavalo Marino. What is Cavalo Marino? well, it is NOT this:
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Cavalo Marino is a popular culture / folkloric art form that developed on the sugar plantations of Pernambuco and is a type of open-air theatrical performance that traditionally can have 63 different “acts” with up to 76 distinct characters (!!!). It is difficult to explain how it all links up to the ‘Christmas cycle’ with giving you a dissertation on the topic, but its a weird type of ‘magical realism’ that mixes characters from lives of the sugar plantation workers (ex-slaves or descendants of slaves, for the most part) with fantasy and religious homages to various saints and to God. Some of the principal characters are the roles of Matéus and Bastião, two ex-slaves (in blackface, even if they are actually, by ‘anglo’ standards, black..) looking for work and sharing the same woman (Catíta); the Capitão (‘coronel’, landowner, political big cheese of an area); the Soldier (policeman, overseer); the Caboclo (indigenous spirit, in this case, related to afro-indigenous religious cults), and an ever-present anthropomorphic bull / guy in a cow-costume. All of these characters have spoken and sung lines, and improvise to a degree while interacting with the audience in a spectacle that is satirical and critical of the harsh circumstances in which this ‘folkloric’ tradition was born, and also somehow religiously reverent. All of this is also said to be the Pernambucan variation of “Bumba-Meu-Boi”, a tradition which is found throughout the Brazilian northeast in states such as Maranhão and Ceará.

I would not necessarily call this “holiday music” but it is ‘seasonal’ in that it truly is rare to hear this music outside of the Christmas seasonor “Ciclo Natalino’ (although you will begin to see presentations popping up as early as August), except perhaps in the small town of Condado, Pernambuco, where the tradition started. Why is it called ‘cavalo marino’, literally “sea horse”?? Well, nobody knows for sure, although there are a variety of legends and tall tales about it. Mostly though, they involve a sea-captain on shore leave or ex-sea captain who was known to ride around on a horse a lot, earning the nickname ‘cavalo marino.’

It is much easier to describe this all with visual aids, here are a few You Tube clips

One, performed partly on a stage and with some academic-types talking about how necessary it is to “protect” this music although I will concede their point as much as they are dealing with the tricky area of ‘public domain’…

Here is another video filmed at the ‘terreiro’ (really in this case, a full-fledged performance space) built by the family the now-departed Mestre Salustiano in Tabajara, Olinda. The big gathering is on December 25 but there will is usually another one around January 6th on the ‘Festa dos Reis’ which actually lasts three days. I have been at some of these events but thankfully I am nowhere in the sidelines of this video, my apologies if YOU are

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The musicians on this record are a mixture of old veterans of this music and younger ‘roots’ musicians from the Recife area. It is one of those, MPB singer, actress, and faux-Pernambucana oddball Renata Rosa, who organized this album and produced it for Paixão, perhaps as a thank-you gift for having taught her how to play the rabeca and thus build a career off of pretending to be the daughter of exploited, sunbeaten cane cutters. I give her a lot of credit for keeping it free of any attempt at commercializing the sound — this is truly what it sounds like when you hear it ‘in the street’ (so to speak). During the theatrics, a bank of seated musicians play throughout the night, and these things usually go all night until dawn. Lead by one or several players of “rabeca”, sort of a country-fiddle but constructed a bit differently, and accompanied by pandeiro, the reco-reco (gourd or metal scraper), shaker, and an inflated goat-bladder used to beat out the rhythm. Several of the oldsters here learned under Mestre Batista, allegedly the first (or at least one of them) to develop this artform into the way we know it today. Biu Roche, who sings and contributes a few original contributions, passed away just shortly after Carnaval of 2010. Luiz Paixão also contributes original material alongside compositions from fellow mestre and friend Sidrak, as well as songs considered ‘dominio público’, and some of them have the style of baião or coco but mostly they end up sounding like variations on cavalo marino music anyway.

The CD booklet has some stunning photographs and a nice graphic layout (the scans don’t do it justice), and a well-written essay by Renata Rosa as well. This is already become something of a rarity, released independently but with various donated funds (from ‘patrocinadores’ who love to stamp their logos on album jackets, like Petrobras or Banco do Nordeste).

Townes Van Zandt – For The Sake Of The Song (1968)

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Townes Van Zandt
For The Sake Of The Song
1968 Poppy Records (PYS-40.001)

Reissued 1993 on Tomato Records (598.1091.29)

1 For The Sake Of The Song 4:45
2 Tecumseh Valley 2:40
3 Many A Fine Lady 3:52
4 Quick Silver Daydreams Of Maria 3:41
5 Waitin’ Around To Die 2:22
6 I’ll Be Here In The Morning 2:42
7 Sad Cinderella 4:40
8 The Velvet Voices 3:12
9 Talkin’ Karate Blues 3:01
10 All Your Young Servants 3:04
11 Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls 2:36

Produced by Jack Clement and Jim Malloy

It’s a new year. I am short of words. Barely hanging on here really. Where did everybody go?

Majestic.

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*note: the track titles for numbers 9 & 10 are reversed, sorry about that but that is how they apppeared via the all-knowing cddbase
This one will be cross-listed at the long-defunct FLABBERGASTED FOLK page