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Monday, May 29, 2017

Patto - Hold Your Fire (Expanded Edition)

This 2-CD set consists of Patto’s second album, Hold Your Fire which was originally released in December of 1971 on the Vertigo label, and now reissued by Esoteric Recordings. After the release of their sole self-titled debut album in 1970, the album didn’t do that well and Vertigo wanted the band to do another album as Muff Winwood was brought back to the studio to produce their next album.

The album was recorded at Island Studios in Basing Street as the band decided that it was time to show some improvements of what they could have done on their debut. What that meant was that it gave them time on both of the arrangements and overdubs while it showed a self-confidential side to them and building up their sound with both of the blues, jazz, and soul in their roots.

Ollie channels his improvisations of Jazz Rock to keep the essence flowing of Holdsworth’s technique like a train going at full speed with the Air Raid Shelter while You, You Point Your Finger deals with the struggle with fame and the price that is paid with it. With its haunting melodies and social commentary, Mike pours his soul on the issue for its powerful composition as Ollie’s melodic/harder edge, makes you feel as if he is taking you to the dark side of the music industry.

See You At The Dance Tonight is a mid-tempo piano blues rockin’ number. Not only that, but I could tell it is an essence of Rod Stewart and the Faces almost as if they could have written this song for them during the sessions for Ooh La La as Ollie shreds through the midsection as John Halsey’s drumming follows beside him. The two bonus tracks on the first CD features Beat the Drum which at first starts off with a jazzy improvisation.

The first few minutes gives Clive Griffiths a chance to come forward as his bass line brings it in. As he and John follow Ollie’s vibes, the stop-and-go moments gives Mike’s vocals delve into some of the issues of what was happening during that time period while Bad News shows more of Ollie’s virtuosity. It shows that he’s more than just a guitar player. He and Bernie Holland share together on their instruments in the lead and rhythm guitar structures.

The second CD contains two performances that Patto did for the BBC sessions including BBC Radio One’s In Concert introduced by John Peel and the other three for a summer session for Sounds of the 70s along with alternate mixes of the last three tracks from the sessions at Island Studios. Listening to these sessions, makes you want to close your eyes and imagine yourself being in the audience watching this band going into town to deliver the goods during the time they were promoting their debut album.

When Hold Your Fire was released in December of that year, the album didn’t sell. And Vertigo dropped the band. And soon they were still on the road for supporting acts including Stackridge, Genesis, Bell & Arc, May Blitz, Van Der Graaf Generator, and Genesis for a festival. Listening to their second album, it shows that this was a band that was so far ahead of their time and often overlooked in the history of the progressive rock genre.

The 20-page booklet contains liner notes done by Sid Smith which included an interview with John Halsey about the making of the album. It also contains posters, promos, reviews, including a picture of Centipede which Mike Patto participated with Keith Tippett for the Septober Energy album and performances they did in London and Europe. Pictures of the band, and of course the Lyceum Easter Festival they did with some of the progressive bands they were on the bill with as I’ve mentioned a second ago.

The band would later be with another label on Island Records due to Muff’s connection with them as they would release their next album in 1972 entitled; Roll ‘em Smoke ‘em Put Another Line Out.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Art Griffin's Sound Chaser - Visions from the Present

Canada has been for me one of my favorite places I’ve always wish to go to. And the bands from that area whether it’s the sounds of Rush, Klaatu, Morse Code, Max Webster, The Musical Box (which I had the great pleasure of seeing them six years ago for their Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour at the House of Blues), Maneige, and FM to name a few. It’s not just me loving these bands, but showing my support and seeing where the next direction will take the genre into.

In one of the projects that are taking those directions is Art Griffin’s Sound Chaser. Hailing from the Blue Mountains in Ontario, which is a town located at the southwestern area in Grey County and where the Beaver River flows into the rocky shores of Nottawasaga Bay by passing over the two dams by reaching its mouth. But it’s also a ski resort including the private Craigleith Ski Club.

But I’m off-topic. When this landed on my lap a few week ago, I didn’t know what to think of it. So I put the album on my portable CD player and for me, it’s not just a great album, but a very interesting release that was unleashed last year on the Velvet Orb label. It considers Art Griffin who is a multi-instrumentalist and composer, lead guitarist Kelly Kereliuk, electric violinist Victoria Yeh, and drummer/mixer Steve Negus of SAGA and Chris DeBurgh.

With a brilliant artwork of the album cover done by Roger Dean who’s done the Yes artwork, Osibisa, the Vertigo swirling logo, and White Willlow’s Future Hopes, he shows no sign of stopping. But let’s straight to the instrumental adventures with a few highlights on here. The alarm goes off on Nomadic Traveller as it delves into an electronic ‘80s voyage essence of the Trip-Hop groove as Art’s bass sets the tempo as the Wurlitzer goes into a wah-wah mode with a floydian-sque feel.

Red Sky at Night features mid-chomping rhythm sections between Art, Victoria, Kelly, and Steve. Ken Baird’s Rhodes takes you into driving across the highway with the fusion-sque beats while crossing between Yes’ Time and a Word-era and Rush’s Moving Pictures-era. It’s a combinational crossover, but the vibes between early ‘70s and ‘80s vibe works interestingly well.

Ascension pays its nod to 10cc’s The Original Soundtrack. Victoria’s beautiful violin work helps to say farewell either to a loved one or a friend as it sends warmth and hope to the stars. Near the mid-climax it has this ambient/atmospheric finale, but it goes back to the end by fading out into the sunset. Supersuit is a dynamic and heavy electro-rock thanks to the drum programming on here.

Both Art and Victoria are doing a dualistic melody between each other as if they are heading towards the solar system with a climatic ending whilst the 10-minute and 31-second epic, Happy Place which is a four-part composition, brings Kelly to the forefront. He takes the listener to his virtuosic improvisations channeling Steve Vai’s presence by going back and forth on the frets as Art gives him carte blanche to see him getting ready to fly with amazement.

Art has really brought a lot of ideas and hopes into his music. Now while I’m not crazy about the album, Visions from the Present, it has some brainstorming moments that just made me realize what he and his team will do next for the years and years to come. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Patto - Patto

Formed out of the ashes of Timebox, Patto brought the combinations between Jazz, Soul, Hard Rock, Blues, and Progressive Rock rolled into one in 1970. It’s a quite an amazing touch between some killer musicians. The late great Mike Patto just kills it on his lead vocals with his soulful arrangements. Then there’s Ollie Halsall who among supporters including XTC’s Andy Partridge, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, and Allan Holdsworth to name a few, is perhaps one of the most overlooked left-handed guitarist who never got the recognition he deserved. Not to mention drummer John Halsey and bassist Clive Griffiths into the foreplay in the rhythm section.

Their sole self-titled debut originally released on the Vertigo label in that same year, the band recorded the album with producer Muff Winwood at Island Studios in Basing Street in London, shows the power, the electricity, and the thunderous beats that Patto brings that is like volcano waiting to erupt at the right moment. You have the opening track, The Man which sounds like the could have been used in a sequence from the 1973 blaxploitation film, Black Caesar featuring Fred “The Hammer” Williamson walking towards the streets of New York as if he’s honored and shows his stamp of approval throughout the section of Harlem.

Money Bag begins with Clive’s bass leading into a winding groove followed by Halsey’s intensive grooves on his kit followed by Ollie’s off-the-wall guitar going up and down through his improvisation while Government Man which Andy Votel sampled on the 2005 Vertigo Mixed compilation, shows him more than just a guitarist, but playing the vibraphones near the end of the last 30 seconds of the piece to give a moody end as Clive’s melodic bass closes it out.

Red Glow sounds at first sounds almost like a session straight out of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and Imagine-era, but the engine gets all revved up to go. It begins with a reverb effect by Ollie that channels both of those two albums through his riffs, rhythm, and lead sections. He can take it up a notch whenever he would know where the band was going. It’s not just a powerful composition, but damn, Halsall is like a lightning ready to strike at any moment for the thunder at the right moment.

The three bonus tracks which are a part of a reissue done by Esoteric Recordings contains a 14-minute wildly improvisation turned into a ‘70s hard rock voyage with riffs and leads and done in the style of a heavier version between Allan Holdsworth, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Atlantis featuring Inga Rumpf on Hanging Rope. Then, there’s two live recordings done on BBC Radio One’s Sound of the ‘70s Session they did on November 3, 1970 performing Love Me and Government Man.

The 16-page booklet contains liner notes done by Sid Smith about the history about the making of their debut album, a history of the band’s formation, and an interview with John Halsey. It also contains photographs and live ads of Patto. This is an incredible reissue that just took me by surprise. I first heard about them 12 years ago on the 3-CD set of Time Machine: A Vertigo Retrospective 1969-1973 and of course the sample mix dedicated to the swirling logo done by DJ Andy Votel with Vertigo Mixed.

If you love the gems from the Vertigo releases of the golden-era of the 1970s between Clear Blue Sky, Nucleus, Colosseum, Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three, and Cressida, then dig deeper into the drive of Blues-Soul-Hard Rock sound of Patto.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Led Bib - Umbrella Weather

It’s been three years since I’ve listened to the London based quintet, Led Bib. Since their formation back in 2003, they have released five albums from 2005 to 2014 along with two live releases. They were nominated for the Mercury Prize for their third album, Sensible Shoes and received a 2005 Peter Whittingham Jazz Award for their debut, Arboretum. The quintet have never disappointed me with their essence of Experimental, Modal Jazz, and Punk Rock mixed into a giant blender and it sounds like a snarling beast ready to attack.

I first became aware of Led Bib’s music after hearing some of their music both on Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout and Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room. I can remember buying their fifth album, The People in Your Neighborhood on Wayside Music with my graduation money. And I was hooked. And then all of a sudden I completely forgotten about them....until this year.

They have released their sixth album entitled, Umbrella Weather on a new label with RareNoise Records. This is a Holy Shit release so far this year. It is a volcanic roar. And among one of those supporters is the godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop who played their music on Iggy Confidential on BBC Radio 6. The album is like looking down the barrel of a gun and seeing if it is ready to reign hell and sweating bullets to kill.

Opener, Lobster Terror which sounds like a ‘50s Sci-Fi B-Movie (think Fiend Without a Face), kicks things off with a bang. The band channel Radiohead’s The National Anthem from the Kid A album. With its intense grooves, mid-tempo fast and exhilarating arrangements, Led Bib roars down like a flaming fire as if going into a gigantic blaze of glory. Fields of Forgetfulness is a tidal wave of destruction as if John Coltrane has hypnotized both Chris Williams and Pete Grogan’s alto saxophones while Mark Holub channels Elvin Jones with Too Many Cooks.

Screeching vibrations on one of their shortest compositions, the quintet delve into a haywire effect. On The Roundabout is a Brazilian-Swing Spacey Jazz Rock adventure. Donin’s intriguing bass lines and Toby’s chilling keyboards sets a scenario before Holub’s drums and the alto saxophones delve into the essence of King Crimson’s Lizard-era as the intense pulsating beats reach climax for the last three minutes in a trippy finale.

Toby’s keyboards takes you beyond the stratosphere and through the outer limits with Insect Invasion. This is another spaced and freak-out adventure thanks to the reverb and delay effects that he brings. He shows no sign of stopping. It’s almost as if he’s the new commander of the starship enterprise and telling his bandmates to make the jump to light speed as it ends in the styles of the New Orleans Jazz groove a-la Preservation Hall style!

Led Bib creates maximum volume and unexpected territories they bring to the Umbrella Weather. They are like a battering ram ready to swing down and bring the sever and extreme brilliance to the Jazz sound and I can imagine they are giving Kenny G the big giant middle finger to show real Jazz is supposed to sound. And they delivered it well. Play this bad-boy really, really, really Loud!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Magenta - We Are Legend

It’s been four years since we’ve heard from Magenta after the release of their 2013 album, The Twenty-Seven Club. The band have been very, very, very busy lately. Robert Reed has been doing work with Kompendium and his Sanctuary albums released in 2014 and a new one released last year, Christina Booth has released two solo albums from 2010 to 2015, and both of them appeared together on the Spectral Mornings EP release with Nick Beggs, Adam Hodgson, and Steve Hackett to name a few.

So it’s been a good while since we’ve heard some good music from them. This year, they’ve released their new studio album on the TigerMoth label entitled We Are Legend. There are three songs including one clocking in at 26-minutes! But it is a welcoming return for the trio and letting the fans know they are still here and never giving up on them. And Christina’s voice, will bring you to tears when she sings.

I first became aware of Magenta’s music nine years ago when I watched a live performance of them doing Demons from their Home album on YouTube. And I was completely blown away and I became a fan since then. 49 minutes of amazing music and astounding beauty. And added members including bassist Dan Nelson and drummer Jon Griffiths, you are about to be prepared to embark on a journey with the music of Magenta.

The opening track, Trojan begins with an eerie introduction done by Reed’s keyboards setting this post-apocalyptic wasteland that gives you the background what has happened before Chris Fry’s eruptive lead guitar roar. It reminisces between Steve Hackett’s playing and Muse’s Absolution-era a-la Matt Bellamy style that Chris does with those textures by bringing the two combinations as one.

Christina comes in to give you the story of Robots coming out of the sea as it’s inspired by some of the Japanese animated series. You can imagine this as an episodic rock opera done in the styles between Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, The Vision of Escaflowne, or Galaxy Express 999. It is a powerful and strong composition. Fry delivers well and I was completely surprised how he and Robert, who does his moog-like battle or floating to another scenario.

With orchestral sounds that made my arm-hairs go up, a mid-section haunting background with its Floydian vibe, Christina’s character in the song talks to the robot and knowing that both love and peace will happen one day. I love also that homage to Dark Side of the Moon with both the major and minor chords to honor the album that refuses to die.

Now for me, again I was surprised this piece clocked in at 26-minutes, but listening to this again and again, I fell in love with it and I was completely on the edge of my seat listening to this. Colours begins with an eerie lullaby with a toy piano-sque sound as it volcanically erupts between Reed, Fry, Nelson, and Griffiths. Fry delves into the blues whilst dipping his toe into the water on the delay/reverb effects.

The bluesy sections bring a different side to Magenta. Booth nearly goes into a style for a brief bit of the late great Janis Joplin. I can imagine them honoring the song Ball & Chain from Big Brother & the Holding Company’s second album, Cheap Thrills.

The piece is almost describing the listener of almost letting go of the past and present while moving on. Not to mention that little nod to Marillion’s Clutching at Straws-era in the last 3-minutes of the composition. The closing track, Legend which make listeners jump with that nod to the chilling classical nod to the alarming sound effect of THX, begins with a scenario of a battle that’s coming to an end.

It’s a sombering piece as Booth gives her force and energy by pouring it out as I can imagine her fighting back tears in the song as the piece staggers and shines brightly as you can the survivors are ready to have their own tomorrow’s for a new beginning and a new day. We Are Legend is a thrilling release this year.

And it makes us welcome Magenta back with open arms. Alongside their Symphonic and Orchestral side, Magenta bring the torch to life and as I’ve always said in some of the bands about the fires burning, Magenta makes sure that the flames never, ever, ever, ever burn out.