Sandy Denny and The Strawbs (1967, 1991)

I’m glad to see that Sandy Denny still has got so many fans. For me, she’s the best female singer of the british folk scene. Her voice isn’t simply beautiful: it’s also powerful and poignant, passionate and vibrant. And she can be tender and sweet too, or hopelessly melancholic, as in the memorable Fotheringay. But I find impossible for words to evoke all of her immense qualities as an artist. Songs like the one quoted before, or her wonderful rendition of Matty Groves or many more traditional tunes still make me feel shivers down my spine at every new listen. So, I’m very happy to post here one of her first albums, that she recorded as a member of the Strawbs. Sandy Denny and the Strawbs, originally recorded in Denmark in 1967 (as All Our Own Work), saw the light for the first time only six years later, to be reprinted in 1985 and then again in 1991 by Joe Boyd’s Hannibal.

«Sandy Denny was only with the Strawbs for a short period of time, but she was around long enough to make some very memorable contributions to the band. […] Denny is clearly the main attraction on this CD. In contrast to the progressive-rock and art-rock elements the band would later embrace, these sides are acoustic-oriented and unmistakably British-sounding folk-pop. Gems like Tell Me What You See In Me, Nothing Else Will Do and Who Knows Where the Time Goes [her first – stunning – recorded composition] not only illustrate how superb and moving a singer Denny was, they also demonstrate how prolific a composer Dave Cousins was. One can only speculate as to what direction the Strawbs would have taken had Denny stayed, but what we know with certainty is that her short-lived association with Cousins was lucrative and valuable.» (AMG)

«The Troubadour in Earls Court was the “in” place to be in the late sixties. […] I dropped in at the singers’ night one Tuesday and suddenly, thee was the best voice I’d ever heard. She was sitting on a stool playing an old Gibson guitar, about eighteen, wearing a white dress, a white straw hat, with long blond hair and singing like an angel. I don’t know what came over me but I went up to her immediately afterwards, introduced myself and invited her to join The Strawbs. Much to my astonishment she said yes. […] We rehearsed round at Sandy’s flat and literally sang all night. The songs, the arrangements, happened as though by magic. We recorded some demos and a friend took them to Denmark to play to the boss of a record company he knew. Karl Knudsen phoned up offering us a contract and there we were on the ferry to Denmark, rehearsing in the bar, to make the album. It was as easy as that. […] Sandy Denny to me was the finest woman singer we ever had in this country and she was a dear and close friend who I miss a lot. I hope you enjoy the record. It meant a lot to Tony, Ron and me and I can tell you that it meant a lot to Sandy as well.» (Dave Cousins, from the liner notes to the 1991 reprint).

So long, Sandy. And thanx.

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There's nothing better than "New Apricot"... except the dear old original Armenian apricots (like the ones in the picture below)!

Armenian Navy Band - New Apricot (2001)

One of the best and most innovative bands to emerge on the international scene in the last decade, in 2006 the Armenian Navy Band (led by the sublime taste and compositive skill of percussionist Arto Tunçboyaciyan) has won the BBC Radio 3’s prestigious World Music Audience Award. That is to say that people across the world voted them the best world music ensemble on the planet. For all those of you who still don’t know this amazing band, here’s a chance to discover why. Enjoy!

«Armenia is a nation that invokes many descriptions: landlocked, ancient, nestled in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains and bearer of many tragic events. Yet Armenia is also celebrated for its music, especially the duduk, a flute carved from apricot wood with a cane reed whose range is barely one octave. When played by a master such as Djivan Gasparyan the duduk creates one of the loneliest, most moving sounds ever heard. Yet Armenia is not land locked in the past; instead, it has maintained a connection with Western thought and culture – this has been helped by a huge Armenian diaspora, many of whom live in the USA – and The Armenian Navy Band are the most brilliant example yet of how an ancient culture can comfortably blend with a contemporary one.
The Armenian Navy Band was founded by the percussionist/vocalist of Armenian descent, Arto Tunçboyaciyan. Arto likes to describe The Armenian Navy Band as “avant garde music from Armenia” which suggests something of the band but is a little limiting. The band have a strong jazz influence and to this they bring in all manner of folkloric instrumentation so building an organic creation that, well, swings.
Along with others of the Armenian diaspora, Arto Tuncboyaciyan grew up on the outskirts of Istanbul. Arto turned to music to celebrate his culture and here he managed to keep alive the spirit of Armenia. The sorrow and loneliness, also to be found in African-American jazz and blues, are mixed here with the melancholy Armenian spirit. Yet there is also joy, love and solace. The Navy Band is composed of twelve Armenian musicians and the compositions are all Arto originals which – using his words – “have the sound of my life”. The instruments vary from traditional: duduk, zurna, kemanche, kanun to contemporary: trombone, alto sax, tenor, soprano sax, trumpet, bass, drums, keyboard and piano. The Armenian Navy Band have released 3 CDs: 1999’s Bzdik Zinvor, 2001’s New Apricot and 2004’s Natural Seed.» (Garth Cartwright, BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards)

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Art Gallery/5

Pieter Bruegel

The Peasant Dance

Oil on oak panel, 114 x 164 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna


Radio Tarifa - Rumba Argelina (1993)

Debut album by Radio Tarifa, from Madrid, one of the best Spanish world music ensembles.

Radio Tarifa es mestizaje, en su máxima expresión, y, sobre todo, mestizaje mediterráneo, popular y castellano: flamenco, música árabe andalusí, sefardí, música medieval, castellana, música magrebí, africana..., todas de origen popular. También se han atrevido a acercarse a otras músicas, como la popular japonesa o a la alemana (Cruzando el río, 1997). Lo auténticamente novedoso de Radio Tarifa es que abordan estás músicas desde su vertiente modal, en vez de hacerlo desde la armónica, con lo que consiguen descubrir importantes afinidades entre todos estos estilos.
En flamenco, aunque se han acercado a todos los palos, han manifestado una clara preferencia por los más rítmicos (bulerías o tangos). Sus componentes, Faín, Molino y Escoriza, llevaban ya tiempo investigando músicas antiguas, especialmente los dos primeros, que trabajaban en un proyecto de recuperación de música medieval y renacentista, Ars Antiqua Musicalis. Fruto de esas investigaciones es también el uso de instrumentos estrechamente ligados, como el laud, el armonio o el oboe de madera. Pero también han introducido otros como el ney, flauta de caña que ya usaban los egipcios, el derbuka, tambor de cerámica y parche de piel o el bansuri, flauta travesera de origen hindú, sin olvidarse del bajo, la guitarra o el órgano eléctricos.
También los músicos que les acompañan en los discos y en los conciertos provienen de muy distintos universos musicales: Ramiro Amusategui (laudista), Gerardo Núñez (guitarrista), Javier Paixariño (viento), Javier Ruibal (voz), Wafir Sh. Gibril (acordeonista sudanés), el cantaor Falo, Jaime Muela (saxofonista)... Con frecuencia utilizan también como percusión el zapateado del bailaor flamenco Joaquín Ruiz. La propuesta de Radio Tarifa tuvo gran acogida y éxito inmediato. Están considerados como los mejores representantes de España en los festivales del “World Music”. (Esflamenco)

Ce groupe d’Espagnols est une légende, et une légende exigeante. Quand l’Espagne se souvient de tous les passages sur sa terre soulevée d’oliviers, elle devient la musique de Radio Tarifa. Forte aussi bien de l’éternelle musique méditerranéenne, de la musique des Sarrasins et de l’époque médiévale, de celle de l’Espagne d’aujourd’hui, elle recrée cet âge d’or, au delà des intolérances, qui faisait un jardin aux pommes d’or de tous ces brassages. […] Au début des années 90, autour de la volonté de trois musiciens (Fain S. Duenâs, percussionniste et chercheur en musique médiévale et arabe, Vincent Molino, un Français spécialiste des flûtes arabes, et Benjamin Escorriza), se crée un pont entre l’Espagne moderne et celle d’un âge d’or, celui d’un jardin enchanté de la culture maure, de la culture juive, et des entrelacs du Moyen Age d’avant les bûchers. C’est Radio Tarifa. Le nom du groupe reprend ce symbole puisque le cap de Tarifa, est une passerelle entre l’Europe et l’Afrique, et Radio Tarifa devient une zone franche des musiques du monde, un balcon sur la Méditerranée.
Chantée en espagnol, ancrée dans une Andalousie mythique des musiques espagnoles maures, la musique de Radio Tarifa s’est saoulée de musique arabe, d’airs du Moyen Age aussi. Et elle a fini par naviguer sans impatience dans les rêves, la voile gonflée de toutes les sonorités encloses dans la Méditerranée. Aussi au trio se sont agglomérés d’autres musiciens, et le groupe madrilène est devenu la caisse de résonance des fièvres méditerranéennes. Apothéose du métissage, le groupe Radio Tarifa a élargi l’Espagne et le Maghreb, fait reculer les déserts, et déversé des épices douces et colorées. Musique du Sud où se déversent flamenco, oud, accordéon, balafon et darbouka. […] Cette musique n’est pas retrouvée au milieu des sables, elle est totalement réinventée, longtemps cherchée et recherchée par des chocs d’influences, de savants dosages entre influences opposées. Ni traditionnel, ni moderne, le groupe Radio Tarifa est à la croisée de toutes les tendances de la musique espagnole actuelle, donnant la nostalgie d’un son ancestral de la Méditerranée avec des instruments éternels, mais interprété et arrangé avec les vents modernes et électriques d’aujourd’hui. […] La Grande Bleue a retrouvé les navigateurs de sa mémoire : Radio Tarifa chante, et il n’y a plus de bateaux échoués dans le sommeil de la mer, tous ils voguent à nouveau pour réunir les hommes. (“Radio Tarifa: Les navigateurs de la mémoire”, Esprits Nomades)

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More on Radio Tarifa (and much more...) on my friend Alonsii's wonderful blog,



Postcards from Italy (11) - Alpine Landscape

Kimmo Pohjonen - Kluster (2002)

«The recipient of Folk Musician of the Year awards in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999, Kimmo Pohjonen has brought a modern sensibility to the traditional accordion music of Finland. A veteran of pop and rock bands, Pohjonen continues to apply what he’s learned to the folk music of his homeland. […]

Credited only to Kimmo Pohjonen’s name, Kluster is actually a duo project with sampler artist Samuli Kosminen. Following the release of this album, the pair would start performing under that moniker. The title – and direction – of this album also contributed the "K" in KTU, Pohjonen and Kosminen’s subsequent collaboration with King Crimson’s Trey Gunn and Pat Masteloto. Kluster (the album) sees Pohjonen extrapolating on the more beat-driven aspects of his debut recording Kielo. The more Scandinavian folk elements are out, the rockier side gets more room to shine, and experimentation pervades every corner of the album. Every sound heard was produced either by Pohjonen’s accordion or voice. The accordionist is already prone to use digital effects to loop and manipulate his own playing. In addition, Kosminen plays accordion and vocal samples taken from Pohjonen. If Pohjonen strikes the body of his instruments a few times, Kosminen picks up on it and quickly produces a rock-like beat. Elsewhere, the samples are turned into abstract electro-acoustic pieces. Through it all, Pohjonen’s unique form of songwriting prevails: rock, even progressive rock riffs on accordion paired with an unshakeable folk feel. Tracks like "Ohimo," "Keko," and "Voima" are full-fledged prog rock tunes – you can actually hear how Gunn could fit in his Warr guitar licks. It’s no surprise that KTU performed these songs live. If on Kielo accordion and technology blended together to produce timeless music, things are different on Kluster. The instrument itself becomes more of a source than the center of attention. There is still plenty of virtuosic playing, but it is often hidden deep into the thick arrangements. Accordion enthusiasts should start with Kielo. Prog rock fans who want more after hearing KTU’s music should proceed here.» (AMG)

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Love, Peace & Poetry - Vol.3: Asian Psychedelic Music (1999)

"Love, Peace and Poetry is a consistently high-quality series, with nine volumes to date covering almost all of the world. The focus here is on psychedelia, with most of the recordings coming from the late sixties and early seventies. These collections have very little overlap with any other series out there. Each volume is well documented and the tracks are varied and well chosen. A particularly nice touch is that each volume includes information on obtaining original records or reissues, as well as other psych related contacts.

This collection of Asian psychedelic music, the third volume in the series, is perhaps the best of the lot – and that's saying quite a bit. Perhaps the reason that this collection is so strong is that many of the artists on this compilation were stars in their homelands with long careers, despite being little known in the West. As the liner notes point out, the combination of Asian musical traditions and the experimentalism of psychedelia often produced breathtaking results. This is particularly true of the four Turkish artists on this volume of Love, Peace and Poetry. The chords and rhythms that drive these tracks are not rock and roll, but the guitar sounds featured on these tracks draw freely on Western influences in the late 1960s, from the fuzz guitar of Erkin Koray and Baris Manco, to the trippier guitar sound of Mogollar. Japan is also represented by three artists on this collection, all of whom were no doubt listening to what was going on in the West in the late 1960s. You Know What I Mean by Justin Heathcliff (apparently the band's name was an attempt to sound British) had the Beatlesque sound of I'm Only Sleeping, complete with backward guitar solo. Blind Bird by the Mops could be mistaken for an American record (other than the Japanese lyrics) and Yuya Uchida & the Flowers cover the Jefferson Airplane's Greasy Heart. That is not to say that these artists were just imitating Western music, but rather they were creating compelling hybrids. And while British and American rock and roll bands were drawing on Indian music, the two Indian artists on Love, Peace and Poetry demonstrate that this was a two-way exchange. The tracks by the Confusions and the Fentones are taken from the Simla Beat collections, which came from «battle of the bands» competitions in India where the winner was determined by who could play the best garage rock. Though the title Voice from the Inner Soul by the Confusions would suggest a psych freak-out, this track is straightforward garage rock. The other Indian entry in this collection, Simla Beat Theme by the Fentones, is one of those transcendent tracks that stays with you long after you hear it. It's ironic that the Fentones achieved that «eastern» sound with a guitar-bass-drums arrangement that so many American garage bands were trying to achieve by adding a sitar to their sound. The two tracks from Korea (It Was Probably Late Summer by San Ul Lim and Korean Titel A2 (huh?) by Jung Hyun and the Men are latecomers, having been originally released in the 1970s but they each have a sixties light psych sound. Also represented on this collection are artists from Hong Kong (the trippy Magic Colours by Teddy Robin and the Playboys), Singapore, and Cambodia (the best track from the comp Cambodian Rocks). In fact, every track on this compilation is interesting." (Turnmeondeadman)

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Dazkarieh - Dazkarieh (2002)

Dazkarieh is a recent surprise in Portuguese traditional and folk music. […] “Dazkarieh” is not a Portuguese word, nor is it from any other known language. According to the band, it's a «magical word of unknown origin. It might have something to do with the energies that are released when several worlds, essences and influences touch each other.» That is probably also the best definition one can come up with for the music of this group. In their repertoire, Dazkarieh travel through the musical universe of the Mediterranean, of the North of Portugal and Galicia, of the Middle-East, and of Africa. There they gather the sounds that they weave into tunes that can be calm and introspective […], but can also change suddenly into real explosions of energy and rhythm, where the spiritual and emotional component is always present.

Although these changes between intimacy and emotion are noticeable throughout [their debut] record, it is in the second, third and fourth tunes of the album, the fabulous triptych Kriamideah, that they are revealed in all their beauty and excellence. First we are invited, even hypnotized, by the intimate and contemplative environment created by the guitar, the cello, some soft percussion, and by the brilliant voice of Marie Beatriz Lucio. But as we get involved in the sounds there is the feeling that there's still something more to discover in the tune, and finally we are completely overwhelmed by the rhythm of the African drums, the bouzouki, the chanters and the magnificent voice, which by now has become almost tribal.
Dazkarieh take their music very seriously. All the tunes work very well, particularly in the way that the members of the band were able to bring together instruments of very different origins. The quality of the arrangements shows the band's commitment and love for music. (João Maia, Rootsworld)

Saídos dos ambientes de experimentação musical e de constantes buscas de mundos perdidos, os Dazkarieh iniciaram-se na criação de espectáculos ao vivo, compostos por muitos elementos cénicos, em mistura com a diversidade dos instrumentos utilizados e nos ambientes por eles criados.
Dazkarieh é uma palavra inventada, da mesma forma que também são os locais onde este colectivo fez as recolhas musicais para a suas criações. Músicas de uma Irlanda que não se sabe onde realmente existiu, de uma galiza que afinal não é acima do norte de Portugal ou de uma África que fica provavelmente longe de tudo o que conhecemos. São assim os cenários de criação dos Dazkarieh: um grupo que se divide por instrumentos, culturas e sensibilidades em permanente desafio.
O grupo utiliza um leque variado de instrumentos acústicos, que vão desde os sopros irlandeses e galaico-portugueses, às percussões africanas, passando pelas cordas mediterrânicas e, com isso tudo, cruzam melodias e harmonias, umas eruditas, outras exóticas - misturadas no pulsar das percussões. [...] É através deles todos, que os Dazkarieh fundem os seus mundos, em composições originais de carácter eclético.
Iniciados num estatuto de "magos das performances sonoras", os Dazkarieh procuram agora - através deste disco - dar um novo espaço individual para a criação dos cenários destas performance sonoras, deixando a imagem do som a cargo de quem os ouve. Mas também nessa mesma linha, os espectáculos prometem sempre procurar supreender acima da obra registada, reiniciando um novo ciclo de aventuras, com todas as experiências possíveis para a imaginação. (João Maia, Attambur)

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Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus 1965-1975 (2006)

"If you really sit down and think about how much amazing music there is in the world, you’ll start to realize that you have only been exposed to a surprisingly miniscule percentage of it. Up until this album’s release in April of 2006, the songs on Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus 1965-1975 had never been released outside of their home country, and there are two men to thank for bringing these mind-blowing tracks to those hungry for amazing music: Roberto Ernesto Gyemant and Miles Cleret. Gyemant was living in Costa Rica when he visited the small village of David, Panama. As relief from the sweltering heat, he ended up taking refuge in a radio station that broadcast reggaeton and salsa as its main fare. Gyemant inquired about older records: his inquiry was met with a visit to a small storage room containing roughly 10,000 LPs and 45s. Days later, he had picked through them, noticing labels he’d never seen; these labels were on the albums of Combos Nacionales, Panamanian groups from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Years later, 15 tracks out of the thousands of singles he sorted through are appearing for the first time on Panama!. To say the music here is great is an understatement. The blending of, as the title suggests, Latin soul, funk, calypso and jazz literally takes the listener to a different world. The album functions as a personal time portal. The way this album came about represents the Caribbean region perfectly, with its amazingly diverse people and culture everywhere. You just have to drop off the beaten path to find it. That’s the best way to describe this gem of a compilation. Panama! is an intoxicating mix of sultry eclecticism, and though these tracks haven’t been released outside of Panama until now, they breathe nostalgia." (AMG)

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Postcards from Italy (10) - Landscape, Piedmont

Stormy Six - Guarda Giù Dalla Pianura (1974)

For Guarda Giù Dalla Pianura, their third and most overtly political album, Stormy Six selected an assortment of famous protest songs from all over the world - from Woody Guthrie's The Union Maid to Inti-Illimani's Canciòn del poder popular, from Ewan Mac Coll's The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh to Fausto Amodei's Per i morti di Reggio Emilia. Vinyl rip. For more info (and links) about this important Italian band from the 70s check the preceeding Stormy Six post. Enjoy.

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Malicorne - Malicorne (IV) (1977)

Malicorne’s fourth album features at least four masterpieces in their repertoire: the 9 minute long Le jardinier du couvent, full of shifting athmospheres and disarmingly beautiful passages; the dark, carefully arranged Le déserteur; the epic La fiancée du timbalier; and the brilliant, hypnotic La blanche biche. But also the remaining tracks are worth a listen. In all, a remarkable and innovative album by these French folk-rock masters, at ease both with ancestral tales and studio trickeries.

Quatrième album du groupe folklorique français alors le plus en vogue aux Etats-Unis, Malicorne (4) annonce le changement. Le groupe semble vouloir sortir du carcan dans lequel il semble s'être enfermé sur ses trois (quatre, avec l’éponyme Pierre de Grenoble) premiers albums. Quand bien même cet album est considéré comme faisant partie de leur période traditionnelle, on sent comme une envie d’aller au-delà de la musique folklorique, fleuretant, ici ou là, avec des instruments plus actuels.

Le jardinier du couvent, à ce titre, joue la carte de la nouveauté, il accueille un rythme chaloupé au piano, ainsi que quelques accords de guitare électrique et des violons furieux en fond sonore. Mais le plus étonnant, c'est l'éclaircissement du chant; on a ici le premier titre depuis Malicorne (1) où l'on entend le groupe chanter sans qu'ils déforment leur voix. […] Mais Malicorne (4) recèle d'autres surprises, notamment un petit coté humoristique plus poussé qu'à l'habitude. […] Misère, Nous sommes chanteurs de sornettes et le génial (presque épique dans son style) La fiancée du timbalier – sur un texte de Victor Hugo –, sont dans des tons plus habituels du groupe. Choeurs, chant nasal et instruments d'époque sont au menu, le groupe sait y faire et ne nous prend pas au dépourvu, on savoure le résultat. On remarque également le titre Le déserteur, dont la base provient d'un chant de croisade […] de Thibault le chansonnier, Comte de Champagne et de Brie. […] Enfin, on ne peut évoquer le quatrième album de Malicorne sans parler de son titre phare, La blanche Biche, lequel vaut à lui seul l'achat de l'album (rassurez-vous les autres titres ne sont pas en reste!) Ce morceau instaure un nouvel instrument, l’«orgue à voix», une sorte de synthétiseur promenant des sons proches de voix humaines, et au touché planant. Sur cet orgue en plein vol, on retrouve Marie Yacoub, seule. […] On ne peut qu'être envoûté par l'histoire de cette femme qui se transforme en biche la nuit et qui se fait chasser par son propre frère. La mort est annoncée par des cors de chasse, le tout dans une enveloppe de notes évanescentes. C'est tout simplement magnifique. Le thème évoqué des croyances populaires qui conféraient à certains hommes la capacité à se changer en animaux, sera même repris tout au long de leur album Le bestiaire, quelques années plus tard.

Malicorne perd donc un tout petit peu de son folklore, pour s'ouvrir à un peu plus de modernité. En ce sens, cet album est certainement le mieux équilibré du groupe et il combine parfaitement l'identité première de Malicorne avec la recherche de nouveaux sons. Les prochains albums annoncent une voie plus expérimentale, plus progressive, plus pop également. En attendant, on se régale encore de ces sonorités populaires ancestrales, magnifiquement retranscrites dans ces quatre premiers albums, celui-ci n’étant pas des moindres, encore une fois. (Nightfall)

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Os Mutantes - Everything Is Possible (1999)

A wonderful introduction to the contagious and hilarious madness of Rita Lee and brothers Sérgio and Arnaldo Baptista, better known as Os Mutantes, one of Brazil’s finest groups from the 60s and, arguably, one the best and funniest psychedelic bands in the world...

«The late 60’s in Brazil produced an explosion of creativity that is still reverberating throughout the world… and Os Mutantes (The Mutants) were the most outrageous band of that period. Their creative cannibalism produced psychedelic gems unlike anything else, and they sound as relevant today as anything happening anywhere. They were exactly what their name implies – a mutant genetic recombination of elements of John Cage, The Beatles, and bossa nova. A creature that was too strange and beautiful to live for very long, but too strong to ever fade away. It lives again. Be prepared.» (David Byrne, liner notes to Everything Is Possible).

«While recording the first album, Os Mutantes, in the early part of 1968, producer Manoel Barenbein became extremely curious when he saw Rita walk into the studio holding a can of bug spray (the popular «Flit» brand) and place it among the band’s instruments. Craziness? No, just simply brilliant: The idea was to substitute it for the hi-hat cymbals on the recording of Le premier bonheur du jour. As unthinkable as it may seen, it worked very well. This was just the first in a series of strange inventions that the band developed in the studio amid giggles and big guffaws.» (From the extensive notes by Carlos Calado in the 20-page booklet)

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Harmonia Ensemble & Kočani Orkestar - Ulixes (2002)

A seemingly unlikely, but highly successful collaboration among Italian experimental cameristic group Harmonia Ensemble and Macedonian gypsy brass band Kočani Orkestar. Project and production by Giampiero Bigazzi. Inspired by ten poems by Roberto Beccastrini about Ulixes. Preface by Umberto Galimberti. Italian and English texts. More on this project here. Highly recommended.

«But what is ethical about Ulixes, hero of lies, cunning and uninterrupted wandering? Actually, there is a lot, in fact perhaps the only hint of ethics feasible in our times…» (From the liner notes)

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Pentangle - Live at the BBC 1969-72 (1995)

One of the finest bands from the late 60s “English folk revival” scene in a series of mostly good quality recordings from the BBC archives. A must have for all Pentangle enthusiasts.

«Pentangle were unique in adapting traditional folk material, blues and their own bluesy, folky songs to the jazz rhythms driven by [Danny] Thompson’s upright acoustic bass and [Terry] Cox’s laid-back drumming. The restraint of this rhythm section allowed the acoustic guitar playing of [Bert] Jansch and [John] Renbourn, whose styles were generally unsuited to electric instruments (though Renbourn sometimes used low-amplified, hollow-bodied electric guitar) plenty of space to interweave complex threads of melody behind and between [Jacqui] McShee’s and Jansch’s vocals. McShee’s ability to use her strong and steady voice as a fifth instrument, particularly behind Jansch’s vocals, added further depth to the band’s sound.» (From the liner notes to Live at the BBC)

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Radu in Prague, 1990

Rale - Rale (1994)

My favourite Rale album (and, probably, my favourite Czech album too).

«Rale arose in East Europe in the 1990s as the rockiest avatar of the legendary grou
p Dunaj. Bringing together musicians from folk, world, rock, improvised, and experimental music backgrounds, its music retains the delicate appeal of folk acoustic guitars, the complexity of avant-prog, and that distinctive touch of Czech rock.

Formed in 1993, Rale came to life through a chance meeting at that year’s MIMI Music Festival in Marseille, France. Dunaj guitarists Vladimir Vaclavek and Josef Ostransky befriended violinist Takumi Fukushima (who, among other things, collaborated with Volapuk on their third CD Polyglot) and French-Vietnamese singer and dancer Cynthia Phung-Ngoc. The four of them sat down to write material for a first album. Their various influences were cemented in East-European tradition, giving the band a sound somewhere at the crossroads of Dunaj, Iva Bittova (with whom Vaclavek recorded Bile Inferno), and Pavel Fajt’s Pluto. Lyrics were written and sung in English, French, Spanish, Vietnamese, Czech, and Japanese. Phung-Ngoc’s voice on record and presence on stage quickly gained the group a cult following in Europe. An eponymous album was released in 1994 on Wolf Records. The group was then expanded to a quintet with the arrival of cellist Andrea Konstankiewicz who emphasized Rale’s bite.» (AMG)

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Sunforest - Sound of Sunforest (1969)

Sunforest were a sort of poppier, all-female American (albeit Uk-based) version of The Incredible String Band (albeit not so weird). Their lone 1969 album is a good period piece, full of warm and gentle beatlesque psycho-pop tunes, tinged with slight Renaissance reminiscences.

«Terry Tucker went to London with two girlfriends, Erika Eigen & Freya Houge, to become pop singers and were discovered almost right away in a working class cafe drinking tea. A man came in a fur coat from Decca Records, wanted to hear their songs and they went to the studio that night and recorded a demo. Two weeks later they wanted to record an album and he became their manager. They were his American girls. They recorded their one and only album Sound of Sunforest in 1969. Kubrick wanted them to record Overture for the Sun [and Lighthouse Keeper] for the soundtrack [to A Clockwork Orange]. It got recorded again, Terry wrote some changes in the arrangement for the film. […] Overture is instrumental, like a little renaissance piece. Terry wrote and arranged it, played harpsichord on it. Lighthouse Keeper is a song that Erica wrote and Terry sang backup on it and played the piano. Terry stayed in England about 12 years and came home to the US after the band broke up.» (MalcolmMcDowell.net)

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Kepa Junkera, Riccardo Tesi, John Kirkpatrick - Trans-Europe Diatonique (1993)

Historic trio created by Basque musician Kepa Junkera featuring three European masters of diatonic accordion.

"Kepa Junkera was born in Bilbao (located in the Basque region of Spain) in 1965. His first musical dream was realized when the band Oskorri became interested in a boy who played the trikitixa (Basque diatonic accordion) with such extraordinary skill. From 1983 onward they have shared an uninterrupted musical friendship and Junkera has played on all Oskorri albums as well as been a guest performer on several of their tours and concerts. A composer as well as a performer, Junkera’s first original pieces were recorded in 1988 on the album Kepa, Zabaleta eta Mutriku. His two subsequent albums, 1990’s Triki Up and 1991’s Triki Zoom, are outstanding examples of a blend between jazz and trikitixa dance music. In 1992 Junkera’s European experiences were reflected in Trans-Europe Diatonic, a special diatonic accordion trio project with John Kirkpatrick and Riccardo Tesi. The album, recorded in Belgium and followed by a long European tour, was the genesis of many international friendships Junkera has continued to nurture. […] Junkera’s music is a fascinating blend of tradition and contemporary elements. The harmony, mix of rhythms, melodies, and use of language are all things that make this self-taught young musician one of the most important exponents of the trikitixa, the most international of Basque instruments, as well as one of the most vibrant musicians on the world music scene today. "(World Music Central)

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Kolinda - Kolinda I (1976)

Debut album by Kolinda, stunning ethno-jazz ensemble from Hungary (and a personal favourite of mine), produced by Hughes De Courson of the French folk group Malicorne.

«“They’re one of the most interesting European groups that I’ve heard, says Gary Cristall, organizer of the Vancouver Folkfestival, but they do it in a different way. Even though they were doing traditional stuff, it had a different edge to it. They’ve never been looked on very favourably in Hungary. They were always a little too far outside.”
Kolinda’s reputation for being outside comes from the way they mix elements of Hungarian and Balkan folksongs with a large amount of jazz, a bit of classical, and even a few notes of rock. Their music manages to melt the passion and urgency of gypsy music with the cerebral with of cool jazz, an exciting combination that makes them one of the most successful hybrids of folk and contemporary music around today. Kolinda first formed in 1974, and in the next four years they released three albums on the French Hexagone label. But in 1978 the group disbanded and the members went on to other projects. In 1984, the group got together for a reunion tour. They’ve been playing together ever since, and have recorded other fine albums.
» (From the net)

The original line-up of the band was: Ferenc Kiss (violin), Péter Dabasi (tamboura, guitar, gadulka, vocals), Ágnes Zsigmondi (vocals, flute), Iván Lantos (vocals, bass, percussion, flute, bagpipes), András Széll (vocals, violin), Dóra Kovács (vocals, violin, flute).

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Cisco, Utah

Calexico - Road Map (1999)

A brief but wonderful document of this formidably eclectic band from Tucson, Arizona, the Road Map album was a limited recording released in 1999 for sale only at Calexico’s live shows. I love Calexico’s music particularly because, like the desert landscapes that so vividly evokes, it crosses all the borders it finds on its way, speaking directly to the heart, or «the glowing heart of the world», to quote the title of one of the truly inspired instrumentals and improvisations that make up this album. An essential listen - courtesy of my friend Noel, with whom I shared the pleasure to listen to this music while driving across the Utah and Arizona deserts.

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Nour-Eddine - Zri-Zrat (1997)

Musicista, cantante e coreografo dalle antiche origini berbere, Nour-Eddine ha guidato vari gruppi musicali di musica etnica e Gnawa, fra cui Azahara, Desert Sound e Jajouka, con i quali ha tenuto concerti sia in Italia, sia all’estero. Ha all’attivo numerose collaborazioni (con Tony Esposito e Trancendental, per citarne solo due) e partecipazioni a colonne sonore. Nel 1997 ha fondato il gruppo Nour-Eddine, progetto culturale e musicale del deserto, con cui ha vinto il festival folk di Vejano. Dopo questo commosso omaggio alle tradizioni e alle musiche di Zri-Zrat, il suo villaggio d’origine, Nour-Eddine ha pubblicato il cd Gnawa & Jahjuka Trance, dedicato alla ricca e affascinante tradizione tribale e rituale Gnâwa e Jahjûka, di ascendenza sufi. Con il lavoro successivo, Coexist, Nour-Eddine ha allargato ulteriormente i propri orizzonti sonori, aprendosi ancor più che in passato alle moderne sonorità della musica occidentale.

«Zri-Zrat è un villaggio di Berberi arroccato tra le montagne, dove la gente festeggia il raccolto con canti e danze. È un luogo di culto, dove gli uomini pregano e cercano la saggezza. È il paese di mio nonno, Maâlam Ahmed, capace di guarire gli ammalati col suono del suo ghaîta. È un tesoro custodito nello scrigno della memoria, il luogo incantato della mia fanciullezza.» (Nour-Eddine)

«Dai rituali di trance all’espressione di una nostalgia che è sentimento universale, dalla celebrazione del viaggio del profeta al gnawa, blues del deserto in cui si incontrano le culture araba, berbera e africana... La strada percorsa da Nour-Eddine ci coinvolge in profondità, intensa e magica. Zri-Zrat, un cd vero e vivo dalla prima nota all’ultima.» (Re Nudo)

This beautiful album by Moroccan multi-instrumentalist, singer and choreographer Nour-Eddine is his personal, deeply felt tribute to his home village, Zri-Zrat. Music and lyrics are mostly by Nour-Eddine himself and are inspired by Berber, Rif and Andalusian traditions.

«Zri-Zrat is a Berber village lodged in the mountains, where the inhabitants celebrate the harvest with songs and dances. It is a place of worship, where men pray and search for wisdom. It is the village of my grandfather, Maâlam Ahmed, capable of healing the sick with the sound of his ghaîta. It is a treasure kept in the safe of my memory, the enchanted place of my childhood.» (Nour-Eddine)

«The songs are mostly ritually inspired, and the astute use of reverb not only fills out the sound but creates a haunted air just right for the remote setting being evoked.» (Folk Roots)

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I'll be back in a couple of days...



"Hi, Radu!

As promised, I'm sending you links to 192kbps rips of Ossian albums. [Ossian were quite simply the most innovative and influential group to emerge from the folk scene in Scotland in the 1970's.]
I've scanned front & back covers and they are uploaded separately.
I've double-checked all links, they're working all right!
Thank you again for wonderful music you posted so far and I hope I've helped you just a little bit with these links.

Best regards,

Hi, Dizzy!
Many thanx for sharing these very hard to find albums. You are of great help!

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Sandy Denny - The BBC Sessions 1971-73 (1997)

Maddy Prior, Jacqui McShee, and June Tabor all give her a run for her money, but the late Sandy Denny remains the pre-eminent British folk-rock singer. In addition to recording several albums of her own, Denny was an integral force behind the best work of the most respected British folk-rock band of all, Fairport Convention, and also contributed mightily to recordings by the Strawbs and Fotheringay. It’s impossible for words to fully evoke the haunting, spectral presence of her powerful and penetrating alto voice, which seemed to bring the mythology of English moors and folktales to life in contemporary, 20th century settings. […]

This 20-track CD was available only super-briefly in the spring of 1997 before Island Records prevented further copies from being distributed. The several thousand copies that had already been released, however, were allowed to remain in circulation, meaning that this disc is difficult but not impossible to find. And if you like Sandy Denny, you need to find it, because it’s some of her best material. Most of the tracks are BBC versions of songs that appeared on her first three solo albums, and most are her own compositions; all but four are performed solo on piano or guitar. In a sense, it’s Sandy unplugged, although that term didn’t exist in those days. Denny arguably sounds much better on these spare versions than she does on the official takes, when she had to contend with often humdrum, over-arranged session accompaniment. In this context, she comes off much more like a kindred spirit to early-’70s singer/songwriters, especially Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins, than she does a British folk troubadour. You could, indeed, make a strong argument for this as her best solo recording, with fidelity that ranges from good to excellent. While eight of these tracks previously appeared on the fine bootleg Dark the Night, the remaining 12 did not, making it an essential addition for Denny fans. (AMG)

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Toumani Diabate, Ketama & Danny Thompson - Songhai (1988)

One of the most interesting multicultural fusions of the 1980s was created by Mali-born kora (21-stringed lute) player Toumani Diabate, British bass player Danny Thompson, and members of Spanish flamenco group Katemah. Initially intending to record a one-time album in 1988, the group reformed to record a second album, Songhai 2, six years later. At the time of the first recording sessions, Diabate, the son of influential kora player Sidike Diabate, had begun to attract international attention with his solo album, Kaira. Released the previous year, the album remains one of the best-selling recordings of solo kora playing. Ketama was also beginning to gather steam. Consisting of two brothers – Antonio and Juan Miguel Carmona and a cousin, Juan Carmona, the group had released its self-titled debut album in 1985. A founding member of British folk-rock group, Pentangle, Thompson is one of England’s busiest sidemen, appearing on a lengthy list of albums by such top-notch artists as Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, and Tom Paxton. (AMG)

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Postcards from Italy (9) - Cisternino, Apulia

Mascarimirì - Festa (2004)

One of the most intriguing bands to emerge in Southern Italy in the past decade, Mascarimirì merge successfully the traditional music (pizzica) of their native area, Salento (the southernmost part of Apulia), with modern influences (raggamuffin, dub, techno and a slice of psychedelia - listen, for example, to the astounding distorted mandolin solo in Pizzica Dub). The musicians themselves like to define their music as "trad-innovative", and with good reason. This album contains first class, truly exciting party music. A must listen. R.

Con Mascarimirì, la tradizionale pizzica cambia volto, manifestando una naturale inclinazione ai tempi e timbri della musica contemporanea. Raggamaffin, dub, techno si accostano inevitabilmente alla vecchia musica tradizionale per conferirle energia e vitalità inaugurando così un percorso musicale nuovo, che dagli stessi Mascarimìrì viene definito “Trad-innovazione”. La loro caratteristica è appunto quella di partire dalla radice salentina per spaziare nelle sonorità del mondo. La pizzica lascia il posto a ritmi intensi, echi d’Africa e delle terre arabe, per poi tornare con i suoi giri per far danzare i corpi stessi dei musicanti; la mano sul tamburo è la stessa che muove il suono della ciaramella, ipnotico strumento mediterraneo che si sovrappone alla tessitura sonora del basso elettrico e della batteria. (Musica90.net)

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Ginkobiloba - Mamacita (2002)

Wonderful second (and, sadly, last) album by the Montellier-based Gingobiloba, amazing latin-world ensemble led by the charismatic composer /singer / guitarist Marianne Cambournac (singing lyrics in Spanish, English and French). For a French review of this album click here. For the fisrt album and more infos (in Italian and French) on Ginkobiloba and M. C., check the Pachamama post here on Babe(b)logue.

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Stormy Six - Un Biglietto del Tram (1975)

"Sul finire del 1974, […] per garantire l'autonomia dei musicisti impegnati politicamente dall'invadenza propagandistica di partiti e partitini, e per tutelarli sotto il profilo economico e sindacale, nasce, a Milano, l'Orchestra, la prima cooperativa musicale italiana. La presiede [Franco] Fabbri [membro fondatore degli Stormy Six], e tutti gli Stormy Six vi partecipano. Pochi mesi dopo, quando già l'Orchestra ha dimostrato la sua efficacia come agenzia di spettacoli, si presenta l'occasione di trasformarla anche in casa discografica. L'Ariston, casa discografica degli Stormy Six, si dice disposta a cedere il proprio diritto esclusivo sul gruppo, in cambio della distribuzione commerciale dei dischi eventualmente prodotti dalla cooperativa. Nel giro di poche settimane, nella primavera del 1975, nasce il primo disco «indipendente» degli Stormy Six (uno dei primissimi, comunque, per un gruppo italiano): Un biglietto del tram. È un grande successo: distribuito porta a porta, nelle manifestazioni, ma anche nei negozi […] finisce per vendere quasi trentamila copie […] e Stalingrado diventa un inno di piazza.
Un biglietto del tram
è un disco molto particolare. Il contenuto è politico (le canzoni rievocano episodi della Resistenza) e il suono è rigorosamente acustico, ma nelle musiche e nei testi – tutte e tutti di ottimo livello – si coglie l'atmosfera del progressive rock inglese (Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Procol Harum), filtrato attraverso un rigore musicale che depura gli elementi blues a favore di una scrittura cameristica di sapore continentale, mitteleuropeo. È un lavoro autenticamente collettivo: Fiori e Leddi si aggiungono come compositori, il suono del violino di De Martini plasma l'impasto globale, tutto il gruppo collabora agli arrangiamenti." (francofabbri.net: cliccate qui per la storia completa e altre informazioni sul gruppo.)

RIO Poster (source: francofabbri.net)

Rock In Opposition

The Red Flag, that notorious battle hymn once acidly labelled a «dirge» by George Bernard Shaw, was inspired by a London dock strike and penned by fellow Irishman Jim Connell, self-styled «sheep farmer, dock labourer, navvy, railwayman, draper, lawyer (of a sort) and all-time poacher» (sic). For students of railway timetables, he claimed to have written the song during a 15-minute train journey between Charing Cross and New Cross in 1889. So now you know.
Bandiera Rossa
is the far more rousing Italian equivalent of The Red Flag, and it says a great deal for the wit, humanity and sheer musical presence of the Italian band Stormy Six – who ended the Rock In Opposition concert last Sunday at the New London Theatre – that they could include this and all kinds of similar references in their set without turning the whole shebang into a heavy political rally. After all, the main purpose of the event was to celebrate musical revolution in the shape of five European bands – Henry Cow from England, Etron Fou Leloublan from France, Univers Zero from Belgium, Samla Mammas Manna from Sweden and Stormy Six – though politics, of course, has a way of creeping in simply by logical implication.
Stormy Six emerged the «stars» of the evening – with pretty hefty honourable mentions going to Etron Fou and the Cow – by dint of their spectacular, fantastically enjoyable musicianship, not to mention a wicked talent for endless parody that would leave the Tubes gasping at the first post. […] Stormy Six began life as a folk band, and can switch from jazz-rock blows to lurching Kurt Weill rhythms with ridiculous ease. One of Europe's major bands, unquestionably. [...] (Maureen Paton for Melody Maker, 18/03/78. Full review on francofabbri.net, where you will find
also the complete story of the band, their full discography, pictures, etc.)

Please, support artists like Stormy Six and many others posted on this blog searching for their vinyl or cd releases, and buying them if it should turn out that they’re (still or again) available.

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Uyanga - Uyanga 1 (1998)

Nel corso della loro intensa carriera, gli Uyanga (poi divenuti Borte), di base in Germania ma formati da musicisti tutti diplomati al conservatorio di Ulaan Bataar, capitale della Mongolia, presentarono al pubblico europeo la musica mongola tradizionale e i suoi strumenti d’elezione, in gran parte sconosciuti in Occidente. Tra questi, il morin khuur, uno strumento dal suono simile al violino con il collo a forma di testa di cavallo (morin = cavallo) e corde e archetto fatti dei suoi crini. O il tobschuur (un tipo di liuto) e lo yatga (un’arpa ricurva con corde di budello). Ancor più sorprendente è la tecnica del canto gutturale tradizionale (il khoomi), tramandata per secoli, che permette di produrre un’impressionante gamma di toni (anche più d’uno contemporaneamente). La musica mongola, basata su una scala pentatonica, evoca in maniera formidabile i paesaggi lunari della Mongolia. Se il genio di Morricone ha saputo rendere alla perfezione l’atmosfera del Far West, la musica degli Uyanga vi farà cavalcare a perdifiato tra le aspre montagne, le steppe desertiche e le sconfinate pianure di questo affascinante angolo di mondo del Far East. A voi le briglie! R.

Brief notes on Mongolian music:
The Mongolian songs have a rich repertory. Music spread from home to home on the occasion of festivities and by way of teaching. The family or the clan meeting constituted a good chance to gather and sing together, the chance to learn from others, and to take home a new melody. In this way, the ancient patterns performed in various corners of Mongolia have been preserved by local masters for the whole nation. Some specific types are: labor songs (work songs); buuvay songs (lullaby); hunter's calls [to attract animals by imitating their call); various herder's calls, [to manage the herds by means of signalling (each animal has its own signal)]; uukhay or gulyingoon songs which are linked to seasonal events (arrival of spring, mare milk flows, horse race training, etc.); many other songs announcing birthdays, weddings, national holidays, winning a horse race or a wrestling competition, celebration of the elders, wool cutting, cashmere combing, arrival of harvest and many more songs for singing and dancing together. The nomad shepherds in Mongolia, like other nomads from Central Asia, used to play string and wind instruments. The national music of Mongolia has had a rich background and a great tradition that goes back many centuries. Ensembles (orchesters) have performed at court or in the monasteries for lamaistic celebrations or in ritual ceremonies. Ensembles also play for daily rites in the ger (round tents). The morin khuur (horse-head violin or 'fiddle') (morin = horse; khuur = sound, rhyme, melody) is the most important traditional instrument for dance and to accompany songs. It is the national instrument. […] The body and the neck are carved from wood. The end of the neck has the form of a horse-head and the sound is similar to that of a violin or a cello. The [two] strings are made of dried deer or mountain sheep sinews. It is played with a bow made of willow, stringed with horsetail hair and coated with larch or cedar wood resin. […] The yatga is a half-tube zither with a movable bridge. It is constructed as a box with a convex surface and an end bent towards the ground. The strings are plucked and the sound is very smooth. The instrument was considered to be sacrosanct and playing it was a rite, bound to taboos. The instrument was mainly used at court and in monasteries, since strings symbolised the twelve levels of the palace hierarchy. (Face-Music; click for more infos)

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