Monday, September 12, 2011

This is the kind of release which sends a hopeless soul such as myself into a tailspin of desperate activity. Within 30 seconds of witnessing this on a friend's computer screen, I was typing in my Paypal password and ordering it online. Sometimes you just gotta do what ya gotta do. For one, this is the type of release which will likely be deleted by the next time you eat a hot meal; and two, it compiles two excellent Pharoah Sanders titles on Impulse! from the early '70s, 1972's Wisdom Through Music and 1974's Village Of The Pharoahs. Both were only ever in print in CD form years ago in Japan, and buying a copy of one of those is about as expensive as getting an original vinyl edition (and finding a good-condition copy of one of those is next to impossible. Didn't you '70s avant-jazz "heads" take care of your audio wares??). I've raved about Pharoah many times before: his 1965 - 1974 output is about as good as it gets. For me, it's up there w/ Miles' run of goods from 1969 - 1975: perhaps the greatest single successive recording achievement in a brief time period ever laid to tape. You got that? Like Miles, Pharoah's recordings from this period are both much the same yet utterly unique in their own way. You won't mistake Tauhid for Black Unity, but you'll know they both come from the same mind. Village Of The Pharoahs features a big lineup, even latter-day fusion idiot Stanley Clarke within its ranks. It delves heavily into the spiritual/exotic jazz vibes he'd been riding on for the previous 5 years. It comprises a monolith of percussion, chants and a vaguely Eastern aura. The three-part title track is a monster. Pharoah screeches and huffs his horn, but there's a serenity at work, and it's this contrast that really makes Pharoah's work from this period gel. He never gets too New Age or mushy, and nor does he indulge in endless honkin'. There's 7 tracks in total here, and all of 'em are good. Wisdom Through Music sees Pharoah going for a more Afro/jazz sound, the opener, "High Life" being a giveaway for his inspirations. Next is "Love Is Everywhere", which sounds like an old gospel track (complete w/ vocals) intermingled w/ '70s avant-jazz, and the title track and the proceeding "The Golden Lamp" are probably more in the "world music" vein than what you (or I) would probably call "jazz". And that's a good thing. In essence, this is deeply spiritual psychedelia, as good as it gets, and not only would I recommend it to any Pharoah fan, but those w/ a weakness for the similar output by the likes of The Necks, Don Cherry, '70s Miles and Can's primo discs. The bomb. Don't miss it.
This is the best compilation of '70s British folk I've come across... ever! It's not like I've been looking too hard all these years, but I'm mighty glad this one recently fell into my lap. It's released on the excellent UK label, Honest Jon's and compiles a "best of" from the vaults of the '70s folk label, Leader Records, an imprint set up by '60s folk-scene everyman, Bill Leader. So the story goes, by the dawn of the '70s, the Brit folk scene wasn't what it had once been. Popular lore says that it dried up in the '70s, as its main stars of the 1960s folk revival drifted off into two distinct camps, the rock and psychedelia of Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, Jan Dukes de Grey, Comus, Steeleye Span, etc., and the singer-songwriters, such as Nick Drake, John Martyn, Sandy Denny, and Richard Thompson. The more simple, unabashed folk music style of the early '60s, unadorned by the trappings of the rock market, apparently banished. Phooey to that: like the liner notes say, they just went underground. Leader set up his label to release the music of this microscene, and I'm glad he made the effort. If this compilation is anything to go by, there's gold in them thar hills. There's tracks by Lal Waterson of the famous Waterson folk family, and a whole load of stuff I have never heard of. Some tracks are a capella, most are only embellished with a simple acoustic guitar. My favourite is Nic Jones' rendition of the old English folk number, "Annan Water". Its beautiful sense of Englishness, all grey skeys and green hills (and other depressing English crap), is sublime, and similar numbers by the likes of Tony Rose, Aly Bain and Alistair Anderson possess a sparse and authentic feel that has this whiffing of a certain purism I can get my head around. I was a big sucker for this stuff back in the '90s, and it's a pleasant surprise for a release to reignite my interest in it once more. It's not the feel-good hit of the forthcoming summer, but the strength of the songs and their delivery make this one work. Never The Same sounds like rock & roll, and perhaps the last 200 years, never existed, and sometimes I can say that's a good thing.

No comments: