Monday, 21 August 2017

Gregg Allman - Southern Blood, album review

Legend's Leaving

The Greg Allman/Scott Sharrad co-written opener My Only True Friend could be the self-epitaph for this posthumous album, these lines appearing to comment on Allman’s impending passing [he was diagnosed with liver cancer],

You and I both know / This river will surely flow to an end / Keep me in your heart / Keep your soul on the mend / I hope you're haunted by the music of my soul / When I'm gone, please don't fly away / And find you a new love / I can't face living this life alone / I can't bear to think that this might be the end

Sharrad has recently explained that for him the lyric was an imagined dialogue from Duane to Greg – Duane the brother who died in 1971 – but the message still resonates, obviously and naturally, as a confessional lament.

The rest of the songs on the album are covers, Greg Allman too ill to write new music for the planned album, and Dylan’s Going Going Gone provides another lyrical self-reflection, and we can conclude a knowing one as Allman selected, along with others, songs that would provide a mirror to a life fully lived,

I been walkin' the road
I been livin' on the edge
Now, I've just got to go
Before I get to the ledge
So I'm going
I'm just going
I'm gone

This song gets a brilliant musical rendition, the dobro and the backing vocals and the horns and the slide guitar and the pedal steel and more all exquisite in its southern orchestration.

There are other truly beautiful covers, of Jeff Buckley’s Once I Was, and of his good friend Jackson Browne’s Song for Adam with JB as guest vocal. This song closes the album so sweetly.

It’s not all maudlin. The blues of Willie Dixon’s I Love the Life I Live is punched out with some stonking sax and Allman able to sing the words with his own genuine conviction. Johnny Johnson’s Blind Bats and Swamp Rats is full of sass.

There is a fine cover of Penn and Oldham’s Out of Left Field where the supporting vocal of Buddy Miller is clearly heard, vocals added across the album after Allman’s death along with other additions from fellow artists to fill the gaps which had been left. Another superb song covered is Lowell George’s Willin’, chosen apparently by the album’s produce Don Was, where the lyric

I’m willin’ to keep movin’

becomes, after Allman’s death, the perfect metaphor for his music’s continued journey reflecting a legendary life.

Into the Distance Music 57

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Taylor Haskins - Gnosis, album review

Horn Fanfare

Jan and Dean trumpet bursts meet electronic noise on a cinema screen swirling with the backdrop of outer space. Sudden highly pitched synth sounds dart across this landscape like morse code messages returning from decade’s old send offs, now with alien enhancements. And that’s just the two opening tracks Hazy Days and The View from Here.

But it isn’t weird. There’s the jazz fusion of Nir Felder’s guitar defining itself clearly in the mix on the second track; in title song Gnosis, a philosophising Jiddu Krishnamurti is sampled at the start and within, the trumpet, flute [Jamie Baum] and synth sounds placidly cool in their empathetic thinking to present Haskins’ musical knowledge in a remarkably practical way: playing it.

The mix of synthesised/programmed sounds and the conventional is brilliant throughout, and as tracks segue into one another the shifts across and within make for a seamless but lively journey. Equal Night and Circle Theory are a dynamic pairing, the former with Henry Hey’s Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos dancing with Haskins’ analog EVI and programming in such a tonally rich pitch – scorching too at four minutes in – and yet there’s a soothing overall wash; the latter merged into its horn ripples and synth spurts over a funky rhythm. Although there are noisy peaks [which are far-out] it is essentially a beautiful coupling.

Lost Worlds has Joshua Roseman contributing trombone that is an echo of a growl to start beneath the synth and piano, Daniel Freedman’s percussion laying Asian rhythms, and Haskins’ trumpet seemingly looped; Artificial Scarcity has the horn further effected.

The penultimate track Plucky has ethnic-rhythmic contributions from Daniel Freedman again, and harpist Brandee Younger provides an instrument not only pretty in its cascading sounds but supplies a source of the song-title’s punning. Closer alt_x is a punchy rhythmic bed above which the horn and synth reverb and echo in blasts of great volume until settling down to some fine keys to let the bass [Todd Sickafoose] and percussion have a moment, slowly, then rising to greet the horn peels again and Hey’s keyboards. Nice one. Very nice album.

Food Music 9

Saturday, 19 August 2017

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Sketches of Brunswick East, album aside

Eclectic Easy Listening

This is wonderfully catchy and tuneful and oddball: elevator music meets Incredible String Band meets fairground music meets lounge music meets city street sirens meets spoken asides meets birdsong meets commercial jingles and some nice bass lines as well as flute playing.

All prettily sung too.

I haven’t really listened to the lyrics yet, mesmerised/soothed as I have been by the brightness of the musical ambience, like passing a summer tea-party tent wherein a local band is entertaining a room full of the moderately elderly tripping on mild doses of good acid.

Streamed here.