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Monday, December 2, 2013


 
Live At The BBC (Apple, 1994, 2013)
On Air - Live At the BBC, Vol. 2 (Apple, 2013) 
BEATLES

Los detractores de los Beatles, una minoría, generalmente debaten con los admiradores de éstos sobre la calidad del grupo como banda de rock en vivo y llegan a la conclusión, errónea, de que los Beatles eran malos porque sonaban mal en sus conciertos y todo lo que hicieron fueron "maravillas de estudio" bajo la dirección de George Martin. Incluso llegan a creer que gente como Bernard Purdie grabó las pistas de batería de Ringo y eso les dio el sonido clave.

Les podemos dar el beneficio de la duda si consideramos dos factores: uno, el hecho que en sus conciertos ellos no se podían oir el uno al otro debido a los gritos de las chicas y el otro el hecho que después del concierto en el Candlestick Park en San Francisco en agosto de 1966, no volvieron a tocar en vivo en un escenario (con excepción del concierto en la azotea de las oficinas de Apple). ¿Dónde se había visto hasta ese entonces que una banda no salga de gira con la excusa de que lo que hacían en estudio era irreproducible en el escenario? Los detractores tienen dos buenos motivos para no gustar de los Beatles. Bien por ellos, así no compran sus discos y hay más para nosotros.


"If I Fell", 14 de Julio de 1964:  

Pero entre 1961 y 1962, antes de la Beatlemanía, ellos tocaban en Hamburgo y en la Caverna de Liverpool, y sonaban muy bien, para ser una banda de rock joven. Los Beatles se hicieron leyenda por su sonido en Hamburgo; no en América como lo afirmó Lennon, que quizás estaría hablando por hablar. Los Beatles salieron desde Liverpool como los Silver Beatles hacia el norte de Alemania sonando terrible, y fue allá en los strip-clubs y bares de mala muerte de la Reeperbahn, tocando sin parar noche tras noche y sobreviviendo a base de pastillas estimulantes y alcohol, donde crearon la música más interesante del siglo XX. Por tanto, los Beatles fueron una excelente banda en vivo; sólo que para 1966 ya estaban hartos de las giras aeropuerto-limosina-hotel-conferencia-concierto-aeropuerto, con momentos de clímax definidos como shows de 30 minutos con el sistema de sonido del propio local (es decir, megáfonos de pobrísima calidad). Todo esto en medio de chillidos e histeria colectiva; con la honorable excepción del Japón ,en donde la gente se callaba para oirlos. El "ser" Beatles les había pasado la cuenta. Ya no querían serlo. Querían ser cualquier cosa, inclusive la banda de un tal Sargento Pepper.

Los Beatles no llegaron a lanzar maravillas como Pepper y Abbey Road de la nada, sin haber pagado un derecho de piso artístico y físico. Prueba de ello es la colección autorizada de grabaciones que realizaron entre 1962 y 1965 para la BBC de Londres: Live At the BBC y On Air. Para los audiófilos que esperaban una calidad magistral de sonido, la colección puede ser una decepción: la BBC no utilizaba en esa época técnicas de grabación de primer nivel y la mayoría de canciones no están a la par del sonido logrado en sus singles o LPs de estudio. Pero eso no importa; más bien, se olvida al escuchar la áspera voz de Lennon cantando "Memphis, Tennessee" de Chuck Berry o a McCartney gritando "Oh, My Soul!" de Little Richard. Rockeros pagando tributo a sus ídolos desde el otro lado del Atlántico, en una emisora pública inglesa. Ahora sí podemos decir: ¡Qué tiempos aquellos!

Pero BBC nos pone a pensar mucho, muchísimo, sobre el potencial que esta banda tuvo para seguir continuando tocando en vivo. A la más grande banda de rock se le daban espacios radiales para tocar sus temas, ofrecer entrevistas, mandar saludos a sus fanáticos... estaban pasando por un buen momento emocional. Tenían un excelente manager, Brian Epstein, el cual se preocupaba de que ellos reciban lo mejor en sus giras para poder dar lo mejor, y hacia finales de 1964 habían conquistado EE.UU. con LPs y singles todos bien ubicados en los Top 10. ¿Se pudo haber detenido el desgaste de la banda? ¿Se pudo haber evitado el supuesto "sabotaje" de John Lennon a las canciones del grupo, tal como lo confesó en 1980? Pregunto esto porque en estos 4 CDs no hay un ápice de descontento, una señal de desasosiego. John, Paul, George y Ringo están tocando con fuerza, con su sonido monaural característico, con la pasión que los hizo el grupo esencial del rock and roll. El "si hubiera" ronda por las pistas de este disco: "si hubieran sacado 'Clarabella'... si hubieran lanzado 'I'll Be On My Way' o 'I Just Don't Understand' como single...". Pero sabemos que dicha preposición con infinitivo es inútil. Lo que se obtuvo es lo que es: los Beatles descubriendo su sonido en vivo ante el mundo, a través de las ondas de radio, y eso en verdad era un descubrimiento tan grande y excitante como el de Colón, la penicilina o el clítoris.

Los 2 CD's lanzados en 1994 como Live At the BBC incluyen los mejores y más nítidos momentos de la gran cantidad de programas que los Beatles grabaron para la BBC. Lamentablemente no hay "Twist And Shout", pero sí hay "Things We Said Today", de Paul, "Roll Over Beethoven" de George,  "Matchbox" de Ringo y "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" de John.

El 2013 Apple nos da un segundo volumen llamado On Air además de una versión con mejor sonido de la colección del 94. Esta vez los sabuesos de Apple hicieron su trabajo buscando las mejores fuentes disponibles de aquellas grabaciones legendarias. Hay más sorpresas como una versión amena de "Words of Love", una potente "Chains" y, claro, la obligatoria "Twist and Shout". Para apalancar mayor ventas, remasterizan la colección del 94 y hacen ligeras modificaciones para los completistas. Suena mejor, definitivamente y no hay quejas por nuestra parte, pero nos hace decir que la teta beatle aún está grande y ordeñable.

Otras verdaderas maravillas, como el cover de Roy Orbison "Dream Baby", se consiguen en las grabaciones piratas de la BBC que abundan en el mercado negro (sigan la pista a "Great Dane" o a "Purple Chick"). La calidad de sonido es discutible, sobre todo con el debut de los Beatles en la cadena radial, en marzo del 62, antes de Ringo y de su contrato con la Parlophone... pero no importa, a buscar se ha dicho.

Las cintas no fueron conservadas muy bien en los archivos de la BBC y se nota que los ingenieros de la EMI tuvieron que hacer maravillas con éstas. Pero ésto no es el fin del mundo; es más, algo de encanto tendrá.


Tal como lo mencionamos hace algún tiempo al hablar de Anthology, Live At The BBC fue en 1994 la prueba de mercado, el "focus group" a los fans para ver si estaban dispuestos a comprar material inédito de los Beatles a 30 años, en aquel entonces, de la conquista de América. No sólo fue un gran lanzamiento, sino hasta ahora, el mejor producto post-desbande. Escucharlos en sus discos originales era una maravilla, en vivo era imposible, y a través de la amplitud modulada, una maravilla de nuevo.

Piero Dall'Orso escribió sobre todas las sesiones en este post de su blog. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wandering Spirit 
(Atlantic, 1993)
MICK JAGGER

On July 26, 1943, Mick was born. Eight decades later, he is still singing and writing songs for the greatest and oldest rock and roll band in the world. If you don't know which band I'm talking about, please close this window and leave your house for the first time in your life.

With or without the Stones, there's a fact: whenever I see Jagger's face on a magazine or TV, I think of Wandering Spirit; his most personal record to date, beautifully recorded by Rick Rubin celebrating Jagger's first half century. If you remove the name Mick Jagger out of the equation, It was also a cathartic and sensitive album about the blues of a lonely man. Nevertheless, what kind of blues a man like Mick Jagger could possibly have; a blues strong enough to record an album like this?

Mick Jagger is an icon by himself and with the Rolling Stones. He has the kind of life 99% of the occidental heterosexual male population want to have: wake up, exercise, travel, eat the finest food at the finest restaurants, sing your own songs and have the audience singing them with you, get paid for this job, meet presidents, kings, queens, artists and beautiful women -so many women you forget their names and don't care a bit about child support when a hot supermodel comes to you pregnant and says "it's your child I'm carrying".

OK, it's not 99% of heterosexual males; it's 99.99%.

Wandering Spirit tells us that, even when he's a super-cool guy, sometimes a man gets the feeling that he's alone and bored. But here's the thing, and the problem other Rolling Stones songs have: we don't care about Jagger's blues, we just want to live his life! Again, let's remove the money and fame Jagger has and we will find a great rock and roll record and, comparing it with the Stones records released since 1989, way superior to them.

For instance, there's "Put Me in The Trash," a rock and roll number about a former millionaire who's calling her ex-girlfriend for a loan. He bought her shoes, a Ferrari and tickets to the Opera. Now he's asking for some dough. What could have happened? He wasted his money on parties, alcohol, drugs and women. He realized he should have saved some money in the bank for leaner times.

The greatest moment comes when Lenny Kravitz and Red Hot Chili Pepper's Flea join Mick to pay tribute to Bill Withers with his "Use Me". Jagger also sings Lowman Pauling's "Think" as a tribute to James Brown, I suppose.

So the dues are paid here. The album closes with an Irish violin and Mick singing "Handsome Molly," leaving the listener with the feeling that the singer was alone from the very beginning and it will be the same at the end.

Jagger did something he never did before even with the Stones, releasing his album the same day as a Beatle released his (Paul McCartney's Off The Ground hit the streets on February 9th, 1993), breaking the old rule that kept Beatles and Stones separated with their respective parts of the music market. McCartney did not care, for sure. In 1993 CD sales were at the top of their game (remember, this was the year of Nirvana's In Utero and Pearl Jam's Vs.) and there were CD buyers with money in their pockets for all of them. Anyways, Paul and Mick are millionaires so even if their records did not sell more than 10 copies, they would not starve.

You can get this forgotten treasure used for less than 4 bucks on Amazon.com Z-shops; so for a small price you can prove that I am being honest. This was an outstanding record, comparable with Stones productions like Some Girls, Tattoo You and Emotional Rescue.


More Mick:
Goddess at The Doorway (Virgin, 2001): Rolling Stone Magazine rated this album as classical (5 stars). It's OK, but Wandering is better, way better.
Primitive Cool (Atlantic, 1987): Do people actually remember "Let's Work"? It was a great radio tune!
She's The Boss (Atlantic, 1985): A hard woman to please, Mick's debut was pretty decent.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Cloud Nine (Dark Horse, 1987)

If George only knew. Now that he passed away, like all things must do, everybody starts considering him as probably the most influential guitar player in popular music of the last 40 years. Before his death, he was the Quiet Beatle. However, almost every Beatles fan learned to play guitar after listening to him. From the simplest strumming ever of the acoustic guitar in “Love Me Do” to the great G suspended 4th opening chord in “A Hard Day’s Night”; from the melancholic “I Need You” to the dry and powerful chords of “Taxman”; and, last but definetly not least, from the Indian sitar and tabla sounds of “Within You Without you” (his masterpiece) to his eternal question for finding a real God in “My Sweet Lord”. Harrison grew artistically under the bigger, overwhelming shadow of the Beatles, a band bigger than the sum of its parts. He asked his Beatle friends to go with him to India for the trascendental meditation that could have saved the band from the inevitable split and, in the meantime, to find God, Vishnu or whatever its name was. He also asked Paul and John to help him with his solo projects. They declined.

It’s no coincidence that after the India trip, Harrison wrote his best songs with the Beatles, turning “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” from Abbey Road into instant beloved hits and perennial classics of rock and roll. More than God, he found out how to live in peace with himself and how to understand human nature. Later, he forgave his best friend Eric Clapton for writing a desperate love song to his wife Pattie "Layla" Boyd (ultimately stealing her from him), and of course, a man so complete like George found another woman in his life, the great Olivia Arias.


He also took a lot of patience for writing and recording Cloud Nine, the only album he recorded as a solo artist since 1982. Clapton plays the solo on “Devil’s Radio”, and they settle down their differences and play just like they did 19 years ago with “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”. Jeff Lynne, that selfish guy from the Electric Light Orchestra, produces the album and co-writes “Someplace Else”, which reminds us a little bit of the song “Free As A Bird” that he co-produced with Paul, Ringo and George for the Anthology 1 collection.

The title track was number one in Argentina, back in 1988, and the album was an international success with "Got My Mind Set On You," a catchy James Ray cover. George also remembered the good ol' Beatles Days on "When We Was Fab" and that would be the last time he would sing a song about his beloved friends.

On the album cover, George’s smiling and he’s wearing sunglasses. Of course he wasn’t thinking about death on that moment, but he was ready to face it and let go. His mind was in peace. Altought this album led Harrison to record two albums with the Travelling Wilburys (the supergroup with Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan), He didn’t release anything after as a solo artist until Brainwashed. May God bless him.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


 
Forty years is a reasonable long period of time to judge or rate a record: to check how good it behaved throughout the decades, if it has influenced other works -although I believe that's not so important, since it's always been about how much it influenced you-, and maybe to drill down some melody we may have been humming along all this time.

Records like Dark Side Of The Moon are for some collectors like for normal people is to have food in the table or to own a car. You have to have it or else your life is worthless. Every once in a while getting an additional copy is good for you. With four decades on its shoulders and so many cultural changes that have happened since 1973, the collective sub-conscious has kind of forgotten how astonishing and groundbreaking this production is.

Noble successor of concept albums such as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Tommy, The Dark Side Of The Moon was constructed using the same mold other Pink Floyd albums were made, such as Meddle and Atom Heart Mother. However, the Floyd picked a vast subject: life and death. The life and the artistic suicide of Pink Floyd's founder: the great Syd Barrett, of whom nobody knew if he was breathing or pulling daisies.

Darky
owes much from its success to the conditions it was recorded. London's Abbey Road was the studio, Alan Parsons the main engineer (who later complained of not making any royalties out of this album), and the four members of the band were the actual producers. They risked everything and they got what they deserved: The permanency of the album on Billboard's Top 200 albums from 1973 until 1988 (I personally bought the Peruvian cassette for the first time one year later).


Still today, it's one of the best selling compact discs on Amazon.com. It's a record each new generation has to discover, and it is for that reason that the album will never leave, just like the Beatles' or Mozart's music. 


In a sequence of nine (or ten) tracks, lyricist Roger Waters pens the story of a man (you or I) obsessing with time slowly pushing him toward his death. "Breathe" and "Time" are written almost in the same moderate beat. Between them, "On The Run", an intricate game of synthesizers, heartbeats and airport sounds where airplanes take off and crash. Richard Wright, the keyboard player, executes an instrumental called "Great Gig In the Sky", based on the ancient Egyptians' idea of the chariot that takes the dead to Paradise. Did I say ancient Egyptians? See the pyramids in the inner sleeve of the CD. See the pyramidal prism that decomposes the white light.

For the B side, Waters composes "Money", the best song written about the vile metal ever. There are references to Elton John buying a soccer team to Led Zeppelin buying an jet plane for themselves (Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner" probably wanted to follow that concept). "Money is the root of all evil today", sings David Gilmour, and we look back and we say... oh yeah. "Us And Them" is about the struggle of classes that helped creating part of Barrett's madness and a natural segue to "Money". "Any Colour You Like" is considered another reprise of "Breathe", and the idea of a quiet album about a screaming subject turns into reality in our ears. The album ends with "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse", two fascinating games of words about madness, love and relationships that made Roger Waters' wife cry when she listened to them for the first time. You might too if you get it.


Alan Parsons, chief engineer at Abbey Road Studios during the Darky sessions, talked during an interview in 1982 about how hard recording this album was. Pink Floyd wanted strange sounds to sound familiar to the listener. A cash register and a bag of currencies pulsing in 7/4 tempo, recorded on a tape that looped around the control room. Another room full with wall clocks hitting the hour, a beating heart that begins and finishes the symphony of life. It took them one year to finish the album, and when Pink Floyd left Abbey Road Studios, their brains couldn't function anymore. It was just like the Beatles after Pepper. The album drained all their creativity and their next project, something called Household Objects using sounds created without actual musical instruments, had to be dropped but some elements were found in their follow-up record which came out two years later: Another tribute to Syd called Wish You Were Here. For some, their real masterpiece.


Darky will always be available in Amazon.com.

More Floyd:
Ummagumma (Harvest, 1969): Still, the most spacey record of the sixties. Out of this Solar System.
Wish You Were Here (Columbia, 1975): A homage to guitar-vocalist-songwriter-leader of 1966 and 1967's Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett. Gilmour and Waters ask him to come back and join the band. But two guitars can't sound in the same amp, or can they?
Animals (Columbia, 1977): They got to be crazy. The ultimate conceptual album, the beginning of the end. In 2008 it became the unofficial anthem of the economy meltdown.
A Collection of Great Dance Songs (Columbia, 1981): In one record, the six most popular Pink Floyd songs. Adorable: "Money" played solely by Gilmour because EMI refused to give the song to Columbia.
The Wall (Columbia, 1979): the kick in the ass, from Pink Floyd to all the Punk generation. With lots of love.
Echoes (Capitol, 2001): Essential Pink Floyd, sequenced by Gilmour and Waters. Like previous albums, a tribute to the eternal Syd Barrett.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


(CBS, 1981)

JOAQUIN SABINA, ALBERTO PEREZ Y JAVIER KRAHE

Después de oir este pequeño e insignificante (para la casa disquera CBS) álbum en vivo, llegamos a la conclusión de que Joaquín Sabina se ha pasado toda su carrera tratando de repetir este recital, con algunos aciertos y otros desbarajustes.

El disco deja boquiabierto a cualquer hispanohablante y nos fuerza a oírlo una y otra vez hasta memorizarnos las canciones de tres verdaderos trovadores y cantautores. Sabina, El Poeta convertido en superestrella del rock and roll tiene su momento cumbre en un disco en el cual los dos instrumentos predominantes son las guitarras acústicas y los kazoos (las cornetitas esas de fiesta). Pareciera increíble, pero están ahí para acompañar a tres voces de compositores que nunca se comprometieron con nada para cantar lo que tienen dentro, una visión extremadamente irónica de la sociedad madrileña postfranquista y pre-movida de inicios de los ochenta.

Los tres artistas son de vanguardia, pero cada uno apunta con su misma voz ácida a diferentes blancos de la psique humana. Sabina es melancólico y con una filosofía extremadamente irónica de la vida, y siente que está cansado de vivir a sus aproximadamente 32 años (en 1981). Lanza canciones al viento como "Pongamos Que Hablo De Madrid," en donde está tan deprimido por tanto tiempo de vivir en una ciudad tan sórdida que termina enamorándose de ella, al sentirse incapaz de sentir lo que le dijeron que era la felicidad. Al parecer no le pasa a cualquiera, pero igual terminamos amando la canción. Vendría una puya al Caudillo y su reciente fallecimiento, "Adivina Adivinanza" en donde Sabina, furioso y cáustico, nos hace saber quiénes lloraron la muerte de Francisco Franco y cómo se celebró -y lamentó- la partida del dictador. Sobrecogedor tema considerando que hasta ahora hay gente que canta "Cara Al Sol".

Sabina nos explicará sobre su ironía frente a la muerte en "Pasándola Bien," aunque en verdad estará ocultando su pavor frente a ella y su asombro de haber sobrevivido a varios encuentros con la pelona. Él representa a Tánatos en el trío; mientras que Krahe es Eros, el pervertido mujeriego y libador. Se obsesiona por el tamaño de su miembro, por las hembras que lo ignoraron y amaron en un "yo-yo" emocional interminable y también se da el lujo de cantar un poco desafinado. Cantará temas sobre erecciones, descendencia y usará la palabra "gilipollas" en el tema "Marieta" (de Georges Brassens) lo suficiente como para provocar censura en algunas radios. Krahe cuenta también la leyenda de un pueblo llamado "Villatripas" en donde hostia la gente anda bien cachonda, tío.

El que realmente se roba el espectáculo es Alberto Pérez, un verdadero genio cuya diferencia con Sabina y Krahe es que presenta una introspección más profunda en la represión conservadora de la Iglesia Católica. Pareciera que es un poeta rebelde pero al mismo tiempo se pregunta con mucha culpabilidad, "¿No habrán sido los largos años de Franco una cosa normal para España...?" Ahí está la canción "Un Santo Varón" en donde se entrega totalmente a la virtud divina para evitar las tentaciones del cuerpo de la mujer. Pero en verdad el punto más alto del disco es la versión suya de "La Tormenta" de Brassens, traducida por el mañosón Krahe. De contarles de qué trata, les arruinaría la sorpresa.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Gilbert O'Sullivan is, no questions asked, one of the greatest singer/songwriter of the seventies. I have to say seventies because I haven't heard anything lately from him and that's a shame, because I really love his work. It's not a matter of good or bad music or what is right or wrong with the lyrics or chords. Mr. Sullivan has produced a brilliant body of work for our souls, and every song seems to be better than the previous one. In order to tell us intimate, sad stories by looking like a clown, he's also the ultimate Rock And Roll Jester.

Now, this is serious 70's shit: The first time I listened to a Gilbert O'Sullivan song was in 1990, on a car AM radio. It was "Alone Again (Naturally)," and I thought "hey, this must be the new Paul McCartney single or something". The truth is, both Macca and Gilbert have pretty similar voices and their compositions are, say, beatlesque.

Gilbert O'Sullivan deserved more hits on U.S. and a career like Elton John's. He had a lot of hits in UK, but sometimes America "makes" the artists to be successful in England; i.e. Beatles and Stones. Gilbert is still an unknown troubadour for many Classic Rock fans, and if they know him, they do because of his "Alone Again (Naturally)", a depressing song about an orphaned and dumped-at-the-wedding guy who wants to kill himself, and "Claire", a tune about a girl who plays house with her uncle. Uh-huh, the puritans from the West weren't ready for this kind of humor, therefore, Gilbert was a bigger success on the other side of the Atlantic.

O'Sullivan is just amazing in single form: "Nothing Rhymed", "Out Of The Question", "Get Down", "Ooh Baby", "Happiness is Me and You" were charted singles in U.S.A., along with "Clair" and the #1 hit "Alone Again (Naturally)". In the U.K. he was bigger, and he is deeply loved in Japan. Try finding his records and you'll get just expensive Japanese imports.

1991's Best Of Gilbert O'Sullivan is one of the best CDs ever assembled in the short history of compact disc manufacturing. Every song is, as I said, better than the one before and the album maintains a consistency based on the songs, little three-minute operas with an intimate look at the human being but with an ironic twist. On "Matrimony," Gilbert tells his fianceé he's her new daddy, and he knows how to rock, even tho they hid the relationship from their parents. I am totally identified with Gilbert in songs like "No Matter How I Try" and "Out Of The Question," where the beautiful piano chords just send us right into complicated relationships that make us think about how we measure love in real life: is it by the number of tears we shed? Or is it by those joyful but forgettable moments? Somehow Gilbert holds the key to help us with depression.


I would love to sit down and talk to Mr. O'Sullivan and ask about his songs, about his work and how was he inspired to create such human songs. When he dresses with a Chaplin jacket and trousers and sings "Nothing Rhymed" he might look funny, but his songs are deep serious analysis of the human pathos, with lots of sugar in it and a McCartney touch. That's why every time after I listened to his "Best Of" CD I feel I grew up a little more as a person.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Paul McCartney, 1976 02


Superb article written by Joel Achenbach (@joelachenbach) and published on The Miami Herald back in April 1990 (20 years after the Beatles' official breakup and a few days before Macca's concert in Miami). Read it and discover more about Paul McCartney and his amazing creativity.

http://www.miamiherald.com/1990/04/08/3905263/beatle-juice.html

Plus, essential McCartney listening:

Wingspan, Hits & History (MPL, 2001)
Wild Life (Apple, 1971)
Band On The Run (Apple, 1974)
Tug Of War (Columbia, 1982)
Flowers In The Dirt (MPL/ EMI, 1989)
Anything by the Beatles! (1962 - 1970)


The Beatles Store on Amazon.com

Monday, February 25, 2013

Parsons en trance. Foto: Javier Moreno.
Alan Parsons Live Project
24 de febrero del 2013
Uptown Theater, Napa

Alan Parsons y sus historias de misterio e imaginación aún siguen resucitando. Felizmente.


La inspiración.

No puedo dejar de expresar mi admiración por cuán obsesionado estuve con el Alan Parsons Project cuando era un adolescente. Fue quizás su perfección sónica, o la casualidad de que vea al gran VJ/DJ Don Gerardo Manuel presentar el "video" de la canción "Time" en su programa Disco Club. "Video" va entre comillas porque se trataba no del video de "Time," sino del de la canción "Eye In The Sky." Alguien había cambiado la canción y dejado las impresionantes imágenes de animación. 

Lo seguiré diciendo: Alan Parsons Project no fue una banda con un éxito rotundo ni tampoco receptora de buenos comentarios de la crítica especializada. Pero eso es lo de menos cuando canciones como "Time" llegan y se meten en la cabeza de uno y por más que uno trate, no se la pueda quitar de encima. "Time" es una de las mejores canciones de la historia y sanseacabó.

Un cassette viejo y sabio.
La música es terriblemente subjetiva y eso no es novedad. Lo mejor del trabajo de Alan Parsons y Eric Woolfson no es ni positivo ni alentador en ninguna forma. Son canciones melancólicas y muy entradas en filosofía, semiótica y ciencia aplicada -o ficción si asumimos un pensamiento en base a tecnología disruptiva-, si es que vamos a hablar de lírica. Los arreglos orquestales de Andrew Powell son más bien del tipo funesto; aunque en "Old And Wise," por más pesimista que la canción sea, el propio arreglo haga que al final el tema se vuelva positivo y optimista para el futuro.

Es decir, las canciones de Parsons pertencecen a los mil recovecos de la mente. Representan el lanzamiento de un cohete al espacio con uno mismo dentro y, luego de estar orbitando y ver la tierra desde miles de kilómetros arriba, el corazón y cabeza empiezan a funcionar de otro modo. Un disco como Pyramid es un viaje a Egipto para algunos, o un dolor de cabeza para otros. Parsons fue para mí una revelación de que hay vida después del rock mediocre, aún siendo él mismo parte de esa mediocridad con canciones francamente malas producidas por él como "Judy Teen" de Cockney Rebel. Pero cualquier mediocridad se perdona con producciones majestuosas como "Music" de John Miles. Para otros adolescentes de mi época, aquella revelación pudo haber sido cualquier artista del momento, o bandas mucho más místicas como The Smiths, The Cure o Echo and The Bunnymen. En la actualidad, quizás alguna chica de 16 años oiga las grabaciones de Rihanna de la misma forma que yo percibí los discos de Alan Parsons. Magistrales, personales, subjetivos

Yo me subí al módulo Parsons en el verano de 1990 al comprar un cassette llamado "Best Of Alan Parsons Project". Para 1991 ya tenía todos sus cassettes. Viví una obsesión feliz y sana. Ahora, años después, extraño el ser un chico obsesivo y Parsoniano. Extraño el ser yo mismo, pero más alocado y arriesgado. Aquella emoción quedó en el pasado y de vez en cuando, cuando vuelvo a poner el CD en el reproductor, vuelvo a los dieciséis con "Games People Play," "Psychobabble" y porsupuesto, "Time," quizás la canción más romántica que jamás he escuchado.

Parsons se luce en todos sus discos. Parecía que su especialidad eran los Concept Albums, después de haber trabajado con gente como Pink Floyd en Dark Side Of The Moon, Wings, Al Stewart y Pilot. Y claro, también se lució en vivo anoche.

24 años no es nada.

Tuve que esperar 24 años para darle a Parsons personalmente las gracias por una obra tan consistente, fascinante y en general tan cargada de belleza. Y eso que sólo me refería a la discografía del Alan Parsons Project, la asociación musical que tuvo por una década con el compositor, pianista y cantante Eric Woolfson. Como productor musical de música pop-rock, su trayectoria es asombrosa, habiendo estado tras la consola de sonido durante las sesiones de discos como Dark Side of the Moon de Pink Floyd o Abbey Road de los Beatles.

He venido escuchando a Alan Parsons desde la secundaria y siempre me ha impactado su estilo para producir música con un sonido pristino, elegante y fantástico, al mejor estilo de sus influencias literarias: Edgar Allan Poe e Isaac Asimov. A diferencia de cantautores como Al Stewart, a quien Parsons le produjo su Year of the Cat, El Alan Parsons Project se aferraba a los grandes misterios de la humanidad, enclaustrados en historias de ciencia ficción, pasadas o futuras. Stewart ha preferido siempre la historia como fuente de inspiración, Parsons la fantasía. Aunque historia y fantasía no se diferencian mucho.

Pues en el concierto del 24 de febrero la fantasía fue lo que dominó los dos sets de puro tributo al APP. Es obvio que Alan le tiene un cariño enorme a los dos primeros trabajos de su Project: Tales Of Mystery and Imagination (1976) e I Robot (1977). Fue precisamente el tema título de este último el cual abrió el concierto. La audiencia, con un promedio de edad de 54 años, la pasó de maravilla con los seis minutos de uno de los instrumentales más alucinantes de los setentas. Bueno, si uno no alucina con "I Robot" es que algo anda mal en su tarjeta madre.

Eric Woolfson y Alan Parsons eran “arquitectos” de un sonido el cual, entre 1976 y 1987, jamás pudieron, ni intentaron, reproducir en vivo. Canciones como “Breakdown” (del Robot) requieren un coro de decenas de personas, y a falta del coro, Parsons nos instruyó a cantar “Freedom! Freedom! We will not obey!” La fuerza del bajo y especialmente de la rotunda batería de Danny Thompson continuaron elaborando el tema, generando aquel potente y vigorizante sonido, para llegar a “The Raven” (del Mystery). Iba a ser una noche muy entretenida, y para nada nostálgica: por un lado, el sonido Parsons se ha ido reinventando con el paso de los años; por el otro, jamás lo hemos dejado de escuchar. 

Lamentablemente no lo pudimos entrevistar… pero Pavlina sí, cuando Alan estuvo en Florida:

 
 
 
Más Parsons: aquí.

Discografía Parsons a descubrir:

From the Album of the Same Name, Pilot, 1975.
Rebel, John Miles, 1976.
Year of the Cat, Al Stewart, 1976.
Freudiana, Original Cast, 1989.

Nota: En los ochentas, en Perú, muchos sonidistas de TV adoraban usar la música de Alan Parsons para musicalizar programas y comerciales. Aquí algunas curiosidades:
 
"Mammagamma" usada en el comercial de Ambulancias "San Cristóbal".
"I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You" usada en el comercial radial de "Cronox", una distribuidora de Xerox.
"Silence and I" usada para el programa de TV "Gigante Deportivo" de Pocho Rospigliosi.
"Too Late" usada en el comercial radial de "Shopping Center Del Pacífico" en Arica, Chile.
"The Gold Bug" usada en un comercial radial de un producto del que no me acuerdo.
"Lucifer" usada en un noticiero que no recuerdo exactamente su nombre.
"Pipeline" igual.

Si tienen idea de otros usos en TV o radio del sonido Parsons, cuéntennos.
 
 
 

Monday, February 18, 2013


Blessed are they who escaped a life of misery and went far, far away from where repression and hatred lies. Brave and lucky whoever had the courage to go west, beyond the Iron Courtain and managed to reach freedom. It was risky, like being rocketed to the moon. And it took tasks that are described in this record.

For some reason I believe Whose Side Are You On? is about escaping the cold of communism for the warmth of the Western freedom. It is an encounter of an eastern girl with two U.K. guys who created a unique concept for its time. Unfortunately the first line-up didn't last too long.

Matt Bianco is not a person and definetly not a band, being this line-up disbanded completely after a one and only tour, but their story is pretty unique and I'm sure after you hear this album, you'll be impressed. But hey, you have to have open ears and let your emotions flow.

What we have here is one of those records that hook you and won't let go. This if you have a thing for the eighties' synth-pop sound and you once thought they were just a one hit wonder, fun to dance to but with additional flavors needed. Matt Bianco brings that spicyness and makes this one of the best debut albums ever.

It was formed after a jazz project named Blue Rondo A La Turk, and the idea of naming a band with a guy's name wasn't exactly creative (Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd were names already taken.) At the beginning there was Kito Poncioni on bass (who left after 10-15 minutes, probably), Mark Reilly on vocals and Danny White on keyboards. A polish girl named Basia Trzetrzelewska (omit the last name and you have a household name of High-End pop) gets called to work with them, they get a pre-WWII fashion look (very elegant for Basia, hey... she never looked so gorgeous) and the band was more than ready.

However, Bianco seemed to be doomed from the beginning. England wasn't ready yet for caribbean-latin pop sounds yet and they didn't make it at all in the U.S. But this didn't avoid them reaching a cult status and becoming a guilty pleasure for whoever ran into this record and the subsequent ones.

They were misunderstood, as most of the innovative things coming out of the eighties. They even got insulted on public TV:

Bastards! This is one of the greatest album of the eighties! Before the inevitable disbanding, they produced amazing pieces of work that somehow reach our emotional strings: "Whose Side Are You On?" is a funky synth pop tune with a walking bass setting up a spy movie in the twilight of the Cold War. Somebody is delivering important information to be delivered to western european intelligence but gets poisoned in an Italian Cafe. The East payed more money to the counter-spy. This incident seems isolated but thanks to Basia's distinctive background vocal work, haunts the entire record with paranoia, romance and longing for freedom.

"More Than I Can Bear" may be about a man longing for the departed lover, but in the album's context it's about a man with no past, maybe a spy, who fell in love with the wrong woman at the wrong time. The CD version of this tune features Mark Reilly by himself wailing about lost love; but in the LP version Basia helps him coping with the pain, creating literally one of the best pop performances of the eighties. You have to hear it to believe it.

After "Bear", the beginning of the Cha-cha in "No No Never" will make you think the rest of the album will suck big time and the first two tracks were just lucky strikes. But no, the song starts growing on you and all of a sudden we get the sensation of having a Caribbean story told by Europeans in a very elegant way. Crossover big time.

"Half A Minute" features Basia's high pitched perfect lead vocals in an amazing, fast paced samba that would make Astrud Gilberto tremble. Samba becomes pop in "It's Getting Late" when Basia plays an innocent girl trying to leave a bachelor's pad while he insists she can spend the night in it. She might be looking for protection but she is still scared to ask for it; therefore, the only way is out. "Get Out Your Lazy Bed," another tune about rushing into freedom by embracing capitalism, was maybe the biggest dance tune of the album, and it's there when we fall in love with Trzetrzelewska's angelical voice, being an emotional counterpart to Mark Reilly's baritone-a-la-Elvis sound.

Whose Side Are You On? is about ex-patriates trying to make it in the West and songwriters Reilly and Fisher play with the idea well: Matt Bianco is supposed to be the name of a spy a-la-James Bond who might be dealing with cold war issues of the time, including romantic affairs with complicated women who don't know what they want. If it's not an album about trespassing, then what is "Sneaking Out the Back Door" about? Matt Bianco releases himself of all responsabilities of a relationship and just... walks away singing a catchy dancing tune with a steady synth-bass riff all over a rocking jazz-chord progression. "Riding With The Wind" is the low point of the record but it's a necessary one, as it embeds the entire idea of moving from point A to point B; an idea present during the entire record, even in the two cohesive, cinematic instrumental tracks that close each side of the LP: "Matt's Mood" and "Matt's Mood II."

Shazam! A concept album of high caliber: Whose Side Are You On? is a collection of songs about freedom and how to reach it, for sure. It's more related to the iron curtain than anything else.

It's a shame that the CD doesn't feature the Basia/Reilly version of "More Than I Can Bear," we get the Mark Reilly-only version. We asked Danny White about this and he told us this:

"Originally on the album, 'More Than I can Bear' had no Basia vocals. The record company [WEA] wanted to release it as a single and suggested Basia should sing on it. This we did and we liked it and on the vinyl version of the record we updated it to include this new version. However the CD version remained with the original version on it (CDs in those days were not the dominant format)."

Also, the original CD doesn't include the bonus tracks featured in the cassette: "Big Rosie" and "The Other Side."

Danny also commented with us why they left the band:

"Basia was not happy just singing backing vocals (with the exception of 'Half a Minute') and felt she had more to offer as a writer as well as a singer. Basia and I were in a relationship at the time, so it seemed natural for me to leave with her".

Basia and Danny White moved on to CBS and three years later released Time And Tide. Was it good? Hell yeah!

The disbandment made Reilly look for partners to reboot the Bianco server and he found it in former Wham! keyboard player Mark Fisher. They released a series of albums throught the nineties (each one full of nice surprises) and circa 2000, Fisher took a leave of absence. Reilly then called back Trzetrzelewska and White who'd been working together since the break-up and recorded a reunion album, Matt's Mood, which is a pleasure to listen to, but way less innocent and intense than Whose Side Are You On?. They went on tour in Europe and the audiences went nuts. Currently, Basia and White are working on a Basia solo project but no news of Reilly's involvment.

Whose Side Are You On? is a masterpiece, period, and the kick-off of one of the most underrated acts in pop history. Too bad Matt Bianco is just widely known for their 1988 hit "Don't Blame It On That Girl" (from the album Indigo, which is a very good record and we can talk about this later.) After finishing listening to it, we realize there's so much to discover out there...


Tuesday, February 12, 2013


El gran Alan Parsons y su Live Project aterrizan este 24 de febrero en el Uptown Theater de Napa, California. Vamos a verlo y por una vez no veremos la transmisión de los Óscares. La estaremos grabando mientras Parsons y su banda tocan "Eye In The Sky", "Games People Play" y, espero, "I Robot". Tickets a la venta aquí: http://www.uptowntheatrenapa.com/event/alan-parsons-live-project/

Saturday, February 9, 2013




(Terrascape/ Celluloid/ EMI Odeón, 1971. Relanzado por MCA en 2001) 
FELA RANSOME KUTI AND THE AFRICA 70 WITH GINGER BAKER



Ginger Baker se salió de Cream, formó Blind Faith con Eric Clapton y Steve Winwood y no duraron más de un LP y se largó a recorrer el mundo buscando sonidos nuevos —después de haber tocado en un supergrupo como Cream, tenía que convencerse de que había algo más que eso—. En Nigeria conoció al gran músico y líder de opinión Fela Ransome Kuti (1938-1997) y grabaron un interesantísimo acetato lleno de sonidos Afro-occidentales, los más nigerianos posibles.

Eran las composiciones de Kuti, un músico politizado en extremo, capaz de hacer ver a Rage Against The Machine como bebés de pecho esperando a mamar la teta gorda del gobierno. Fela tenía la fuerza y el ritmo, era el visionario, el líder, y después de este disco vendrían maravillas indescriptibles en su trabajo, y horrores y violencia en su vida. Declararía la independencia de su casa como si fuera un país dentro de Nigeria y el gobierno lo atacaría cuantas veces sea necesario para acallar a él y a sus seguidores. Pero no lo lograron. Fue el SIDA quien lo calló en 1997, cuando era ya un ídolo absoluto. Su filosofía era contundente, política y a prueba de balas. No se alió a ningún partido, ideología o religión; es más, creó la suya.

Live es un disco muy bailable. Aunque al parecer Ginger Baker sólo toca la batería en un tema, "Ye Ye De Smell," éste efectúa un solo que ningún baterista debe dejar de escuchar para aprender cómo mantener el ritmo y hacer saber a los demás músicos quién lleva la canción por las astas. Es una paliza a los percusionistas del mundo que creen conseguir todo el sentimiento africano cuando realizan grabaciones edulcoradas con melodías "pop" francamente apáticas. De lejos es un excelente ejemplo de lo que es la música africana y un CD infaltable en una colección de música bailable para armar una super fiesta.

Recuerdo una fiesta en febrero del 2005 en San Francisco, el DJ tuvo el gusto de poner el primer tema del disco, "Let's Start," y en verdad fue toda una revolución. Los vientos estallando desde los parlantes, el riff de bajo repetitivo y seductor, y en medio los gritos de Fela anunciando que la música empieza. Siempre empieza.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Mondo Exotica, first volume of the Ultra-Lounge Series by Capitol Records, is the Album of the Week for February 2-9, 2013. Its tracks will be played randomly on our regular rotation, 24/7. A marvelous record full of wanderlust and mystery, with superb performers like Martin Denny, Les Baxter and Yma Sumac. Highly recommendable for Tiki bars, bachelor pads (if you still think you can party like it's 1955) and muzak for places like comic book stores or tattoo parlors.

The album is available on Amazon.


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