The James and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection is the largest privately owned collection of jazz materials in the United States, and possibly the world. James Neumann, proprietor of the collection and an Oberlin Alumnus, decided last year to donate all of the materials to Oberlin. So far, the school has received about 45,000 vinyl LPs along with thousands of jazz periodicals and collectibles, which does not event amount to half of the entire collection. The recordings will not be available for students for some time, which is why WOBC has decided to give followers a regular taste of the collection’s rare gems. Disclaimer: Information and music posted are sourced from WOBC copies of albums also included in the Neumann Collection.
This week’s dig from the sea of Neuman’s jazz wax is Elvin Jones and Richard Davis’ Heavy Sounds, recorded and released in 1967 on the legendary Impulse! Records. Jones, who made his name as the drummer in John Coltrane’s Quartet of the mid- to late-fifties, and bassist Davis, who recorded with names as diverse as Eric Dolphy and Bruce Springsteen, are in top form on this exemplary hard-bop session. Jones and Davis are joined by tenor saxophonist Frank Foster and pianist Billy Greene on most of the tracks.
Overall, this record swings hard and gets weird just at the right moments. You can hear serious avant-garde intentions in the playing of Jones and Davis, but their music is still deeply rooted in jazz and blues traditions.
The record begins with a mid-tempo latin-swing rendition of Foster’s “Raunchy Rita”. This 11-minute, blues-drenched jam immediately confirms the album’s title; Jones’ groove layers dark rhythmic textures over Davis’ low-rounded bass tone, providing a heavy background for Foster to improvise with serious force. But perhaps the heaviest moments for this record come three tracks later on a 12-minute bass-drums duo version of “Summertime”, on which Jones takes an intense, pitch-oriented drum solo. Davis colors the track with exceptional bowing and subharmonic techniques, making for a highly unusual and improvisational journey through the classic Gershwin tune. Other highlights include Jones’ delta-blues style guitar playing on “Elvin’s Guitar Blues” (his first and only recorded performance on the instrument), and Foster’s heartbreaking lyricism on the Van Heusen ballad “Here’s That Rainy Day”, a welcome relief from the weight of the preceding tracks.
An experiment: every week I’m gonna get some new blood for your ears; a playlist to get you through the rainy days of March/spring/whatever: bizarre collage pieces, everyone’s favorite Italo-disco, Moog grooves, weird video game music, and spoken word things.
This week its anything synth related, mixed in with some more recent but hard to find (yet not hard to find?) oddities. Seek them out; SEEK THE NEW BLOOD.
Tomoyuki Tanaka, better known by his stage name FANTASTIC PLASTIC MACHINE (or FPM) was once a prominent electronic music artist in the late nineties, piggy-backing off the novelty music fad known as Shibuya-kei. Created singlehandedly by Pizzicato Five, Shibuya-kei was an ironic form of pop taking cues from swinging London, Burt Bacharach, Serge Gainsbourg, and every producer driven act in sixties Europe. It died almost as quickly as it appeared.
FPM chugged along, churning out two successful shibuya-kei style albums, his self-titled debut and Luxury, a sort of bizarre concept album about commercialism. Soon he shifted from quirky, retro-pop artist into super-DJ-mega-club-house-producer. beautiful. (period included!) released in 2001, vividly represents this change.
A sort of mish-mash of 70s pop and club-soul, beautiful. is a weirdly hyper-produced album. Absurd orchestral arrangements over a battery of cut-up samples, insane lyrics that are entirely non-sequitirs, thumping club beats, grating midi strings, and porn grooves dominate. Beginning with a weird vocal sample that intones, “I, AM BEAUTIFUL”, the album opener, beautiful days, sets the tone: a summery, up-tempo club song with cheesy strings played on a keyboard. A deep voiced man and woman sing about memories, childhood and other such nonsense. This continues consistently until they recite the word BEAUTIFUL ad nauseum. It’s so annoying that it becomes stunning. Continue reading FROM THE VAULT: Fantastic Plastic Machine – beautiful→
This section will normally be entitled “Cover of the Week” but because this is the first post, we’ve got a little catching up to do.
Angus and Julia Stone vs. DWNTWN
The song for this week was “Big Jet Plane,” originally recorded by Angus & Julia Stone and covered by DWNTWN. I have no idea how that’s supposed to be pronounced. Here’s a little bit of background on the two bands. You can find all this great info on the wonderful site entitled Wikipedia, but I’ll save you the trouble of a Google search. Angus and Julia are siblings. They have an older sister who apparently doesn’t contribute to their awesome indie band. They all grew up in Australia. Fun fact (that I find fun but you will probably find boring): They released the single “All The Boys” on the day I turned eighteen. DWNTWN, on the other hand, appears to be nonexistent in the internet world except a couple of reviews talking about how great they are. So yeah, they’re good. That’s really all you need to know about a band anyway. Now on to the cover!
So the original version of “Big Jet Plane” is pretty simplistic. What makes it so amazing is Angus’ voice—he’s a master of “The Croon”—and his harmonies with Julia are kind of ridiculous. Just sayin.
DWNTWN spins the song into a new kind of dance music that reminds me of a more relaxed Passion Pit. Rather than crooning (which would ruin the electronic vibe), the vocals are more of a whisper. I’d say DWNTWN was pretty successful in recreating the original, but you guys were unanimous in choosing Angus and Julia Stone as the creators of the superior version.
For this week: Gotye vs. Walk Off the Earth
It’s this new song I just found (I know. I’m so behind) called “Somebody I Used To Know” by Gotye. And the cover is done by this super cool band called Walk Off The Earth. They do the whole cover on one guitar. You should watch it. It’s crazy. Just a couple notes on this awesome video because I can’t stop myself.
– The guy on the far right is a boss.
– The guy in the middle seems unnecessarily angry. I’m not really sure what’s going on there.
Every week, pop workgroup shares the best additions to the pop vault. Read on!
Cheer-Accident – No Ifs Ands Or Dogs
Chicago prog/avant-pop lifers continue to plough their own genre-defying furrow on No Ifs Ands Or Dogs, their 17th(!) studio album. They’ve toned down the experimentation a little bit, making this a good entry point for Cheer-Accident newbies but they still stay twisted, true to their idiosyncratic vision of rock music. Talk to metal director Charlie O’Hara about Cheer-Accident, he loves ’em.
There are those albums that get plucked out of the pop bin and added to the shelf immediately and then there are those that waste away for months, collecting dust in a dark corner. The self-titled, debut album from Bennington College music collective BOBBY, was unfairly relegated to the ranks of the forgotten and assumed-to-be-awful. This week, though, we gave BOBBY a chance and were impressed with their rich acoustic sound and tasteful use of electronics. We’re sorry we thought you weren’t cool, BOBBY! What really matters is we’re friends now.
The tale is of a young man coming of age and facing, for the first time, the harsh circumstances surrounding his life. Feeling helpless to positively affect his abusive home life he resolves to run away, abandoning the emotional wreckage of his past in favor of a new life. On his own he quickly discovers that the outside world is not the warm and welcoming environment his youthful naivete had foreseen, but rather a cold and indifferent urban wasteland filled with specious comforts and perfidious companions. Far from achieving a paragon of success he realizes that indecision and insecurity are inextricable components of the human experience. Unable to reconcile his past, and struggling with growing regrets, his optimism is replaced with cynicism. This situation is further exacerbated by the drug induced death of his girlfriend. Then, after reaching the epitome of self-deprecating despondence, our main character awakens. His harrowing journey has been nothing more than a dream and he is left to contemplate the challenges of being a contributing and loving individual in a detached and hostile world.
This story reads like a post-modern novel exploring the growing alienated isolationism and the burden of optimism individuals face when attempting to navigate a path of goodness through the mechanics of a super-industrialized and thoughtlessly consumptive society. That this is the plot of a concept album titled “Zen Arcade” by the band Husker Du may not appear particularly striking, but noting that it is the focus of a double album by a band with roots deeply embedded in the early 80’s hardcore punk counterculture is practically stupefying. Hardcore, that bastion of youthful moral superiority, 50 second long songs, and unabashed musical inability, had never seen anything so ambitious. At the time of its release Zen Arcade was a breath of fresh air for a scene that had, in the name of nonconformity, developed a rigid and dogmatic doctrine governing the acceptable behaviors, appearances, and expressions of its participants.
In 1983 Husker Du, a hardcore band from the twin cities, began to explore melody while simultaneously experiencing a constantly expanding fan base. The band had just released their first record for Black Flag’s notorious label SST when they returned to California to lay out two dozen or so tracks for their most inspired and melodic release to date. Zen Arcade was recorded and mixed in a mere 85 hours with all but two of the recordings being first takes. The idea that a punk band could dare anything so indulgent as a double album concept record so impressed labelmates The Minutemen that Mike Watt and D. Boon furiously doubled the material they had prepared for their forthcoming album “Double Nickels on the Dime”.