Who is in my Temple
Clearly coming from 1960s’ folk but like classic UK outfits from this era, this is influenced by the music of other places and times. And like the late-60s folk from the British Isles, this is superior to most commercial folk from the US.
It’s mostly vocal cuts, a mix of originals and traditional songs, and also features a few instrumentals–including a wonderful mandolin/dulcimer rendering of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
The intimate basement sound makes this a window to another time, a view through a basement window to a candle-making collective trying to deal with the death of the 60s. It’s also a musical exploration of the innocent Boston beginnings of the Unitarian Universalists. Most important, it’s a rare gem for fans of folk music from this long-gone era. You can almost smell those sand candles burning.
— winch (author of…
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No More Walls
Flying Fish GRO-752
With all that was going on in 1979, the music scene was also plagued with stagnation. Disco music was transforming into hip-hop and electronic music but few were taking notice because disco sucked. Punk had reminded the world that rock doesn’t always need to progress: it can go back to its roots to refuel the fury but few cared because while disco sucked, punk swallowed. The underground scene had been slowly growing for years and soon a diverse independent music scene would emerge but it would be a long time before most took notice because in the 1970s the major labels had perhaps more control of the industry than ever before.
The executives had sorted through the countless bands and perhaps during a year or so in the 1970s, positive (and of course negative) repercussions existed. But by 1979, it was clear that the major labels were completely clueless and the music scene was suffering.
Of course a few minor labels had somehow managed to survive, perhaps because they focused on music that was so unhip that the major labels didn’t care. These labels posed no threat. Flying Fish was one of those independent labels and while they focused on folk music, they were also giving home to artists such as Amram. This was one of many Amram released on Flying Fish, and certainly one of his most interesting. And enjoyable. While the liner notes only mention that Amram created these compositions from 1959 to 1971, they don’t mention that this is likely a reissue of the second half of a double album released on RCA Red Seal in 1971. (Flying Fish were perhaps keen enough to recognize that the second two sides of the original release deserved to be revisited without the classical content of the first two sides.)
The title likely refers to the breaking down of walls between genres of music. Influences appear to be plentiful: Latin-American, African, and Near-Eastern music; folk musicians such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan; and some of the more innovative jazz musicians of the previous decades, especially those who incorporated world influences–from Yusef Lateef in the 50s to the ECM artists of the 70s. Mostly laid-back as a hammock swaying in an ocean breeze, this also has plenty of depth. Recommended listen.
— winch (author of…
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Recorded April 4 and 5, 1973; released 1974.
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Ron Wynn said it so well when reviewing Towner’s Works, “A great, great guitarist whose songs at worst are overly sentimental, at best hypnotic” and it’s important that Wynn started that sentence with “Great, great,” because even when Towner is being sentimental, he completes his intentions and captures his subject, encapsulating an often fleeting or moving subject like a painter, a memory or a moment, and even in the more forgettable moments on this set, brush strokes mix the memories of music’s past with Towner’s own experiences and expressions.
For an album that features one artist using only acoustic guitars, piano and gong, this definitely has its moments. As much as this seems to come out of his work with the group Oregon, a close listen reveals some clear differences. It’s not only more personal, this reveals different influences. At times, this recalls Weather Report at their most reflective, but here Towner strips the body down to bone and ghost.
— winch (author of )
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So Far So Good
Island Records 9484
Coming out of the innovative folk from the British Isles in the late 60s, this Scottish musician was perhaps the first white artist to sign with independent label Island Records. This 1977 anthology houses cuts from the previous Island albums (1971 – 1975) and concludes with a rocking live cut from Martyn’s self-released classic Live at Leeds (1975). Other than the instrumental “Glistening Glyndebourne,” the album features vocal cuts by Martyn. Likely bassist Danny Thompson (Pentangle) plays on all the dates, two from 1975 also featuring guitarist Paul Kossoff.
This collection provides an excellent overview of the Island years and showcases Martyn’s skills as a songwriter and a guitarist. The cuts are all teasers, informing the listeners of the quality of this artist’s work, and likely causing most to seek out each and every one of these Martyn albums from Island Records.
— winch (author of
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so far so good LP
Good Shit *****
First U.S. release by this folk guitarist from Scotland, half of the selections from Bert Jansch(1965), the others from It Don’t Bother Me (1965), this collection alternating between vocal cuts and acoustic guitar solos, the latter especially strong but the vocal cuts powerful as well, some of them strong enough to put a chill to your bones.
The cautionary tale “Needle of Death,” is as poignant as any drug song, ranks up there with Lou Reed’s song about the same subject matter, this one in sharp contrast to the celebratory drug songs of the 60s. Other highlights include the traveling tales “Running From Home” and “Rambling’s Gonna Be the Death of Me.”
While the selections come from two albums, they fit together like cars in a freight train, the instrumentals chiming like chains, the sequencing creating a musical journey, a train ride through various landscapes, occasionally slowing down to gaze at people along the way.
This clearly influenced much of the music that followed, not just folk singers but rock artists as well. It puts most of the competition to shame.