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Plain and Fancy

Music gives soul to universe, wings to mind, flight to imagination, charm to sadness, and life to everything.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chicago - Chicago Transit Authority (1969 us, smashing debut album, with fusion jazz and blues rock elements, 2008 japan SHM remaster)

Opinion on what is surely one of the finest debut albums ever made tends to be somewhat polarised these days. Detractors of what eventually, sadly, unforgivably, metamorphosed into the ultimate slush-rock outfit simply ignore it; admirers of the earlier stuff who nonetheless try to distance themselves from the currently unfashionable genre of jazz-rock describe the band as a mainstream hard-rock quartet accompanied by a more-adventurous-than-average Memphis-style horn trio. In fact Chicago Transit Authority has real jazz in bucketloads, alongside blissed-out rock, blues, funk-soul and some wilful psychedelic oddness, particularly in the lyrics and occasional sound effects. And in this instance the mixture really does work.

The first thing that hits your consciousness is the bullhorn-brash confidence of this nascent outfit. Seven unknown but uncompromising musicians offer as their first recording a double album containing eleven lengthy tracks (and one short prologue). The staple fare is meticulously arranged songs, some of which contain enough modulations and changes of tempo to allow them to qualify as suites. Heaven knows how long they rehearsed to get their sh*t this tight, but they are that good and they know it. What other band had the chutzpah to include on its debut a seven-minute solo guitar piece comprising only electronic feedback, long before Lou Reed or Neil Young did so? No wonder the guitarist can be heard laughing into the amplifier mic half way through the piece. He’s not giving the finger to the record company; he’s saying, “this isn’t gratuitous noise, this is our art: make up your own mind whether it’s valid.”

All the musicians are excellent, but in particular guitarist Terry Kath can give Hendrix a fright in the sustain/widdling stakes (“Poem 58”: reportedly, Jimi rated him as a peer) and can perform a continually-inventive twelve-minute strut on the pentatonic comparable to Frank Zappa at his best (“Liberation”). Yes, the horns can throw in the choreographed stabs, but they show themselves capable of ambitious yet economical improv soloing (“Introduction”). Together, the septet move beyond finely honed jazzy pieces (“Beginnings”) through a bludgeoning riff-blues (“South California Purples”) to a latin-drenched drum solo (the fine cover of Steve Winwood’s “I’m A Man”), while the lyrics veer from hippy-dippy mysticism (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”) to abrupt political statement (“Prologue, August 29, 1968” / “Someday”). The latter segues seamlessly and intelligently out of the former, a location recording of a chanting civil rights crowd, to drum the message home.
by Len Liechti

1. Introduction (Terry Kath) - 6:35
2. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (Robert Lamm) - 4:35
3. Beginnings (Robert Lamm) - 7:54
4. Questions 67 and 68" (Robert Lamm) - 5:03
5. Listen (Robert Lamm) - 3:22
6. Poem 58 (Robert Lamm) - 8:35
7. Free Form Guitar (Terry Kath) - 6:47
8. South California Purples (Robert Lamm) - 6:11
9. I'm a Man (Steve Winwood/James Miller) - 7:43
10.Prologue (James William Guercio) - 0:58
11.Someday (James Pankow/Robert Lamm) - 4:11
12.Liberation (James Pankow) - 14:38

*Peter Cetera - Bass, Vocals
*Terry Kath - Guitar, Vocals
*Robert Lamm - Keyboard, Vocals
*Lee Loughnane - Trumpet, Vocals
*James Pankow - Trombone
*Walter Parazaider - Woodwinds, Vocals
*Danny Seraphine - Drums

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Grand Funk Railroad - Live (1970 us, awesome classic live album, japan remaster)

Thus starts out one of the quintessential live recordings of all time. The power trio of Mark Farner, Mel Schacher, and Don Brewer entered the 70s with all the thunder of a great storm when they released "Live Album". And that storm still resonates.

"Live Album" was one of the discs that was played over and over because of its intensity and the great songs of GFR. Recorded at Sarasota, Florida on June 22, 1970; Jacksonville, Florida on June 23, 1970; and West Palm Beach, Florida on June 24, 1970.

The remaster of "Live Album" is a grand art, it opens up the sound. It realizes the textures of the show by emphasizing the instruments. Schacher's bass is clearer and produces the growl that it was meant to. The drums' pounds are good but a little distant. Fairly, this is a concert setting. But to hear Farner's vocals as cleanly as we do here along with his guitar leads is a plus. Listen to the extraordinary "Inside Looking Out" and the change is unreal. GFR played music for their fans.

That love dedication is revealed on this album of material recorded during mid June,1970 at several Florida arenas. With an energy level of a nuclear reactor, the disc captures the heat of the times and documents it for all time. Secondly, Grand Funk was the essence of Rock. Listen to any of the tracks and you realize that Farner and the boys understood what great music was and better, how to produce it. Mixed with socially conscious lyrics, GFR became the voice of an age.

 From the drum solo sweat machine of "T.N.U.C" where Brewer toils forever with a fevered intensity and produces the drum solo of all time that has never been beatened. With the rigid bass of Mel Schacher and the utilitarian Guitars/Keys/Vocals of Mark Farner, Grand Funk also produces the timeless "Heartbreaker", "Mean Mistreater", "Inside Looking Out", and other GFR classics that have defined the era's concept of great rock music and what it was all about.

Grand Funk have had their share of troubles and came out of them stronger. They went on to produce fantastic studio discs that cemented the status of the band forever in the annals of rockdom. Many of those discs are in the "Grand Funk Remasters" series.

The disc has a different song sequence than what you may be used to. This is because of the intent to adhere to the original progression of the shows. This does not hurt the reproduction but is an added bonus for those who have seen these shows. Suits me.
by Matt Rowe

1. Introduction - 2:30
2. Are You Ready - 3:34
3. Paranoid - 6:20
4. In Need - 9:50
5. Heartbreaker - 6:58
6. Inside Looking Out (John Lomax, Alan Lomax, Eric Burdon, Bryan "Chas" Chandler) - 12:22
7. Words Of Wisdom - 0:55
8. Mean Mistreater - 4:40
9. Mark Says Alright (Farner, Don Brewer, Mel Schacher) - 5:10
10.T.N.U.C - 11:45
11.Into The Sun - 12:10
All songs by Mark Farner, except where noted.

Grand Funk Railroad
*Don Brewer - Drums, Vocals
*Mark Farner - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Mel Schacher - Bass

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