Good Music We Can Know

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jungle Bells, Summer Storm: John McFarland- Provocatif (1959)

"Queried as to his method of composition... McFarland asserts that he simply clutches the piano ouija-board style until he finds a musical figure that 'feels good' and proceeds to 'play it 'til it turns into a song, grabbing a little of 'this' with his left hand and a little of 'that' with his right.' While hesitating to recommend this wild-eyed routine as the new mode in composition, it must be admitted that McFarland's Mystical Method yields consistently exciting, humorous, dramatic, and intensely exotic music."-excerpt from the Provocatif liner notes by Blanchard King

I picked this beauty up in a Memphis antique mall many years ago. The first thing I heard upon setting foot in that blighted dragon's cave was the proprietor's blistering racism-- a paint-peeling and ignorant tirade that nearly sent me scurrying immediately back towards the exit. I persevered, warily, and had I not it would have been a tragedy-- for, upon the third floor of the place, in some long-forgotten bin, I found John McFarland's Provocatif. I was pleased to say the least when I paid my fifty cents and carried this superb work of art out of that foul ogre's lair and into the bright, loving world.

Provocatif is on the shortest list of great Exotica LPs not by Denny, Baxter, or Lyman-- a list which includes Drasnin's Voodoo, Hunter's White Goddess, Prado's Voodoo Suite, Sabu's Sorcery!, and Shindo's Mganga, to name a few. It's a true delight, and actually a lot of fun. Here's Mr. McFarland, in all his suavity, posing behind a potted plant on a stool, for some reason.

This is Exotica in the Denny vein-- a piano-led, small combo playing purely archetypal "exotic" compositions (many of them originals, awesomely enough), and making use of "exotic" sound effects and a variety of "exotic" special instruments. You could almost convince someone that this was a Denny record, but there's something rather notably different-- dare I say unique-- in McFarland's approach. All throughout the LP-- but particularly on the opener, "Jungle Bells", and the utterly exquisite "Watusi"-- you can hear a more pronounced language of jazz experimentation. As WFMU's Listener Mindwrecker puts it in his article on Provocatif: "McFarland's piano work is quite interesting and has some unusual colorations, with a tendency to push just so far out as he can within the piece without breaking up the structure altogether, which Sun Ra does so well on records like Super-Sonic Jazz."

It's this mild fracturing of the otherwise lush and inviting compositions that lends the record a kind of satisfying tension and makes it so particularly enduring. McFarland's work here is really wonderful, and a few tracks make a case to be considered among the best the genre has to offer. I'm so rapturously fond of "Watusi"-- which is an original McFarland composition, it should be noted-- but I'd be remiss to exclude the utterly sublime nocturne, "Midnight by a Persian Waterfall". Basically every song is pretty grand, even the more comic, zany "Chimp and the Bumble Bee", which is a pretty great specimen of its ilk, I have to say, although I do tend not to prefer those tracks in general.

This is really just wonderful stuff. Enjoy on some warm night, friends.

Thanks to the original ripper for the lovely 320 rip.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lost to the Waves: Dorival Caymmi- Caymmi e o Mar (1957)

"I have written 400 songs, and Caymmi 70. But Caymmi has 70 perfect songs, and I do not."
-Caetano Veloso

I am no great scholar of Brazilian music-- it doesn't help that I don't speak Portuguese-- but I do have a deep and abiding love for popular Brazilian music of the 30's-50's. As has been noted before, my own enthusiasm stems from the same source as that of many Americans-- especially those who fell under the spell during the Carmen Miranda-dominated heyday of Brazilian music in the US-- and that is Disney's exquisite 1944 masterpiece Three Caballeros, which you should watch immediately, if you haven't already. The inclusion in that film of Ary Barroso's "Na Baixa do Sapateiro" (also known simply as "Baia" "Bahia" or "Baixa")-- as well as an electrifying number from Carmen's sister, Aurora Miranda, augmented by some of the greatest animation, ever-- cemented in my heart, and the hearts of many people all over the world, a love for the lush romanticism and exotic pathos of this type of music. Dorival Caymmi, the subject of today's post, is a legend in this field.

is an extremely major figure in Bahian popular music from this period, but his name has since fallen into a baffling shadow of some undeserved obscurity. So when I first heard his music, I had no idea who he was, or the degree of his importance. Just another Brazilian singer of many, as far as I knew-- but immediately I loved what I heard, and in that special way. I believe the song was the fantastic "O Mar," his angelic baritone and matchless melody sweeping me into an exotic dream like the ghost perfume of mist upon the sea, or the memory of a love lost to the waves.

So here is the LP, Caymmi e o Mar. It's gorgeous. I can't recall if I originally snagged this one from Loronix or Toque Musical (the latter being the wonderful Brazilian blog which seems to have recently gone private), so think kindly of both of them as you listen. This is a gorgeous record, my friends. The songs may well be perfect. Please listen deeply.

E O MAR (320)

And here's a really awesome compilation of various artists singing Caymmi's songs, that I definitely got from Toque Musical, way, way back. I don't really know anything about this one, except that the music is solid, and sounds like it dates pretty far back. There's a wonderful rendition of "O Mar"by Edy Pollo that I liked so much I had to put it on Grzimek Safari. Highly recommended.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Re-ups reach their conclusion, more or less.

Re-ups are more or less completed, for now. Finished off the "Jazz" section with these:

Hans Dulfer- Morning After the Third

Don Cherry- Actions

Mills Brothers- London Sessions

Ornette Coleman- The Empty Foxhole

•And the greater "Electronic" category should be completed now as well:

Peru- Continents, Constellations

Rolf Trostel- Two Faces, Der Prophet

Proxyon- Proxyon

Charlie- Spacer Woman

•I also fixed that buggy Bowie link for Strange Fascination.

•And here's a couple more goodies:

Just Julia

One Dog Each

COMING SOON: more stuff, that is new and cool, and not just re-ups for chrissakes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Re-ups: David Bowie and more.

I have now re-upped what few Bowie selections I have to offer. Check them out, and please allow me to insist that you also check out Pushing Ahead of the Dame-- the great song-by-song Bowie blog and, truly, one of the best blogs in all of existence.

I also re-upped all the Velvet Underground.

And all the dub. Have at it!