Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gifts for the Music Fan for Whom Everything isn't Enough

It was my turn to take the boy to school this morning, so no time for the usual championing of the bobvious. Instead, part 2 of our favorite releases of 2013, including a gem that just came out a couple weeks ago, Tower of Power live in the studio in 1974. If you don't know Tower of Power, then brother, you don't know funk.

Being that the group was founded by a couple of white guys (I guess one was a White Hispanic), this makes Tower of Power easily the funkiest group of pallor in history. Actually, the group was an integrated ensemble, particularly renowned for its five-man horn section (two tenors, one baritone sax, and two trumpets).

These recently discovered tapes catch the band at a peak, and feature the classic lineup, including Lenny Williams on vocals. He is without a doubt one of the great underrated soul singers, not to mention an exciting and charismatic frontman. He eventually left the band in 1975, I believe because he was a clean liver while other members of the band were descending into serious substance abuse. In fact, in the liner notes co-founder Emilio Castillo admits that he was probably high during this performance, but there's no way you could tell, so tight is the band.

There are no samples on amazon, but you can hear some at All Music Guide. Listen for the precise and beautiful blend of horns, but especially Doc Kupka's baritone holding up the bottom, which I believe -- if my white privilege doesn't betray me -- is what pushes the band into its otherworldly cosmic funkmanship (although one cannot ignore the drums, bass, and chicken-scratching guitar, which sound as good as one of James Brown's bands).

I'm sure the Harry Nilsson box will be on many year-end top ten lists. It is a 17 CD collection, including three discs of unreleased prime Harry recorded between 1967 and 1974. (Once again, samples available at AMG.)

If you don't know Harry, the logical place to begin would be this excellent documentary that was released a few years ago, Who is Harry Nilsson? Earlier this year a biography came out, and it too is outstanding. Being that it is published by Oxford University Press, you can see that Nilsson is considered a serious subject.

Nilsson might well have agreed with Captain Beefheart: "yeah, I'm a genius, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it." He was seriously -- and yet cheerfully -- self-destructive, most infamously for destroying his vocal cords while making an album with John Lennon in 1974. His voice was never the same afterwards, but if you accept them for what they are, the later albums contain their charms, and even some classics.

Here's one I haven't even heard yet, but I'm putting it in the top ten anyway, Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective. It's a seven disc collection of the great, ill-fated guitarist, including not just Allman Brothers classics, but many tracks by obscure artists (and not so obscure, e.g., Aretha, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs) recorded when he was the hottest session guitarist in a soul-drenched land of musical plenty. (Samples.)

It was originally released as a limited edition, but the initial run of 10,000 sold out on pre-order. This "encore edition" is missing a few goodies but has all the music, so that's what counts.

Yeah, it's expensive, which is why I'm going to use amazon Visa points to get it. I charge everything I can on my amazon Visa, and then use the points to purchase music, so then I don't feel guilty about my compulsion to hear Everything. Foolproof self-deception.


Blogger Magister said...

Speaking of Nilsson, THE POINT (1971) is an interesting fable. A doper protest film? Could it be read more broadly as the protest of slack against dragooning in general? Bob, your thoughts would be great on this.

12/11/2013 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

The whole film:

12/11/2013 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

Ah, I see its moral is quite clear in the end. Hadn't seen it since I was six years old. Hooray! This goes into the stockings for sure.

12/11/2013 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

According to the book, the idea for the fable came during a lysergic adventure. I love the point that not everything must have a point, and that there's nothing wrong with pointlessness!

12/11/2013 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think the left brain quickly seizes the point, but the right brain is much more open to ambiguity.

12/11/2013 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think one reason people enjoy vacations is that they can enjoy pointlessness for a week or two. I try to do that 24/7.

12/11/2013 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

LEFT BRAIN: Could you read it as being anti-teleological in general, maybe even anti-vertical?

RIGHT BRAIN: Dig the bouncing fat ladies!

LEFT BRAIN: It does come down to affirm basic human dignity. I like it.

RIGHT BRAIN: Dogs rule! Arrow rocks!

LEFT BRAIN: It's a bit like Horton Hears a Who (a big favorite in the Magister House): "a person's a person, no matter how small." Even in the womb.

RIGHT BRAIN: Where's the volume knob on this Tower of Power thing?

12/11/2013 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

I always liked the idea of meaning & purpose being intertwined with humor. I recently watched the film Amadeus (never saw it when it originally came out), and I loved the fact that Mozart's peers couldn't relate to the idea that someone so imperfect could make something so perfect. For me, it just reiterated that God has a sense of humor.

12/11/2013 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Substance-loving Super Group in Heaven: Harry N, John L, Gene C, Lee Hazlewood [who has a nice boxset out this season:
...Nicky Hopkins, ---drums, K Moon or K Buttrey [the Nashville session wunderkind]

most these guys knew each other!

12/11/2013 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Magister did you ever see Fallon's Doors spoof? it's a winner & Horton gets a holler
Reading Rainbow

12/11/2013 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Tower of Power is also on youtube, of course. :)

12/11/2013 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...


Loved the Fallon thing. More, please.

12/11/2013 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

TEd: In Paul Johnson's new biography of Mozart, he says that "Nobody took music more seriously," and that "Nobody got more jokes out of it."

12/11/2013 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Great way to state a life and his art! I didn't know about the biography (and only 176 pages - which I love). I may take a stab at it :).

12/11/2013 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

1970---I didn't know from Mozart as a hi school senior, but I...was able to take a vacation to the Virgin Islands when a wealthy neighbor's family private saiboat cruise opened an extra slot due to one kid's last-minute needing to summer-school it!

Well down on St John me and one of the siblings were to stay on a week or 2 after the cruise looking for work, able to crash in a tent on the beach of some property owned by a guy who'd left the USA w/ his family [was a Harvard prof, back when that meant something] to become the local librarian on the island.

The man's son was a prepschool classmate briefly with my friend in the US, was our connection---ANYway, this Harvard guy was wondering what the hell to do with these boxes of stereo equipment and albums sent in thanks by an earlier houseguest from the US. I gladly volunteered to hook it up: AR speakers, Girard turntable, Scott or Kenwood amp, wires etc. Simple when you know how, impossible when ya don't...

Well it took not long and I showed the old man the setup and he looked through the albums sent and grabbed THE MAGIC FLUTE and we cranked up the Overture: soon tears of joy & memory were falling down the old Prof's cheeks...

12/11/2013 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

about as opposite from Amadeus as you'll get

if interested in a download link, just aks!

12/12/2013 05:16:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Captions, anyone?

1. Birds of a Feather

2. President Pick for Next ObamaCare Exec.

12/12/2013 05:30:00 AM  

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