SHORTS

Three brief reviews of albums newly acquired or recently revisited

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GARY WRIGHT—THE DREAM WEAVER 

[Warner Brothers 1975]

Gary Wright - Dream Weaver LP

The truth is, I bought this as part of an Op Shop haul simply because it was in good nick and I have a soft spot for the cheesy 1975 radio hit, ‘Dream Weaver’. But it’s actually not bad at all, an odd combination of synth-heavy pop and Wright’s gravelly voice. That voice can easily be imagined fronting a heavy blues outfit, which is exactly what young Gary had been doing. He was part of British band Spooky Tooth before going solo.

The production is slick and the playing excellent. Drums are shared by Andy Newark and Jim Keltner. The remainder of the instrumental credits make interesting reading:

David Foster / Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ and Arp strings

Bobby Lyle / Clavinet and Fender Rhodes

Gary Wright / Moog bass, clavinet, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, Arp strings, Moog brass, woodwinds and special effects.

How about that? Other than Ronnie Montrose guitar-guesting on ‘Power of love’ (not the Huey Lewis song), it’s entirely keyboard-based.

If you love Innervisions era Stevie Wonder and/or seventies keyboard sounds, you’d probably enjoy The Dream Weaver. Some of it really is funky. I was certainly pleasantly surprised—what a nice result from a two-dollar grab.

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PAUL BLEY—THE PAUL BLEY SYNTHESISER SHOW

[Milestone Records 1971]

Paul Bley - Synthesiser Show LP

This is such an interesting album. Recorded between December 1970 and March 1971, five of its seven pieces are performed on ‘ARP synthesizer and RMI electric piano’ and the other two—purposefully the final tracks on each side—are ‘acoustical piano’. At this time few jazz artists had embraced electric keyboards (Miles Bitches Brew cohorts Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea being notable exceptions) and fewer still had explored the synthesiser as an improvising instrument. The standard jazz trio accompaniment of bass and drums makes the electronic keyboard pieces seem even stranger.

Sometimes sounding like bar music from a downmarket dive on one of the moons of Saturn (‘The Archangel’) and at others like something Stockhausen might have knocked out on a rainy afternoon in Prague (‘Nothing ever was, anyway’), it is strange and compelling music. ‘Snakes’ has a woozy Eastern feel over thrumming bass and percussion splashes, Nefertiti from another planet. ‘Parks’ could be Henry Mancini on acid.

Bley comments in the liner notes that the synthesiser is ‘quite legitimate and capable of great nuance; it has so many possibilities and cries for release and freedom’. What the innovative pianist might have done with a polyphonic synth is anyone’s guess.

After the alien textures of the manufactured sounds, the piano pieces are like a splash of cool water. ‘Gary’ is sparse and reflective, with lovely bass work from Glenn Moore, while ‘Circles’ has a restrained intensity and thoughtful economy familiar to fans of his ‘acoustical piano’ work. Recommended highly if you thirst for out-of-the-way synthesiser albums and can find your way around unfamiliar jazz terrain.

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KLAUS SCHULZE—LA VIE ELECTRONIQUE 1

[SPV 2009, 3 CDs]

Klaus Schulze - La Vie Electronique 1

German synthesiser pioneer Klaus Schulze is a heck of an archivist, and not averse to plundering the vaults of his own electronic history.

In 1993, the Silver Edition of ten CDs merely whetted the appetite of fans of his brooding, drifting electronic art. Two years later came the Historic Edition, a further ten discs crammed with previously unreleased material. Think you have enough Klaus to be going on with? Think again. You could spring for the Jubilee Edition (1997, 25 CDs) or go the whole hog with the Ultimate Edition of—wait for it!—no less than fifty CDs, released in 2000 to celebrate the new millennium.

If that seems rather too much of a good thing, perhaps the more measured La Vie Electronique series would be a better bet. These collections are numerous (Volume 16 came out in 2015) and follow the electronic composer chronologically through his lengthy career. The Vinyl Connection collection holds five of the three-CD sets (Vols 1—4 and 6) which covers the first decade of Schulze’s output.

The phenomenon of ‘too much of a good thing’ is relevant here. In the period covered by the fifteen La Vie Electronique discs I have, Herr Schulz released twelve studio albums. All are worthwhile, certainly, but I found myself wondering what the deluge of archival releases really adds to his reputation. Does it risk diluting the impact of those original albums? And can over thirty hours of music of quality really be produced in such a relatively short time?

If you love the German electronic scene of the 70s you probably already know this series. If not, I don’t recommend La Vie Electronique as the place to start. Where could you begin with Klaus Schulze? A great question, and one deserving of its own post at some point.

Tchüss for now.

La Vie Electronique Vol 1

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15 comments

  1. Hah! We were just discussing Gary Wright from the exposure Wayne’s World gave him. I might have to pick up a copy of that LP.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reckon at the right price, Mike, it delivers. Sure it’s pop, but with enough individuality to warrant respect and deliver enjoyment. And that ain’t a bad claim!

      Like

  2. Just out of curiosity, have you ever explored the music of Oneohtrix Point Never? He carries the torch of the 70’s analog synth crowd quite well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not an artist I know, but will check him out. Thanks for the lead!

      Like

  3. Innervisions-esque? Yes please, especially at that price!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m only familiar with the Gary Wright album…which I finally discovered last year and REALLY enjoyed it…but all of these sound interesting. I will do some sonic exploring soon. The photo collage that showed up in my WordPress Reader makes it look like Gary is laying down reading the Klaus Schulze packaging through closed eyes. A strange but somewhat relaxing image.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, he’s using his Inner vision.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Just looked again, Rich. It also appears that the Klaus Schulze CD is getting up Paul Bley’s nose. Wonder what to make of that?!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I really think, from the cover alone, that Mr Wright could do with getting in touch with his inner cave man. I do rather like ‘Dream Weaver’ too.

    Re. Mr Schulze nothing turns me off an artist like there being too much of him/her.them around, because surely quality has to be compromised somewhere for quantity? the idea of a 50 disc set gives me the heebee-geebies (however that may translate in German – Das Heebee-geeun?).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fifty was too much for me to get my head around. Though I do like the La Vie Electronique sets – mainly because one can cherry pick the eras.
      KS is an important electronic artist and I’ve been thinking about picking a trio of my 70s favourites for a post. It’ll be called ‘Klaus Encounters of the Third Kind’. Naturally.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wonderful, that’s a title in search of an article, definitely!

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Nice to see the Gary Wright album again, which I remember buying at the time. Unfortunately the title cut has been ruined by radio over-play, but I always thought “Love is Alive” and “Feel For Me” were great cuts, as is “Let it Out,” which I guess was a minor hit. I haven’t heard the name Paul Bley is YEARS! Great to see you feature him. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed on the single – I think that’s why I never bothered with the album, but it’s pretty good.
      Glad you enjoyed a Bley-appearance Marty!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. These all sound pretty interesting, Bruce. The Gary Wright album being the most accessible for a chap like me, though … and I particularly like the name of his band, so I’ll need to keep my eyes peeled for some of that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Probably right J. The Dream Weaver is a bit of a salted caramel thing; the sweet part being the deft use of wall-to-wall synths and the salty part being Gary’s voice. What’s more, it crops up s/hand quite regularly!

      Liked by 1 person

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