It is tempting to believe that the internet knows everything about everything. When it came to finding release dates for Vinyl Connections bushel of 1971 albums, it became clear that the www is not as all-knowing as you think. Sure, I discovered a number of errors in the VC spreadsheet, mostly albums where I had entered the incorrect year, but of the 220-odd LPs where a 1971 release could be asserted with a high level of confidence, only one hundred and sixty could have their month of release confirmed with any degree of certainty. As for the day? Forget it.
For some albums it was possible to make an educated guess based on circumstantial data, such as the average time between recording and record release in the early 1970s being 3—5 months, while for others I remained clueless. No less than thirty albums resisted all efforts to tie them to a month. I still haven’t decided what to do with those; part of me wants to exclude them for being so uncooperative, but that does seem a little spiteful. For now we’ll just ignore them and focus on what we do know, which is challenge enough as further 01/1971 albums keep emerging from the collection.
Since posting JANUARY 1971—50 YEARS AND TWO MONTHS AGO in mid-March, I’ve discovered three further LPs belonging to the first month of the year. As they span three different genres and each has much to recommend it, I thought it good to share them before moving on to February. [Ed: Will he ever catch up? Place your bets!]
BLUES IN THE NICK
Any self-respecting music fan knows the name BB King. Riley ‘Blues Boy’ King earned the title ‘King of the Blues’ during a storied career beginning in the late 1940s and lasting until his death in 2015 at the age of eighty-nine.
If you ever see the four CD boxed set at a good price, grab it. It is crammed with six decades of wonderfully melodic blues guitar and the distinctive sound of BB’s singing, guaranteeing hours of pleasure and an enhanced understanding of how blues and jazz relate. I was fortunate to see BB King live in Melbourne in the early 1990s. A slow-moving mountain of a man, he ambled around the stage conducting a super-tight band and somehow always managing to seize the spotlight even when his nephew was taking a guitar solo. My favourite was when he studiously filled his pipe and lit it during the youngster’s spot. So, just to reiterate, BB King was a full-blown legend.
Live In Cook County Jail was recorded in September 1970 in the titular penitentiary, hitting #1 on the R&B chart on release the following January. It is a ripping live set, with an hilarious (and slightly alarming) introduction where the female MC hopefully invites the inmate audience to thank the prison Governor for authorising the concert. You can well imagine how the, er, gentlemen react. BB King himself reacts by playing some blistering blues, that—despite the the genre’s endemic misogyny—manages to convey an authentic sense of why the blues are important, especially in particular contexts.
Talking of America, I bought my copy of the album from Amazon. It had the most surface noise of any ‘new’ LP I’ve ever bought, so I promptly sent it back… having ripped a copy to CD-R first. I omitted, however, to take a photo, so this image is sourced from the net. 🔆🔆🔆🔅 [3 ½ stars]
JAZZ IN MOZAMBIQUE
That’s Club Mozambique in Detroit, of course; a jazz joint where Grant Green performed with his band-du-jour (plus guests) on the 6th and 7th of January 1971.
First released on CD in 2006, this is a fabulously funky jazz album driven by the irresistible grooves if the legendary Idris Muhammad. Organist Ronnie Foster uses his instrument’s bass pedals to fill out the bottom end, but it’s Idris who steals the show with his jazzy funky shit-kicking percussion. Over this rhythmic base, leader Grant Green takes lots of juicy guitar solos, his runs and trademark flurries of repeated notes making this jazz quite accessible to non-jazz listeners. Clarence Thomas and guest Houston Person (could that possibly be a real name?) fulfil their sax duties with verve and invention, making this CD a delight. One of my favourite jazz discs for a long drive. 🔆🔆🔆🔆 [4 stars]
HARP COMEBACK IN BRITTANY
It doesn’t sound terribly exciting, does it? An unknown musician from Britanny makes an LP heralding the Renaissance Of The Celtic Harp. Nor is it a particularly thrilling record, in the sense that the 1971 Rolling Stones release was thrilling. What it offers, however, is an entrancing glimpse into instrumental folk music from another epoch; magical tunes for a midsummer night’s dream.
Alan Stivell was, for a while, the world’s most famous folk-rock harpist (unless you count New Age plucker Andreas Vollenweider); a man from the Breton region who researched Celtic music from Wales, Ireland and Scotland as well as his native Britanny, then took his bardic skills to the world. If that sounds like an exaggeration, back in the 1980s one of my friends, a tall curly-haired blonde person, breathlessly described being invited on stage by Mr Stivell to dance to one of his more rhythmic pieces. Breton to Melbourne. Casting a spell over Titania. I rest my case.
Renaissance De La Harpe Celtique was released in France on the Fontana label in January 1971. My first encounter with this evocative and charming record was a mid-70s Australian re-issue which, while missing the gatefold of the original, at least boasted cover notes in a language I could read. That, of course, is my justification for (a) buying the original French version some years back (authenticity) while (b) retaining the Philips re-issue (comprehension). Hope that’s all clear. In the meantime, if you fancy a bit of crystalline, elvish hey nonny nonny, look out for Renaissance Of The Celtic Harp. It’s lovely. 🔆🔆🔆🔆 [4 stars]