JANUARY 1971 — THREE LATE ARRIVALS

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]

25 comments

  1. Elvish hey nonny non. Oh a whole new genre of music created at the keystroke. Thank you this is making me so happy. Going to find some ogreish hey nonny non next

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ogreish Hey Nonny Non? Perhaps sir would consider Leafhound’s “Growers of Mushroom” or the Sabbs “Master of Reality”?

      Like

  2. I think almost all live versions of B. B. King’s are good because they are diverse and sprawling (typically blues). But somehow the Chicago prison and its inhabitants add their part on this recording, there is a certain bittersweet nature which is part of the place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed. Like Johnny Cash’s prison albums that preceded this. Not quite the celebration we see at the end of the Blues Brothers film!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right, one just have to look at Johnny Cash to know how live albums recorded in prisons can somehow bring out the best in a musician, and with BB it’s no different. Of course are the Blues Brothers great in their own way when they sing the “Jailhouse Rock”.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love me some good shit-kicking percussion, so need to check out Green’s foray to Mozambique! Looking forward to the rest of your 1971 series; some of my all-time favorites were released that year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good to hear, JDB. Idris is the real deal. And thanks for your encouragement re the ‘71 project. Having started late, I have been feeling a tad overwhelmed.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I personally hope you don’t catch up, Bruce. The seventies are always a good romp. A set of free cable channels over here called “Music Choice” (don’t know if its available internationally) for a time tended to feature Houston Person, and I wondered the same thing about his name. He’s someone I made a mental note to investigate. Glad you highlighted BB King here. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The mysterious Houston Person, Marty! Think we should start a fan club.
      Appreciate the encouragement, too. 😎

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh Marty, I just looked up Houston. He was born in Sth Carolina, was a saxophonist, and recorded over… wait for it! …75 jazz albums!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A prolific artist indeed!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Good stuff Bruce. Yeah that intro on ‘Cooks’ is priceless. I like Grant and you have me curious on the Stivell music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, sure. For one of eclectic tastes, CB (and I know that’s you), Stivell’s stuff is worth checking out. This is a more ambient folk LP, but some of the others have more of a folk-rock feel. Probably available at a thrift shop near you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Stivell is very familiar (He has to be on something I have). I will for sure check him out thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been listening to a fair bit of blues stuff again of late (I tend to go through phases where I listen to it LOADS and times where I rarely listen to anything) so you’ve got me in the mood to listen to some B.B. King (though I don’t have the Cook’s County Jail album). You know I’m also interested in accessible jazz for non-jazz listeners, so I’ve added this Grant Green one. Thanks as always for the pointers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Y’know, J, I think I do too. Have Blues phases, I mean. Reckon you’d love that BB boxed set if you happen across it sometime.
      If you check out Grant Green, let me know. I’m always interested in exploring pathways to jazz, as everyone seems to find a different entry point.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been listening to loads of Howlin’ Wolf recently. I haven’t listened to him or B.B. King in a very long time. Nor Muddy Waters. My blues go-tos are usually T-Model Ford, Skip James, Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside and the likes. Certainly these days.

        I’ll definitely let you know about Green – it sounds really intriguing.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I have that BB boxed set, it’s glorious! I got him to sign the booklet, back in the 90s. Beautiful moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aaron! That is FABULOUS, at every level. 💙

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      1. I’ll tell you, there are moments you can’t believe you actually got to live, and that was one. I told the whole story on Mike’s live chat, a show about the best concerts we’d ever seen.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been following you for several years now Bruce. To my delight I also recently discovered you write fortnightly for Discrepancy Records blog. I’ve pick up many of my favourite vinyls from them. They seem like really nice people. Anyway just saying hello. Keeps up the great work with your vinyl adventures. By the way, this was an insightful read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We probably live in adjoining suburbs, Robert! That’s a nice connection re Discrepancy. I’ve been writing for them (the fortnightly blog plus artist introductions and other miscellany) for about 2 ½ years now. Enjoy the gig very much and delighted you found it!
      Perhaps, one day, we’ll meet in Discrepancy or Goldmine or Dixon’s…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Funny you mention Dixon’s. That’s another one of my hangouts. Until we meet…cheers mate.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. […] here, “hey nonny non” Buce at Vinyl Connection described Alan Stivell as providing some “elvish hey nonny […]

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  10. Idris Muhammad el al are PDG. He is a driving force.
    (What I really mean is full marks to GG who leads strongly when on and backs off sensitively and helps all shine ****).
    I am surprised Idris M is not a sideman on an album in my cache.
    The album looks hard to get at a reasonable price…

    Others yet to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

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